I completely agree with Chuck on his main point, the centrality of Christ in the Scriptures. I have written an entire book to lay out the biblical evidence for this (Meet God Again for the First Time) and am currently working on a project I call “Jesus in the OT.” Having said this, I find his use of the ASRS discussion on hermeneutics as an illustration much ado about nothing. I was one of the three individuals given about an hour with no warning to write up a statement on hermeneutics. So I’m sure the statement he cites is inadequate on many counts, but it was a good faith effort under duress to address a different issue. If Christ is not mentioned there, it is not because the three of us don’t believe, but because we didn’t think that was the core of the hermeneutical issue in the Adventist church today. We could be wrong on this, but it seems all sides give at least lip service to the idea that Christ is the center of Scripture. But one could agree with that and still interpret the Bible in a literalistic or simplistic manner. In my mind, at least, the core issue today is between those who wish to elevate selective, literalistic, and devotional readings as compulsory for all and those who seek to read the Bible as a whole in its original context. Interestingly, apart from a couple questionable assertions on the first page, the Annual Council voted Methods in Bible Study Document (1986) supports the latter. Ironically, it is the literalists who are trying to take the church to a new (or back to a discredited ancient ) approach that was not supported in 1986. The statement Chuck is panning above was not written to deny the centrality of Christ in Scripture, but to appeal to those in leadership who should know better than to empower some of the least sophisticated approaches to the Bible in the SDA Church. I stand by the statement in the context of its original purpose. Whether that was the right approach for ASRS or not is a separate issue. I personally find such statements less than helpful most of the time. Ironically, all three of those elected to write the statement were opposed to voting such a statement in principle. But we set aside our preferences and gave it our best shot under the circumstances.
Charles Scriven’s advocacy of a Christologically focused hermeneutic does not remotely resemble the view of Marcion who denied canonical status to the entire Old Testament, something Dr. Scriven would find appalling given his settled conviction that most of what has ailed Christian teaching and practice could be healed if we returned to our Hebrew roots.
It is a bit encouraging to see Jon affirm the centrality of Christ in Scripture but that is not the claim of the original statement offered to ASRS regarding a principle of interpretation of Scripture. So more would be required before you could support your intention to “completely agree with Chuck” Jon. The claim of that original statement is that Christ is to be used as the standard for understanding and evaluating the meaning of any scriptural statement. I think Chuck is right to suppose that it is a lot more than “nothing” to propose that the standard for understanding scripture is its “plain meaning” instead of the Word of God who is Jesus of Nazareth.
It is my impression that the question of whether Scripture allows, never mind requires, a standard for understanding and evaluating it is very very close indeed to the “core of the hermeneutical issue in the Adventist church” today not to mention for the last 50 years at least. It may be that reading “the Bible as a whole in its original context” is a superior formulation of a standard for understanding and evaluating scriptural statements. But if “the Bible as a whole in its original context” is another expression of the idea that no standard of evaluation and understanding is necessary, then that is merely another form of failure to address the questions pressed upon us by the “plain meanings” that reside there. Alternatively if “the Bible as whole” is not an expression of failure to comprehend the challenges of understanding and evaluation constituted by the words of Scripture, then it is a competitor of the Word for determining what that whole in its context reveals regarding the Father of Jesus Christ. And my experience has taught me that commitment to any standard other than the Word for reading the words results in reversing the real theological order. In its worst form, this reversal becomes the idolotrous dictation to the Word by the words of who the Father is and can be. A particularly egregious instance of the pernicious effects of this reversal is the oft repeated error that if Adam isn’t Adam, Jesus cannot be the eternal logos from whom all things derive. Jesus is the Christ regardless of who Adam was or was not.
I certainly want to acknowledge the good faith character of the effort made at the ASRS meeting to appeal to church management. But that very motive seems to me a likely explanation for substitution of “plain meaning” for the Word. I could well be entirely wrong, but I imagine the very idea that Christ might be superior to His revelation in Scripture would be utterly mystifying to anyone who would assume that there is no distinction between Christ and the words witnessing to Him.
To answer the question posed by Chuck’s title, Jesus Christ gives offense when one recognizes that the words that bear witness to Him must be differentiated from Him to whom they bear witness. What is most unfortunate about the admirably intentioned replacement of the Word with “plain meaning” is that it seems to ignore (and definitely obscures) the fact that to confuse the words with the Word is to crucify the Word all over again. I happen to know that the drafters of the second hermeneutical statement could never be fairly charged with recapitulation of Golgatha. I will be hoping their desire to instruct others about avoiding that spiritual disaster will meet with success despite what I take to be the unfortunate form that desire hurriedly formulated took.
My wife Adele Waller is fond of recalling J.L.Tucker, the brilliant and saintly founder of “The Quite Hour,” who averred that disputing about how to protect the Bible is like putting a lion in a cage to protect it. His counsel was to let the lion out of the cage. Surely the Lion of the tribe of Judah is well able to protect Himself.
In dealing with questions on slavery and the role of women, I have found that it is necessary to have some standard by which you need to evaluate such practices because in the Bible you have less than ideal practices tolerated because of the hardness of your hearts as well as the ideal. Therefore a Christological standard is a good one although insufficient in some ways because even Christ had to be in some ways a man of his time. For example, while we can go to Him for principles regarding the role of women, he didn’t pronounce on the issue specifically nor on slavery nor on drinking of alcoholic beverages. In spite of what we would want to say, Christ no doubt drank the wine of his day which was alcoholic and meat and fish. So we must look at the ideal standard that the Bible points in its highest principles including the creation narratives.
The rules of this site do not permit me to respond to replies to my comment, including your interesting reply, so I hope you and others do not perceive me to be dismissive or indifferent. If you get a chance to read this before the webmaster deletes it, then I trust you will understand. I wrote six paragraphs, so I don’t mind being limited to one comment.
In retrospect I must confess that, when I began my ministerial training, I was a some kind of fundamentalist. It was a long and, at times, painful process to revise my naïve and uncritical approach to the Bible and to see God’s Word from a different perspective. One of the most important books for my theological development was no doubt James Barr’s book Fundamentalism, to which I was introduced when studying for my Master’s degree at Andrews University. In later years I have struggled in a different way with maintaining a balanced approach to the Bible as a divine-human gift to us—being paradoxically both an utterly human product and an astounding divine revelation. Later, as I studied the phenomenon of postmodernity, I was confronted with the issue of absolute ‘Truth’ versus individual ‘truths, and with the alleged impossibility of arriving at any universally valid interpretation of any religious text—the Bible included.
I believe, over time I have found a satisfactory way of reading the Bible—free from the untenable presuppositions of fundamentalism, but without succumbing to the idea that the Bible does not provide any real Truth. With dr. Scriven I have concluded that this real Truth is found in the One who defined himself as such! The way in which Jesus Christ revealed the Father, lived in and through the Spirit, and let his ministry be informed by the Scriptures is the only true basis for our reading and interpreting the Bible and for applying it to twenty-first century situations and contemporary moral issues.
I can only applaud the fact that the ASRS wants to contribute to the much-needed discussion in the Adventist Church about hermeneutics. This discussion is long overdue and is more urgent than ever, considering the alarming surge in fundamentalism that has take hold of a major part of our Church and that is promoted by some of our top-administrators. I agree with Scriven that it is extremely unfortunate that this element of the centrality of Christ for all hermeneutical activity is missing in the ARSR draft agreement that is now being circulated.
It would also seem to me that any reference to ‘plain reading’ should be avoided. This term has received such a narrow, conservative and fundamentalist connotation in current Adventism, that it will only confuse many readers of the statement. Even though the term is qualified with the statement that it should not be understood as ‘selective’ or ‘superficial’, it would be much better if some alternative wording could be found that emphasizes the importance of reading the Bible with a prayerful openness to the Spirit, in order to hear what she says to us in 2016 rather than to hear what many would like us to hear. At the same time the wording should also underline the inevitable, but ever-enriching fact that we may not all hear the same nuances in exactly the same way, at exactly the same moment, and that, therefore, we must always be willing to share with each other what we understand God’s Word communicates to us.
It has been helpful to me to understand the historical context of Barth’s Christology - and that of Bonhoeffer, Niemöller and others in the confessing church. They focussed on Christ and Christ alone - and read/interpreted all of the Bible (i.e. not just the NT) from a Christological perspective. Why? Because in their time the Nazis had introduced a cult around Hitler that made him akin to a new revelation of God. Read about the context and the declaration here
In my view the situation echoes what Paul found in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12 and more) … a church that was focussed on “leaders” rather than Christ. The answer of the learned scholar Paul to this situation: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Whenever there is a strong leadership cult, a stronger Christological hermeneutic is needed. That was true in Paul’s day, in Barth’s and Bonhoeffer’s day … and certainly in our days.
God and Jesus as Truth is only found in the Bible, and the descriptions and sayings in the Synoptics are only descriptions given by writers who were not present and relied only on much earlier witnesses.
All the millions who have never heard of the Bible are automatically excluded from such knowledge, if this is true.
Can you explain what you mean when you mention Mother Theresa?
The Bible, among a myriad of sources, points us toward an omnipotent creator; one who must, by definition, have the ability to interact with his creation on a personal level.
Further, this capability is tacit among those who read the book believing that it is a tangible demonstration of power; that is, if The Creator couldn’t communicate with His Creation, The Bible would not exist.
However, once the possibility of such communication has been established in the reader’s mind and has been further verified through personal experience, The Bible–and all other holy scripts–become as derserving of further study and parsing as would be the poem “Itsy Bitsy Spider” Primer for Maya Angelou.
I find the complete failure of the twelve disciples to grasp the foundational concept of the gospel before the cross, a pretty serious question with regard to male leadership. A woman with a bottle of perfume got it and this fact is supposed to be headlined wherever the gospel is preached. Is it time to question men’s ordination and leadership in light of the “plain reading” of scripture? At a minimum, they should at least “get it” before they qualify. Maybe some repentance is in order.
I have always believed that we as church need to take subject of Biblical Hermeneutics more seriously. The 12 years of teaching that class in several countries of East Asia had convinced me of its importance. Needless to say that at the end of my teaching career in the “mission field” my lecture notes were completely different from those I used in the beginning of my teaching career. Foremost among these vital changes was the need for a more consistent emphasis on Christ as the center of Scripture (and everything else)!
Ahh, yes, the unbiased scholar. The one we can look to for ultimate truth.
No such creature exists. We all have biases, whether scholar or preacher. The scholars just think they don’t have them. In fact they can be rabid doctrinaires, unwilling to see any truth outside their on view.
True!!! People( and scientists are also people last time I checked, some years ago) are often blind to their own biases. However, Just in passing I wish to mention the awesome task ahead for the" hermeneutical scientists". They are right away faced with some devastating curved balls. 1. There is no sole primacy of an entity called GOD in the original. The Jewish books refer to the Elohim , indicating many celestials of more or less equal status, and detail several rebellions to the authority of the Chairperson(Yahweh) of the Ruling Council of Twelve who settled on earth and eventually created H. sapiens. These include(but are not limited to, the Tower of Babel revolt by joint celestial/ human forces, and the nuclear holocaust on Sodom and Gomorrah to defeat
the revolt against Yahweh led by Marduk son of the geneticist(the snake )tasked with the actual work of creating Mankind.
2. How to explain, esp in these days of opposition to WO, why Yahweh’s wife is not shown in a prominent position. Earlier scriptural records indicate Yahweh had several children with a female celestial settler on earth.
3. It is now held strongly that Jesus married and had three children with a Mary, that is an Order of women called virgins attached to the tribe of DAN and named Mary, the Jewish equivalent of “Miriam”, sister of Moses…
Jesus certainly gives no true offence, although his name has no sensible meaning in English and is possibly derived from pagan Greek/Roman roots.