How should faith and reason work together?
How do we read the Bible?
James warns of bad wisdom:
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3:14-15)
It’s drawing our attention to that old chestnut, the World, the Flesh and the Devil and all three can be lined up as culprits in the way that the Bible can be mis-read. The World refers to the techniques from Greek philosophy that encourage the “spiritualising” of the text rather than a plain reading of it. The Flesh represents the eisegesis mentioned earlier, where the Bible is one big proof-text for whatever you want it to say. And the Devil reminds us of the one who’s never happier than when we’re messing up.
The Bible should speak to us primarily about God, rather than be used as a reference book for the plans of man.
If we are happy that we are truly following the leadings of the Holy Spirit rather than the “unholy trinity” just spoken of, then we should start to see good connections between our hearts and minds and the Heart and Mind of God. We need to be able to pick out the Divine Voice from the clatter and noise that rattle around our minds. There is a technique we can use and, interestingly, it was first thought of by Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. It is called the inductive approach and I speak more of this in my book, The Bishop’s New Clothes. It is simply allowing the Scripture itself to speak to us, rather than deductively, where there can be the danger of reading our own ideas into Scripture. What does God want from us? Nothing more than the following:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
So it’s really how we allow God to speak to us through Holy Scripture (also known as exegesis), rather than the other way round. Ideally we must put aside the ideas of man, denominational thinking, for instance. We are not interpreting Scripture to defend our position, but rather to be open to what God is saying to us individually. Of course it can be dangerous, it can lead to loose ends or road blocks, but the Hebraic way is never meant to be neat and tidy, but rather open-ended and dynamic. Among Jewish interpreters, there has never been a rule that the theological understanding of a text is exhausted once one interpreter discovers the one correct meaning. Get three rabbis looking at the same text and you’ll get four or five opinions and usually more questions than answers. Perhaps it’s the joy of the chase we should focus on, rather than the thrill of the kill!
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp