Friday, October 17, 2008

N.T. Wright and Ben Witherington on the Authority of the Bible

Ben Witherington, to begin his The Living Word of God: Rethnking the Theology of the Bible, cites this long quote from N.T. Wright. I very much like Ben's book, and very much like this NTW quote. Having been trained in some of the ideas Wright is speaking against, I am so thankful for this perspective which is far more biblically accurate. Here it is:

"The question of biblical authority, of how there can be such a thing as an authoritative Bible, is not, then, as simple as it might look... A regular response to these problems is to say that the Bible is a repository of timeless truth. There are some senses in which that is true. But the sense in which it is normally meant is certainly not true. The whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation is culturally conditioned. It is all written in the language of particular times, and evokes the cultures in which it came to birth. It seems, when we get close up to it, as though, if we grant for a moment that in some sense or other God has indeed inspired this book, he has not wanted to give us an abstract set of truths unrelated to space and time. He has wanted to give us something rather different, which is not (in our post-enlightenment world) nearly so easy to handle as such a set of truths might seem to be. The problem of the gospels is one particular instance of this question. And at this point in the argument evangelicals often lurch towards Romans as a sort of safe place where they can find a basic systematic theology in the light of which one can read everything else. I have often been assured by evangelical colleagues in theological disciplines other than my own that my perception is indeed true: namely, that the Protestant and evangelical tradition has not been half so good on the gospels as it has been on the epistles. We don’t quite know what to do with them. Because, I think, we have come to them as we have come to the whole Bible, looking for particular answers to particular questions. And we have thereby made the Bible into something which it basically is not.... into a set of abstract truths and rules - abstract devotional doctrinal, or evangelsitics snippets here and there."