Just today I listened to this podcast – Homebrewed Christianity Podcast Feed | Tripp & Chad – The Evolution of Adam with Peter Enns. It is very very much worth listening to!
An awful lot is discussed in regards 1) some of the specifics of Peter Enns new book (i.e. Genesis and Paul’s Adam) and also 2) a bunch of the wider sociological and hermeneutical issues and hang ups in evangelicalism that it touches.
What stood out to me was some of the things mentioned in regards this second aspect of the conversation.
One key point, as I understand it at the moment, emphasised that we need to constantly reframe the story we have in Scripture in our own time and place.
Second Temple Judaism did this.
The Old Testament did this.
The Gospels did this.
Paul did this.
They each dove into the story of God’s interaction with Israel and twisted it about. Reinterpreted, reassessed and restated what that meant to them in their day, in their time in light of the new things they understood and saw God doing (Acts 10-11).
What they read in Scripture wasn’t a universal, absolute, unchanging set of divine facts.
What they read they knew to be ambiguous and multivalent. What they read set before them paradigms. Paradigms that were as unpredictable and surprising as the God who set them in motion.
And so as they read, they reacted to the new directions. They read trying to figure out what God had done in their world.
Second Temple Judaism was doing this as it explored the Scriptures and constantly mapped out different ways of understanding the text as they tried to figure out what their multivalent history might be saying to them in their time and place.
The Old Testament itself – compiled and edited in the post-exilic period – demonstrates this quite clearly.
Most significantly, the Gospels tell the surprising story of God incarnate from various perspectives as he challenges the long held understanding of the story of Israel and elements core to it.
Paul does this as he sees and argues for the inclusion of gentiles in this story and massively reframes and reinterprets the story, as it was understood predominantly, to make his case.
In all these cases huge hermenuetical gymnastics are employed to deal with what God was doing. Theologically the game changed whenever they saw God moving and their inherited past in Scripture became an open book for picturing what God was up to and what that might say to them as they rediscovered what it meant to be God’s people within their place in history.
What might this mean for us?
Perhaps, just perhaps, our job, as Christians, is to do something like this.
We have not received a story that operates as divine fact. We have inherited a story that charges us to rethink it, rediscover it, reframe it in our time, our place, our day.
Evangelicalism has a tendency of closing the book, missing the ambiguity of Scripture and refusing to revise and review it – ultimately failing to do what was being done in the pages of the New Testament itself, as the writers wrestled with their (at times) ambiguous Bible in the light of Jesus.
Pete Enns says around 50 mins in
The role of the Holy Spirit is sometimes limited to inspiring the text. What if the Spirit is actually actively engaged in God’s world doing things? I think that makes a difference in how we do theology, read the Bible and how we interact about it.
The same Spirit that set our story in motion is the same Spirit alive, working and moving now, today, in people all around us.
We read now in light of then and we read then in light of now. This process is dynamic and alive.
The rules that applied then don’t all apply now and we are given the freedom, no – the responsibility, to wrestle not with what the God of then means now but with what the God of now means now in view of what he has done in Christ.
So with what we know and how we know we jump into the story and the traditions and reframe, reinterpret and review, elucidate the theological implications and speak of it in new ways, in new situations – situations it has never been before in which there is new information the story has never had – and in doing this we rediscover and re-present what it means to be God’s people in view of the Christ event.
In doing so we carry on the tradition of Paul, the Gospel writers, even Jesus himself because our God and our story are not static and are constantly speaks in new ways in new places.