On Monday I posted this: Reframing the story we’ve received. For the sake of clarification and development I would like to say a little bit more about what I mean byreframing.
Surprisingly, when I listened to a lecture N.T. Wright made, at an InterVarsity Press conference in 1999, called Jesus and the Kingdom, I found him putting words to what I was trying to think; as he discussed and laid out his lecture in regards studies into the historical Jesus,
“Christianity appeals to history and to history it must go…” and when we do that we will discover that we won’t simply reaffirm the traditions of the church, be they Protestant or Catholic or Evangelical or whatever. We will be driven behind the traditions to the reality which was the source of them. We will be driven to reinterpret our own traditions discovering depths of meaning within them and perhaps discovering some warps of meaning which we never imagined.
Reframing means 1) rediscovery and 2) reinterpretation. As Christians in the West or East or wherever, in the 21st century, our world is self-evidently not the world of the Reformation or the Early Church. We cannot simply excavate those times and traditions, mimicking and acting out of those beliefs – though at times we may find that helpful.
The Early Church or the Reformation do not represent pure moments that we must return to – they represent a rediscovering, a reinterpretation of the event that was the source of Christian activity. They represent a new way of identifying and living as if‘Jesus is Lord’ in the Roman Empire and in 16th century Europe.
Our job is the same – to discover afresh what ‘Jesus is Lord’ looks like today, wherever we are. Our traditions will be helpful but are not end of the story. We go back to the source and rediscover it. We reinterpret it’s consequences for they mean different things for us. What does ‘Jesus is Lord’ look like in a world of nuclear war, ‘The Troubles’, economic meltdown and quantum mechanics?
Further, we do not and cannot blindly repeat what has previously been believed on other particular matters – the need for novelty in thought and application is vital.
We must take up the newly comprehended realities that are being discovered about us and our world philosophically, scientifically, developmentally and so on and accept that at times they contravene what our traditions have said significantly. We take this challenge as well from Biblical studies as it unravels and reveals the ambiguities, peculiarities and at times poetic, mythic and decidedly ancient manner of our Bible. This all should not lead us to abandon ship, so to speak, but take us back to the source events of our faith where we work to discover what and where a fresh perspective is required, if not welcome.
e.g. As we perceive that our origin stories may not be (read: are not) historical, in light of cosmological and biological discoveries, we discover more of just who our condescending and incarnating God is and how he interacted with the ancients Israelites in their world, as well as begin to unravel just complex our universe is.
This is the nature of what it might mean to reframe. As we meet the discoveries our world is bringing to light all around us, we reinterpret what we have received because we must and because we may.
Yet here it is important to say, and John Polkinghorne gets to the crux of it,
I am not arguing for an ‘anything goes’ approach to scriptural interpretation, but affirming the expectation that a multilayered over-plus of meaning will often be found in the sacred text.
Our reinterpretation is not to be arbitrary and ad hoc. It is a quest to realize that the Bible bears an indefinable amount of value beyond how, at times, it will tell us of historical events. We discover there theological insights, articulated in an abundance of ways, that culminate and emanate from the Christ event which 1) requires us to re-evaluate our place in the world and 2) acts in such a way as to throw us into discontinuity with it.
This is life discovering the source of our faith in new ways. It requires us to reframe, reinterpret and rediscover the story of our God, who has been revealed once and for all in Jesus – and Christ is Lord, not just of 2000 years ago, not just of the Early Church and not just of the Reformation. He is Lord of our world; right now! And with each passing day this will always look and mean something new.