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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Mike Bennett on December 27, 2009, 10:58:10 AM

Title: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Mike Bennett on December 27, 2009, 10:58:10 AM
On another thread,

Brian Stoffregen wrote:
God's word doesn't change, but our interpretations and applications of it have changed over the centuries, and they change depending on our own life-experiences. It's likely that if you ask a group of people about their understanding of a passage of scriptures, there will be differences -- often because of their own experiences.

To which Tom Pearson replied:
I suppose there is a trivial, empirical sense in which Brian is right about this -- there are a lot of people who have adopted this sort of viewpoint on the understanding of God's Word.  But I also believe this perspective represents a terrible mistake about human understanding, is rationally indefensible, and entails the erosion of the incarnate church.  I guess that makes it a pretty bad idea, no matter how many people fall into it.

During the past half-decade, ELCA folks have sometimes said that the problem in our house is not sexuality, but the authority of scripture.  It seems to me, however, that this question of "interpretation" needs to be addressed before we clarify issues related to the authority of scripture.  Everyone invokes the authority of scripture, on all sides; we saw that repeatedly at the CWA in Minneapolis.  What we need to figure out is what kind of thing an "interpretation" is, what role "interpretation" plays in theology, whether there are good "interpretations" and "bad "interpretations," and how we tell the difference.

Let me offer one puzzlement (expressed in three questions) about all this.  Brian, you say that “God's word doesn't change, but our interpretations and applications of it have changed over the centuries, and they change depending on our own life-experiences.”  If this is so, how do we distinguish between “God’s word” (which doesn’t change) and “interpretations of God’s word” (which do change)?  It is possible reliably to identify “God’s word” apart from any “interpretation of God’s word”?   If not, what’s the point of separating “God’s word” from “interpretations of God’s word”?

And Brian answered:
To give a too simple answer as I need to get ready for church. I've used the oxymoronic phrase tentative absolutes to talk about our understanding/interpretation of God's Word. While we may present our interpretation as an absolute of God's Word, I believe that by seeing it also as a human interpretation, there is always a tentativeness about it; meaning, God can reveal a new and different interpretation/understanding at sometime in the future.

It might be that the dichotomy is better defined as "God's revelation" and "human interpretation". Does an interpretation come only because of our human abilities or is God involved in the interpretations? If the second, would God give different revelations at different times? Based on what I have experienced in my life of faith, I would say yes. It seems as tons God has given different revelations of the meaning of his Word at different times in my life.

--------------

I think this has the potential to be a good and useful converstion, so I've started a new thread, on which I request that folks (including my bad self) please refrain from snark, insults, and ad hominem arguments, so actual conversation about an important question can take place.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: pearson on December 27, 2009, 02:54:36 PM
Thanks for taking the initiative to start this thread, Mike.


And Brian [Stoffregen] answered:
To give a too simple answer as I need to get ready for church. I've used the oxymoronic phrase tentative absolutes to talk about our understanding/interpretation of God's Word. While we may present our interpretation as an absolute of God's Word, I believe that by seeing it also as a human interpretation, there is always a tentativeness about it; meaning, God can reveal a new and different interpretation/understanding at sometime in the future.

It might be that the dichotomy is better defined as "God's revelation" and "human interpretation". Does an interpretation come only because of our human abilities or is God involved in the interpretations? If the second, would God give different revelations at different times? Based on what I have experienced in my life of faith, I would say yes. It seems as tons God has given different revelations of the meaning of his Word at different times in my life.


Well, OK.  But here’s my question.  Can we access “God’s revelation” immediately and directly, unmediated by any “human interpretation”?  Is it the case that we receive “God’s revelation” as an objective divine disclosure, and then subsequently formulate “human interpretations” as a secondary and independent step that follows after our reception of “God’s revelation”?  Or is it the case that “God’s revelation” can only be glimpsed by us through the lens of “human interpretations” – that “human interpretations” of “God’s revelation” are all we really have to work with?

That’s just for starters.

Tom Pearson


Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Michael Slusser on December 27, 2009, 03:22:18 PM
I would put it is slightly different terms, relying on scriptural examples such as Luke 24.27 (but also the way Matthew cites scripture).

What we are (or ought to be) trying to do is to understand life and the questions that it sets, in the light of revelation. How do we try to understand life and its questions? We examine scripture to see if anything there can help us to understand our own situation. It was scripture to which the earliest disciples turned in their attempt to understand Jesus and all the events that had occurred. When they saw something that seemed to throw light on what they needed to understand, they used it, and interpreted their experience with the help of scripture.

They weren't trying to interpret scripture; they were trying to interpret the reality they were living in.

Were they choosing the right scriptures, and applying them rightly? We certainly say they were, at least in the scriptural examples (though there are examples in scripture of misapplication: Ahab misapplying Deut 6.16 in Isa. 7.10-12, which it is very interesting to compare with Matt 4.5-7).

What they weren't trying to do is to exegete the scriptures, as contrasted to applying them rightly to experience. In the traditional orthodox use of the Bible, Christians are trying to understand realities--God, Jesus Christ, the world, themselves, there experience--rather than trying to understand the text. I realize those two aren't mutually exclusive; it a matter for focus and emphasis. But if one wonders why experience always enters into Christian biblical interpretation, it's because it is life and experience which are being interpreted.

Peace,
Michael
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 27, 2009, 06:06:50 PM
Well, OK.  But here’s my question.  Can we access “God’s revelation” immediately and directly, unmediated by any “human interpretation”?  Is it the case that we receive “God’s revelation” as an objective divine disclosure, and then subsequently formulate “human interpretations” as a secondary and independent step that follows after our reception of “God’s revelation”?  Or is it the case that “God’s revelation” can only be glimpsed by us through the lens of “human interpretations” – that “human interpretations” of “God’s revelation” are all we really have to work with?
When phrased: "Can we access 'God's revelation' immediately and directly,...?" I would say "no". Have there been moments of "out of the blue" insights, or occasions where wisdom seemed to be poured into my brain and out my mouth when conversing with someone? Yes. Were those instances of God (without any effort on my part) revealing something to me -- having the Spirit give me the words to say; or did something that was deep in my memory banks suddenly jumped to the more conscience memory? I'm more inclined to attribute such events to God's activity, but it is not an activity that we can control. I think that through continual reading and studying of scriptures those moments of sudden insights happen more often than if we are not immersed in the Word.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 27, 2009, 06:12:44 PM
I would put it is slightly different terms, relying on scriptural examples such as Luke 24.27 (but also the way Matthew cites scripture).

What we are (or ought to be) trying to do is to understand life and the questions that it sets, in the light of revelation. How do we try to understand life and its questions? We examine scripture to see if anything there can help us to understand our own situation. It was scripture to which the earliest disciples turned in their attempt to understand Jesus and all the events that had occurred. When they saw something that seemed to throw light on what they needed to understand, they used it, and interpreted their experience with the help of scripture.

They weren't trying to interpret scripture; they were trying to interpret the reality they were living in.

Were they choosing the right scriptures, and applying them rightly? We certainly say they were, at least in the scriptural examples (though there are examples in scripture of misapplication: Ahab misapplying Deut 6.16 in Isa. 7.10-12, which it is very interesting to compare with Matt 4.5-7).

What they weren't trying to do is to exegete the scriptures, as contrasted to applying them rightly to experience. In the traditional orthodox use of the Bible, Christians are trying to understand realities--God, Jesus Christ, the world, themselves, there experience--rather than trying to understand the text. I realize those two aren't mutually exclusive; it a matter for focus and emphasis. But if one wonders why experience always enters into Christian biblical interpretation, it's because it is life and experience which are being interpreted.

If I am understanding you rightly, there have been times, when "insight" led me to a scripture passage to help interpret (or proclaim to) a situation. The most vivid I remember was right after a member had committed suicide. What Word from God might speak to this situation; to be a Word of good news to his wife and family? A passage came clearly into my mind. Was it God? or just electronic pulses in my brain that caused that interpretive word to appear in my thoughts? (Such "insights" at a member's death usually don't happen with such clarity as that particular one did.)
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: pearson on December 29, 2009, 08:49:48 PM
When phrased: "Can we access 'God's revelation' immediately and directly,...?" I would say "no".

So, if you would say "no" to the question above, then what would you say a "human interpretation" of God's Word is actually an interpretation of?  If "God's revelation" cannot be apprehended immediately and directly, are we then simply interpreting prior interpretations, since the original thing being interpreted is unavailable?

Have there been moments of "out of the blue" insights, or occasions where wisdom seemed to be poured into my brain and out my mouth when conversing with someone? Yes. Were those instances of God (without any effort on my part) revealing something to me -- having the Spirit give me the words to say; or did something that was deep in my memory banks suddenly jumped to the more conscience memory? I'm more inclined to attribute such events to God's activity, but it is not an activity that we can control. I think that through continual reading and studying of scriptures those moments of sudden insights happen more often than if we are not immersed in the Word.

Brian, this sounds nothing like a “human interpretation,” but like a new (if temporary) revelation from God.  So is a “human interpretation” something different from a sudden insight revealed by God?  If so, what is a “human interpretation” (and so, back to my original question)?  Further, it appears from your description that these moments of divine disclosure are essentially private and subjective.  Is that right?  If that’s the case, then unless I’m missing something, these moments cannot function as “human interpretations,” since they have no public and normative standing.  Unless, that is, all ”human interpretations” are really just private and subjective experiences. 

Am I getting this right?

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Papster on December 30, 2009, 10:38:22 AM
I don't know if this subject has died already. If it has, it reveals the problem in the church. A congregation in the North Carolina Synod initiated the "Book of Faith" effort to deepen the role of scripture in the life of the church. The NC Synod agreed and passed on the memorial to the ELCA where it was also adopted (who can vote against scripture?). It appears that this congregational initiated effort to deepen the life of the people in knowing the Word, has been hijacked by Biblical scholars who have the seized the opportunity to publish more theological papers on interpretation rather than application. I did not know, maybe I am out of the loop in Biblical studies, that there was a "Lutheran Hermeneutic" until the first "Opening the Book of Faith" volume came along. Then there is the "Lutheran Study Bible with its questionable side column notes, like on Matthew 28:16-20

"Jesus now sends the disciples to make disciples of all nations. That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him."

There is an absence of any side column comment on Romans 1:26-32 but there is this comment on I Corinthians 6:9-11;

"Ancient writers often listed specific vices to illustrate a more general evil. Two terms in the vice list have been mistranslated from the Greek in all modern versions, and this has caused needless pain in the church... The issue here is violence. Neither term pertains to homosexuality or to the lives of gay and lesbian people."

Having said that and looking at the opening exchanges on this topic, my reaction is "The Word says what the Word says." Let the words say what the words say. That is what the person in the pew does. That is what St Augustine did in the garden when he thought he heard the words, "Take up and read." He took up the word and he read Romans 13:13-14, and the Word changed his life. The "Lutheran Study Bible's" comment on this passage is, "Paul encourages Christians to live as though the day of end-time judgment and salvation has already arrived."

Gee, it's a good thing St. Augustine was not reading that side-column note. Since salvation has already arrived, he would not have to do anything about his life and faith. There would have been no Augustinian Order that Luther could one day join and start a reformation of the church in 1517 when he read Romans 1:16-17. The "Lutheran Study Bible" side column note says; "Paul states the major theme of Romans -- the good news of Jesus is a powerful message that saves everyone who believes." It almost reads like it is written in the passive voice, not the active voice that changed Luther's life and ministry as Luther later wrote, "Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise." (Quoted in "Luther Discovers the Gospel" St. Louis, Concordia, 1951).

The issue in this topic is "our interpretation." My thought is as soon as we make scripture a matter of "our interpretation" we have closed our ears to the Word of God. Would God deliver to his people a writing that was so esoteric that only learned scholars could understand it and explain it in side-column notes for the humble unenlightened pew sitter? It was not so for Augustine, or for Luther. God's Word said what it said, period. 
         
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 10:43:18 AM
When phrased: "Can we access 'God's revelation' immediately and directly,...?" I would say "no".

So, if you would say "no" to the question above, then what would you say a "human interpretation" of God's Word is actually an interpretation of?  If "God's revelation" cannot be apprehended immediately and directly, are we then simply interpreting prior interpretations, since the original thing being interpreted is unavailable?
What we have available to us is Scriptures -- a Word from God through humans at a particular place and time, which has also been handed down to us in our place and time. As such, it is like any other historical writing and subject to human tools and wisdom to read, translation, interpret, and apply to present day issues. I am considering such work as an indirect access to God's revelation. Our access comes through words written by another, through tools and learning gained from others. One cannot be sure that what is discovered in our exegetical work is a direct revelation of God -- an "aha" insight that came "out of the blue" or an indirect revelation of God that came through hours of exegetical work; or a creation out of our own mind that makes logical sense to us -- but remains just human wisdom.


Quote
Have there been moments of "out of the blue" insights, or occasions where wisdom seemed to be poured into my brain and out my mouth when conversing with someone? Yes. Were those instances of God (without any effort on my part) revealing something to me -- having the Spirit give me the words to say; or did something that was deep in my memory banks suddenly jumped to the more conscience memory? I'm more inclined to attribute such events to God's activity, but it is not an activity that we can control. I think that through continual reading and studying of scriptures those moments of sudden insights happen more often than if we are not immersed in the Word.

Brian, this sounds nothing like a “human interpretation,” but like a new (if temporary) revelation from God.  So is a “human interpretation” something different from a sudden insight revealed by God?  If so, what is a “human interpretation” (and so, back to my original question)?  Further, it appears from your description that these moments of divine disclosure are essentially private and subjective.  Is that right?  If that’s the case, then unless I’m missing something, these moments cannot function as “human interpretations,” since they have no public and normative standing.  Unless, that is, all ”human interpretations” are really just private and subjective experiences. 

Am I getting this right?
It's not human interpretation -- except to be an interpretation of a mysterious light bulb turning in on our heads. Is it a revelation from God -- coming outside the normal human interpretive process or did it comes from some other source? On one hand, the moment of "insight" is private. It may not happen to anyone else in the room. On the other hand, we have been promised that at certain times, the Spirit will give us the words to say. Those moments when divine insight/revelation flows out of our mouths, it is not a private nor a subjective event. The words are judged by the one hearing them -- do they become a revelation of God to them? Do they address their needs and questions? There have been times when speaking, I don't know where the words come from. Could it be the Spirit speaking through this broken vessel? Perhaps. The proof is in the response of the hearers. There are many other times when every word out of my mouth comes from my own study and abilities and written in a manuscript. Those too can be Word of God for the hearers as they bring Christ to them.

Paul makes a distinction in 1 Corinthians 14 between praying and singing with his spirit and praying with his understanding (v. 15). He talks about speaking in tongues and interpretation. He talks about prophets being given a revelation, which seems different from speaking from one's understanding. I believe that God still gives such direct revelations to folks, that the Spirit can give someone the words to speak; but that such occurrences are not under our control -- and these are for the good of the church, not just the individual. These I distinguish from "human interpretation" where understanding comes through our human efforts of study, critical-tool-using, meditation, reflections, etc.

To use another example, there are times when physical healing comes mysteriously and doctors can't explain why it happened. We might interpret those as a direct act or miracle of God. Mor often physical healing comes through "natural" means, medications, surgery, therapies, etc. We can still interpret those as acts of God, but they are indirect -- mediated through the abilities and knowledge and work of the human healers. While we can attribute both healings to God, I'm suggesting one is direct and the other indirect. So also the idea of revelation of God: some are direct and many more are indirect through human abilities.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 11:19:08 AM
The issue in this topic is "our interpretation." My thought is as soon as we make scripture a matter of "our interpretation" we have closed our ears to the Word of God. Would God deliver to his people a writing that was so esoteric that only learned scholars could understand it and explain it in side-column notes for the humble unenlightened pew sitter? It was not so for Augustine, or for Luther. God's Word said what it said, period. 
In the Fall 2009 issue of Word & World: Theology for Christian Ministry, a publication of Luther Seminary, the topic is "Canon". One article deals with a Lutheran approach to scriptures: "You shall bear witness to me": Thinking with Luther about Christ and the Scriptures by Gary M. Simpson. He makes a distinction between a common question we ask, and one Luther asked.

"The authority of the Bible" discourse often deputizes the user of the term, demonizes the other, and thoroughly stops the conversation. Unfortunately the discourse, in its manifold variations, is all too familiar: "What about the authority of the Bible? Aren't you questioning, even destroying the authority of the Bible?" Through the mystique of this discourse, authority becomes authoritarianism.

Martin Luther posed the question in a more fruitful manner: "What is Scripture good for?" What is its purpose? His immediate short answer was that the Scriptures "test everything, " quoting Paul's mandate (1 Thess 5:21), as he did often. That is, the Holy Scriptures are good for testing all other (human) writings and what they teach. Simply put, in Luther's immediate context their purpose and authority was to judge his writings and anyone else's, even councils' and popes'....

In the wider context of Christian life, Holy Scripture's purpose to judge other writings is dependent on the more comprehensive and primordial purpose, namely, "to promote Christ." Like few before or since, Luther focused on this superlative purpose. Promoting Christ is the Scriptures' sold foundation, though not their only criterion. Indeed, what most makes the Scriptures scripture is this promotion of Christ. All other purposes are derivative. By focusing on Christ and Scripture our conversation together will bear more beautiful and blessed fruit.

He supports this by quoting Luther's "Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude" (LW 35:396)

All the genuine screed books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate Christ. And that is the true test by which to judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate [treiben] Christ. For all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3[:2]; and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ, 1 Corinthians 2[:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ is not yet apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it.

Two other themes he presents: As Christ has priority over the Scriptures, so too does the oral presentation of the gospel have priority over the written. This, of course, was historically the case in the early church. Luther, however, also understood this prioritization theologically.

And the gospel should really not be something written, but a spoken word which brought forth the Scriptures, as Christ and the apostles have done. This is why Christ himself did not write anything but only spoke. He called his teaching not Scripture but gospel, meaning good news or a proclamation that is repaid not by pen but by word of mouth. ["Brief Introduction," in LW 35:123]

... "Therefore," as Luther famously exclaimed, "the church is a mouth-house, not a pen-house." ["Sermon on the First Sunday in Advent (Matthew 21:1-9), in Lenker, Sermons, vol. 1, 44. Also see "Lectures on Malachi" (1524), in LW 18:401]

The gospel, then, is both a report of something and an address to and for someone. As address, the gospel is performative, as contemporary communication theorists would say it, It is active; it does something.

It is not enough for Lutherans to ask, "What does God's Word say?" Rather, our question centers on: "What does this Word good for? What does this Word do?" God's word is to bring Christ. Christ in God's Word comes as Law and Gospel: as Law it is to preserve "human society by restraining sin and evil  and promoting human flourishing" ... and "to accuse people of sin, to make them recognize their sin, and thereby to prepare them for the gospel by putting their Old Adams and Eves to death" (to use Simpson's words).

... The gospel brings Christ, who through the power of the Holy Spirit creates faith, bringing to an end the law's accusation of the sinner" and "faith in Christ brings love for the neighbor, again through the power of the Holy Spirit" (to again use Simpson's words).

I'm not saying that I agree with the comments in the Lutheran Study Bible (I haven't bought or used it); but I do believe that there is a Lutheran approach to scriptures that focuses much more on what the Word does than about what the Word says.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Timotheus Verinus on December 30, 2009, 11:33:14 AM
I don't know if this subject has died already. If it has, it reveals the problem in the church. A congregation in the North Carolina Synod initiated the "Book of Faith" effort to deepen the role of scripture in the life of the church. The NC Synod agreed and passed on the memorial to the ELCA where it was also adopted (who can vote against scripture?). It appears that this congregational initiated effort to deepen the life of the people in knowing the Word, has been hijacked by Biblical scholars who have the seized the opportunity to publish more theological papers on interpretation rather than application. I did not know, maybe I am out of the loop in Biblical studies, that there was a "Lutheran Hermeneutic" until the first "Opening the Book of Faith" volume came along. Then there is the "Lutheran Study Bible with its questionable side column notes, like on Matthew 28:16-20

.....
Gee, it's a good thing St. Augustine was not reading that side-column note. Since salvation has already arrived, he would not have to do anything about his life and faith. There would have been no Augustinian Order that Luther could one day join and start a reformation of the church in 1517 when he read Romans 1:16-17. The "Lutheran Study Bible" side column note says; "Paul states the major theme of Romans -- the good news of Jesus is a powerful message that saves everyone who believes." It almost reads like it is written in the passive voice, not the active voice that changed Luther's life and ministry as Luther later wrote, "Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise." (Quoted in "Luther Discovers the Gospel" St. Louis, Concordia, 1951).

The issue in this topic is "our interpretation." My thought is as soon as we make scripture a matter of "our interpretation" we have closed our ears to the Word of God. Would God deliver to his people a writing that was so esoteric that only learned scholars could understand it and explain it in side-column notes for the humble unenlightened pew sitter? It was not so for Augustine, or for Luther. God's Word said what it said, period.  
        

Much as those of us in LCMS have already had to answer painfully in the last few months "Are you a Lutheran," against a back drop where a simple yes no longer answers, but no other answer can do. So the answer is longer now, and that is not such a bad thing if they have time to listen.

 I would remind us all that "THE Lutheran Study Bible" from CPH, has a different footnote, and you should find it a much better response.

Rom 1:16-17 "Many of us have, at times, been embarrassed about our faith or have hidden our Christian identity. We have yielded to the world's pressures and may have been ashamed of our Savior, but He is not ashamed of us. He bore our sin, guilt, and shame on the cross and gives us His life and forgiveness. Receiving those gifts by faith, and empowered by the Spirit, we are no longer ashamed of the Gospel. We know it is God's power 'for salvation to everyone who believes.' "


He is .. He bore .. [He] gives ..we are  .. We know ... .    A little more active.

Amazing that it can more clearly show, and then, even answer the question here, if we listen to "yielded to the world's pressures" within the same note. I'm beginning to like THE Lutheran Study Bible more and more as I use it. Drop the other one in your comparative religion box.

TV
Title: Re: Our Word and God's Interpretation
Post by: Dadoo on December 30, 2009, 01:06:04 PM
Sigh!

One of these days, maybe, you can all just hold still long enough to have the word of God interpret you.  I can only pray . . .
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Charles_Austin on December 30, 2009, 01:51:15 PM
So all I need is "me" and the words written in the Bible? And the "Word" will "interpret" me?
Sure. That's how we got Jim Jones and David Koresh and every other whacko millenialist, armageddonite and apocalypticist that ever defamed the words of Scripture.
Or... All I need is Luther? Yep. That will work. Watch out, Jews!
Or...All I need is the Confessions? Good for some things. Lousy for others.
Honestly, the idea that "all I need is the 'Word' interpreting me" sounds like the worst kind of spiritual narcissism.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Mike Bennett on December 30, 2009, 01:53:55 PM
So all I need is "me" and the words written in the Bible? And the "Word" will "interpret" me?
Sure. That's how we got Jim Jones and David Koresh and every other whacko millenialist, armageddonite and apocalypticist that ever defamed the words of Scripture.
Or... All I need is Luther? Yep. That will work. Watch out, Jews!
Or...All I need is the Confessions? Good for some things. Lousy for others.
Honestly, the idea that "all I need is the 'Word' interpreting me" sounds like the worst kind of spiritual narcissism.

From note 1:  I think this has the potential to be a good and useful converstion, so I've started a new thread, on which I request that folks (including my bad self) please refrain from snark, insults, and ad hominem arguments, so actual conversation about an important question can take place.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Cnehring on December 30, 2009, 02:02:19 PM
It is truly amazing that the idea that the Word of God comes with a power to actually do something, has fallen out of favor with some  in the church these days. Seriously-hasn't Lutheran theology taught that the Bible interprets itself-that It doesn't need us to help it along? Since when did God become needful of us to help His work (except to be His mouths to declare it, so the HS will work?) 
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 02:25:09 PM
It is truly amazing that the idea that the Word of God comes with a power to actually do something, has fallen out of favor with some  in the church these days. Seriously-hasn't Lutheran theology taught that the Bible interprets itself-that It doesn't need us to help it along? Since when did God become needful of us to help His work (except to be His mouths to declare it, so the HS will work?)
1. The idea that the Word of God comes as a power to do something is very much part of our Lutheran approach. Read the quotes from the essay in Word and Witness that I posted.

2. Sure the Bible interprets itself -- but it doesn't do it by itself. Human beings are the ones who study the verses, find other passages related to those verses, read what others have concluded the verses mean -- first of all in their original setting; then in our setting.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Papster on December 30, 2009, 03:22:06 PM
The issue in this topic is "our interpretation." My thought is as soon as we make scripture a matter of "our interpretation" we have closed our ears to the Word of God. Would God deliver to his people a writing that was so esoteric that only learned scholars could understand it and explain it in side-column notes for the humble unenlightened pew sitter? It was not so for Augustine, or for Luther. God's Word said what it said, period.  
In the Fall 2009 issue of Word & World: Theology for Christian Ministry, a publication of Luther Seminary, the topic is "Canon". One article deals with a Lutheran approach to scriptures: "You shall bear witness to me": Thinking with Luther about Christ and the Scriptures by Gary M. Simpson. He makes a distinction between a common question we ask, and one Luther asked.
....

I'm not saying that I agree with the comments in the Lutheran Study Bible (I haven't bought or used it); but I do believe that there is a Lutheran approach to scriptures that focuses much more on what the Word does than about what the Word says.

Thank you Brian for your well reasoned and presented thoughts. I do not think that the "Lutheran" approach that focuses on what the Word does, is a uniquely Lutheran approach. Many Christians recognize the power of God's Word to do many things. The power of the Word comes from the way God uses the Word to question us, just like the Adam and Eve incident. "God called to the man (and woman) and said, 'Where are you?'" I believe that happens every time we encounter the Word, God is simply asking, "Where are you?"

One of the points that I wanted to make about the interpretation issue, is that there is a problem when we go and question scripture, scripture always questions us. As we grapple for the answer, the Word does things, the Word is what God uses to call us to change. That is the power of the Word.

As for the Lutheran Study Bible, I was using the references to illustrate, how the Word can be stripped of the power that God uses to move us when we apply a post-modern interpretative hermeneutic to the text.


 I would remind us all that "THE Lutheran Study Bible" from CPH, has a different footnote, and you should find it a much better response.

TV

Thank you "TV" for your comment. I do know that THE Lutheran Study Bible from Concordia is a much richer resource. I was grinding my axe on how disappointing the Lutheran Study Bible from Augsburg/Fortress really is. I have not sprung yet for the purchase price of the Concordia offering.

Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: jpetty on December 30, 2009, 04:01:08 PM
I gather that the phrase "Word of God" is used here to describe the Bible.  The author of the fourth gospel would find that odd.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Voelker on December 30, 2009, 04:20:09 PM
I gather that the phrase "Word of God" is used here to describe the Bible.  The author of the fourth gospel would find that odd.

Perhaps. Yet in that same book Jesus has no problems identifying Scripture as the Word of God:

εἰ ἐκείνους εἶπεν θεοὺς πρὸς οὓς ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή... (Jn 10:35)

John might well indeed find a bound, printed, one-volume collection of the Scriptures to be odd; this does not necessitate, however, that he would find at all odd someone calling the Scriptures "the Word of God".

Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 05:54:02 PM
One of the points that I wanted to make about the interpretation issue, is that there is a problem when we go and question scripture, scripture always questions us. As we grapple for the answer, the Word does things, the Word is what God uses to call us to change. That is the power of the Word.
I don't think that these approaches are mutually exclusive. I find that the more I ask questions of the text and find answers, the more I find the text asking questions of me.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 05:56:17 PM
I gather that the phrase "Word of God" is used here to describe the Bible.  The author of the fourth gospel would find that odd.

Perhaps. Yet in that same book Jesus has no problems identifying Scripture as the Word of God:

εἰ ἐκείνους εἶπεν θεοὺς πρὸς οὓς ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή... (Jn 10:35)

John might well indeed find a bound, printed, one-volume collection of the Scriptures to be odd; this does not necessitate, however, that he would find at all odd someone calling the Scriptures "the Word of God".
However, he also sounds like a good Mormon by declaring that scriptures state that we are all gods. You sure you want to stick with that verse?
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Weedon on December 30, 2009, 06:03:06 PM
God became man by nature that men might become gods by grace.  It's true.  Just not in the Mormon sense. 
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 30, 2009, 06:04:54 PM
God became man by nature that men might become gods by grace.  It's true.  Just not in the Mormon sense.
How is that different from the Mormon sense?
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Weedon on December 30, 2009, 06:14:29 PM
Brian,

You know your St. Athanasius, no?  Was St. Athanasius a mormon?  The Lord Jesus gives us the *grace* that lifts us to adoption as the Father's beloved Children; he does not make us *essentially* divine (which is the mormon teaching, no?), but graciously exalts our nature which to all eternity remains a very human nature - but a nature that partakes by grace of the divine nature.  To use the analogy so beloved by the Fathers:  the iron is irradiated and heated by its union with the fire, but it never becomes essentially the fire. 
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Voelker on December 30, 2009, 06:18:42 PM
I gather that the phrase "Word of God" is used here to describe the Bible.  The author of the fourth gospel would find that odd.

Perhaps. Yet in that same book Jesus has no problems identifying Scripture as the Word of God:

εἰ ἐκείνους εἶπεν θεοὺς πρὸς οὓς ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή... (Jn 10:35)

John might well indeed find a bound, printed, one-volume collection of the Scriptures to be odd; this does not necessitate, however, that he would find at all odd someone calling the Scriptures "the Word of God".
However, he also sounds like a good Mormon by declaring that scriptures state that we are all gods. You sure you want to stick with that verse?

Brian,

Since you're near the desert, allow me to suggest taking on a new spiritual discipline, one which will be of great benefit to you and (most importantly) others. Specifically, that of Simeon Stylites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites). We will be more than happy to hear of your experiences in a few decades.

Also, to Pr. Weedon: thank you.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Richard Johnson on December 30, 2009, 09:31:08 PM
I gather that the phrase "Word of God" is used here to describe the Bible.  The author of the fourth gospel would find that odd.

Perhaps. Yet in that same book Jesus has no problems identifying Scripture as the Word of God:

εἰ ἐκείνους εἶπεν θεοὺς πρὸς οὓς ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή... (Jn 10:35)

John might well indeed find a bound, printed, one-volume collection of the Scriptures to be odd; this does not necessitate, however, that he would find at all odd someone calling the Scriptures "the Word of God".
However, he also sounds like a good Mormon by declaring that scriptures state that we are all gods. You sure you want to stick with that verse?

Brian,

Since you're near the desert, allow me to suggest taking on a new spiritual discipline, one which will be of great benefit to you and (most importantly) others. Specifically, that of Simeon Stylites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites). We will be more than happy to hear of your experiences in a few decades.


 ;D ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 31, 2009, 10:23:30 AM
Brian,

You know your St. Athanasius, no?  Was St. Athanasius a mormon?  The Lord Jesus gives us the *grace* that lifts us to adoption as the Father's beloved Children; he does not make us *essentially* divine (which is the mormon teaching, no?), but graciously exalts our nature which to all eternity remains a very human nature - but a nature that partakes by grace of the divine nature.  To use the analogy so beloved by the Fathers:  the iron is irradiated and heated by its union with the fire, but it never becomes essentially the fire. 
So, according to your analogy, the iron is not fire even though it is greatly influenced by the fire; but the biblical passage does state: "You are gods."
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on December 31, 2009, 10:25:25 AM
We will be more than happy to hear of your experiences in a few decades.
I doubt that.
Title: Re: God's Word and Our Interpretation
Post by: Weedon on December 31, 2009, 10:28:45 AM
Yes, Brian.  Quite like "This IS my Body." And yet "the bread that we break is a communion of the Body of Christ."