Saturday, January 10, 2009
  Conversations with Scripture: 2 Isaiah - Introduction to the series
Yesterday I began posting thoughts on Stephen Cook's book Conversations with Scripture : 2 Isaiah today I'll look at the part Stephen did NOT write ;)

In the "Introduction to the series" Frederick W. Schmidt seeks to unpack what a "distinctively Anglican approach to Scripture looks like.

First he seeks to understand how Scripture is Authoritative. Claiming that for Anglicans it is more like a city we inhabit, and within whose bounds we enjoy our creative space. That image is exciting, but probably (Anglican friends may correct me) not distinctively Anglican, though it may find expression better in Episcopalian tradition than in other less "broad" communities. He also tells of his reply to an Evangelical Free Church friend who wondered "why someone with such obvious interest in the Bible would be Anglican". The reply is a fine and rousing slogan, that presents a sharp critique to many Baptist churches (a friend and I were bemoaning last night how little of the Bible is read in most NZ Baptist churches of a Sunday). But: "Because we read the whole of Scripture and not just the parts that suit us." cannot be left unchallenged by this Baptist. It is true that the Anglican (Catholic, Methodist... name any church that uses a lectionary including many Baptist churches) habit of reading all (or at least to be more honest, 'most of' since certain "difficult" texts are censored from all lectionaries I have seen!) of the Bible from time to time. It is also true that the (ana)Baptist habit of favouring certain parts of the Bible - like the gospel accounts of Jesus teaching - also has strengths, and it is essential to recognise that all of the canon is not at the same level of "authority".

Schmidt's second category of an "Anglican" approach to Scripture, that it is illuminative is simply something that most Christians would agree on, and indeed insofar as "illuminative" means that Scripture demands a change in the life of the reader is one that early Baptists fought with Anglicans over. In my post (Ana)Baptist Hermeneutics I even claimed as a distinctively (ana)Baptist form of hermeneutics - under the title "Hermeneutics of Obedience", that I borrowed from Stuart Murray (from Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition 206 or see the summary by Stuart Murray-Williams).

His third, critical engagement also begs several questions, British Baptists are not without their own roll call of distinguished 19th and 20th century biblical scholars...

So, this "Introduction to the Series" is something of a curate's egg, the discussion of authority is stimulating, but some of claims seem unnecessarily chauvinistic. Perhaps rather than the parts, it is the whole that matters, it may be that it is the selection of just these characteristics that distinguishes Anglican approaches to Scripture... certainly I did not find equivalents for all of Murray's list:
  • The Bible as Self-interpreting
  • Christocentrism
  • The Two Testaments
  • Spirit and Word
  • Congregational Hermeneutics
  • Hermeneutics of Obedience
And equally neither Murray, nor I, placed "critical engagement" in the list at all, though I think "diversity" does appear as an inference from our "Congregational Hermeneutics" - which implies that different locations produce different local readings.

[The next post, which won't appear on Sunday - since I am preaching, will begin at last to read Stephen's own work, after all this preparation!]

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