Saturday, October 14, 2006

Religion: Theological exam continued, part II

Came across this item the other day.

Decided to use it as a jumping off point for a blog post. We shall see how long I ride this idea as a source of material to write about.

Let me begin with the disclaimer, I'm not a theologian, I'm a molecular biologist. I strive to live a life devoted to Jesus and his teachings and recognize that the journey of faith is not an easy one and is best traveled with fellow believers in a local church (I attend one in the troubled PC-USA denomination) and good friends from other Christian faith traditions.

I suppose in some ways, what I wrote above is part of my "statement of faith." There are many other aspects to my Christian commitment and maybe it might be good to actually write them out in future blog post. We shall see!

Onward to the exam with the aforementioned disclaimer and preamble.

What is meant by Scripturea Scripturae interpres?

I guess theologians just love Latin! Probably, a lot of the historic concepts in theology were formalized in that era. Anyway, this sounds a lot like the principle of interpretation of the Bible known as "interpret Scripture with Scripture." The idea behind that is that if God truly gave us a body of written material as knowledge for us to base our theology and morality, then the message would be consistent from one end to the other. Thus, if I have a passage A and my interpretation of it is unsure and I have a passage B that is similar where I have more certainty of its meaning then I can use passage B to help me understand passage A because we believe the message of Scripture should be consistent.

What is the major hermeneutical distinction between the pre-Reformation church and the church during the Reformation?

My understanding of the reason for the breech between the Protestant reformers and the Catholic church was two fold: (1) Protestants believe that salvation was by grace through faith. Catholics believe that salvation was by grace through faith and the state of grace is sustained by the partaking of the sacraments and (2) Protestants believe the final authority for matters of theology and morality was the Scriptures while the Catholics gave weight to Scripture, church tradition and the Pope.

These two entirely different premises would then drive interpretation of different Bible passages.

I suppose another way to put it is that pre-Reformation there was a body of beliefs that the Catholic church held and imposed onto Bible passages (rightly and wrongly) while the Reformers tried to look at the passages themselves and derive their meaning without applying the prior ideas onto them.

What is meant by verbal and plenary inspiration?

I think this means that Scriptures are inspired by God at the level of the specific word choices (verbal) and in totality (plenary).

What is meant by the grammatico-historical method of interpretation?

The Bible should be interpreted in a fashion consistent with the grammar of the text. By faith, we believe that God choose those words to convey a particular meaning and we should try our best to identify the plain meaning of those words. The Bible should be interpreted in a fashion consistent with the history of the context of the text. For instance, if the original readers of a given text were Christians living in the Gentile part of the world then those historical and cultural factors should be taken into account when we try to interpret the passage.

Explain from the Bible its own teaching on divine inspiration.

The passage I'm familiar with would be 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This establishes the purpose of inspiring text. It is for our benefit to grow in theology and morality.

Another pair of passages that I think shed some light on inspiration would be these two in the Gospel according to St. John.

John 21:25, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 14:26, But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The Spirit guided Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to recall various details of the deeds and teachings of Jesus to include in their Gospel accounts. They could have included many more things but the Spirit inspired them to produce the record we have.

By faith, we believe that this process was in operation with the many other human writers of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

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