Reading Scripture with Jesus. He Holds All Things Together.

When we read Holy Scripture I would think that we would want as much foreign matter, from Scripture, out of that mix. In other words, I would think that as we engage with Scripture we would want to encounter the living Word (Jesus Christ) to whom it gives and bears witness unabated! This is what drives me in my quest to know God through Holy Scripture. I don’t want anything to get in the way of knowing God in Jesus Christ.

The reality is, in light of the above, because we are creatures, human beings, is that we all come to Scripture with preunderstandings and presuppositions given shape and form by whatever socio-cultural context we have grown up within. Speaking for myself, as a North American evangelical, I have grown up in a certain context that tells me how I ought to read Scripture; namely from a Dispensational hermeneutic (which I have since repudiated). Now this isn’t the case for all N. American evangelicals, some are groomed in what is called Covenant theology, others in Anabaptist peace theology, others in more ‘liberal’ theology etc. But the point stays the same, we all bring preunderstanding to the text of Scripture, and for Christians we are groomed in it by whatever interpretive tradition or church setting that we fellowship in.

But nobody really wants to collapse their theological tradition into the text of Scripture; everybody wants to believe that their theological tradition bubbles up out of the text (exegesis). So this begs the question, how do we avoid eisogesis (reading our theologies and our gods into the text of Scripture)? My money is on a certain rule of faith (regula fidei), a rule of faith reified from its Patristic context into a more constructive understanding; in other words, the reality, I would contend, that holds all of Scripture together (just as He does with creation in general), is Jesus Christ. Thomas Torrance (as he is reflecting on this very thing as it gets applied to the soteriological concerns orbiting around so called limited atonement and universalism) writes this:

For Torrance, apprehension of the cross involves a conversion of the reason in which we bow our own reason before the reality and mystery of Christ and seek to understand it (as far as we may) out of itself without reducing it to logical schemata of our own making which inevitably break it up into separate elements to distort it. We need to hold together what scripture holds together, refusing to categorise it in ways that distort that wholeness. If we cannot understand how scripture holds together certain things which we find difficult (such as the unconditional love and forgiveness of God for all, the finished work of Christ, the gospel imperative to repent and believe, and the fact that some refuse and are judged by the very gospel that offers them life) then it is not open to us to resolve the tension through a man-made logical schema which emphasises some elements as [sic] the expense of others. We need to be crucified with Christ in our natural reason and through the transforming of our mind begin to penetrate into ‘the interior logic of scripture’ so that we may learn to think as scripture thinks and hold together what it holds together in Christ. Both universalism and limited atonement for Torrance fail to do that. . . .[1]

As Torrance underscores we want to allow the mystery of God become man in Jesus Christ to hold all of the unstated premises of Scripture together. If we approach Scripture with this rule for reading we won’t impose artificial theological frameworks (and metaphysics) upon Scripture but we will allow the viva vox Dei (the living voice of God) to confront us as we encounter the living reality of Scripture all through its pages, as we encounter the resurrected Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

I actually believe that what stands behind most readings of the Bible today (at least for evangelicals who basically think from classically Reformed Augustinian/Thomist metaphysics) unfortunately end up flattening Scripture out because they involve an imposition upon the text’s reality.

[1] Thomas F. Torrance, ed. Robert T. Walker,Atonement, 188 fn. 70

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