Saturday, August 28, 2010
Last week I downloaded a copy of Ritva William's The Bible's Importance for the Church Today, one of the Augsburg Fortress Press "Lutheran Voices" books (for Kindle). The purpose of the book is to help readers re-discover and re-claim the distinctively Lutheran method of interpreting scripture -- and how this method can be an antidote to the either/or, conservative/liberal dichotomy that is all too common in contemporary Christian discourse. Williams discusses the interpretive methods of Judaism, The Early Christian Church, Paul, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Augustine, Luther, etc. in building her case, as well as how reactions to scientific, archeological and technological discoveries/advances took the Lutheran Church away from its traditional roots and led to misguided interpretations of scripture.
Here's a sample of what Williams says about Augustine:
"The vital element in any interpretation of scripture, Augustine declared, is its effect:
So if it seems to you that you have understood the scriptures, or any part of them, in such a way that by this understanding you do not build up the twin love of God and neighbor, then you have not yet understood them.
According to Augustine, the goal of reading, teaching or preaching the scriptures was to build up the love of God and neighbor. Any interpretation that did not aim for and achieve this demonstrated a lack of understanding. Failure to promote the twin love of God and neighbor was in Augustine's estimate, more pernicious than failing to explain accurately what a biblical author meant."