I'm bumping Dan, btw, because I told him I was going to post today, and he posted anyway. Nyanyanya.
Over the last -- what has it been now? In blog time its seems like 10 years -- 5 or 6 weeks, I've been essaying on how to read one's Bible, and we got derailed by a brief rant on apologetics and hermeneutics, and last time I got back in the thing by talking about what I called a "good example" of hermeneutics in action. And we talked briefly (some might say "superficially") about how we can frame the doctrine of election by looking at the matter from the broadest possible frame of reference -- which is, from the two ends of the story. Whatever proof texts or favorite passages you might have regarding election, the fact remains that God circumscribes the matter by the scope of the covenant with Abraham ("many" -- more than a man could count), and the rock-solid book end of the Lamb's book of Life in Rev 20, where the number is finite, and those not listed there are cast into the lake of fire.
And, of course, that view has its detractors -- but none of them said, "yeah, those passages aren't relevant to the issue." That's great, isn't it? We could at least agree that these passages were definitely relevant, and the question was only to what extent they guided us in our understanding of election.
Let's be fair to me for a second here: I didn't say that these passages are the whole story -- they are not the whole story. But they set limits on the answers we can find in Scripture. And when we fill in the rest of the story -- albeit by proof text or some other parsing of the text -- we have a sort of dart board that the rest of the story has to hit in order to be relevant to our understanding.
So what's the deal with "the rest of the story" anyway? I used the apparently-controversial example of Stephen King's the Stand last time, and in order to try to keep this post from getting derailed by people offended by secular or pagan literature, I'll switch over to something less obscure -- at least in our circles.
Those of you who read my personal blog know that I am rather obsessed with 1 Cor 15:1-4. I have used it, since the beginning of my blog, as the pointer to orthodoxy. You know: anyone who wants to fiddle with what Paul there calls "of first importance" has not only gotten off the Christian bus, but he's also trying to stop other from getting onto said bus, and such a person needs to rethink the story he finds himself in. So to speak.
But isn't dropping a Scripture reference into an argument the bad kind of proof-texting? Isn't saying it sort of glib to say, "well -- 1 Cor 15:1-4. read it for yourself, bub. That's all I have to say"? Well, yes it is. But factually, we can stand on a passage like that because that's what Paul meant to do when he wrote it.
See: the rest of the story for the letter of 1 Cor is that Paul was writing to a church which he founded (see Acts 18), and he was answering their letter to him about certain problems they were having. And after 14 chapters (as we think about them -- Paul didn't write in chapters) of telling the Corinthian church all the things they were getting wrong, Paul lays it out for them plainly: "I think you guys don;t really understand what it is I was telling you for the 18 months I was with you." Well, he tells it better --
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.Now, of course: the rest of chapter 15 here is about that last bit -- about the overwhelming importance of the resurrection. It's easy to lose sight of that if we get myopia about these 4 verses. But what Paul is impressing here to the Corinthians -- as a reiteration of what he said in his greeting to them -- is that if you are Christians at all (that is, unless you believed in vain) you have to believe the Gospel in a way that is real in the same way that the death and resurrection of Christ is real.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
If you have the Gospel, you don't jockey for church status; you don't abide sin in the church -- but you also don't discipline to punish but to redeem; you get your ideas about marriage right; you get your ideas about dress and appearance right; your get the Eucharist right; you get community worship right. To Paul, the rest of the story to understand the Christian life is the centrality of the Gospel. And the rest of the story of the centrality of the Gospel is getting the Christian life right.
So another aspect of right-headed hermeneutics is using the text the way the author of Scripture intended to use the passage.
I know for a lot of you this looks like baby steps, but my guess is that those who thing this series is going forward to slowly don't find every word from the mouth of God, as Jesus said, better than bread. This is how you learn to live on the word of God, people: by reading it carefully and thoroughly and in the way it is delivered to you, rather than as God's Cracker Jack box, or the daily divine Bazooka Joe comic strip.
Be with God's people in God's house on His day this week, and try to get the rest of the story from the bit of Scripture you read this week. And listen: if you do that, you;re going to hear something which tells you to do something which is going to cost you something. Don't be afraid. It will be good for you.