I have been thinking about the ways in which the Bible is a critical alternative to the enmeshments in which we find ourselves in the church and in society. I have not, of course, escaped these enmeshments myself, but in any case I offer a series of 19 theses about the Bible in the church.
Commentators in the media have often invoked the term biblical to describe the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which has gone beyond our imagination and our explanatory categories. The term has not been used with any precision—it seems to mean simply vast or awe-inspiring. What would it mean to view the catastrophe in genuinely biblical terms? Four biblical themes inform my own pondering.
We children of the Enlightenment do not regularly linger over such elusive experiences as dreams. We seek to “enlighten” what is before us and to overcome the inscrutable and the eerie in order to make the world a better, more manageable place. We do well in our management while we are awake, and we keep the light, power and control on 24/7.
The New Interpreter's Study Bible
Walter J. Harrelson, ed.
The Jewish Study Bible
Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler and Michael Fishbane, eds.
Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, former president Jimmy Carter remarked that the “growing gap between the rich and poor” is the most elemental problem facing the world economy. But the gap between the rich and the poor is also a very old problem.
In the safe, posh setting of the seminary, the Bible can seem straightforward enough. For example, my class one day was considering 1 Samuel 5, which is about the capture of the ark of YHWH by the Philistines, who brought it to the town of Ashdod and placed it before Dagon, the Philistines’ god.
Matthew is not the first one to imagine three rich wise guys from the East coming to Jerusalem. His story line and plot come from Isaiah 60, a poem recited to Jews in Jerusalem about 580 b.c.e. These Jews had been in exile in Iraq for a couple of generations and had come back to the bombed-out city of Jerusalem. They were in despair.
Since the publication of his Biblical Theology in Crisis in 1970, Brevard Childs (recently retired from Yale Divinity School) has pursued a single-minded interpretive agenda with passion and imagination: that the legitimate interpretation of the Bible is as the scripture of the church.
The authority of the Bible is a perennial and urgent issue for those of us who stake our lives on its testimony. This issue, however, is bound to remain unsettled and therefore perpetually disputatious.
The majority of the world's resources pour into the United States. And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us. We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others. The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity-less and less public money for the needy, less charity for the neighbor.