I haven’t forgotten the recent challenge in the comments — rather usual in the world of Universalist Christianity — about whether or not the Bible supports the claims of universal salvation, or not. I would hope that, one of these days, we can get past basics but the essential concern — is Universalism true? — that it gives me a certain sympathy for my forbears’ incessant publication of primers. Perhaps that’s one of the reason I type them out, serial-style.
But my questioner points first to certain texts to start the debate. To the unfamilar, this is the opening volley of what is usually called “proof-texting” (nothing to do with mobile phones) and at its worst proof-texting turns into a tallying up how many “texts” support one side or another. And, no, I don’t think an anti-Universalist arguement wins in proof-texting; after all, Universalist past we keen to print long lists of proof-texts themselves, and address important sermons (at conventions, for instance) on the “troubling” texts my questioner mentions.
Proof-texting fell out of favor in mainline and liberal churches long ago. I fear that this disfavor has as much to do with a diminuition of the prestige (as opposed to the stated value) of the Bible in those churches as it does with the invalidity of proof-texting itself. Ironically, it gives proof-texting a new cachet because many of those who would have none of it have such a poor grasp of the Bible — period.
“Grasping” the Bible, as opposed to picking it to pieces, means having a philosophy of reading it. This may or may not mean having a comprehensive view through it , but I do, and like most Universalist Christians that means God having a glorious, purposeful, and successful end to creation. I certainly believes scripture supports this view, but the Word — that is, God in Christ — supports it more. It is hardly radical or marginal (though unfashionable among liberal Protestants today) to suggest that it is Christ who speaks through scripture, as much before and after as in his earthly ministry.
A theological persuit, whether about the final destiny of the human race or any other, has to start with a view of its common heritage, and (I propose) a Christian pursuit has to begin with the reality of Christ’s revelation in the world, and not a simple tallying of the “relevant” texts.
No, I’m not done addressing the questioner, but since this is a life’s work (and not a blog posting) I think that’s enough for now
One Reply to “Word of God, or words?”
The issue of our theology of scripture is almost more important in my mind, than any other area of Biblical scholarship. Grasp it, or pick it apart? Indeed an important question. What is the Bible theologically? I say the Word is the teachings of God made manifest in this world: in human flesh incarnated as Jesus Christ, and in human words the writings which make up our Bible. And as these intersect mystically in the LOGOS, we are presented with a holy mystery much more profound than the spiritual flatness of proof-texting can ever provide.