Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Books of the Year

Since the year is winding down, I thought I would post my top five books that I read for the first time this year and the top five books published in 2009 that I look forward to reading (hopefully in 2010).

5. Reason for God by Tim Keller


I absolutely love Tim Keller, and I absolutely love this book. I found it to be the most helpful work of practical apologetics that I have encountered. Reason for God is both fair and insightful.

4. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright is always engaging. Surprised by Hope is exceedingly so. This is my favorite of the handful Wright's books that I have read and should be must reading for all in the church. Christianity badly needs to regain the eschatological vision that Bishop Wright presents so that its mission has the necessary fuel and goal.

3. The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays


Now we're getting into books with a more limited audience. Ethics is a particular interest of mine. I personally found Hays method of utilizing the focal lenses of cross, community, and new creation to be a very helpful way to frame the way I think about ethical issues.

2. Church Dogmatics Vol. I.1 by Karl Barth

This is the most difficult book that I have ever read. I spent a whole month reading Barth's volume on the Word of God. Sentences are incredibly long and intricate, the subject matter difficult, and the argumentation deep and at times even opaque. However, reading Barth was very rewarding and its influence very clear. My last series of posts on hermeneutical frameworks show how indebted I am to this book.

1. Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns


The choice between numbers 1 and 2 was difficult. Both of these books have hugely influenced me, but perhaps no book has influenced me more since I moved to Chicago two and a half years ago than Inspiration and Incarnation. I remember the first time I heard Enns explain the incarnational analogy; it blew me away. My faith was greatly bolstered by the way he explained that not only were the human marks of Scripture not a bad thing, they were absolutely necessary if God was to communicate meaningfully to us. I also think he's right on in his suggestion that we read the Bible Christotelically.

---------------

Now for the top five books published in 2009 that I haven't read yet but am looking forward to:

5. The Historcial Jesus: Five Views ed. by James Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy


Five of the top scholars on the historical Jesus (Robert Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James Dunn, and Darryl Bock) debate Jesus identity.

4. The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons



I know sometimes he can be a little off-color, but I love Bill Simmons writing, he expresses himself so vividly and uniquely. And hey, I love basketball and I love comparing and ranking players.

3. Baptism in the Early Church by Everett Ferguson


The baptism debate has intrigued me for some time. Now that my first child is on the way it's time to get my feet wet (pun intended). No book is more comprehensive in looking at the doctrine historically than this one.

2. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller


I attended the Gospel Coalition conference this past April. One of my favorite talks was Keller's discussion of idolatry. It was so clear and so insightful. I can't wait to read his book length treatment of an issue that plagues us all.

1. The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton


This book could be a game changer in the Evangelical world. I went to a talk that Walton gave where he outlined his argument. I found it very convincing. We need to get past the evolution/creation impasse in a way that still honors the authority of Scripture. This book may be that way.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks IV

This will be our last post on Hermeneutical frameworks. I also will not be posting this upcoming week. I'll be going back home to Rochester, NY to spend time with our family and friends. In our last post we looked at the rule of faith as a framework within which to operate. The position we will look at today is similar in some senses, in that it allows much more flexibility than the traditional Evangelical position permits. Our fourth position goes further than the 'rule of faith' in that it seeks to place no boundaries upon the interpreter. Obviously, this seems to many to be a highly dangerous position for you could end up denying anything. However, at least those working within a reformed framework would stress that the Holy Spirit will keep them Orthodox.

Why would no boundaries be a good thing? Some have grown tired of seeing a lot of effort expended to answer objections to the doctrine of inerrancy that are raised over issues that sometimes are at best tangential to the didactic purpose of the text. They might simply ask, 'what's the big deal' over the issue related to Mark 2:26 that we have outlined in previous posts. The point of Mark 2:26 isn't to tell us who the high priest was in the time of King Saul, it is to tell us something about Jesus, to tell us about his Messianic status. The doctrine of inerrancy might be reformulated along these lines, 'in Scripture, God inerrantly accomplished his goals of communication.' In their opinion, the Bible should be used for what its purpose is, to tell us about God. Activities ranging from reconstructing history from the Bible to basing science upon it may be misguided.

Besides the potential scariness of this viewpoint, one might also ask if it runs the risk of downplaying the historical aspects of the text too strongly. After all, don't passages like 1 Cor. 15 seek to ground the central Christian confession firmly in history?

One final possible criticism is that such a redefinition of inerrancy is not permitted by the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration (i.e., that God inspired the very words of Scripture). In fact it does seem to outlaw it for even incidentals would need to be inerrant. However, they may counter by suggesting that verbal plenary inspiration does not accurately describe the mode of inspiration of Scripture, for modern linguistics has shown that individual words do not carry meaning.

------
Post Script: What is the best way forward?

In my opinion this last position has the most going for it. I think it seeks to honor the God who revealed himself in Scripture and understand the Bible on its own terms (this is not to imply that the other positions do not, it's more of an assertion against contrarians). With that said, I think this approach can be strengthened by utilizing the rule of faith as a help; how has the church historically handled this passage? While it shouldn't act as a box, the history of interpretation can be a faithful guide. Additionally, historical methodologies should not be thrown out the window. While no text in the Bible is 'history' in the modern sense, much of the revelatory deposit in the Bible is clearly historical and cannot be rightly understood otherwise.

Ultimately, no matter which methodology you utilize, the key thing to remember is that, 'the Lord knows those who are his' (2 Tim. 2:9). He will preserve us to the end, and I believe, keep us orthodox as we strive to know him more fully through his revelation in his word.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks III

In the last post we examined the traditional Evangelical hermeneutical method, where inerrancy functions as a key control in interpretation. As I mentioned, though, others don't take this approach. Another very common framework is to interpret using the 'rule of faith.'

Those who hold this view interpret within the 'box' of creedal orthodoxy. Scripture is still fully authoritative in the life of the church, but the way we interpret individual passages is left open as long as one does not deny the basic claims of the creeds of the early church (think Nicea or Chalcedon). Most questions related to historicity of events in the Bible are left open. Thus the boundary has been pushed out further than the traditional Evangelical boundary (inerrancy) and is also different in nature.

When working under the traditional definition of inerrancy, the text of Scripture forms your boundary. You identify its genre and then affirm everything that the text affirms. The rule of faith places the boundary in church traditions, which were based on Scripture. For that reason, some will criticize this method of interpretation, arguing that it elevates the creeds of the early church to or even above the level of Scripture. However, it response, it would be said that the creeds are based on Scripture thus the objection doesn't carry as much weight as it may initially seem to carry.

Another charge leveled against the rule of faith is that it is arbitrary. Which creeds form the rule of faith and why? Typically opponents will then point to the possible danger. If all we hold to are creedal definitions, and we can, for example, deny the historicity of almost every pericope in the gospels, then what are we left with? Haven't we eroded the supports to the bridge making it unsound? Are we left with anything that is reasonable to place our trust and hope in? With that said, most detractors of this view will realize that most proponents of the rule of faith don't go down that path, but they still worry about the slippery slope.

Let's look at our Mark 2:26 example from last post to see how one would use the rule of faith to guide interpretation of a particular text. You would have no problem with coming to the conclusion that Mark erred[1] in his identification of Abiathar as high priest. What they are bound to affirm depends. At minimum they must affirm the general thrust of the entire section - Jesus is the Messiah. All also would probably (but not necessarily) suggest that we must also affirm whatever implications this passage has on sabbath/Lord's day observance. There is openness, when using the rule of faith, to have one's understanding of the nature Scripture changed based on what one sees in the text.


[1] This is true even those within this position who accept a redefined inerrancy like Kent Sparks does. He claims that while human authors erred God didn't. He accommodated himself to an errant human witness, and basically said, 'that guy speaks for me in what he wrote.'

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks II

In the first post in this series I laid out the four general groups into which most Christian interpreters fall on the doctrine of Scripture and how that framework affects their interpretation of texts (and vice versa). We also looked briefly at the first of these four options. Today we will look at the second option, which is the most popular among Evangelical scholars and I believe was the position of the majority of the church throughout its history (even though they generally never articulated it).

Most Evangelicals would affirm the following syllogism:

God is inerrant
The Bible is God's Word
----------------------
Therefore the Bible is inerrant

Inerrancy is typically defined along the lines of, 'the Bible never affirms anything contrary to the truth' and this assumption is extended to both God and the human author.

How does this grid work in action? First, one must determine the genre of the text. The determination of the genre of the text then limits the possible interpretations. If Jonah is history, then everything in the story must be considered historical (including the fish swallowing him and Ninevah having a population of hundreds of thousands) in addition to all theological affirmations being correct. If it's not historical, then one is only bound in the area of theology. Both of these positions are equally tenable under this framework, although almost all Evangelicals affirm the historicity of Jonah and every other text that could possibly be taken as historical narrative. The big thing to see is that we have a one way street of interpretation here. The Bible is inerrant, and that controls all of our interpretation.

Some do not think that this position holds up under scrutiny. To bring up a classic example (there are many other examples that could be used), how does one deal with Mark 2:26? 'In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions' (TNIV). Abiathar was not high priest in those days. Now some have tried to get around it by saying, for example, that he was referred to as high priest by Mark because he later became high priest. While that's possible, many believe it's unlikely, and suggest that Matthew and Luke didn't interpret Mark that way, since they omitted the reference to Abiathar (assuming that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source). The most straightforward interpretation, they argue, is that Mark made a mistake and that while there are other possibilities, they are not nearly as likely.

There are two options at this point. One is to say that the syllogism above requires you to trust that Mark did not make a mistake and some other interpretation must be correct. You are even more-so required to take this stance if you assent to the standard Evangelical understanding of the nature of the inspiration of Scripture (that the inspiration extends to the very words themselves). The other option is to reconfigure our doctrine of Scripture (i.e., let what we observe in the text change our presuppositions) by redefining or rejecting inerrancy and seeing the inspiration of Scripture working in a slightly different manner. We will look at the strengths and weaknesses of two related proposals in this latter category in the next two posts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Introducing Hermeneutical Frameworks

I have decided not to review the final two sections of 'The Art of Reading Scripture' as they are primarily examples of how to work out methods discussed in the earlier chapters. In lieu of that discussion, I would prefer to lay out a discussion of an important set of practical questions in hermeneutics. When we approach Scripture, what questions should we consider and what are the acceptable outcomes of our inquiry? What presuppositions should we bring to the text about the nature of Scripture? How much should we let our presuppositions drive our exegesis? Is the historical critical method a valid interpretive tool? What if our exegesis drives us in a direction incompatible with our presuppositions? Can what we observe about the nature of Scripture cause us to change our presuppositions?

I think that there are four basic ways or frameworks within which a Christian can operate (other frameworks that I am aware of are incompatible with Christianity in my opinion):
  1. Whatever the Bible says must be taken literally. Historical criticism is a misguided attempt to undermine the authority of Scripture. This view is most commonly held by many Fundamentalists.
  2. The traditional position of inerrancy, i.e., after accounting for things like genre, the Bible never affirms anything that is contrary to fact. This is the position of most Evangelicals and some Fundamentalists.
  3. Scripture should be interpreted within the rule of faith. The central truths of the Christian faith cannot be undermined (the contents of the creeds of the early church), but outside of that, freedom is given to the interpreter to follow their exegesis wherever it leads. Here you will find most Catholic scholars, many mainline Protestants, and a growing number of Evangelicals.
  4. A fourth position which tries to avoid talk of limits to our exegesis because it finds externally imposed limits to be counterproductive. This group is rather small but it is populated by at least some Evangelicals.
This week we'll do a series of posts discussing these positions (each except the first which I will briefly discuss below will get one post) in relation to the questions we brought up earlier and to inerrancy.

The first position to me is the least satisfactory, so I'll only briefly discuss it. While I don't think that the historical critical method is the answer to all of our questions, all hermeneutical methods need to be able to at least attempt to reconstruct the original purpose of the book or section of Scripture. While the text can have more meaning apart from its 'original' meaning (I still find the notion of an original meaning of the text to be helpful and honestly unavoidable), whatever meaning we give the text now cannot be in conflict with the original meaning. Without historical research, this literalist approach has no external controls beyond the interpreters theological grid.

It also ignores and flattens out difficulties. What the Bible says must be taken at face value an must be true. Denying something like young earth creationism becomes tantamount to denying the faith in the opinion of some literalists (but not all). I appreciate that literalists want to take the Bible seriously, but I think it fails to account for the fact that the Bible is a product of the culture it was written in.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review: Philippians and Philemon

This month there was nothing that grabbed my attention in the new books section of the library, so I decided to pick up a recent commentary that came out, that of Charles Cousar in the New Testament Library series. I've only extensively used one commentary in this series before, Jonah, so I wasn't completely sure what to expect, but I was, for the most part, pleased.

The introduction to the commentary on Philippians is fairly standard. He believes that Philippians was written from an Ephesian imprisonment and thus was one of Paul's earliest letters. Fee and Bockmuehl have both claimed that Philippians is a letter of friendship, but Cousar is a bit cool on that idea, while not outright rejecting it. He does believe that Philippians is a single letter and not a patchwork of three letters as some have claimed.

Overall I found the commentary proper to be solid. Technical issues were briefly discussed and Cousar would usually give a short explanation explaining his decisions. There was little discussion of other options (he devotes a little more space to different views at 2:5-11, but even there it was somewhat sparse), which is why the commentary is as brief as it is.

One of his stronger points was on 1:18-26, I was helped by his brief discussion of the rhetoric of Paul's argument. Cousar claims that Paul was using a technique known as 'feigned perplexity' as a means of strengthening his argument. On the Christ 'hymn' in 2:5-11 he goes against most recent commentators by following Kasemann's soteriological interpretation. He makes a decent case of it, but I found O'Brien to be much more persuasive.

By far Cousar's strongest point was on, perhaps the thorniest passage in Philippians, 3:1-4. Paul's sudden change of tone is so dramatic that many have questioned the integrity of Philippians largely on the basis of this section. Cousar, in my opinion, largely puts these questions to rest. He suggests that there was no actual group of opponents in or soon to come to Philippi. The 'dogs' were set up as a negative example, countering the positive examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus in ch. 2 and Paul in the following verses.

Overall, on Philippians Cousar does a good job. He doesn't use a lot of space but fits a lot into it. Even though its brief, I would not recommend it for the lay person, it's a little too technical and also assumes a fair amount of familiarity with New Testament (especially Pauline) studies. However, for the pastor I could see this commentary pairing up well with Thielman and one or more of Bockmuehl, Fee, and O'Brien. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Unfortunately, it seems as if Cousar did not put the same level of effort into the Philemon commentary as he did for Philippians. It's extremely sparse, with the commentary proper only being five and a half pages long. There wasn't much depth of insight, I felt that most points that he made could be gained from a careful slow read through the text. That said, he still didn't make any major mistakes, in my opinion and rightly saw the stress in the letter where it lied, in the transformation of relationships and identity in Christ. 3 stars out of 5.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Orienting Our Expressions of Gratitiude

Do you encourage others by thanking/praising them? Some will not wanting to avoid others from succumbing to pride. Others thank people so effusively and frequently that they seem insincere. How do you strike a balance? We are called to encourage one another. How do we do it rightly?

In A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Carson notes, while discussing on 1 Thessalonians 2:9, that Paul,
encourages Christians by telling them that he thanks God for his grace in their lives. Thus he has simultaneously drawn attention to the Thessalonians' spiritual growth, thereby encouraging them, and insisted that God is the one to be thanked for it, thereby humbling them. There is simply no way that these believers can thoughtfully listen to what Paul says and then smugly pat themselves on the back: God and God alone is to be praised for the signs of grace in their lives. Yet nonetheless they cannot help but feel encouraged to learn that the apostle himself has observed God's work in their lives and rejoices because of it (p. 87 - emphasis original).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapters 8 and 9

I'm actually going to skip chapter 7, 'Reading the Scriptures Faithfully in a Postmodern Age' by William Johnson because the issue is too difficult and outside of my area of 'expertise.' I would need to be much more informed about postmodern philosophy.

The eighth essay, 'Preaching Scripture Faithfully in a Post-Christendom Church,' by Christine McSpadden was a pleasant surprise. McSpadden is a priest in the Episcopal diocese of California, and if you know about what's been going on in the Episcopal church lately, you may understand why I did not come to the essay with the highest of expectations. McSpadden's advice is mainly geared towards those in mainline denominations, but I think we in the Evangelical church can gain from her insight as well. McSpadden's general hermeneutical methods are in line with the rest of of the authors of this book, so even though she does discuss hermeneutical issues throughout, I want to focus more on her homiletical suggestions.

Given the title, we can tell that the basic assumption McSpadden works from is that Christendom is over. I think this is obviously true, but what's less clear is what preaching should look like in the post-Christendom church. Even more basic is the question some ask, 'why privilege preaching?' McSpadden says that preaching still offers the most bang for the buck, it still offers 30ish minutes with a large group of people. So what should preaching look like today?
  1. Preach the basics - we're in a position where the Christian message is news again, many don't know it, so preach clearly, simply, and hospitably. Also, call for conversion, don't preach mere moralizing exhortation.
  2. Conceive of the sermon as an 'environment' for wondering, rumination, and imagination - be respectful in the way you treat questions and objections and make room for people's imagination to be captured and provoked by the story.
  3. Preach from all of Scripture - this gives us a much clearer picture of who God is. Don't duck difficult texts, and remain faithful to the text at all times. Don't critique Scripture, but allow it to critique you. Thus we are to stand under Scripture and approach the Bible prayerfully in our preparation. For, 'apostolic proclamation grew out of prayer and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; faithful preaching has the same points of origin' (p. 137).
  4. Engage the multiplicity of voices from the surrounding culture - do this in an attitude of humility, but be willing to engage the real differences that exist between Christians and others.
  5. Be compelling in your preaching so your hearers want to hear more about the Bible
Granted at some of these points McSpadden may have something slightly different in mind than an Evangelical would giving this same advice, but I still think that conceptually she is spot on (and not so greatly different than Evangelicals in the particulars). She also had a couple of practical tests for each of these points, I found them all to be very good tests, but I liked a couple especially that I want to point out.
  1. 'As you read through the text to be preached, and as you gather your thoughts on ways it might be preached, think about what creedal affirmation correlates with your ideas. Whether it is a point of the Nicene Creed, the Apostle's Creed, or the Westminster confession, think about how it supports and directs your explication. Simultaneously, think about how the biblical text gives dimensions to, illustrates, and makes sense of the creedal affirmation' (p. 131).
  2. On difficult texts: 'Examine why the text makes you bristle. What does it challenge, criticize, or propose that might be offensive? Is there an underlying, existential issue related to your own resistance that might connect with a similar resistance in your hearers?' (p. 138).
As McSpadden notes in the conclusion, preaching in today's context is difficult, but it's also a great opportunity. For many we can present the gospel to them for the first time, and hopefully we can do it in a way that glorifies God and is compelling to our hearers.

I will be brief on chapter 9, 'Embodying Scripture in the Community of Faith' by L. Gregory Jones. His essay begins by discussing the problem that we have, which is rampant biblical illiteracy. Our congregation doesn't know the stories of the Bible, and too many who do know the stories study the Scriptures at a solely academic level. For, as he notes, it's much easier to answer critical questions than to have our lives critiqued by Scripture.

As a solution, Jones suggests that we need to interpret the Bible in community, and our community is not just the community of contemporaries, but extends back to previous 'saintly interpreters.' Much of the essay looks at how Martin Luther King Jr. and Augustine interpreted Scripture. Much of his emphasis was on how these two men exemplified the way they understood the Bible through the way they lived. They had both sides, they knew the Bible very very well, which most Christians today don't. And their knowledge ran deep to the way they lived. While both of them had all of the tools of critical study at their time, they didn't satisfy themselves with that. They were transformed through their time in Scripture. Jones calls us to follow in their path, seeking to learn from God in his word and to put what we learn into practice, to love God and love others, especially our enemies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Dangers of Proof Texting

I don't know if many of you have seen the 'Pray for Obama' bumper stickers (or have them). Scot McKnight has an excellent post on the sad irony of it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of the Art of Reading Scripture is titled, 'Christ was like St. Francis' and was written by James Howell. The main point of the essay is that if we truly understand the text, then we embody it through the way we live. While that main point is straightforward and uncontroversial, the way he makes it is very thought-provoking.

His title, 'Christ was like St. Francis,' is provocative. Normally we would put it the other way around. Howell's point in framing the title this way is interesting. In an extended section of the essay, Howell lays out many examples of ways that St. Francis imitated Christ in very literal fashion. He took Scriptures like Luke 9:3 'take nothing for the journey' (TNIV) very literally. Thus he gives us in concrete human form a later picture of what Jesus lived like. Often we rationalize our shortcomings when we compare our lives to Jesus by saying that, 'we're only human while Jesus was divine.' However seeing how the saints lived out many of the radical demands of Scripture quite literally can in some ways be more challenging to us, because they're human too. Howell suggests that we too often domesticate or spiritualize some of the radical commands of the Bible when we could and should take them quite literally.

Obviously taking the commands of the Bible literally could lead to disastrous effects, so Howell suggests that we test our embodiments against the rest of Scripture and church history.

Is this a good hermeneutical method? I think it could be helpful to a very limited extent. There certainly is a sense in which we have domesticated the Bible so that it never confronts us. However, I don't think that a literal hermeneutic is the answer. That will lead to many bad misappropriations of the Bible. The way to feel the full weight of the Bible is to read it carefully and prayerfully without skipping parts we don't like. That will give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to challenge us in ways we may be uncomfortable with.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Art of Reading Scripture: Chapter 5

Today we will look at chapter 5 (I'll post on chapter 6 on Thursday) of 'The Art of Reading Scripture.' The fifth essay, by Brian Daley, is titled, 'Is Patristic Exegesis Still Usable? Some Reflections on Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms.' His main goal in this essay is to examine how we might learn from Patristic exegetical method. Daley begins by noting that for the past century and a half that we've largely ignored Patristic exegesis. The historical critical method has been dominant, and all other approaches to the text have been ignored until recently. We had thought that we could study history scientifically and come up with objective conclusions of what happened (or what the original meaning of the text was) and why. The problem is that an underlying principle of this method is that natural events are assumed to have natural causes and we, being outside the event/text, can objectively measure what happened, which is an athiestic and arrogant assumption. As post modern critiques have pointed out, we don't have the objectivity that we think we have. 'Understanding a text is precisely the event of the interpretation of horizons: the author's and the reader's...it can never be a simple mater of recovery of the objective, "original" meaning through a scientific historical criticism that is free of the concerns and commitments of the later reader' (p. 73). So, historical criticism is not all that many crack it up to be.

Does this mean that we can abandon it and have complete interpretive freedom? Definitely not. In the next section, Daley lays out what the interpretive framework of the early church was. They:
  1. Saw the hand of a provident God in Scripture, and they interpreted historical texts in light of that.
  2. Read the Bible as a unified narrative
  3. Interpreted the Bible using 'the Rule of Faith,' or as some put it today, interpreting within the framework of creedal orthodoxy (a la Kent Sparks). Core theological truth could not be denied, but there was much freedom regarding the interpretation of individual passages of Scripture.
  4. Recognized the diversity of Scripture, but at the same time saw the story of the Bible as being coherent, thus in their view, the Bible never contradicted itself.
  5. Primarily focused on the scriptural rather than the historical meaning of the text, meaning a focus on what the Bible meant to them in their time, not just in 'application' of the text, but its theological meaning. The more pious interpretation was favored.
In the next section, Daley looks at patristic exegesis of the Psalms and asks whether or not their way of reading the psalms might work for us today too. As Daley notes, the Psalms were adored by the early church (as they are by many today). They readily appropriated the Psalms to their individual lives, seeing the Psalms as providing the words to say to God what we are commanded to say to him elsewhere. I wonder, though, if Daley's choice of the Psalms doesn't prejudice the answer (he comes to a 'yes let's follow their pattern' conclusion) somewhat. I don't know much about Patristic exegesis, but I wonder if the way the early church used other parts of Scripture might be tougher to follow. Many of the Psalms, while being used for corporate worship, have a strong individual element. It's somewhat easy, for many Psalms, apart from the historical critical method, to appropriate the text in a valid and helpful way. I think his case may have been harder if he picked apocalyptic literature (to go on the other end of the spectrum).

In the final section, Daley asks if historical criticism has any roll to play in our understanding the Bible as Scripture. He says it still does and that its roll, 'must be to free readers from the same destructive literalism that Origen recognized as the basis of most false interpretation of the Bible - taking the apparent face value of a text so seriously, so much in isolation from the rest of the cannon, that we invest it with a meaning at odds with both its probably original sense and its traditional Christian application' (p. 87). I think this point is helpful. The historical critical method is seen here as being more defensive than anything else. It helps guard us from going in an unfruitful direction.

Daley then concludes with a plea to interpret the Bible along the lines of the ancient Christians, for the sake of the church. Biblical scholarship is not an end in itself, it has a roll, to feed preaching, to feed the feeding of the church, and that must remain our central concern.

As much as I want to agree with Daley, I must ask, though, if the 'Rule of Faith' is a good rule. But perhaps that should be the subject of another post on another day.