Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Chapter 4: It's a Story with Power!

How, Then, Shall We Read?

Scot reminds us of the number one rule of exegesis: context is everything. He gives us an example of whether we pay interest or not. If so, we are breaking the commands of the Bible about “usury” found in Lev. 25.35-38. (Although, Scot I think bends this example. The context is charging usury to your brothers and sisters, not paying it to institutions.)

The idea is, though, that the way we read such prohibitions is: that was then, and this is now. Reading the Bible like this is reading the Bible as Story. It unfolds and propels us to live out the bible in our day in our way. But how do we know when this principle applies?

In Scot’s eyes, until we learn to read the Bible as Story, we will not know how to get anything out of the Bible for daily living. God spoke in Moses’ days in Moses’ ways (here about interest), and he spoke in Jesus’ days in Jesus’ ways, and he spoke in Paul’s days in Paul’s ways. And he speaks in our days in our ways.

It’s a Story!

Going back to the Bible teaches us to read the Bible as God’s story. Read, for example, Acts 7. Stephen puts the whole Bible together for us. In his defense before the Jewish supreme court, he gives us an example of how to read the Bible. He didn’t do anything other than tell the story of Israel that had opened a new chapter – a chapter called Jesus the Messiah. With Jesus, everything changed.

Scot quotes former Wheaton professor Robert Webber: “So I invite you to read the Bible, not for bits and pieces of dry information [pieces in a puzzle], but as the story of God’s embrace of the world told in poetic images and types.”

Scot discusses something next that is so simple and so obvious, but is something at the same time is so profound. God chose to communicate in language, since language is always shaped by context, and since God chose to speak to us over time and through many writers, God also chose to speak to us in a variety of ways and expressions. The Gospel story is so deep and wide that God needed a variety of expressions to give us a fuller picture of the Story. No single story, not even Jesus’ story, can tell the whole Story. We need them all.

(Note: I am very encouraged by this last note, because there seems to be a movement among some evangelicals to hold the words of Jesus on one level and the rest of Scriptural revelation on a lower level. This can be seen in the "Red-Letter Christians" movement espoused by such evangelicals like Tony Campolo).

Why Wiki-Story?

Scot begins to look at the Bible as a “Wiki-Story,” a Spirit inspired Wiki-Story. This may cause you to shift uncomfortably in your seats a little. Most of us are familiar with Wikipedia. It is a collaborative, democratic, interactive, developing encyclopedia to which anyone in the world can make a contribution. Here is where Scot sees the connection between the Bible as Story and “wiki” type of applications, it is the ongoing reworking of the biblical Story by new authors so they can speak the old story in new ways for their day.

When we look at the major human authors in the Bible, each of these authors tells his version of the Story. They tell wiki-stories of the Story; they give interpretive retellings of the Story. Scot gives a great example of this. He looks at Matthew 4.1-11, his version of the temptations of Jesus. Far too often this story is read as a method for responding to temptations to sin, that is to quote the Bible at Satan. This makes sense and can be helpful, but it has nothing to with the text itself.

Scot sees this story as Jesus’ temptation by Satan the reliving of Israel’s wilderness testings. (Jesus is then recast as the second Moses leading his people to a new Promised Land, which fits perfectly into the theme of Matthew’s gospel). Matthew casts the story of Jesus’ temptations as an updated version, a wiki-story, of an older story – the wilderness story (although Scot does see the possibility that it could be Jesus reliving the Adam and Eve temptation in the Garden). Many NT specialists will tell you that nearly every page is a wiki-story on an Old Testament wiki-story.

Here is where Scot is up to this point:

  • The Bible is a Story
  • The Story is made up of a series of wiki-stories.
  • The wiki-stories are held together by the Story.
  • The only way to make sense of the blue parakeets in the Bible is to set each in the context of the Bible’s story.

None of the wiki-stories is comprehensive or exhaustive. Each of them tells a true story of that Story.

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