Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reading the Bible & the Confessions

Jack Rogers, Reading the Bible & the Confessions: the Presbyterian Way, Geneva Press, 1999.

Jack Rogers has taught and written on the history of "biblical and confessional interpretation" for many years. He has also been a moderator of the Presbyterian church and involved in developing guidelines for interpreting scripture and confessions of the church. In Reading the Bible & the Confessions, Rogers presents seven principles for interpreting the scripture and confessions.

First, "Jesus Christ with his redemptive gospel is the central theme of Scripture and the Confessions." Second, we should focus on the plain sense of Scripture. Third, we should depend on the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Fourth, "we should be guided by the great themes of Scripture that are the confessional consensus of the church." Fifth, all our interpretations should be controlled by love. Sixth, the church must study the Bible and the confessions in their "original historical and cultural context." "Each particular passage of the Bible and the Confessions needs to be interpreted in the light of the whole message of Scripture."

My favorite sentence in the book is "We all, each day, interpret what we read, view, and experience" or the title of chapter one: "Everyone Interprets." This statement suggests the central importance of hermeneutics. Rogers states, "In reality, we all have been doing hermeneutics every day of our lives without knowing it." Interpretation is human. Rogers look at historical controversies in the Presbyterian church and how they resolve them. The particular issues analysed are slavery, segregation, women in the ministry, and divorce and remarriage. He thinks these events can help us resolve controversial issues of our own day. This seems a little too optimistic. For example, the issue of homosexuality is splitting denominations left and right and no resolutions seems in sight.

These seven principles of interpretation are a good guide for interpreting the Scriptures and the Confessions. From its beginning, Christianity looked to a Rule of Faith to help it interpret the Scriptures. Confessions and creeds are still helpful guides in interpreting the Scriptures. It is important to realize that everyone interprets. No one's interpretation is infallible. The Scriptures might be infallible, but human interpreters are not. We must discuss our disagreements with civility and charity.

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