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I read a blog post the other day and unfortunately I've lost it! It was by a conservative theologian who divided Christians into two groups, arguing the church is splitting across all the traditions. It is a common temptation to split people into two groups; reality is usually more complex.
Apparently the church is splitting between those who believe the Bible is the Word of God, inspired and for all time. The others believe it was written by people in a particular time and place. Such people may believe parts of it are inspired.
This is nothing new. Indeed the former group is often understood as fundamentalist and the other group are labelled nominal Christians, not really Christians at all.
There are over 2 billion Christians. Do they all fit seamlessly into one or the other of these groups? I suspect in practice there is a lot of common ground between them.
Let us assume the first group, those who believe Scripture is the once and for all word of God, is right. What follows from this? My first observation is people who fit this description can be found in many traditions, definitely Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox. Each of these traditions has its own interpretations of the Bible. Even within a tradition there will be several different interpretations.
It seems some people believe their interpretation is the only true interpretation. The problem is, how do we decide who is right?
If you believe the Bible is God's final word, why is it so difficult to believe there is more than one legitimate interpretation? Our interpretations are not in the Bible and so cannot be considered inerrant. Indeed, this is the nature of God's gift of the Bible; it is ours to interpret. Not as we like; there needs to accountability. There is no need to fear new interpretations, so long as we are free to test them. So, the unchanging nature of the source text becomes a gift. We can with courage explore new interpretations in the sure knowledge that we can always press the reset button.
Now, take the other view. Perhaps it is more at ease with contextual theologies but in practice they use the reset button, returning to the original texts all the time. Their problem is perhaps less likelihood of seeing the word of God in the scriptures. Yet if we see the various texts within the Bible as in dialogue with each other, so that the truth emerges not from any particular interpretation but from the conversations between believers, we can see how the Spirit might be found in old texts.
We cannot escape the fact that what we believe about the status of the Bible is itself an interpretation. But freedom of interpretation flows from the unchanging nature of Scripture. Unchanging, because the Canon is fixed not because the writings have been ordained as inerrant by God.