Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
ATJ 29 (1997) p. 111
Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Reclaiming the Bible for the Church, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, xii + 137 pp., $13.00 (pbk).
This book is a collection of addresses delivered at a conference in 1994 co-sponsored by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson introduce the conference theme, “Reclaiming the Bible for the Church,” as being motivated by a crisis of biblical authority and interpretation in the church. This crisis, they explain, is the result of the historical critical methodology used by biblical scholars to produce conclusions about Scripture that undermine the faith of the church.
Nine leading theologians speak to the causes of this crisis and propose solutions. Brevard S. Childs discusses a three-fold challenge to the authority of Scripture: 1) modern hermeneutics questions whether any ancient text can have determinative, much less authoritative, meaning for today’s readers; 2) modern explanations of Christianity in terms of sociological forces blunt the witness of Scripture; and 3) the separation of the Old and New Testaments and the study of their parts in isolation from the whole has rendered them void of lasting significance.
Karl P. Donfried identifies the roots of the crisis as a hermeneutical issue, stemming from interpreters who misappropriate Scripture by using a hermeneutic alien to its purpose and function. By using anti-supernatural epistemological assumptions and ignoring the meaning originally intended by the ancient author, many modern interpreters abstract the meaning of biblical passages to the point that the interpretative enterprise is idiosyncratic and self-serving. The authority of Scripture is lost, particularly in moral issues, when the only meaning of the text is what it means to an individual who views him or her-self as the final arbiter of meaning and significance.
Several contributors propose solutions to the crisis by identifying an interpretive context in which Scripture should be read and applied that is more congenial to the nature of the church. Roy A. Harrisville suggests jettisoning not the methods of modern biblical scholarship but the presuppositions of Troeltsch’s historical monism from which that methodology developed. He observes two characteristics of modern biblical scholarship that render Scripture ineffective: the hermeneutic fallacy of denying an extra-textual reference to Scripture and the refusal to encounter the biblical text as a life-changing testimony.
Alister E. McGrath proposes that we must recover a context within which Scripture is read and studied that avoids the failures of both fundamentalism, which in his opinion refused to heed mode...
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