A Tale Of Two Roads: Homiletics And Biblical Authority -- By: David L. Allen

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 43:3 (Sep 2000)
Article: A Tale Of Two Roads: Homiletics And Biblical Authority
Author: David L. Allen


A Tale Of Two Roads: Homiletics
And Biblical Authority

David L. Allena

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler …
Robert Frost—“The Road Not Taken”

I. Introduction

The issue of authority has been the quintessential issue of the Enlightenment and especially of the twentieth century. This is true for the very simple reason that the Enlightenment, by its very name, celebrated the autonomy of reason and humanity. Until the Enlightenment, philosophers and theologians traveled a single road: Authority Avenue. In the eighteenth century, however, these travelers came to a fork in the road. The old road was marked with the old sign “Authority of Revelation.” The new road sign, marking the new fork, read “Autonomy of Reason.” Many travelers who passed that way were so busy practicing their art that they never noticed the fork. Others were confused by the lexical and grammatical similarity of the signs. No doubt many merely assumed that either road was an equally viable route to their ultimate destination.

The result was politically, socially, ethically, philosophically, and religiously momentous. The Enlightenment witnessed the rise of the democratic state, resulting in the mitigation of political authority, humanism, resulting in the mitigation of moral authority, and religious liberalism, resulting in the mitigation of religious authority.

Enlightenment modernity distrusted authority. Radical postmodernity dismantles authority. Edward Farley’s oft-repeated statement sums up the late twentieth-century scenario: “the house of authority has collapsed.” 1 For many, great was the fall of it.

Listen to Lyotard as he refers to the Bible as fable with its “despotic deposit of divine utterance.” 2 Deconstructionist Mark Taylor said, “Everything

inscribed in the divine milieu is thoroughly transitional and radically relative.” 3 Homilete Scott Johnston tells us that “to be postmodern is to be post-certain.” 4 Furthermore, the rebuilt house will look radically different from the old one. Sallie McFague tells us how to reconceive Scripture after the collapse of the house of authority:

The reformation of Christianity coming out of Enlightenment and recent liberation theologies is an attempt to return to the roots of the faith. Those who insist that a canonic...

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