A Note From Our Editor: “How “Not” To Interpret The Bible” -- By: John Warwick Montgomery
A Note From Our Editor: “How “Not” To Interpret The Bible”
When my wife and I are in London, we generally attend the church of my Inn of Court. Barristers must be members of at least one of four “Inns”—medieval guilds of lawyers. I am a member of both Middle Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. (I was called to the bar at Middle, and subsequently joined Lincoln’s in part because of its superior wine cellar; but that is another story.) Each Inn has its own church or chapel; they are “Royal Peculiars,” that is, directly responsible to the Queen and not under the authority of the local bishop (in this instance, the Bishop of London). Traditionally, they are—like the barristers themselves—conservative in temperament, using the 17th-century Book of Common Prayer’s magnificent liturgies.
During the so-called legal “long vacation” in the summer months, one needs to find another worship location. Close to Ludgate Circus is St Bride’s Church, designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666, and traditionally the church of the journalists (when they inhabited Fleet Street). On the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (13 August 2017) we attended service there, especially because of the wonderful Choral Eucharist.
The downside was the preacher: The Revd Canon Alison Joyce, rector of St Bride’s. After it was too late to go elsewhere, I remembered a sermon she had preached some time ago on death, arguing, with no mention of the biblical teaching that death is the product of sin (Rom. 3:23) or that Christ is the answer (Rom. 6:23), that death is essential to the human race since otherwise the world would be overpopulated and people would still be forced to live even though suffering from the dreadful diseases and pain of extreme old age.
Joyce’s sermon on this occasion was an interpretation of Matthew 14:22-33, where our Lord walks on water.
She began—encouragingly—debunking a Florida university professor who claimed that a rational explanation for the event was the extreme climate at the time: ice formations on the Sea of Galilee would have given the impression that Jesus was walking on water.
The rector then followed this with her own brand of rationalism (a rationalism picked up, to be sure, from the literary critics of the New Testament). Said she: We must understand what the Gospel writers were actually doing: They wrote to show how special Jesus was. The feeding of the 5,000 was to show that Jesus was infinitely more important than the Old Testament prophet Elisha, who had miraculously fed a small number of people (II Ki...
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