I ‘watched’ the first game of the Bledisloe Cup 2014 – rugby between Australia and New Zealand – yesterday. By ‘watched’ I mean I watched the computer screen and the live commentary, the scores, and the Twitter feed that scrolled down. I watched the game by reading it every few minutes. Yes, I would have preferred to watch the game – see the action – make my own opinions of the play – but reading the material and comments and using my imagination regarding what was going on meant I still got a sense of what is happening. I still got excited as the scores changed. Watching the game with my eyes makes me reliant on the technology working (my eyes and cameras and satellites, etc). Reading the game also makes me reliant on technology but I’m more reliant on the commentators and scribes who like using 140 characters or less.
When you watch you make your own judgements about the game. When you read you still make your own judgements about the game but you also have to quickly determine how true and accurate and biased are the comments you’re reading. These are the types of issues people face when they deal with any second hand information – reporting – history. We adeptly navigate these issues when we watch the news or even follow certain newspapers or news channels over against other papers and channels. We want to know what’s going on and to make sense of that we also want and need a world view to give wider meaning to what is going on.
The same issues are faced with regards to the Bible. Often seen as book with chapters, it really is a library with books written over quite a length of time and compiled in various historical circumstances and still Christians make the faith statement – a world view statement – that it is the Word of God. Why? Because through these words on a page, the Word made flesh is revealed to us and we meet Jesus. In other words, the words convey Jesus. If they don’t convey Jesus, then they’re useless to us as the Word of God. Whether you think of the message and the medium or the theological descriptions – the formal and the material principles – what we, who live at a time when we don’t see the events in front of us but only hear the message, now do is study the message by not playing off the Bible against the Gospel and vice versa.
There is a tension in relation to Jesus that we don’t understand – how he is fully human and fully God. Similarly with the Bible – it is a divine book and a human one (written by human authors). It conveys Jesus and he then helps us read it and understand it. This means we keep reading the Bible – all of it – until we ‘meet’ Jesus and the foundational message of justification gives us the lens to understand what we read. Thus we don’t cut out parts we don’t like in the Old Testament or New Testament and say they are outdated because we have to find Jesus in them for us now. We can’t play Paul or Moses off against Jesus and say that what they said is not for us. We also can’t say simplistically ‘because the Bible says so’ until we have understood that passage ‘through Jesus’.
The reason why there are different teachings on the same topics by people all claiming to be Scriptural is often to do with this tension of formal and material principles – whether the book or the message is most important. They both are! We must keep them in tension and not play one off against the other or say that one ‘bosses’ the other. Let’s keep studying God’s Word and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church!
And the rugby? It was a draw! 12-12. A very good result for the Wallabies against the All-Blacks! — GS