Friday, June 03, 2005

What scripture does

I have just finished reading Scripture and the Authority of God, by N. T. Wright, in which he has addressed a subject I have wanted him to write a book on for some time. He had already written articles such as How Can The Bible Be Authoritative? (kindly provided by the N. T. Wright Page) but I wanted something fuller, and so snapped up this book.

One unusual feature of this book is that all the chapters and sections have long descriptive titles of the sort I thought had gone out in the 19th Century. So the 107 page book has 5 pages of contents. In honour of this welcome return to detailed contents I will attempt to highlight the most important and interesting ideas of the book using just the titles to a number of the sections.

  • [Chapters 1 and 2 were boring]
  • 'Authority of Scripture' is a Shorthand for God's Authority Exercised Through Scripture [hence the title of the book]
  • God's 'Authority' is Best understood within the Context of God's 'Kingdom'
  • Scripture thus Transcends (Though it Includes) 'Revelation' [because does not just contain information, but is a tool of God's which achieves something]
  • [having said that] Nor is Scripture Simply a Devotional Manual [because that downplays Scripture's wider role in the church and the world]
  • Apostolic Preaching of 'the Word': the Jesus-Story Fulfils the (OT) Scripture-Story [the bible narrative is unsurprisingly very important for Wright]
  • The Writers of the NT Intended to Energize, Shape and Direct the Church; Their writings Were Intended to be Vehicles of the Spirit's Authority, and were Perceived to b That in Fact [note the word 'Vehicles']
  • [...] the Scriptural Narrative (Creation Spoiled and Restored, Covenant Broken and Renewed) was Reaffirmed [by the early church fathers] over against De-Storied, Anti-Creation and Anti-Jewish Alternatives
  • The Narrative Character, and 'Israel' - Dimension of scripture Were Gradually Displaced by Scripture being Seen as Merely Either 'Court of Appeal' or the Focus of Lectio Divina [this was the most challenging to me; I must try to accept Scripture's Authority over myself and the world and not use it as a Court of Appeal, a serious problem with my Church in York. I think working through whole bible books is key here, replacing the pick-and-mix counter]
  • The Reformers and the Story of God [Wright clearly thinks the Reformers were great, except for their ignoring of the Scriptural narrative, a serious offence in his book]
  • [Chapters 8-10 were Wright rambling without really saying anything worth repeating]

A good book overall, with Wright's usual strengths and weaknesses. It was quite challenging and has got me reading the bible according to a daily plan again, which I am really enjoying (Thank you God). On the other hand he totally ignored Inerrancy and broader issues of historicity which are of huge importance to me and others day to day submitting to God's authority in Scripture. Maybe it is not that important in the big scheme of things, but for my daily interaction with the Scriptures, it is very, very important, and I hoped Wright could cut a way through the Inerrancy arguments to some light on the matter. So I was slightly disappointed.


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