Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carson on Reading the Bible as Scripture

"[T]he vision of 'objective scholarship' (a vain chimera) may actually be profane. God stands over against us; we do not stand in judgment of him. When God speaks to us through his Word, those who profess to know him must respond in an appropriate way, and that is certainly different from a stance in which the scholar projects an image of autonomous distance. Yet this is no surreptitious appeal for uncontrolled subjectivity. . . . an even-handed openness to the text . . . is the best kind of 'objectivity' of all. If the text is God's Word, it is appropriate that we respond with reverence, a certain fear, a holy joy, a questing obedience." - D. A. Carson, "Editor's Preface" to David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles [Pillar; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], xiv.

Any thoughts about the differences between Carson and Keck?


nicholas meyer said...

I like the sense of a struggle with the text which Keck's comments convey. Carson's seem too easily to equate the words of Scripture themselves with God's word to us. I'm really not sure that that equation is sustainable.

d. miller said...

I'm comfortable affirming that Scripture is the Word of God (not sure whether you are denying this), but I agree with you about the struggle. It seems that Carson is concerned about the dangers of an approach that by its very nature leads to a godless resistance to the text, while Keck is concerned to guard against a pious subversion of it. The one emphasizes reverence, obedience over questing, the other the genuine questioning required for *questing* obedience to be authentic.

I'm more concerned with the latter not only because I think it is a bigger problem in my context, but also because it gets at the struggle that is involved in genuine interpretation. Perhaps one of the things niggling me about the Carson quote is, as you point out, that his formulation of the authority of Scripture conflates text and interpretation. Hope that makes sense.

nicholas meyer said...

Hey d.,

Conflation of text and interpretation is definitely part of it, and may better sum up my problem. I was thinking along these lines: I too affirm that Scripture is God's word, but I don't think this means that every statement of scripture is God's word "to us"; e.g., 1 Tim 2:11-14. In fact, I think there is freedom to affirm scripture as God's word and yet still say "no" to or disagree with it. The basis on which one does this, however, will also be informed by that to which scripture witnesses: God's self-revelation in his Word (Jesus Christ). The subject of scripture can function reciprocally as the basis for a critique thereof. Whether Keck was getting at something like this, I don't know, but Carson does not seem to leave roam for it.

So to say that scripture is God's word is to say something like they are a providentially given witness to God's self-revelation to his son (Israel) and through his Son (Jesus Christ).

Anyway, these are just incipient thoughts reflective of my continual struggle to wrestle with the historically contingent nature of the biblical texts and a conviction that they are scripture.

I'd be happy to hear a critique!


d. miller said...

A couple thoughts: Your comment reminds me of the attempt I made a few years ago to suggest that we can, at times, move beyond Scripture by discerning eschatological tension within Scripture. However, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that we have "freedom" to do this or that a critique of Scripture will ever be natural or normal. For one thing, it's too easy to avoid that which we most need to hear.

I'm also uncomfortable with reducing Scripture to a witness to God's self-revelaton, although I like your Christocentric approach (Heb 1:1 comes to mind).