Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflections on Keck and Carson on Reading the Bible as Scripture

This posts reflects on the quotations by Leander Keck and D.A. Carson that I posted back in August here and here, and continues a conversation that Nick Meyer started in the comments.

The quotes from Keck and Carson share a lot in common. Carson speaks of a "questing obedience"; Keck is concerned about genuinely "reading the Bible as Scripture" in a way that leads to "serious questions about what we read" and, ultimately, an obedient response.

Readers of this blog may know that my tendency is to emphasize questions. I prefer to refer to my approach as a hermeneutic of wonder rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion, but the distinction can get blurred. For this reason, Carson's challenge to approach Scripture with "reverence, a certain fear, a holy joy" comes as an important reminder.

Yet there's something that niggles at me. 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. It seems to me that Keck fingers the fundamental problem in the evangelical conviction that the Bible is true: Because it all has to be true, there is a tendency to tame the text instead of wrestling with it. It is more honest to disagree (as an immediate, not a final response)--more honest and more dangerous because serious wrestling runs the risk of being mastered by the text (or rather, being mastered by the God who speaks through the text).

I resonate more with Keck 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. I am happy to affirm, with Carson, that the Bible is God's Word and that when "God speaks to us through his Word, those who profess to know him must respond in an appropriate way." But the sense of struggle is missing here, and I wonder if it is because Carson's formulation of the authority of Scripture conflates text and interpretation.

(See also Nick's independent post, as well as Larry Hurtado's thoughts on approaching the Bible as Scripture.)

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