I’m thinking here about issues which can be studied out in scripture, but probably also about issues which are brought up in society. Today an example being gay marriage. On that issue Christians approach it from all different kinds of angles. But to boil it down it would seem there are those on both sides (traditional and for lack of a better term, progressive) who appeal to scripture and an interpretation of it. There are those progressive Christians who appeal to scripture, but insist on giving different knowledges of the day some say, so that if something is demonstrated to be true, then something Paul says might not be true. Or more likely, they might say, it could not have taken into account all that is known today, so that what Paul says rightfully undertstood on the issue, is true, but he simply doesn’t cover it all. And I would think more variation among the progressives. This is not to say that the traditional view, which I hold to on this subject doesn’t have some variation, only to say, we would still hold to heterosexual sexual activity within marriage as what is according to God’s revealed will in scripture and therefore God’s will for human life. And then there are the liberals who see scripture as religious tradition, and put their weight entirely on an interpretation based from knowledges of the day (see these posts, first two).
Getting away from the specific example above, I believe that when we approach issues as Christians, we must take a stance within the grounding of scripture. However that doesn’t mean we pay no attention to the knowledges of the day, such as the sciences. And one avenue of knowledge which can have direct bearing on the text of scripture itself would be the kind of textual criticism which is not trying to undermine or throw out scripture, but is studious in regard to writings of the day in biblical times. Say writings in the Ancient Near East, so that we can compare biblical writings with them (as in the Genesis account of creation compared with other creation accounts either of, or known at that time).
In the end, as one who would be in the sphere and spectrum of the traditional, I would insist that scripture is the word of God from Genesis through Revelation, that all of it is true, properly understood, and that the truth of it is not far removed even from the face of what appears in our translations of scripture. In other words, though we’re sure not to get every jot and tittle right from our interpretation of the Bible, we will still be basically sound in where we stand, from a careful study of scripture. This last thought is rather naive, however, when one considers the history of hermeneutics, or biblical interpretation among those who are traditional, because we do vary on many counts with where we stand on biblical issues, baptism and the Lord’s Table being two examples. But even on those issues, if we set aside our differences, we can usually find common ground, which all has its basis in scripture.
Back to the drawing board briefly: scripture has primacy, followed by tradition (how the church has been led), reason and experience. Only scripture is infallible, but not our interpretation of it, it is not.
All of this should help us see both our need for humility demonstrated in dependence on God, and our commitment to keep working especially on what scripture itself is actually saying, its emphasis. Without ducking the hard issues on the table during the time in which we live. All of this done and taken in by us in Jesus for the world.