reading the Bible with modern sensibilities

First of all, just as Christianity is not- tried and found wanting, but rather, untried, period (G. K. Chesterton), so the Bible is not- read and found wanting, but actually not read at all. As a rule. But it’s true that the Bible was written in a different day with reference to a different time. Also the Bible itself I think carries us along in what has been said to be a “redemptive movement hermeneutic” (William Webb), God moving his people toward the goal of his kingdom, fulfilled in King Jesus himself. So that the ethic of that kingdom which is to be lived out and explored in each culture and time ought to show the world a better way, even while ultimately such an ethic can be fulfilled only in and through Jesus, through God’s saving work in him.

Modernism in some ways has simply hidden the evil present, which Jesus taught precedes from the heart into our actions (or inaction). So that we fail to love God with all our being and doing, and we fail to love our neighbor as ourselves. Of course none of us will arrive on those scores, but the point is that we can directly violate them, failing for example to be a neighbor to those in need (Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan- Luke 10:25-37).

To think that modernism hasn’t been guilty of barbarism is not to know history. Of course we are better off with modern dentistry, medicine, etc., etc. In this world via “common grace” there indeed have been some good advances. But such things, while potentially helping the poor, still leave the heart unchanged.

The whole point of scripture is the gospel fulfilled in Jesus, God’s grace and kingdom come in him. And it is fulfilled through a people, Israel to begin with carried on now by what has been called the expanded Israel, the church. Yes, we have yet to arrive ourselves, but that’s not the fault of scripture, but rather our fault to a significant extent. But with the fact and factor that we are in process toward the final goal in this life.

Perhaps in a certain sense and in a good number of ways it’s not the Bible that needs critiqued, but instead the times in which we live. Postmodernism, arguably existent as a reaction to modernism, while carrying some weight, has enough problems of its own. One shouldn’t think they can slide on without factoring in the need for truth, having a basis for what’s right and wrong. But the answer we say as followers of Jesus is found in God’s grace and kingdom come in King Jesus. And God’s will in him. The Revelation at the end of the Bible is a bracing judgment of the evil in the world, a putting an end to it in bringing in God’s good salvation.

And so rather than us standing in judgment of the Bible, we need to let the Bible stand in judgment of us as God’s word, leading us to God’s final Word, Jesus.

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