The great shift which set Europe on a course different from the rest of Asia is encapsulated in the famous phrase of St Augustine ‘Credo ut intelligam’. I believe in order to know. We do not lay down prior conditions for acknowledging God’s address to us. That address is always an act of grace evoking the response of faith. To seek something more certain than this is to lose the possibility of the knowledge of God. We must learn from Scripture itself how God addresses us and therefore what it can mean to speak of the Bible as the word of God. We must also employ all our critical powers in the reading and understanding of Scripture. To do less would be to dishonour God. But, and this is the crucial point, all critical activity depends upon the acceptance of beliefs which are – in the act of criticising – held uncritically. (To attempt to criticise all our beliefs at the same time would be a descent into insanity). The stance for our critical reading of the Bible, providing us with the tools for understanding and the criteria for judging, will be the fact that in Christ God has reconciled us to himself and called us to follow Jesus. It is from this standpoint that we will exercise our critical powers in reading the Bible. Our reading must also be historical, in the sense that we read every part of Scripture with an awareness of the historical situation in which it was written, and in the sense that we read it in the context of the whole story which the Bible tells.
18 July 2006
My starting point
I was re-reading some old papers by Lesslie Newbigin from my days with ‘The Gospel and Our Culture’ yesterday and came across the following, which pretty well sums up my starting point for doing theology: