Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury - church needs to listen properly to the bible

Apr. 16, 2007 -- The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan WIlliams, has told an audience of theological students that both intensely liberal and ultra conservative readings of the Bible are 'rootless' and are limited in what they can contribute to the life of the church. In the Larkin Stuart lecture, delivered today at an event hosted jointly by Wycliffe and Trinity theological colleges in Toronto, Dr Williams said that Christians need to reconnect with scripture as something to be listened to and heard in the context of Jesus's invitation to the Eucharist and to work for the Kingdom.

"... The Church's public use of the Bible represents the Church as defined in some important way by listening: the community when it comes together doesn't only break bread and reflect together and intercede, it silences itself to hear something. It represents itself in that moment as a community existing in response to a word of summons or invitation, to an act of communication that requires to be heard and answered."

This, he argues, is crucial in the way in which the communities of Christians are informed by what the Scriptures say:

"Take Scripture out of this context of the invitation to sit at table with Jesus and to be incorporated into his labour and suffering for the Kingdom, and you will be treating Scripture as either simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct or a piece of detached historical record - the typical exaggerations of Biblicist and liberal approaches respectively."


Similarly, St Paul's denunciation of homosexuality in Romans 1 v 27 also needed to be properly heard as an ancilliary point in an argument about another matter entirely. That did not diminish its force but made it harder either to discard it or to use it as a definite proof text.

"It is not helpful for a 'liberal' or revisionist case, since the whole point of Paul's rhetorical gambit is that everyone in his imagined readership agrees in thinking the same sex relations of the culture around them to be as obviously immoral as idol-worship or disobedience to parents. It is not very helpful to the conervative either, though, because Paul insists on shifting the focus away from the objects of moral disapprobation in chapter 1 to the reading / hearing subject who has at this point been happily identifying with Paul's castigation of someone else ... Paul is making a primary point not about homosexuality but about the delusions of the supposedly law- abiding."

Click here to read the entire lecture.

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