Posts Tagged ‘Gustaf Wingren’

“[B]ecause we assume the analogy between our time and the narrative time of Scripture, and Scriptural time moves toward the specific time of renewal and liberation in Jesus, we in our own conflicts can maintain hope. We are not spared the cost of conflict or promised a final theological resolution; rather we are assured of the possibility of ‘re-producing’ the meaning that is Christ crucified and risen, through our commitment to an unavoidably divided Church – not by the effort to reconcile at all costs, but by carrying the burdens of conflict in the face of that unifying judgment bodied forth in preaching and sacrament. In that openness to the plain historical difficulty of belonging to the Church, we open ourselves to the gift of Christ.”
(Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology, 2000, p. 58).

Christian faith and theology holds that in Jesus from Nazareth we find the final and complete revelation of God. In theology this is expressed by reference to the incarnation of God in Jesus, truth is found in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Incarnation is not to be understood in a way that the second person of the triune God turns himself into a member of the humanoid race on earth, but that Jesus of Nazareth in every moment of his entire life is a medium for God’s gracious love that created, sustains and is going to recreate the world. Incarnation is to be grounded in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, both his words and deed, where the cross and the empty tomb is an integral part of this life (too often a false dichotomy is found here). This life reveals who God is, in all its ambiguity, and not least, gives us a pattern (a language) for understanding and talking about God. With Martin Luther we may say: crux probat omnia (WA, V, 179,31).

Nativity of Christ

Nativity of Christ

Scripture is therefore a second hand product . Scripture, as we have it, is the oldest historical recollections (derived from the consciousness of the witnesses to the life of Jesus of Nazareth), it testifies to Jesus from Nazareth. Scripture also testify to the acts of God in the history of Israel.

I do not believe that we can move beyond these two points, the first being the content of revelation and the second the historical priority of the canon of the Old and the New Testament. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit is denied or the Church does not have a role to play. Only that neither verbal inspiration nor ecclesiology (like the petrine office) can guarantee the divine origin of Scripture.

The reason for me believing this is that in some forms of theology Scripture is in danger of eclipsing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture becomes a way to make things easier, and therefore we do not have to argue theologically for our conclusions. The danger is that Scripture short circuits all our thinking and only work to consolidate our own understanding of things. Instead it should challenge our understanding of God, the Church, the world and humans. For they are all marked with conflict, as Rowan Williams mentions.

Therefore I think that making Scriptural authority the fundamental principle of theology is forfeit. The Lutheran theologian Gustaf Wingren (Credo, 1995, p. 31) gives three reasons why it should not take this place in theology:

  • First of all, the content of Christian faith was never preached as gospel in the early Christian age, like Christ himself. E.g. Scripture was not given its own article in the creeds, although it was mentioned in the Nicene Creed (“the prophets”). For Lutherans it is interesting that the Augsburg Confession does not include an article on Scripture.
  • Second, a person or an event can be unique in many ways, a book cannot. A book may lead to a theorising of the Gospel. God’s revelation and even his very nature as triune being, becomes abstract and faith is reduced to episteme (knowledge).
  • Third, by emphasising the book underlines our nihilism. The book limits God and makes God harmless. The human life does not belong to the historical realm where God acts, namely the Bible. We and our time are empty and our only valuable asset we have is the special book.

The nature and status of Scripture can and should not be decided before working with hermeneutical, historical and dogmatic questions, but be based on the results of these questions.

I don’t think there is an independent theological discipline called bibliology (at the very best the concept covers the study of the Old and the New Testament), instead the nature and status of the Bible should be discussed when dealing with creation and language, Jesus of Nazareth and the gospel, and the Holy Spirit and the Church. And especially in relation to the third article of the Christian faith, since Christ exercises his dominion over his Church through the Holy Spirit.

The Danish theologian and hymn writer, Nikolaj F.S. Grundtvig, warns his fellow Christians against substituting a human pope with pope made out of paper (and a priestly pope). His warning was valid in the 19th century and still is today.


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