Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The breadth of Scripture

So, last night in the History Study here we just finished up looking at Luther's Genesis commentary. We did so in a neat way - I wanted to give folks a sample of what it would have been like to hear Luther lecture, so I asked them to give me 2 stories from Genesis that they wanted to know about - and then I would pick out a few (okay, quite a few) quotes from Luther's lectures on them.

So, we spent probably 6 hours going over snippets of Luther's commentary on Babel and on Sodom. And, of course, as reading Luther always is, it was fun. But the thing I wanted to point out, and that I think was demonstrated, was just how interconnected Scripture is - and Luther is the expert on that!

We tend to think of the parts of the bible as discreet stories - maybe joined chronologically. Go read Luther on Babel - it connects to everything and everywhere! It connects to Noah, it connects to today. Ditto with Sodom - but not just in the "Oh, look, homosexuality is bad" shortcut we take so often today. When Luther teaches you see how he understands that all Scripture connects together - that it is truly One unified whole - the Word of God, given by God out of love for our benefit.

I think this can sadly be contrasted with modern Exegetical theology. Exegetical theology, the study of the Scriptural texts, is often contrasted with Systematic theology, the study of doctrines. Exegetics will focus in on the specific points of a part of scripture (it's depth, really dig in and get into the text) - Systematics will focus on a bunch of verses that refer to a specific topic (it's system, or unity).

Luther, on the other hand, delights in the breadth of Scripture. Babel explains modern political tensions, Sodom shows God's patience with hesitant Lot. And of course, it always ties and points to Christ. It is as though Luther would view Scripture as a net - or a web - like he was a hypertexter before his time. It all meshes together.

We tend not to see that as much today. We either focus on one specific point (Exegetics) or maybe a strand (Systematics) - but we don't simply see the beauty of the whole of the Word.

Maybe that is part of the reason why there's more interest in RC and EO today from some Lutherans - if you are interested in points - well, tradition has points. If you are interested in threads, well, there are threads that spread on out into tradition (a hammock has to get tied to a tree somehow!). But the breadth - well, some might claim analogy of faith can be thrown onto tradition - and to a certain extent it can - but the amount and richness that is present simply in the Scriptures. . . mind boggling. Even the historian (and lover of watching the development of tradition) that I am will say, for the Faith what more source is necessary?

No comments: