Thursday, January 18, 2007


Who gets to interpret scripture? Is it the individual or the corporate body. Are interpretations to be guided by clergy?

This discussion is currently heating up in the ranks of Baptistdom in America. Baptist have always been big on the Priesthood of the Believer. Part of this doctrine is that every person, individually, has the Holy Spirit given power to understand and interpret scripture.

But is this the best way to for ministers to pastor congregations? It seems to me that education is extremely important in the understanding of scripture. We need some other source many times if we are to get the full message of a particular Biblical passage.

A point in case would be Women in Ministry. Without a historical and literary background, it would seem that Paul believes that women should not be ministers in a church. However, when the background of this passage (in 1 Timothy) is revealed, it becomes apparent that Paul's teachings are not against women as ministers, but rather against heretical teachings.

I'm not saying that education is absolutely necessary to understand scripture; only that we are tremendously hindered without it. Therefore, I feel that it is the duty of the pastors (including all ministers) to be as educated as they can possibly be, and to impart their knowledge on others.

But then, of course this takes away from the individualist approach to the traditional Priesthood of the Believer that Baptists are so fond of. But is this such a bad thing?

Stanley Hauerwas has a book called Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America that I've been reading through. In it, Hauerwas argues that we interpret scripture based on our own American individualistic presuppositions. And in doing so, we degrade the role of Community in understanding the scriptures.

So, the debate wages on... where do we draw the line? I don't believe it's either one of the other - individualism or communism - that should determine the interpretation of scripture. Rather it should be a balance.

1 comment:

The Halpinator said...

If you ask me I think that communism should determine the interpretation of scripture. Karl Marx would probably agree with me, here.