Author: Rev Dr David Spriggs, Dean of Studies, Bible Society.
I am very grateful to Eddie for a fascinating, accessible, well-illustrated lecture introducing us to one of the key issues of contemporary hermeneutics, that of the inevitability of the conditional and thus conditioning nature of the reader’s context and the significant contribution which this makes to the way we all read Scripture.
It is helpful both pedagogically and pastorally that we were introduced to this initially strange and puzzling factor through the eyes of the world church, rather than as a theoretical issue. Even so, it is hard to come to terms with one of several implications, namely even if we believe in the inerrancy and divine inspiration of Scripture, we must accept that our understanding of any and all Scripture will not be inerrant, nor infallible nor divinely inspired. Any sense that ‘our’ interpretation is fully commensurate with the divinely given meaning of Scripture needs to be seriously re-evaluated in the light of the global churches’ perspectives. If we don’t we run at least two risks, either divinising the enlightenment understanding of the nature of ‘truth’ and/or elevating the Western way of reading the Bible and thus betraying a sense of superiority generated by Western imperialism from which we need to repent. This applies – as Eddie hinted – not only to forms of scriptural fundamentalism but also to liberal ‘higher critical’ approaches and conclusions.
In this response I hope to do two things – inevitably very briefly. One is to illustrate different readings of a well know parable – in the light of the global church. The second is to offer an initial reflection on the issue of how we can handle diversity without opening the flood gates to total relativity – which if inevitable would call in question the value of Scripture as the primary source for divine truth. Clearly, as Eddie’s reference to the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ indicated, he has no wish to do this.
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