Theological Reading II

One of the difficulties of reading the Bible in search of the theological perspectives of the biblical authors is that we have been taught that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” Thus, when we come across a passage we have trouble making sense of, we turn to other passages that may illumine this particular passage. This is allowed if the author has that passage or book in purview. But I’m afraid that we import certain perspectives across books of the Bible even if the author of a particular book did not intend it. For example, the Johannine literature is where we find the majority of the substitutionary¬†atonement passages. I find that people import John’s understanding of the atonement into say, Paul’s atonement theory. Instead of taking each other on their own terms and listening to their own perspectives, we try to synthesize when maybe a kaleidoscopic view of the atonement is allowed by the biblical witness. This happens in my theology class when we begin to argue which theory of atonement is more biblical when a number of them all seem to be biblical. Instead of being forced to simply choose one, why can’t we allow the mosaic of the biblical witness shape our understanding? The Scripture interprets Scripture hermeneutic allows one to mix and match with biblical metaphors and understandings in a way that one finds or constructs what they wish. Why does John’s view of the atonement outweigh Mark’s view? The idea of the clarity of Scripture (or perspicuity to demonstrate that I am indeed attending seminary) does not connote that the Bible portrays views in their simplest states (one unified view opposing all other understandings). But it does suggest that the witness of the biblical authors is clear. And even if different authors may view the atonement or any other doctrine in different ways does not mean we have to choose one or the other or be forced to synthesize the views into a simplified unity. Rather, it may suggest that our theology needs to expand and make room for these different perspectives within the biblical witness. Then again, sometimes there is no room in the inn, and we are forced to the manger.

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