Needing Another Method for Reading Scripture

Grenz makes an a common sense appeal that scripture be for us the norm for theological reflection. As "people of the book" that should be no-brainer. But no matter how ofter we read the common text, we continually find various ways to spit hairs and split communions. Few things seem as fraught with potential conflict as our most common heritage; i.e. reading scripture.

Recently, I was having lunch with some Presbyterian ministers while sharing strawberries, sharing thoughts on Luke 10, and trying to share a common approach to scripture. We looked at a passage from a PC USA resource ( called, Presbyterian Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture. Helpfully the document delineated three predominant approaches to reading scripture....

Model A Distinctive Characteristics: The Bible as a Book of Inerrant Facts

1. The rational procedure of mathematics, empirical science, and Common Sense philosophy are used in approaching the Bible as a collection of true facts and doctrinal propositions that can be organized into a logical system truly representing the mind and will of God.

2. Each word of the Bible is considered divinely chosen, and it is inerrant in all things, including science and history.

3. In all regards he Bible is considered to be the judge of human thought and in no way is it to be judged by us.

Model B Distinctive Characteristics: The Bible as Witness to Christ, the Word of God

1. Faith relationship replaces dependence on rational procedures. God can be known not by the mind alone, but by faith encounter with Jesus Christ, God incarnate.

2. The Bible is the word of God because by the Holy Spirit it is the instrument by which God in Christ encounters a person. The Bible is not diminished in its power by the presence of archaic and superseded conceptions of past times and cultures in matters of science and history as well as in religious and ethical realms.

3. The major emphasis is on God's act of self-revelation rather than on the process by which Scripture was written. The inspiration of its authors is not denied, but the stress is on the impact of the Holy Spirit on the readers of Scripture.

Model C Distinctive Characteristics: A Divine Message in Human Thought Forms

1. The social sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology provide crucial insights for a thorough understanding of Scripture.

2. The accent is on the Bible's function as communicating a divine message in human forms of thought. The message speaks to the needs of people in all cultures despite its particular historical context of ancient Near Eastern culture. To understand the divine message one must pay the closest attention possible to the human words, neither presuming the meaning to be obvious nor forcing meaning into arbitrary harmonies or a preconceived theology.

3. Human, relational metaphors, rather than scientific or propositional statements aptly describe God's communication with his people and provide us with invaluable attitudes, approaches and analogies by which people can cope with contemporary problems in a Christian perspective.

The only disturbing thing was this was where the description ended. The first might be characterized as the Princeton School which gave rise to folks like Hodge, Berkhouer, Ryrie and contemporary fundamentalism. The second looks a lot like my seminary education, and most western seminaries of the mainline denominations. Steeped in Neo-Orthodoxy we read Barth, Brunner, and Bonhoeffer. The third option reminds me of my years studying existential philosophy and the method of correlation formed by Paul Tillich and the University of Chicago.

What is lacking in this list? Isn't there a fourth position that has emerged since the rise of postmodernity? Where do we put the likes of Grenz, N. T. Wright, and even Gordon Fee? So, what I am asking, can we begin to forge a unifying theory of biblical interpretation? Is there a fourth way appropriate to the context in which we now live and minister?