Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Bible: not a textbook in theology

Jason pointed out a fascinating essay by Knud Jørgensen, the director of the Areopagos Foundation in Norway/Denmark and assistant professor at the Norwegian School of Theology. He is also a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group. You can read the entire post here. For the meantime here is the interesting excerpts:

The New Testament narratives are the prime examples of this. The Bible was not intended to be a textbook in theology, but to be a casebook about mission—God’s mission and our mission. The Bible includes narratives about the God who acts to our salvation and therefore equips his people to be sent to the world. Theology is therefore meant to be “an accompanying manifestation of the Christian mission and not a luxury of the world-dominating Church.”

The Gospels are clearly written to witness about Jesus Christ to diverse target groups in the Greco-Roman world, and all the epistles have grown out of the pastoral needs of the new congregations in a mission situation. There was hardly time and space for the theological research of today. Rather, the scriptures of the New Testament came into being “in the context of an emergency situation, of a church which, because of its missionary encounter with the world, was forced to theologize.”

The biblical texts do not suit the unengaged theology of the enlightenment. For the same reason, the missiology of the Global South resonates most closely with the biblical texts. A major problem, however, is that it is most often the Western, unengaged theology that has been exported to the rest of the world as part of the missionary period from the end of the eighteenth century.

This theology has become largely speculative, and often irrelevant to the mission and pastoral concerns of the Church in the Global South and in the West. It represents a blind alley and should not be regarded as the norm of Christian theology. This implies that we, together with the younger churches in the Global South, must protest against this theology; it is inadequate as a model for an engaged theology. It is a blind alley also in light of the Christian understanding and tradition as we find it in scripture, in the early Church and in the Reformation.

Moreover, this is not limited to academic theology. I think this includes the way we read and interpret the Bible. We have the tendency to belittle the way local culture read and interpret the Scripture. Everything that does not conform the way we have been taught, we judged it as inadequate and wrong.

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