scripture: the foundation on which our faith is built
So how do we know about God, the universe and everything (yes, a nod to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)? This is a question with which human beings have been wrestling since the dawn of time. Ultimately, I believe, there have been two ways in which humanity has discovered its answers.
The first way in which we have tried to know about God, the universe and everything is through observation. Human beings always observed the world around them. They watched animals, seasons, stars and planets. These various entities were often assigned magical powers, cult status or human characteristics. By so doing, countless civilizations made sense of the world in which they lived. If we continue the theme of observation into the modern era we come to the rise of the scientific age. Through observation and experimentation science has defined and is continually redefining the parameters of what we know and how we know it.
The second way in which we have tried to know about God, the universe and everything is through revelation. Revelation describes the encountering of God (or other knowledge) in a way we could not do through observation. This is the heart of the three great Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each of these faiths believes that God has revealed God’s self to humanity in a variety of ways; Judaism to individuals such as Moses and the Prophets; Christianity in Jesus and through the Apostle’s; and Islam through Muhammad. In addition each of these faiths has also compiled these revelations in a holy book (The Bible, both halves, and the Quran).
Both of these ways of knowing about God, the universe and everything were then, and continue to be, filtered through culture and tradition. Regardless of what you hear from those who claim to be interpreting their holy book in some tradition-less manner, they are not.
All faith claims are filtered through generations of culture and tradition which then shape how we interact with and organize what we observe and what has been revealed to us.
Christianity is no exception. It too is a faith of both observation and revelation mediated through culture and tradition. What makes orthodox Christianity different from other faiths though is that it professes that the ultimate revelation of God and what God wants of us is not to be found in a book but in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Christian orthodoxy holds that in Jesus, God became mysteriously enfleshed in our midst.
Therefore if humanity wants to make sense of God and what God desires of humanity it should look not to words directly dictated by God to a person but to the life and teachings of Jesus (which for better or worse, like the rest of the scriptures, have been filtered through culture and tradition). While the scriptures tell us that God has revealed God’s self in a burning bush, through the Torah and through the proclamation of prophets, the ultimate revelation of God for orthodox Christianity is Jesus the Christ.
Scripture becomes important then because it is our source for knowing not only the story of God’s relationship with humanity, but about who Jesus is, why he came, what he accomplished and what he desires of us. What this means for the church is that if we want to align our lives (what we believe, say and do) with God, then we need to align it with the Jesus we find in the scriptures. Thus any faith claims we make need to have their basis in the Biblical texts, even if those texts are filtered in and through culture and tradition. This understanding then will form the basis of all the articles on this site.
The video to the left is of NT Wright offering his insight into scripture