Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Founder's Day Lectures

Last week professors Dr. Davidson and Dr. Balch gave their inaugural lectures on the theme "Reading the Bible: Identity and Adaptation." The message that I took away from their presentation was four-fold:
  1. That it is important to understand that the book we call the Bible is a collection of texts which were written by unique and differing communities as inspired expressions of themselves, and their understandings of life and God.
  2. That the list of texts that composes the canon of scripture is a source of cultural and ideological power has changed over time to match the communities which controlled it.
  3. That the theologians and theological traditions (Augustinian, Lutheran, Calvinist) in which we are embedded act as an additional canon because we instinctively read the scriptures through their lenses.
  4. That we are able to create a new canon by finding new ways to interpret the scriptures; and that not only are we able to do this, but perhaps we ought to do so in order to make a an ancient text inspired and meaningful for a modern audience.

In response to these lectures, former PLTS President Wally Stuhr questioned the two professors, who had just sworn to teach in accordance with Lutheran doctrine, as to how their ideas related to Lutheranism--whatever that may be. I feel that this touches upon a question that we as Lutherans must actively discuss as a community: What does Luther's slogan of "Sola Scriptura" mean when scripture is conceived as a living organism?

From this comes a host of other questions, not the least of which include:

  • Does being Lutheran require having the same scriptures that Luther had?
  • Can we reinterpret the interpretations of Luther?
  • Should we even be bound to Luther's ideas when he himself pointed solely to the gospels?
  • If it is possible to change canon through interpretation, should it be possible to change canon by adding new texts?

These are just some of the questions bouncing around my head. I hope to hear your insights!


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