Biblical Interpretation that Fosters Christian Unity
by Daniel B. Oden and J. David Stark
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How does Scripture read Scripture, and can the church follow that lead?
Scripture or tradition? The things of God or the things of men? It’s easy, especially in the long shadow of the Reformation, to pit Scripture against tradition as enemies. After all, the goal of orienting one’s faith to the Bible alone can be so alluring.
But the Bible itself suggests there is a fundamental unity between Scripture and the tradition it embodies. Rightly appreciating this unity can set the stage for more faithful and robust engagement with Scripture. Today’s polarized world needs thoughtful Christians who can reasonably consider their faith in light of what the Bible actually says.
Scripture First examines where tradition comes from and how you can avoid trivial proof texting. Discover how the Old and New Testament can serve as a living and active resource for Christian life, and how God continues to leads his people as they engage his Word.
“Oden and Stark have assembled six powerful essays firmly grounded in Old and New Testament depictions of God’s people striving to understand God’s word. Rather than the divisive patternistic restorationism often used in Churches of Christ, the authors convincingly advocate methods of interpreting Scripture that focus on the core affirmations of Christian faith—especially those proclaimed at and embodied in baptism. The object of godly biblical interpretation is the formation of the church into the image of Christ. These authors provide perhaps the healthiest and most hopeful way forward toward this goal seen today in Churches of Christ.” —Douglas A. Foster, University Scholar in Residence, Abilene Christian University
“These essays spark creative thought regarding how biblical interpretation impacts Christian unity. While focused on those related to the Stone-Campbell movement, the authors’ analyses of texts and methods can benefit those in a much wider circle. A good read for anyone meditating on the concept of a rule of faith and its role in understanding Scripture and building up the body of Christ.” —Susan Bubbers, Dean, The Center for Anglican Theology
“Scripture First calls us to consider what it means to take Scripture seriously. The authors prompt us to avoid blindly accepting or quickly rejecting the Restoration Movement principle of finding unity through adherence to Scripture. This work is challenging and thought-provoking; and, hopefully, it will spark significant conversations within the Stone-Campbell Movement and outside it as well.” —Todd Brenneman, Professor of Christian History, Faulkner University
“The Restoration Movement was birthed from a holy desire to unify divided Christian communities under the authority of sacred Scripture. While some hermeneutical commitments evinced in the movement have proven insufficient for that lofty goal, recent historical and theological work and increasing self-awareness have made possible new interpretive vistas that are critically and faithfully grounded in the achievements of Christian forebears—both Restorationists and others. These essays exhibit the best characteristics of such work. My hope is that Scripture First will be read widely to the edification and gentle provocation of all still committed to sharing in the mysterious work of the Father, reconciling all things in heaven and on earth in the Son through the Holy Spirit.” —Joseph K. Gordon, Associate Professor of Theology, Johnson University
“Scripture First calls for a new kind of patternism. Grounded in a close reading of Scripture, the authors recognize the core affirmations of the faith, promote the historic confession of those affirmations, and call for their expression in both liturgy and communal reading. This project faithfully reads Scripture and offers a path toward a fuller embodiment of the visible unity of the body of Christ. The integration of Scripture, the great tradition of the church, and a living community is, as Thomas Campbell speculated there might be, a ‘better way’ to realize unity in the present.” —John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology, Lipscomb University