I stumbled on a controversy over a Christian book yesterday–I won’t tell you which one, there are so many to choose from (both books and controversies)–and found one of the author’s points to be this: we all pick and choose when we interpret and apply Scripture, so the question is not, ‘Will we pick and choose?’ but ‘How will we? What assumptional hermeneutic will govern us?’
Perhaps it was my age and crankiness that made me respond with a) ‘You need a whole book for that?’ and b) ‘Why do people always put this in a way that makes it sound like a human weakness?’ (I’m going to go right on being aging and cranky for a couple of hundred words.) I’ve asked myself question b) since I first heard this point made in the Eighties, when it was expressed as ‘everyone reads the Bible through his own grid.’ Saying that we ‘pick and choose’ and using the grid image are a little like saying that God’s ‘a good guy.’ Both of the former misinterpret a lot, leave out a lot and suppress a lot.
They misinterpret by making exegesis an unalert application of one’s assumptions (but human beings notice contradictions between what they assume and what they read). They leave out the persuasive power of texts (human beings can have their minds changed by written arguments, thanks be to God). They suppress the compelling power of some kinds of speech and some kinds of truth (some things in the Bible have the power of a cry of ‘Fire! Get out!’–and yes, I left out a lot of steps in that argument–think of it as a telescope compressed by a garbage truck).
The idea that someone can actually be changed by what he reads is, I think, a signpost that points much more directly towards the fully Christian and fully human truth about reading.
(Thanks to Clarissa Lewis for permission to use the photo.)