Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Biblical Texts

I've had mixed opinions about the origins of the Biblical texts over the years. At one point I didn't question their status as authoritative, because as a child I didn't question that kind of thing. When I was a fundamentalist evangelical I believed them to be literal and probably the result of trance writing or some kind of deep, prayerful authorship.


The fact is that Christianity has a canon of texts as well as other useful texts. Everything from the Gospel of Thomas through to the latest Christian best-seller is all part of the enormous literature of Christianity. Many of them aren't even self-consistent, let alone consistent with the others. And it's the tiniest fraction of them which even try to present Christianity as a whole, or as a system, and these works are large and difficult.

And then there's the contradictions within the Bible, and within the texts by the same Biblical author. All in all, the role of the Christian text is to create space in which to work out the consequences of the lordship of Jesus. If Christians are trying to obey Christ and become like Christ, then the texts can only be the attempt to deduce the consequences and/or to convey these consequences to others.

By doing this we rid ourselves of the notion that the Bible is infallible and we liberate Christianity from being an exclusively theoretical exercise. Christianity is meant to be lived, and lived intentionally. Christian texts allow the space to work out what that means but are no substitute for the activity of discipleship.

In this Christmas season, when we remember the shepherds and the magi and the angels and the manger, we need to remember that all of these symbols in the text are just pointers, and that the arrival of Christ in the world still depends on the activity of Christians today.
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