Part 2 of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity addresses how we should read the Bible. It presented a fairly decent contrast of what I refer to as the clerical and journey views of the Scriptures.
- Clerical View – the Scriptures need a professional caste of clerks who decipher the texts because the ‘laity’ couldn’t prossibly crack the code. Mclaren calls this the ‘constitutional view’.
- Journey View – the Scriptures are a compilation of the journey with God. They reflect more than report and the same struggles exist in our context as did with the ancients. Mclaren has a variation of this he calls the ‘library’ view.
Unlike a lot of people I know, I do not feel that we need to treat all of the Scripture the same. The Scriptures are not a single, codified rule. It is a library, a collection of the writings of those who share our journey. Far from being some kind of absolute, consolidated document, the Bible is actually a varied collection with many different voices expressed in it.
These voices unite in a dialogue, pointing us toward God and the way he has called us to live; but we must not just assume that because something is in the Bible that it is normative. For example, huge passages of the Hebrew Scriptures are poetic. The book of Job has enormous tractates that espouse positions out of sync with the rest of the Scriptures. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is a mingling of half-truths and perceptions.
This however, is not the same as Mclaren’s library view. He holds to a belief in in a very loose inspiration. To him, inspiration is the dialogue between God and man, with man predominant. The Scriptures are the human record of inspiration. I disagree with this oversimplification. It is a continuing dialogue, which occurs not just in Scripture but in all world religions (more on that in next week’s post).
The Scriptures do not simply inspire us nor are they the record of God’s inspiration. They are the God-breathed words. Together, they form the canon of his witness of himself to us. They cannot be used willy-nilly for support of this position or that position. That much I will agree with McLaren about. But to then redefine inspiration as basically a discussion between God and man – it does not line up with that the Bible says about itself.
And that’s really my problem with McLaren’s position. I agree with his question; and I even agree with his rejection of what he calls the “constitution” view of Scripture; but I think his response is too human, too driven by literary theory to fit with the mystery of inspiration as it played out in the Bible.