"Grey" Scripture

One of the questions that was brought up during this last course was a question about the concept of the "sufficiency of scripture." One of my classmates provocatively asked whether the Bible speaks mostly in guidelines, suggestions, and is mostly "grey" rather than being "black and white." That got me thinking.
We learn, in Bible classes, the Interpreting Scriptures course, and the theology classes that the Bible is "sufficient." But we don't spend a lot of time poking at that idea.

I'm going to quote a guy named Ken Myers:
We don't hear much about the "insufficiency of Scripture." But it is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about Christianity and culture. Scripture does not present itself as the only source of truth about all matters. It does not even present itself as a source of some truth about everything. It presents itself as the only authoritative source of truth about some things, and they are the most important things.
So, seems to me that the issue is whether the Bible presents the down-to-the-last-detail truth about those important things. In agreement with the folks posing the "grey" question, I think the answer is occasionally: "no." That is, not all the details of how to live life are filled in by the Bible in such a way that we in our modern (or post-modern) mindset would like. I think that God does grant us the dignity of discovery and wants us to work a bit at connecting the dots that he's laid out.

As to the not-as-important-things? For example: the Bible doesn't directly speak to whether I should buy and use a Mac or PC - much less whether I should use electricity. From that, I would conclude that issue (Mac or PC) is not really as important as stuff like: what's our relationship to The Creator; do we understand that we have a HUGE sin problem; do we see that the answer is Jesus; do we connect with a well-done church; do we do (as well as believe) a true gospel? Those are The Important Issues and the Bible speaks clearly to them. Though not even those matters are always covered in complete detail.

While I am, even now, going through a thought experiment about the concept of biblical "ambiguity" (in a technical sense) I'm not at all comfortable with the thought that most of the Bible is 'grey.'

But I sense that's not the core of the question. It seems my classmate is responding to an overly-literalistic tradition. And to that, I certainly agree that scripture gives us more freedom and liberty in Christ than some of our Fightin' Fundies brothers and sisters are willing to admit.

1 comment:

Eric said...

I like where you went on this. Learning to accept biblical (and other) ambiguity as a chance to think deeply and discuss with friends has really helped me. I definitely reject a post-modern deconstructionism (the Bible means whatever I think it means). On the other hand it doesn't answer many, many questions that are taught and argued in seminary.

We should believe in Jesus. Exactly what does that mean?

What constitutes modest and appropriate dress? Entertainment?

Sex should only be practiced inside of marriage. What exactly defines marriage? (I.e. what is necessary to declare two people married?)

When should we lie?

When can or should we break the law? Hiding Jews from the Nazis? Speeding? Telling white lies on government forms to make them work? "Tipping" government officials to help expedite things?