A Varying Interpretation of Varying Interpretations

Rachel Held Evans:

The fact that the Bible lends itself to competing interpretations should be cause for celebration rather than dismay, for these competing interpretations among people of faith who love and value Scripture help bring us into relationship with one another and with God.

We blogged about a similar type of post just recently. Evans seems to be on the right track here, at least in acknowledging there is a variety of ways scripture can be interpreted. She continues:

What is perhaps most frustrating about engaging in such conversations within the evangelical community in particular, however, is that differences regarding things like Calvinism and Arminianism, baptism, heaven and hell, gender roles, homosexuality, and atonement theories often disintegrate into harsh accusations in which we question one another’s commitment to Scripture.

Debate in many forms often strays simply into “harsh accusations,” and that is a shame—that we would not quibble with. But Evans seems to missing a key point here: isn’t the very fact that there are so many competing interpretations of the same thing some reflection, at least, on the text’s veracity/historicity? Or at least how likely it is to describe things that actually happened or actual divine inspiration? The counter argument is, probably, that most anything can be taken in a variety of ways. Still, there seems often to be a unique ambiguity and confusion when it comes to scripture. (The prime example being the Book of Revelation. And then there are the sometimes difficult-to-discern parables of Jesus, or the frighteningly awful acts of the Old Testament God.)

Evans’ final point is a good one, though. She bemoans the current state of scriptural discussion:

Instead of a lively, impassioned debate about the text, we engage in lively, impassioned debates about one another’s commitment to the faith.

The very point of Holey Books, in fact, is to have a “lively, impassioned debate about the text.” It’s the text, though, where the holes seem to be the most apparent.

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