In short, the very creation of Scripture stemmed from an ongoing dialogue between God and God’s people, and of God’s people with one another, as they sought to know God and God’s workings in the world and faithfully to respond to God’s call.
• Karl Allen Kuhn. Having Words With God: The Bible As Conversation
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I have just started reading what looks to be a remarkable book on scripture, called, Having Words With God: The Bible As Conversation, by Karl Allen Kuhn. Today, I will just share a quote from Richard Bauckham that Kuhn cites.
These words remind us that the Bible is what Pete Enns calls “messy,” not lending itself to common characterizations of scripture as an inerrant handbook of propositional teachings and practical instructions.
Kuhn will make the case that the Bible is “a conversation,” “an invitation to sacred dialogue.” But before we get there, it is important to recognize that the nature of scripture is much more compatible with this understanding than it is with the “inerrant handbook” view.
Here is Bauckham’s quote:
[T]he diversity [of the Bible] is such that readers of Scripture have their own work to do in discerning the unity of the story. Moreover, the diversity of different versions of the story is not the only feature of Scripture that requires such work. There is the sheer profusion of narrative material in Scripture, the narrative directions left unfinished, the narrative hints that enlist reader’s imagination, the ambiguity of stories that leave their meaning open, the narrative fragments of the stories of prophets in their books of or writers and churches in the apostolic letters, the very different kinds of narrative that resist division into simply alternatives such as “history” and “myth,” or “fiction,” the references to stories external to Scripture. Such features, even apart from the bearing of the nonnarrative literature on the narrative, make any sort of finality in summarizing the biblical story inconceivable…. The church must be constantly retelling the story, never losing sight of the landmark events, never losing touch with the main lines of theological meaning in Scripture’s own tellings and commentaries, always remaining open to the never exhausted potential of the texts in their resonances with contemporary life.’
• Richard Bauckham, “Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story,” in The Art of Reading Scripture, ed. Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays, 43-44.
Karl Allen Kuhn summarizes:
Bauckham’s comments on Scripture’s narrative form help us to see that the goal of Scripture is not simply to provide us with a set of propositional truth claims or a detailed, one-size-fits-all-for-all-time list of the dos and don’ts of faithful life. Rather, the narrative form of Scripture leads us to lively, imaginative, and humble reflection with God and one another on what it means for us to live into God’s will in our time and place. This is its function in our lives of faith. “The church must be constantly telling the story,” Bauckham says, “always remaining open to the never exhausted potential of the texts in their resonances with contemporary life.” [emphasis mine]