Natalie and Lyle’s discussion of Mark Noll’s, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, led me to read this work (thanks for the copy Lyle). I came across the section, “What Has the Scandal Meant”, and in the chapter titled, “Thinking about Science.” This is a rather lengthy quote,
The appeal to Scripture remains the heart of creationism. Creation science does not merely contradict contemporary cosmoligists who use science in defense of agnosticism, nor does it merely provide a way of preserving traditional harmonies between Scripture and science. Rather, it is persuasive for so many evangelicals because it seems to honor the Scriptures; it seems to lead to a form of science that proceeds as any Christian exploration of anything ought to proceed – namely, by trying to see first what the Bible says and then using those conclusions to shape our investigation of what we are concerned about.
The problem with this reasoning is not confidence in the Bible, but confidence in ourselves. That problem is compounded by the powerful (though usually unobserved) force that an appeal to “normal” or “plain” or “literal” interpretation gained in a Baconian, democratic America over the course of the nineteenth century. Was it not simply self-evident that, if the Bible was God’s supreme revelation, the best way to understand the Bible was by using the methods of ordinary common sense open to all men, women, and children in all ages? The answer to that nineteenth-century way of framing the question is that, while such common-sense interpretations of Scriptures may have seemed self-evident, they were in fact the product of particular circumstances in North American evangelicial history. (Noll, p.200-201)
I have many thoughts on this quote. I will share one here. One of the many discussion in theology and attempts at a new theology center on the issue of subjective versus objective readings of the Bible. Some refer to this a “perspectivilism.” The critique occurs when someone suggests the “perspective” must be considered. Obviously this is an over-simplification. But, we are very critical of any notion that we should understand the location of the text in history and its type of literature. “Just read the text.” “It is so simple to understand.” And so with such simple understandings the church was and to some degree is still complicit in discrimination, the repression of women and the notion that America is God’s project for the rest of the world. Slavery was for years supported by those who “juest read the text.”
My musings – what makes us think we read the Scriptures from any less a given “perspective” than those who preceded us?” Why is it that we have a cleaner, clearer path to understanding than those who lived years ago? Could it be Noll is right and we so aligned ourselves with Baconian scienctific method that we really do believe we can with clear objectivity come to the Scriptures? I admit to trying to unpack my reading from my given white, anglo-saxon, Protestant, foundationalitst, scottish-common sense realism informed understanding of the world. Oh, and I bet you thought I was going to say “biblical worldview.”
I am trusting this is a safe place to process thoughts that which at another point I may thorougly disagree. But for now, I really am leaning this way.