Recently, I’ve participated (on several blogs and discussion lists) in some conversations on hermeneutics in the churches of Christ. As is so often the case, these conversations eventually devolved into brethren (myself regrettably included) repeating either “CENI GOOD!” or “CENI BAD!” at one another in various iterations and decibel levels. However, out of the ruins of such a breakdown in dialogue rose for me a moment of silent wonder and awe.
You see, one brother (Bobby V., I think) offered to the discussion a link to an essay from Tom Olbricht entitled “Hermeneutics in the Churches of Christ.” I want to add my recommendation to his. If anyone else has grown weary of chewing on their brethren’s hearts by arguing over the merits of CENI, this essay is for you. With broad but careful and clearly-annotated strokes, Bro. Olbricht traces the historical development of our brotherhood’s hermeneutical tradition. He goes on to show how different aspects of our interpretive methods have been applied at the scholarly level and the congregational level. He closes by offering his hypothesis on the source of our recent hermeneutical wars, and pointing to real opportunities and challenges for our future.
I write this entry soberly and repentantly. Soberly, because I have rarely encountered scholarly writing so clear, thorough, accessible, pertinent, irenic, and exciting! The last essay I read whose author’s voice struck me like this was NT Wright’s essay on Biblical Authority. Repentantly, because while Bro. Olbricht attacks no one, a few passages ARE rather pointed. He writes, “Members seem currently more interested in personal struggles than in reflection upon how to interpret the Scripture.” I bow my head, guilty as charged. To lead God’s people in the path of Jesus, we must all do a better job of discarding, shelving, or at LEAST ‘back-burnering’ our personal struggles and strive to let God’s Word speak with the voice and authority God intended. That starts with me.
I encourage everyone to take the time to examine Bro. Olbricht’s essay, and if anyone is interested in irenic and growth-oriented discussion about it, I would be excited to participate either on Fumbling… or elsewhere as would be most appropriate and helpful.
in HIS love,