So much depends, I believe, on the current theological milieu (or the little corner of it in which I tend to find myself) coming to see Scripture once again not merely as “text” or “script” but as Word, that is as the living and active witness to the one Word of God, Jesus Christ. This is to be further understood as a deep and pressing need to move from an immanentist vision of Scripture, as the sort of cultural product of the church by which it authorizes and codifies its own life and practices, to a transcendent view of Scripture; or rather simply a view in which God is taken seriously as the free, living, and speaking Lord of the church. For too long Scripture has been cast in contemporary theology as an inert text, there to be subjected to the cultural-linguistic meditation of the self-sufficient (or, more prettily put, Spirit-imbued and thus, immanently authoritative) church. That Scripture might be a field in which God (conceived not as the church’s cultural aura, but as the Triune Lord who loves and speaks in freedom to, in, and beyond the church) truly speaks, in ways we do not expect or anticipate, is simply a notion not taken with much seriousness. It is brushed aside casually as a sort of primitive fundamentalist past that we have all hopefully outgrown.
The great error of all of this is that it effectively reduces God to — at best — an immanent force animating the church’s culture. Some will think this overstates the problem. Perhaps (though I’m not convinced). But still, we are left to wonder why there is so much skittishness in these theological circles to actually giving serious weight to the notion that God might really be active among us and beyond us. That God might really speak in a way that lays us bare and before which our prior conceptions, processes, and status quos (even our ecclesial ones) must simply bow.
This is how I continue to feel more and more convicted the more I am asked to preach, and the more I find myself reading Scripture. It was also stirred anew in me recently when Jason posted this excellent and challenging quote from John Webster on the nature of Scripture, which puts the matter better than I can:
. . . Scripture is a transcendent moment in the life of the church. Scripture is not the church’s book, something internal to the community’s discursive practices; what the church hears in Scripture is not its own voice. It is not a store of common meanings or a Christian cultural code – and if it engenders those things, it is only because Scripture is that in which Jesus Christ through the Spirit is pleased to utter the viva vox Dei. Consecrated by God for the purpose of Christ’s self-manifestation, Holy Scripture is always intrusive, in a deep sense alien, to the life of the church. All this is to say that the church assembles around the revelatory self-presence of God in Christ through the Spirit, borne to the communion of saints by the writings of the prophets and apostles. This divine revelation is “isolated” – that is, it is a self-generating and self-completing event’.
~ John Webster, Confessing God, 189.
Would we dare affirm this? That God really speaks, with God’s own voice, a voice that is not ultimately reducible to our own? An if not, why not? Anymore I don’t know what other hope I could possibly have.