Friday, 23 March 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 18 March 2018

This week I have been reading a number of texts about three topics:

One is about the history of “Theological Hermeneutics”, big words which simply mean that I have been reading about the systems or frameworks people have used to underpin their study of scripture.

The second readings were about spirituality and the different interpretations people have had of that and have today.

The third was bible study about the Easter Story. One of the concepts addressed there was atonement and the many references made to that in the Bible.



Returning to the first topic of hermeneutics: over time people have used different approaches to studying scripture depending on when and where they were living and what events were taking place around them. Scripture has to be relevant to the lives of people and if it ceases to be for any reason, people of goodwill who know scripture encapsulates truth, need to find a way of hearing that truth.

At one time people thought that could be achieved by seeing scripture in an allegorical way but then others saw weaknesses in that method and moved on. Others took the view that a literal reading was the best whereas today most people use more analytical approaches, the choice depends on which is most appropriate. The studies we are doing using those readings reveal a history of complex thinking which I won't go into now except to say that all of those people were seeking to hear God’s word but were doing it in different ways.


The second set of readings showed a similar trend. Not everyone has seen spirituality in the same light historically, and nor do they today. In the past spirituality was a very Christian and pious way of living and associated with those who lived apart from the world.


Not so today. To start with, spirituality isn't confined to Christians and many people who profess other beliefs or profess to be atheists say they seek to live spiritual lives. Again, the several texts I have read have quite different views on living a spiritual life and they are all right because each way works for the people who promote them.

And then the Bible Studies about Easter: some of us have grown up in churches and have been taught in Sunday School in a way that only offers one view of the atonement. For many it was that Jesus stood as a substitute for us and our sins.

It was only as an adult that I even heard that not all theologians see the atonement in that way. In looking further afield I found that not only do the majority of Christians believe in the Substitution or Satisfaction theory but there are many other theories such as the Penal theory, the Moral Influence theory and the Non-Violent Theory and others still which are believed by fewer people.
All have aspects which are helpful and even those which are widely accepted have aspects which are unhelpful.

For any of the above topics I have been reading about I do not offer any resolution to conflicting ideas. My point is that our Christian beliefs have developed over time and in different places under different circumstances. Committed Christians have come to different conclusions as to how to interpret the Bible and the events in the Bible and so have developed different perspectives, even in core issues. As adult Christians it is our responsibility to explore, through wide reading, the extent of our own beliefs and look at what other Christians believe in an effort to grow.


We can only do this successfully if we keep our hearts and minds open to the guidance of God’s Spirit.

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