Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Bereans Were On to Something
We met last night with our Emergent cohort, up/rooted, for deep dish pizza and conversation about Brian McLaren's latest book Everything Must Change. Some differences of opinion arose about Brian's method of interpreting the gospels, and especially several of Jesus' parables through the lens of resistance to "empire" and opposition to structures of injustice. Personally I have found this lens to be very helpful (I've written more about it here and here) but others were more skeptical. However, a newcomer to the group, Dave Sonnenberg, had a very valuable piece of advice regarding the debate. He suggested that the best thing to do with new interpretive paradigms like this is not to make a decision right away for or against, but to simply try it on for size, test drive it a little bit. Let it sit and germinate and see if bears fruit. Or, to put it another way, we should be like the Bereans and examine the scriptures through this new lens and see how well it "fits".

This is exactly what our church has been doing these past few years as we've studied through the book of Luke. With the help of commentaries by NT Wright, Sarah Dylan Breuer and others, we've been able to apply this "new perspective" interpretive lens to the gospel (and now to Acts) to see whether it really fits. I've also utilized more traditional, evangelical commentaries as a comparison, just to see which seemed to make the best sense of the text. And I've got to be honest, this new lens does work better in my opinion. It makes more sense of a lot of passages that just never seemed to fit with what I had previously assumed the gospels were all about. They were like "junk DNA" as McLaren puts it . And yet, as Brian points out, if we believe in the inspiration of scripture then there should be no "junk DNA", especially in the gospels. And when I came back to Luke-Acts with this new lens, a lot of that junk suddenly made much more sense, in fact it became obvious how it interwove with the whole story Luke was telling.

But of course this was a long process. We've spent the last two years digging into the gospel passage by passage, studying it, and discussing it in community, and applying it to our lives individually and communally. We've lived in it, soaked in it, let it germinate and take root and bear fruit before simply accepting it without question. And I have to say that I prefer this method of engaging with scripture by far to anything I've experienced previously. Far better than the individualistic "me, my Bible, and God" method of my youth, and better than the authoritarian method of simply believing whatever the pastor or the radio preachers or the bible scholars told me it meant. It's been good to go to scripture myself, in conversation and community with others, with the help of learned scholars, and look at it through multiple lenses to see which ones fit the best. I'd recommend that approach to anyone.


posted by Mike Clawson at 11:41 AM | Permalink |


At 2/20/2008 07:23:00 AM, Blogger ShaneBertou

Several of us from around the blogsphere are reading "Everything Must Change" together and discussing our thoughts. We've just begun, but we've set it up in a way where it's never to late to participate.

If you have any interest, you can visit us at:



At 2/21/2008 04:02:00 AM, Blogger Daniel

Hey--it's Daniel from up/rooted; I stumbled across your blog via emergentvillage. I really appreciated hearing your thoughts on the imperial lens, and I thought the comment about test-driving theology was practicable as well. My nextdorm neighbor is an N.T. Wright fanatic, so I'll have to engage him on the subject. I'm hoping to dig deeper in your pensées when I'm not quite so deep in assignments.


At 2/29/2008 08:46:00 AM, Blogger Stephen P

I've been "test-driving" this lens for a little while now, and just adding to it where I gain insight from other sources.

I'd agree, the places that were often hard to understand just seem to work with it. The Bible flows naturally and, I feel, more deeply.

Enjoying the blog.

- Steve


Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link