Today I was reading a very interesting and invigorating article on the Scriptures. It is N.T. Wright's 1991 article (from Vox Evangelica) called "How Can the Bible be Authoritative?" Even though I have yet to read the rebuttals to his views, I am posting a couple excerpts because, well, I like them so much.
"Suppose there exists a Shakespeare play whose fifth act had been lost.... The first four acts, existing as they did, would be the undoubted 'authority' for [producing a fifth].
Anyone could properly object to the new improvisation on the grounds that this or that character was now behaving inconsistently .... This 'authority' of the first four acts would not consist in an implicit command that the actors should repeat the earlier parts over and over again. It would consist in the fact of an as yet unfinished drama, which contained its own impetus, its own forward movement ... [which would be put] into effect by speaking and acting with both innovation and consistency."
Wright goes on to suggest that in this illustration Christianity could see Creation, Fall, Israel, and Jesus as the first four acts and the current church age as the fifth, and the Bible's authority would be seen in much the same way as Shakespeare's hypothetical first four acts.
Interesting. I am sure this metaphor fails in some ways, but I like it. If this sounds intriguing to you at all I highly recommend that you check out the full article here.
"God does not ... want to put people into little boxes and keep them safe and sound. It is, after all, possible to be so sound that you're sound asleep. I am not in favour of unsoundness; but soundness means health, and health means growth, and growth means life and vigour and new directions. The little boxes in which you put people and keep them under control are called coffins.
We read scripture not in order to avoid life and growth. God forgive us that we have done that in some of our traditions. Nor do we read scripture in order to avoid thought and action, or to be crushed, or squeezed, or confined into a de-humanizing shape, but in order to die and rise again in our minds.
Because, again and again, we find that, as we submit to scripture, as we wrestle with the bits that don't make sense, and as we burst through to a new sense that we haven't thought of or seen before, God breathes into our nostrils his own breath -- the breath of life. And we become living beings -- a church recreated in his image, more fully human, thinking, alive beings."
Thank you NT Wright for honestly addressing good questions and for giving provocative and thoughtful answers.