6 Ways to Make Scripture First

How does Scripture read Scripture, and how can the church follow its lead?1

It’s easy, especially in the long shadow of the Reformation, to pit Scripture against tradition. But the Bible itself suggests there is a fundamental unity between Scripture and the tradition it embodies.

Rightly appreciating this unity sets the stage for more faithful and robust engagement with Scripture.

For the past few years, Daniel Oden (Harding University) and I have been curating a volume of essays to address this intersection between Scripture and its tradition.

Scripture First: Biblical Interpretation That Fosters Christian Unity argues for reading Scripture faithfully along with earliest Christian tradition as the church continues seeking to express its unity better.

The Restoration Movement was birthed from a holy desire to unify divided Christian communities under the authority of sacred Scripture.… These essays exhibit the best characteristics of such work. My hope is that Scripture First will be read widely to the edification and gentle provocation of all still committed to sharing in the mysterious work of the Father, reconciling all things in heaven and on earth in the Son through the Holy Spirit.

Joseph K. Gordon, Associate Professor of Theology, Johnson University

Scripture on Scripture

In reality, Scripture and tradition are not entirely separable. Scripture self-confessedly contains and canonizes certain traditions, thereby asking its readers to embrace them as well.

Scripture First’s two biblical essays particularly stress this point. Daniel Oden’s discusses how the Hebrew Bible develops and interprets its central confessions. My essay expands on this point via the early Jesus movement’s proclamation as summarized in 1 Cor 15:3b–5.

Scripture’s Tradition and Interpretation

Following these essays, two explore the history of interpretation.

Keith Stanglin (Austin Graduate School of Theology) analyzes Thomas Campbell’s thought and the enduring value of Christian biblical interpretation guided by a “rule of faith.”

Stephen Lawson (Austin Graduate School of Theology) highlights the tension reform efforts need to maintain in order to avoid short circuiting precisely aims they want to achieve.

These essays spark creative thought regarding how biblical interpretation impacts Christian unity.… A good read for anyone meditating on the concept of a rule of faith and its role in understanding Scripture and building up the body of Christ.

Susan Bubbers, Dean, The Center for Anglican Theology

Corporate Embodiment of Scripture’s Testimony

The volume’s final two essays take a practical turn.

Scott Adair (Harding University) cites baptism as a marker of Christian identity. On this basis, Scott highlights the hermeneutical relevance of the doctrinal and ethical content latent in baptismal practice.

Finally, drawing on thinkers like Martin Luther, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, Lauren White (Lipscomb University) argues readers of Scripture cannot read well at a distance. Instead, readers must risk getting themselves caught up in the text’s witness and finding themselves directly addressed and formed by it.

[T]he authors convincingly advocate methods of interpreting Scripture that focus on the core affirmations of Christian faith—especially those proclaimed at and embodied in baptism. The object of godly biblical interpretation is the formation of the church into the image of Christ.

Douglas A. Foster, University Scholar in Residence, Abilene Christian University

Conclusion

6 Ways to Make Scripture First

In the end, I hope each of the essays will help you make Scripture first in your own practice. As the different essays suggest, this entails

  1. Following how the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament rehearses its core confessions,
  2. Reading Scripture through the core apostolic proclamation,
  3. Centering Scripture’s core testimony when interacting with others,
  4. Being constantly open to Scripture’s correction of interpretive missteps,
  5. Reading Scripture baptismally, and
  6. Engaging Scripture and the Christian community to seek formation in the image of the Son.

To Go Deeper …

Scripture First is now available through the publisher, Amazon, and other retailers.

And after you order, you can also claim several exclusive bonuses. These include

  • A video of Daniel and me discussing the volume and the process of producing it from our perspective as editors,
  • A video of Scott Adair walking you through the pedagogical exercise his essay proposes for summarizing the core content encapsulated in baptism, and
  • A copy of the spreadsheet I developed to produce the modern author index.

After you’ve preordered Scripture First, just come to this page. Then, with your order number handy, click the button below, and drop that number in the bonus claim form along with your name and email address. I’ll then be in touch shortly with each of these downloads.


  1. Header image provided by ACU Press

Moberly, “The Bible in a Disenchanted Age”

Moberly, "The Bible in a Disenchanted Age" coverDue out from Baker Academic in January 2018 is R. W. L. Moberly’s The Bible in a Disenchanted Age: The Enduring Possibility of Christian Faith. According to the book’s blub,

In our increasingly disenchanted age, can we still regard the Bible as God’s Word? Why should we consider the Bible trustworthy and dare to believe what it says? In this creative, accessible, and provocative book, leading Old Testament theologian R. W. L. Moberly sets forth his case for regarding the Bible as unlike any other book (and the Bible’s Deity as unlike any other deity) by exploring the differences between the Bible and other ancient writings. He explains how and why it makes sense to turn to the Bible with the expectation of finding ultimate truth in it, offering a robust apology for faith in the God of the Bible that’s fully engaged with critical scholarship and compatible with modern knowledge.

For additional information or to pre-order, see Baker Academic, Amazon, or other book sellers.

Veeneman, “Theological Method”

Veeneman, "Introducing Theological Method" coverForthcoming this November from Baker Academic is Mary Veeneman’s Introducing theological Method: A Survey of Contemporary Theologians and Approaches. According to the book’s blub,

Sound theological method is a necessary prerequisite for good theological work. This accessible introduction surveys contemporary theological methodology by presenting leading thinkers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as models. Figures covered include Karl Barth, Frank Clooney, James Cone, Avery Dulles, Millard Erickson, Jeannine Hill Fletcher, Hans Frei, Stanley Grenz, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Stanley Hauerwas, Elizabeth Johnson, Paul Knitter, George Lindbeck, Bernard Lonergan, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Clark Pinnock, Karl Rahner, John Thatanamil, Paul Tillich, Hans urs Von Balthasar, Kevin Vanhoozer, Delores Williams, and John Howard Yoder. Introducing Theological Method presents the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major options. Rather than favoring one specific position, it helps students of theology think critically so they can understand and develop their own theological method.

For more information or to pre-order, see the Baker Academic, Amazon, or other book sellers.

Boersma, “Scripture as real presence”

Boersma, New this year from Baker is Hans Boersma’s Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church. According to the book’s blurb,

This work argues that the heart of patristic exegesis is the attempt to find the sacramental reality (real presence) of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Leading theologian Hans Boersma discusses numerous sermons and commentaries of the church fathers to show how they regarded Christ as the treasure hidden in the field of the Old Testament and explains that the church today can and should retrieve the sacramental reading of the early church. Combining detailed scholarly insight with clear, compelling prose, this book makes a unique contribution to contemporary interest in theological interpretation.

For more information or to order, see the Baker website, Amazon, or other retailers.

Bowald, “Rendering the word” at theLAB

Bowald, "Rendering the word" coverFor the moment, visitors to the Logos Academic Blog site are being invited to subscribe via email. Email subscription unlocks a coupon code for a free copy of Mark Bowald’s Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics: Mapping Divine and Human Agency (Lexham, 2015). According to the book’s blurb,

What is the relationship between divine and human agency in the interpretation of Scripture? Differing schools of thought often fail to address this key question, overemphasizing or ignoring one or the other. When the divine inspiration of Scripture is overemphasized, the varied roles of human authors tend to become muted in our approach the text. Conversely, when we think of the Bible almost entirely in terms of its human authorship, Scripture’s character as the word of God tends to play little role in our theological reasoning. The tendency is to choose either an academic or a spiritual approach to interpretation.

In Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics, Mark Bowald asserts that this is a false dichotomy. We need not emphasize the human qualities of Scripture to the detriment of the divine, nor the other way around. We must rather approach Scripture as equally human and divine in origin and character, and we must read it with both critical rigor and openness to the leading of God’s Spirit now and in the historic life of the church.

From this perspective, Bowald also offers a fruitful analysis of the hermeneutical methods of George Lindbeck, Hans Frei, Kevin Vanhoozer, Francis Watson, Stephen Fowl, David Kelsey, Werner Jeanrond, Karl Barth, James K.A. Smith, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

For more information about the volume, see it’s page on the Logos website. Or, see theLAB site to subscribe via email.