Thursday, January 09, 2014

Pilling, Scholarly Consensus & Church Doctrine

As I understand it, the authors of the Pilling report want to maintain that Scripture is authoritative for the church, alongside tradition and reason. We might wish they had been clearer about that and specifically about the supremacy of Scripture understood in conversation with tradition and with the instrumental help of reason but so far, okay.

However, the real rub comes because the Pilling report does not regard Scripture as sufficient nor as sufficiently clear to settle matters of salvation, life and morals. There are a number of eminent scholars who take different views about what the Bible means or how it applies today so what are we to do?

The point I want to make here is that it is a dangerous business to say that a lack of scholarly consensus should create uncertainty about the teaching of the church. For example, might it not be argued that there is a lack of scholarly consensus about the divinity of Christ or the resurrection? Perhaps a facilitated listening process is needed to work out what the Spirit is saying to the churches today on this matter?

Much could be said about scholarly readings of the Bible but maybe here it is sufficient to say that there are clearly what we might call sociology of knowledge issues. There are fashions in scholarship and there are interests and lobbies. The church should have the wisdom not to marry itself to such fashions nor to become captive to interests and lobbies. 

No comments: