Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yeah, clergy are idiots. But you multiply idiots without us.

Short, insightful book review over at First Things. Kristen Scharold takes a look at David Plotz's Good Book. Plotz, a minimally observant Jew, decided to read the whole Jewish Bible, and blogged his reactions as he went. His web commentary has been shaped into a book.

One of Scharold's best pick-ups is how Plotz, sometimes unintentionally, shows the futility of a purely individual effort to read and "interpret" the Bible.

But what [Good Book] does become is a reminder to Bible-believing readers why Christianity and Judaism are bolstered by centuries of debate and agreement. Plotz’s example underscores the value that preachers, rabbis, and commentators add to one’s understanding of Scripture. One can read the Bible on one’s own and come to understand some of it—even Plotz had several profound eureka moments—but to appreciate the depth, unity, and nuance of a complex God, it helps to have some assistance.

With humorous lucidity, Plotz illustrates our dependence on, yes, context (gasp!). He reveals our desperate need for tradition and authority, sources of context which help us grasp the parts and the whole of Scripture.

James Gibson at Sanctus pointed me to the review. His post title is great: All You Need is a Bible to Create a Heresy. The lone reader as sufficient interpreter of Scripture is asserted both by non-believers and Protestant Christians, both of which tend to mulitply eccentric and divisive positions (that's why we have so many denominations and so many "experts" able to do History Channel Bible criticism).

A great missionary Bishop of the Episcopal Church (yes, we had a very few) was John Henry Hobart, who expanded the Diocese of New York out from NYC and into the rest of the state. His motto, "Evangelical Faith and Apostolic Order," is a good expression of a healthy Christianity that looks to the Bible for insight while valuing the hard earned wisdom of past generations in the church.

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