Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bible and the Ecumenical Mind

I have been posting excerpts from Ronald Osborn's The Faith We Affirm, (Chalice Press, 1979), the book I'm using for my Theology 101 class at the church. Tomorrow we'll be talking about how we hear a word from God. For Disciples, historically, that has meant first and foremost listening to the word of Scripture, and more specifically the New Testament. In previous postings I've talked about a reasonable, empirical, and a pragmatic mind -- all definitions provided by Osborn.

Ronald Osborn was a leading Disciple historian/theologian of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He was also active in the ecumenical movement. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise that he would add a fourth factor to our reading of Scripture -- "An Ecumenical Mind." Thus, he writes that Disciples seek to "read the biblical message in the light of the common judgment of the whole Christian community and for the sake of the whole church." (Osborn, p. 21).

He goes on to note that Disciples didn't decide what went into the Bible, and so we must listen to the voices of the historic church. While we have argued that each Christian has the right to read the Scriptures for his or herself, he makes this important caveat, one that I think many Disciples have evaded.

Over against this right, however, we have balanced the admonition: No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). We need to listen to the "common mind" of the church before we make up our own individual minds. (p. 21).
With that in mind, he points to the phrase in the Preamble to the Design -- the faith affirmation that stands at the beginning of the "constitution" for the Disciples:

"Within the universal church we receive the gift of ministry and the light of scripture."
It is here that the Disciples have taken to heart the wisdom of the so-called "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" -- Bible, reason, experience, tradition. Indeed, Osborn in his own way has set out something similar. But I will argue that in a separate posting.

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