Friday, August 7, 2009

The power of the read Word of God

Mark Thompson (Sydney) has blogged about a lecture given by Ashley Null (the world's foremost expert on Cranmer) in a series on repentance in classical Anglicanism. Mark writes (italics mine):

"I have always thought that Cranmer's emphasis on the unadorned reading of Scripture, the prominence of the lectionary in his liturgical reforms etc., was a product of his commitment to the clarity of Scripture (a commitment he held in common with the continental reformers, especially Luther). No doubt that is true but there is another stream that feeds this river.

In line with Fisher and Reuchlin, Cranmer apparently accepted an essentially neoplatonic understanding of Scripture. The Homily on Holy Scripture reveals his conviction that the Holy Spirit imparts saving grace through the administration of Scripture. God works supernaturally through Scripture to change lives. At one point he is even able to describe Scripture as 'the most holy relic remaining on earth' [This, in Cranmer's Preface to the Great Bible].

Hooker apparently held similar views. This reinforced the conviction that the centrepiece of Christian liturgy is the bare reading of Scripture. Scripture is read without comment or gloss, not only because it does not need them by virtue of its own clarity, but also because Scripture in and of itself is a means of grace. This stands somewhat in contrast to the 'Puritan' stress on the centrality of exposition and preaching."

Now, here is a question: how effective is Scripture as a means of grace when it is poorly read?


Janice said...

I'm not sure what Mark means by "an essentially neoplatonic understanding of Scripture". When I think Plato I think 'ideal forms', the earthly expressions of which are diminished or faulty in some way. You can probably tell I've never studied philosophy formally.

I do agree that "God works supernaturally through Scripture to change lives" because that's how I became a Christian; by reading the Bible. I didn't read it all. I read the historical narrative sections, starting at Genesis and moving chronologically through.

Did I read poorly? Undoubtedly, if by "poorly" you mean "without any appreciation of any findings of any school of Biblical criticism, or of exegetical and hermeneutical principles, etc., etc." But it got me saved. And 30 years of continuing to read and, especially, going to Bible study groups, while still lacking such appreciation, have continued the change process. For instance, my mother used to say that I had a tongue like a razor blade. I can't do it any more. Even if I want to slice someone up verbally I don't want to, and anyway, I can't find the words.

What bothered me most about teaching Scripture in schools is that the lessons are all over the place. I read the story from start to finish and it made so much sense that I was convicted. How do we expect kids to get the sense of the entire story when we feed them bits from here and there and all over the place? And isn't that more or less what the lectionary does too?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
I am not sure either but I think he means that Cranmer etc understand the concrete earthy words of Scripture represented the ideal word(s) of God, thus the expectation that "God works supernaturally through Scripture".

You are right: some continuity in reading Scripture is very important!