Monday, January 3, 2011

Miroslav Volf on The Return to Scriptures

Let me share with you a few more interesting statements from Miroslav Volf's Captive to the Word of God: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).  This book is a collection of essays which is intended to be a contribution to the recent renewal of Theological Interpretation of Scriptures (often abbreviated TIS).  In the first essay (chapter 1), Volf briefly sketches out "the set of convictions about the Bible and its interpretation that guides his reading of the Scriptures.  I found this to be fascinating on a number of levels.  The major point of amazement to me is the idea that many modern biblical and systematic theologians are recognizing the need to return to the Scriptures.  Here's how he develops this topic:
Reflecting on his career as a theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, one of the most imaginative and influential theologians of the second part of the twentieth century, told me a decade or so ago that if he were to start over again, he would interpret the Scriptures in a much more sustained way.  Why?  Scripture is the ultimate source of theology's vigor, he said.  He was right. (p. 12)
A couple of pages later, Volf writes,
In my judgment, the return of biblical scholars to the theological reading of the Scriptures, and the return of systematic theologians to sustained engagement with the scriptural texts - in a phrase, the return of both to theological readings of the Bible - is the most significant theological development in the last two decades. (p. 14, emphasis original)
In a later post I would like to highlight the key aspects of Volf's doctrine of the Scrptures, but let me close with a few more statements on the necessity of grounding theology in the Bible.
Take the Scriptures away, and sooner or later you will "un-church" the Church. (p. 10)
...a merely historical reading of biblical texts is in danger of turning into a self-referential study of inconsequential cultural artifacts from the distant past of a then insignificant corner of the world. (p. 11)
The work of biblical scholars as historians is significant precisely to the degree that the texts which they approach as historians are alive today. (p. 11)
...for systematic theology to abandon the Bible is for it to cut off the branch on which it is sitting.... Moreover, if it abandons the Bible, Christian theology will no longer engage the document that lies at the heart of the life of Christian communities, the texts on which these communities depend for existence, identity, and vitality.  The result will be a culturally and socially barren theology that hovers above concrete communities of faith - or maybe falls to the ground beside them - unable to shape either these communities or the wider culture. (pp. 11-12)