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Abusing Scripture

I have just got through reading Manfred T. Brauch's book titled, Abusing Scripture, and can thoroughly recommend it as a good read. So much so that I've passed it on to someone else already. His work is the result of 30 plus years of lecturing in a Theological Institution in the States. Each chapter deals with different aspects of how it is that we abuse Scripture and most often it comes down to misinterpretation because we have not used interpretive tools wisely or correctly. A great deal of effort is spent in considering the context and cultural relevance, to the persons to whom the original text is addressed, when carrying over the explanation or application to our situation. His point is that we are all bound to make assumptions of a text or read into that text preconceptions that are skewed by our own experiences of cultural, religious or denominational tradition. Every chapter concludes with a summary and a section on how we might improve our interpretive skills in that particular area.

What I liked most was his section dealing with Christ as God's last WORD given to humanity and that Christ's words and actions should be the at the pinnacle of decisive interpretation. Given this premise, any verses that are controversial or doctrines that are built on scant textual evidence should be examined on what Christ Himself taught or encouraged in these, or similar situations. If the situations were not specifically addressed by Jesus there would at least be a principle or precedent that would address that issue. There were a number of instances where he particularly addressed the issue of patriarchy and attitudes to women in church and home life that he believed should be more correctly interpreted by applying Christ's attitude to, and treatment of women. That the texts by other NT writers should be explained and defined by what Christ himself modelled in relationships, not on how they have been traditionally, and perhaps erroneously translated, because of cultural bias, or previous mistranslation.

He argues strongly against what he sees as circular arguments to prove the correctness of an interpretation. Examples would be where something is cited in the NT that is referenced from the OT. An interpretation is read into the OT reference that may not actually be there but is nuanced from the traditional understanding of the NT rendering. Then the NT reference is given credence by applying to it the nuanced, and now accepted traditional references from the OT. Again, this particularly applies to the creation account of male and female and how that there is no reference within the text to suggest either inequality or male superiority on the basis of primogeniture. Yet somehow male headship and rule are read into those passages.

It's a very valuable book that has as its intention to help us to alleviate abusing Scripture in the first instance and improve on our interpretive skills so that our efforts are more true to the text and the original intention of the writer, which in turn means more honouring to God. He also has worked hard at making it readable and understandable to the layperson which I believe to be an incredible asset. The book is published by IVF.


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