As I continue to work on my piece for the " Telling the Truth: A forum on the Arts and the Worshipping Church " around the theme of redemption, I'm also reading Peter Rollin's, " How ( Not ) to speak of God." Brian McLaren says this about the book, " I'm a raving fan of this book...one of the most important contributions to date to the emergent church conversation. In fact, I would say this is one of the two or three most rewarding books on theology I have read in ten years."
From what I've read so far, I ditto Brian's words, I would go a step further...it is probably the most important contribution for "any" church passionate about engaging the post-modern culture in an honest and refreshing conversation around faith.
Peter talks about a need to read scripture in the tension of a double hermeneutic, that acknowledges our reading of the Bible ( as mediated through our particular tradition ) must be re-examined and wrestled with repeatedly as we encounter the situations that present themselves us. It is in the midst of this double reading between our interpretation of the texts and our interaction that the christian community operates.
It is this double reading that ensures that we are never absolved from the difficult job of making moral decisions. The double reading requires not only a commitment to listening to and serving the people we meet, but also a deep respect for the christian tradition. We engage with our religious tradition, for it acts as a compass that allows us to navigate the world. Yet we must combine this compass reading with a knowledge of the terrain inn which we find ourselves and a deep love in order in order to work out which way we must travel.
Our interpretations of the Bible must be seen as temporary shelters rather than eternal structures. We never finish reading the bible, but always find ourselves standing on its threshold, ready to read again. Thus we can never rest easy, believeing that we have discovered the foundations that act as a key for working out what we must do in different situations: for the only clear foundation laid down by Jesus was the law of love. This love demands that we use the scripture not as an ethical textbook but rather as a texts that extrapolates the Christlike way of being in the world.
Pete then shares this story, of what happens when a community does read in this tension of a double hermeneutic...
The commander of the occupation troops said to the mayor of the mountain village, ' We know you are hiding a traitor. Unless you give him up to us, we shall harass you and your people by every means in our power.'
The village was, indeed, hiding a man who seemed good and innocent and was loved by all. But what could the mayor do now that the welfare of the village was at stake? Days of discussion in the village council led to no conclusion. So the mayor finally took the matter up with the priest. Priest and mayor finally came up with a text that said, ' It is better that one man die to save a nation.'
So the mayor handed over the innocent man, whose screams echoed throughout the village as he was tortured and put to death.
Twenty years later a prophet came to that village, went right up to the mayor, and said, ' How could you have done this? That man was sent bt God to be the savior of thsi country. And you handed him over to be tortured and killed.'
' But where did we go wrong?' pleaded the mayor. ' the priest and I looked at the scriptures and did what they commanded.'
' That's where you went wrong,' said the prophet. ' You should have also looked into his eyes.'