Reading The Bible In And With The Church

  It is important to understand that Sola Scriptura for the Reformers did not mean that one should interpret Scripture alone, individualistically, and apart from the historic Christian church.  Along those lines, I appreciate these words of Kevin Vanhoozer in Is There A Meaning in This Text? 

“The church is the community dedicated to discovering the Bible’s meaning and to attesting its continuing significance.  It is, above all, the significance of Scripture that cannot be discerned apart from the receiving, believing community.  While biblical scholars can write commentaries about ‘what it meant,’ it takes the congregation – a living commentary – to display ‘what it means.’  The interpreting community does therefore have an important hermeneutic role, but…it is not that of producing but witnessing to meaning.”

“The church should be that community of readers whose hearts, minds, and imaginations are open to receive what is there in the text and who strive to embody it – the story, the promises, the commands, the law – in new contexts.”

“The testimony of the Spirit is not only to individuals but primarily to the church as a whole.  Yet the church is not the judge that arbitrates interpretive conflict so much as the permanent witness to Scripture’s meaning and significance.  …The Reformers had earlier likened the church to a schoolroom, in which believers become competent in the Christian way.  What Christians study in Scripture is God’s interpretation of reality, summed up in the story of Jesus Christ.  Christians, then, have a schoolroom (the church), a subject (the way of Jesus Christ), and a teacher (the Spirit).  And yes, there is a text in this class.”

Vanhoozer says it well: biblical interpretation is not a solo endeavor.  These paragraphs made me think of quite a few things – one of them being those Christians who never join a church or who do not regularly worship with the saints.  Do “solo” Christians set themselves up for misinterpretation of the Bible?  Quite likely that’s the case.  Can a “solo” Christian  practice and live out the true meaning of sola Scriptura?  I doubt it.  If a person willfully neglects the “schoolroom” of the historic Christian church, will his Christian learning and knowledge be deficient?  I believe they would.

The above quotes are from Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There A Meaning in This Text, p. 430.

shane lems


One comment on “Reading The Bible In And With The Church

  1. Tom Lassiter says:

    Amen! I would also like to add that there are way too many who do not stay with the text of scripture while in our school, the church. Our church (SBC affiliated) is going through this problem, and we are working to fix this problem in our Sunday School classes now. We have an increasing number of people who desire to know what God’s Word says, instead of the “felt needs” mumbo – jumbo. It is exciting to see so many interested in learning sola scriptura!


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