In the introduction to Chapter 4, Robinson writes:
“I would argue that in order to interpret any passage in Scripture, we must employ three lenses: the Scripture itself; the tradition of how the Church has interpreted that Scripture over the centuries; and reason, that is, the use of our own God-given intellect and learning, up to and including how modern knowledge, science, psychology, and reason inform our understanding of the issues being addressed by the Scripture. But first, and always first, is the Scripture itself.”1
Robinson sets the premise of his interpretation of the Scripture, some of which I agree. I agree that we must use the Scripture itself as a lens, particularly considering the historical-cultural context of the text in question. In the case of using Church tradition as a lens, I disagree. Scripture is the final authority on all matters of faith and doctrine. It is through the lens of Scripture that we must view tradition, not Scripture through the lens of tradition. Roman Catholicism is a good example of how Scripture can be viewed through the lens of tradition, therefore yielding extra-biblical and contradictory teachings. I also disagree somewhat with Robinson’s third lens: reason. I don’t disagree with using reason provided Robinson’s definition of the word is to mean logical thinking. However, Robinson includes in this category “how modern knowledge, science, psychology, and reason inform our understanding of the issues.” It is true that humans are given intellect and knowledge, and this should be used when conducting biblical exegesis. However, caution must be exercised when dealing with interpreting Scripture through a lens of modern knowledge, science, and psychology.
For example, it is the modern scientific teaching that the earth was created with a “big bang” and human beings evolved from a single-cell organism sometime between 3.8 billion and 2.5 billion years ago. But biblically speaking, we know that evolution is false. How? Because in the Book of Genesis, it is clear that God created heaven, Earth, all creatures, and human beings. It is incorrect to imply that modern science must always be taken into account when interpreting Scripture, as evolution is a great example. I’m not saying we cannot use these topics to help us, but we must be careful.
Robinson continues setting up his premise describing the importance of understanding the historical-cultural context of the text and the importance of understanding what is written to us today and what is not. On this point, I agree with him completely. However when it comes to the revelation of God, he writes:
“It is important to mention that many Christians, myself included, do not believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon of Scripture (those books officially included in the body of writings that would be designated as the ‘Bible’). Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century of the Common Era (a less condescending way of referring to that time since the birth of Christ, ‘common’ to both Jews and Christians). While Christians who favor a more literalist reading of Scripture would not blatantly put it quite this way, they seem to posit a God who, when the Scriptures were ‘finished,’ almost bade the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of His creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that for a minute, and to be honest, most of these same biblical literalists posit a God who cares about our every move and seeks to guide us along our way. This understanding of God as being active in the creation – not just in biblical times, but to this very day – is at the heart of Christianity.”2
The topic of God’s revelation is a critical one. Robinson says “many Christians, myself included, do not believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon.” What does he mean by this statement? I’m unsure, but I do not believe that anyone would say God does not reveal Himself at all today. God certainly does. But in what ways does God reveal Himself today? Is Robinson suggesting that new revelations are fueling new interpretations of Scripture? Is Robinson suggesting that God’s revelation today is equally authoritative as Scripture? In either case, I would vehemently disagree.
Is it God changing our interpretation of Scripture? Is it God fueling new ideas into the minds of men? We have to be very careful, because the Scripture warns us of this very thing. Paul wrote to Timothy:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-4 KJV
Paul knew that the time would come when people would not endure sound doctrine. Is it God revealing new things? Or are people following their own lusts and turning away their ears from the truth? This is something that must be considered and be kept in mind as we go along.
Robinson mentions the idea held by some that God gave us His word and then took off into the sunset. As Robinson agrees God is very much active in this world today, but I do not agree that God is giving us new revelations that were not previously revealed. Furthermore, Robinson says “some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century of the Common Era.” In fact, I would be one to argue this point.
Has God said everything He has needed to say? In other words, are the Scriptures sufficient? I would argue they absolutely are. How so? Consider about what Paul wrote to Timothy:
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” – 2 Timothy 3:15-17 KJV
The Scripture tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God, and that it also is useful for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. The result? “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” So has God said all He has needed to say? The answer is absolutely yes. To imply that God did not say all He needed to say would be to deny the sufficiency of Scripture.
1. Robinson, Gene, God Believes in Love, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ©2012) p. 63
2. Robinson, God Believes in Love, pp. 68-69