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Monday, November 28, 2005

Authority vs. Identity

For those of you who are more theologically minded, here's something to consider. Scot McKnight asked recently whether we Christians should stop seeing the Bible as our "Authority" and start seeing it instead as our "Identity":
I know that for many of us the doctrine of Scripture is presuppositional and prolegomena to all we do. I fear that such an approach will turn the Bible as God’s Word into bibliolatry and idolatry, where mastery of the Bible is equated with loving God and others. Scripture is God’s gracious gift to us, but that doesn’t mean that every extreme is justifiable. We are in need of a new set of categories for understanding Scripture.

I’m suggesting we use the term “identity.” The term “authority” is that of power — it tells us that we are “under” something. The term “identity” speaks of the Spirit who is at work — in the world in God’s redemptive work, in the Church as the community of faith, and in that community as it tells the story of God’s redemptive work. And I’m not suggesting that we understand “identity” as filling the same spot as “authority,” but that we learn to see Scripture (not so much as the Authority) but as what gives us our Identity because through it God’s Spirit speaks to and guides us.

Click here to read the whole thing...
Scot raises an interesting question. On the one hand, he's pointing out how many times we Christians seem to think of Scripture as a weapon to be wielded to assert our will over others, to prove ourselves right and everyone else wrong. This kind of approach often sees Biblical "truth" as something to be mastered, and then used. I think Scot is suggesting that we would do better to see God's word as living, something that masters us, that penetrates every inch of our lives and defines who we are.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure how Scripture as our Identity can ever be divorced or separated from Scripture as our Authority - something that masters me will simultaneously claim a position of authority in my life (and in the life of the church). A quick word search through both old and new testaments reveals that God never seems to shrink back from claiming authority, and neither do his leaders in the church.

So how much of Scot's suggestion is really fueled by a deficiency in the term/concept, and how much is just an example of the Emerging Movement embracing mainstream "anti-authoritarianism" rather than critiquing it for what it is? I think this is the thing that concerns me most about the EM - I don't see them paying enough attention to how Scripture views itself, and I don't see them thinking critically enough about the postmodernism they have embraced.

What's particularly interesting is how many comments have been generated in response (well over 100 last time I checked). That alone would seem to indicate this is a hot topic for many people...


At 1:09 AM, December 03, 2005, Anonymous Sam Sutter said...

I got a kick out this ;-)

At 7:13 AM, December 03, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Sam, I am STUNNED! This is absolutely hilarious! (and it's really amazingly accurate to boot...)

For those of you who are cut/paste challenged, here's an easy-to-click link to that same page.


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