Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gospel Lenses

This is partly an explanation for the past three and next few posts, and partly just an observation about how we read the Bible through the Bible.

I noticed some time ago that I was hearing plenty of sermons from the Pauline epistles, and that the way I was prone to see the Gospel elsewhere was very Pauline. I then had the thought that we might be reading Paul into other portions of Scripture. Now, I certainly do not think that Paul and any other part of Scripture disagree, but the thought was: here is Paul's language for explaining what the cross was all about, and I hear it when other passages are explained, but the Gospel is evident elsewhere, in other language, what does that sound like? So, for example, the Gospels have a lot of "Kingdom of God" language. Paul doesn't use that language so much--he doesn't exclude it, but it is not his main analogy--instead, Paul talks plenty about union with Christ. The Prophets talk about the LORD coming like a mighty warrior, saving them, and judging them. I first noticed what I call the eucatastrophic nature of the Gospel reading the prophets, because they have this back-and-forth movement between judgment and grace. There will be one or two chapters about how the LORD will save Israel, then one or two about how the LORD will crush Israel, and back, and forth.

Because Romans, in particular, has been the place that many, many theologians have first understood the Gospel, it is, to a certain degree, easy. Luther and Calvin were both Romans people, that is, they became reformed because of Romans. So Pauline language is in our blood as reformed folks. But there is other language to express this Gospel, and might some things be clearer through different analogies? Might the Gospel sound more compelling to some people in different language? And I may be wrong that we are really mostly just Pauline, and we may be partly Petrine, but let us exhibit each emphasis, and not neglect any part of the whole counsel of God.

So, when I noticed that my posts were less Bible saturated than I would have liked, and unstructured, and thus decided to try what I am calling expositional blogging, and thus needed to pick a book to work through, I went to the prophets. An epistle would be easier, but they are also, it seems to me, done far more often, and I am more interested in seeing how a prophet exposes the Gospel, and what we can learn about the Gospel and about God from the prophets, taking the prophets as our starting lens for reading other parts of the Bible. So, imagine that I go and read some passage in Paul now, what happens when I try to elaborate what he says in the language of Nahum? And the reverse is doable too, but it is so common that I think we lose out if we do not switch it up a little. These are not, of course, different Gospels, but different ways of articulating the one Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is often stated that "Scripture interprets Scripture" and this is true, but I do not think we do justice to that if we turn that into "Paul interprets the rest of Scripture" or even, "The New Testament interprets the Old." Might not each part of Scripture interpret each other part? And so, that is part of what I am trying to see by going through Nahum. And we have seen how Nahum elucidates the necessity of hell in a way that we would be unlikely to see quite so clearly in Paul, and who knows what else we may see more clearly through other writers?

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