What about the bones?

posted in: The Church on Mission

Workshop: Authority of Scriptures in Mission
Heinrich Derksen

At a gathering of MBs from around the world, of a family of churches known as “people of the Book,” workshops on the authority of Scripture should probably be presumed. With more 35 conferences in the room, the diversity just boggles the mind.

Presenter Heinrich Derksen is professor at Bibelseminar Bonn, Germany.

His anchoring text, Hebrews 4:12.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

This text resonates well in a diverse group of biblicists as we gathered to hear stories of how the Scriptures had “penetrated” them.

Added to the visible diversity in the room is the fact of nearly 2,000 years of Scriptural interpretation. The way we understand the Scriptures and their authority is obviously critical.

Derksen teaches a school which holds to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. He led with a brief but clear statement of the presupposition of the doctrine on inerrancy. This statement was formed in response to the interpretation “battles” of the 1970. With that as a premise, he put forward the challenges of a literalistic hermeneutic framework:

  • dismissal,
  • copy and paste,
  • the “bones on the edge of the plate,”
  • Christological glasses,
  • verse of the day.
  • This quick summary of these incorrect applications showed the magnitude of the challenge before us.

A trivial but illustrative challenge was raised around the “bones on the edge of the plate.” The illustration intends to show the tendency to leave a great deal behind when reading the Scriptures” It was immediately and lightheartedly stated that in some cultures the bones are eaten.

While that was not the point of the illustration it revealed another hermeneutic challenge an international body faces: each culture has its own – often unexamined – determination of “bones” and “meat.”

Ending with the “verse of the day” as an incorrect application could have lead to a whole seminar itself, as this method of Scriptural interpretation is pervasive and accepted often without reflection, around the world.

This presentation laid out the challenge of Biblical authority. The topic was fascinating, overwhelming, and pointed us to the fact that the surface was hardly even scratched.

James and Ken at the registration table.

James Toews is pastor of Neighbourhood Community Church, Nanaimo, B.C., Canada.