The Hermenutics of Anabaptism – How We Read Scripture and Why – Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

ImageIn part 1 (see here:, I explained some key aspects of how the early Anabaptists viewed Scripture as well as expanded upon those points through entering in some of my own points of dialogue. In this section, I’d like to continue with Loren John’s presentation on “Anabaptist Approaches to Scripture – What’s Different and Why?” by looking at some of the greatest challenges that we face on reading the Bible Anabaptistly in our time. Here are the points Loren suggests:

1)      Loss of Biblical Literacy

2)      Busyness and Non-Use

3)      Fundamentalism (Loren notes that this is helpful in some ways, though we do need to be careful because oftentimes Fundamentalism can simply be used as a way to cut off people who may believe differently than we do)

4)      A Decreased Attention Span When It Comes to Bible Studies

5)      Relativistic Existentialism (Egocentrism – “Us” versus “Jesus” Mentality)

6)      Under-Reliance on Scholarship

7)      Over-Reliance on Scholarship

8)      Temptation of Self-Protecting Sophistication (We “know it all”)

9)      Harmonization of Scripture (Thinking That All Scripture Passages Basically Say the Exact Same Thing But In Different Ways)

10)  Fragmentation of Scripture (Flip Side of Harmonization – Basically Thinking That There is No Cohesion, No Unified Message In Scripture)

11)  Abundance of Wonderful Resources (Where To Even Begin?)

12)  Lack of Good Experience (We Associate The Bible With Negative Experiences Studying or Interacting With the Bible)

Discussion: It definitely is a concern to me that our culture has lost touch with what the Bible is saying and what its purpose is. It used to be that the Bible had a central place in North American culture, but anymore nowadays, it seems that only a small minority of people actually place the Bible as a high priority in their lives.

In his lecture, Loren, defined Biblical literacy as

1)      Having a Knowledge of People, Dates, and Events

2)      Having a Sense of an Over-Arching Theme of Story Line

3)      Incarnating the Scriptures to Evaluate Our Life Choices Based on Biblical Principles

Although one could argue that these three steps come in sequence – after all, you can’t know how to relate to people if you don’t know the over-arching theme of Scripture as being peace, love, or justice, and you can’t know that the Bible is about love and mercy if you don’t know the stories of how God kept forgiving and challenging His people to forgive over and over again. On the other hand, one could argue (as I likely would) that working from the bottom up is what really is most important. Sure, having a very basic understanding of some key players would be good, but if you don’t know the approximate dates or major historical events like the destruction and rebuilding of the temples, I’m not about to go off on you about that, either. Rather, choosing to live a life based on the overarching theme is likely what is going to bring Salvation about.   Unfortunately, the culture at large, doesn’t even seem to have that in the general sense.

#2 – The other important point I think Loren raised is that we are living in the information age. Suddenly we have all this information at our fingertips, conveniently accessible and easy to use. However, with easy use comes easy manipulation. Here again, we are called upon to discern in community. The other problem this presents is that when one is exposed to many resources they are more likely to procrastinate. As I keep mentioning, scholarship is important, but so is learning from and interpreting Scripture though one’s life experiences, one’s culture, and one’s friendships with others.

The irony is that as information becomes more readily accessible to us, we seem to become “busier” and have a decreased attention span.  Anymore nowadays we cannot go for one hour without checking our Facebook for updates, we can’t go a day without sending the world a Tweet that we did something amazing like go on a date or wake up on time for work, and we can’t go a week without our cell phones (because… well… it might be an “emergency”).  It’s funny how we complain about only having 24 hours in a day.  It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that we don’t have time to sit down with the Bible for 15 minutes or to pray or to read wholesome literature.  And yet, we can find half an hour to scroll mindlessly down a Facebook feed, to call up half a dozen friends, and to text 15 people.  Yep.  It’s not that we don’t have the time, it’s about where our priorities lie, and unfortunately for many Christians our priorities simply do not lie in reading the Scripture and meditating upon it.

Conclusion: Loren Johns presented a very informative lecture on how Anabaptists have come to view Scripture over the centuries. What I took away from this whole thing is that we need to become more aware of the role Scripture plays in our lives. Rather than putting everything on a denominational horse, we need to question ourselves to see if we personally are in alignment with God’s will for our lives. It’s never a simply or easy answer, but as long as we keep looking to God, He will guide and direct us.




One thought on “The Hermenutics of Anabaptism – How We Read Scripture and Why – Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

  1. Pingback: The Hermenutics of Anabaptism – How We Read Scripture and Why – Part 1 of a 2 Part Series | Zweibach and Peace - Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

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