Theologians Launch Study on Bible Authority in Church

( [email protected] ) Oct 21, 2004 05:10 PM EDT

Theologians launched study on the ¡°Authority of the Bible in the Life of the Church¡± on the first meeting of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) study team in Cartigny, Switzerland.

"Our imagination and our lives are transformed as we read Scripture

carefully, closely and critically, as part of a faithful community,"

Jacobson, who teaches Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St Paul, Minnesota,USA, told participants in the September 30 and October 3 meeting convened by the LWF Department for Theology and Studies (DTS) in Cartigny, near Geneva.

The team coordinator Rev. Dr Reinhard Boettcher, DTS Study Secretary for Theology and the Church, expressed the hope that the group would work through the study subject in creative ways that were biblically faithful, consistent with the Lutheran confessions, contextually relevant, and accessible for people today.

The participants' diverse backgrounds were readily apparent throughout the discussions.

Rev. Dr Wilfred John, lecturer of Systematic Theology at Sabah Theological Seminary, Malaysia, said the multi-faith and charismatic or Pentecostal challenges were significant in defining the churches' approach to presenting the Bible as authoritative. Although the Bible has over the centuries helped to shape Swedish society, it was difficult to ascertain how definitive it was for people today, according to Rev. Permilla Parenmalm, from the Uppsala Institute for Diaconal and Social Studies.

Rev. Alexander Priloutskji, general secretary of the Evangelical

Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia, described his church's commitment to the Bible as the inspired, unchanging Word of God in the pervasively Orthodox milieu of Russia.

Rev. Dr Elelwani Farisani, lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the University of Pietermaritzburg, South Afria showed concern in the power relations reflected in a text and the authori¡¯s intended meaning and interpretation by those receiving it. He said,"When you are using the text to oppress me, you are abusing the text."

"We must challenge biblical texts when they serve oppressive purposes, when they are used to demean women, Indigenous People or any other group," insisted Rev. Dr Mercedes Garcia Bachmann, dean and lecturer in Old Testament Studies at ISEDET, an ecumenical theological school in Buenos Aires.

Prof. Guenther Thomas, teaching Systematic Theology at the University of Bochum, Germany said "a liberating hermeneutic is not foreign to but is a result of dealing with the Bible."

Pointing out the dynamic relation between human and divine in Scripture,

Thomas said "our christological models determine our view of Scripture."

"What is true about Scripture is theological, centered in the gospel, which is very different from insisting that every word is true," Jacobson noted.

The LWF study team members in dialogue with one another, will be writing articles that explore the different challenges to the Bible's authority in Lutheran churches today. A compilation of these papers will be discussed at the group's next meeting in 2006.

LWF study team members aimto develop guidelines that could be used in local contexts for approaching biblical texts.

"Insofar as we as Lutherans view the Bible as the sole norm for our faith and praxis, our failure to deal with emerging tensions concerning its interpretation could threaten the coherence of the communion especially in dealing with ethical issues," Boettcher commented.

The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran

tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 138 member churches in 77 countries all over the world, with a membership of nearly 65 million Lutherans.

The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.