In recent years there has been a growing awareness of a theological and spiritual crisis in Western Culture not unlike that in ancient Judah. The Bible has been lost as far as its essential message is concerned, or if it has been found, it has been cut up into a thousand pieces and thrown into the fire. An attempt at recovery has been called “theological interpretation,” and it has arisen because there has been the growing conviction among many Christian scholars and lay people alike that there is a famine for the Word of God throughout the land not unlike the time predicted in Amos’s day (Amos 8:11-14). In many churches, the Scripture has been Left Behind for Your Best Life Now among the many Purpose Driven books and popular Self-Help manuals. If by chance its words are read, they are often placed in the context of how to become a better person, or how to have a better marriage, or how to improve one’s potential, or how to live one’s dream, or how to understand the Bible as a cipher for future events. Frequently bits and pieces of the text are read and one never gets a sense of the entire picture so that the scripture is reduced to a daily series of “devotionals,” or a book of quaint quotations, a source for private inspiration or public motivation.
A recent news story told how Bible verses were engraved on the gun sights of rifles by an arms manufacturer to be used in Iraq and Afghanistan. This prompted one wit to ask the question, “Who would Jesus shoot?” The church has become so imbedded into the culture that it has difficulty even understanding the Bible. On the other hand, in the more liberal wing of Christianity, the Bible suffers a different fate, being cut up into a thousand pieces and thrown into the fire to be reduced to ashes by the flames of historical criticism, deconstruction, or other ideological criticisms whether liberationist, feminist, post-colonial or whatever reading strategy has become the current fad. In both contexts, conservative and liberal, the Bible does not set the agenda; the church and the culture do. The Bible is simply a means to an end determined by the church working in lock step with the culture.
“A Light in a Dark Place”: A Tale of Two Kings and Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament by Stephen Dempster