Some of you will remember a previous post when I suggested that a “purple” theology probably will not find the word “authority” as the appropriate word for Scripture. Now, I have no truck with the word “authority” apart from the fact that I do not believe it tells us enough about what our relationship to Scripture is and what it ought to be. So, I’m suggesting we find another.
I know that for many of us the doctrine of Scripture is presuppositional and prolegomena to all we do. I fear that such an approach will turn the Bible as God’s Word into bibliolatry and idolatry, where mastery of the Bible is equated with loving God and others. Scripture is God’s gracious gift to us, but that doesn’t mean that every extreme is justifiable. We are in need of a new set of categories for understanding Scripture.
I’m suggesting we use the term “identity.” The term “authority” is that of power — it tells us that we are “under” something. The term “identity” speaks of the Spirit who is at work — in the world in God’s redemptive work, in the Church as the community of faith, and in that community as it tells the story of God’s redemptive work. And I’m not suggesting that we understand “identity” as filling the same spot as “authority,” but that we learn to see Scripture (not so much as the Authority) but as what gives us our Identity because through it God’s Spirit speaks to and guides us.
Identity invites us to conceptualize our relationship differently than the term “authority,” which invites us to see ourselves in submission (which is not the worst thing in the world, to be sure). Identity, I am suggesting, gives us the opportunity to rethink our relationship to Scripture in terms of a pneuma-shaped identity.
And our relationship to that Scripture, that Theo-Drama (to use Vanhoozer’s term, The Drama of Doctrine), is that we listen to it as the script we are to live, as the script God has used with the community of faith, as the script to which the Church has always turned — and in so listening, our “identity” is formed, shaped, re-formed and re-shaped. It is our identity, and it gives us our identity.
We are invited in the term “identity” to find ourselves as God’s people in listening to God’s Word.
Let me also suggest that I am not surrendering “authority” so much as seeking for a term that does more justice to our relationship to Scripture.