Brand new book on an important topic: How do we move beyond the Bible? Should we? Better yet: Since we have to, how do we move beyond the Bible into our world but do this biblically? This is the concern of Zondervan’s new Counterpoint book edited by Gary Meadors: Four Views on Moving beyond the Bible to Theology (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
The book is of deep interest to me because of my book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
, which addresses the same themes under the model of “discernment.” Today I want to set up the book and then move into the first model of “going beyond” by my former colleague, Walt Kaiser, with his “principlizing method.”
The Bible is from 3500-2000 years ago; how does a book that old still speak? New issues confront us — like euthanasia. We no longer do some things in the Bible that are blatantly clear — like Sabbath and food laws and greeting with a kiss and washing feet. We face issues no one in the Bible thought of — like nuclear proliferation and systemic exploitation at a level the world has never seen. Some things the Bible affirms or only soft shoes we feel stronger about — like slavery.
What to do? That is why a book like this is important.
Kaiser opens up with asking how an ancient text can be “applied” to our world (by the way, the word “apply” carries an approach to all sorts of hermeneutical issues, not the least of which is cross-cultural translation and belief the original form contains the content for all time).
Kaiser defines “principlize”: “To restate the author’s propositions, arguments, narrations, and illustrations in timeless abiding truths with special focus on the application of those truths to the current needs of the Church” (22).
Kaiser warns of the regula fidei and urges finding the big idea — to find the subject of the text; he urges us to avoid imposing NT on the OT; find important terms. Then he urges that we push for propositional principles. Turn it into “we” and “present tense.” He also speaks of the Ladder of Abstraction that moves from particulars up to generalizing principles and back down to particulars.
So Kaiser urges us to move from particulars to the general principle and then deduce similar particulars in our world.
His examples include euthanasia (Bible is against it in particulars and principles), women in the church (he’s on the side of the angels on this one), homosexuality (traditionalist), slavery, abortion and stem cell research.
Kaiser sees perfection from Genesis 1 to Revelation along the lines of germs and seeds but not necessarily fullness. So Kaiser says the NT authors didn’t go beyond and neither should we.
But there is a potent problem: one cannot principlize from a nonabolitionist text to abolitionism (as Webb says in his response). There is also a dangler in Kaiser’s approach according to Vanhoozer: in which sense can Kaiser speak of “development” in the Bible?