Thursday, 18 February 2016
Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation,
Ed. Mary C. Boys, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002
Chapter 13, "Covenant and Conversion" (pp. 151-162), page 153-154
So why does Dr Cunningham lay out these four different approaches to the Bible and what is he going to do with his model? Starting with the statement that all of the authors writing in "Seeing Judaism Anew" operate mostly within the "incarnational approach", he says:
Our group situates biblical texts on the covenant in their historical and literary contexts and "actualises" them in the historical reality of today's churches that repent of the evils that Christians have inflicted upon Jews for centuries.
Ok, but what does that mean? He is going to go on to discuss 'covenant', so we need to know what how he is going to use the "incarnational" position. What does that allow him to do?
Nonincarnational perspectives that either exclusively emphasise or totally deny the divine character of the the Bible will prove insufficient to this task. Regarding the "Bible as divine word" leads to ahistorical readings that may mask avoidance mechanisms by which Christians seek to escape responsibility for the tragic relationship of Christians and Jews. The agnosticism of the "Bibleas human artifact" approach is of limited help to faith communities striving to do G-d's will in an increasingly complex world. Only an incarnational approach is adequate to the task.
His motives are excellent, but I'm going to retain my hermeneutic of suspicion as I read on. Working with the idea that G-d tells each generation afresh what His word means for them today in their context doesn't sound as though it will produce the right answer. Instead, methinks, the best results will be obtained by affirming that G-d never changes - as His word claims - and therefore while respecting historical situation and context, the Bible still remains absolute. Flushing out the avoidance mechanisms is clearly a job that must be done, but I'm struggling to see how the "incarnational" approach helps. Let's read on and see how he tackles the subject of covenant.