Posted on July 19th, 2016
Browsing some commentary on the recently completed LCMS Convention, I came across a thread on the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau forum. An ELCA pastor, Brian Stoffregan (whom I do not know), makes an interesting statement there about Holy Scripture: “The academy is necessary to help us understand the meaning of the texts, which can be different from what they say.” Granted that he’s talking about the importance of understanding Scripture in context, I find this notion deeply troubling, and perhaps the single greatest difference between our church bodies. One of my axioms is if you have to add words to Scripture to explain why it doesn’t mean what it clearly sounds like, you’ve got the wrong interpretation.
Today’s reading in the Luther Brevier takes a different approach: the Scriptures are not for the academics, but for the simple person who trusts what God says:
[The Bible] is the book that makes all wise and clever people into fools and can only be understood by fools and simpletons. That is why you should let go of your arrogance and other false attitudes and hold this book in high regard: as the highest and noblest sacred object, as if it were the riches treasure trove that can never be emptied or exhausted. Many years ago I read the whole Bible twice and if it were to be compared to a tall sturdy tree and if all the words were branches and twigs, I have in effect shaken all these branches, curious to know what was hanging on them and what they had to offer and each time I was able to knock down a few more little apples or pears. [p217]
There is a place for the Christian academy, with the study of language, history, literature and archeology leading us to a deeper understanding of Scripture. With no unkindness meant to Pr Stoffregan, however, I cannot accept the idea that I need an academic to tell me why the Scriptures mean something “different from what they say.”