Sunday, September 19, 2010

'The Inescapable Love of God': Section Two - Context?

Talbott starts section two by setting up a straw man of alleged Augustinian inconsistency.  But then says these significant words about how Christians interpret Scripture: "For as I have said, every Christian thinker must reject a proposition for which there is at least some prima facie biblical support; so as almost a practical necessity, virtually every Christian thinker (who looks to the Bible as an authority) will end up interpreting some texts, some documents, and some authors in light of others." (Talbott, 48)

Talbott is very right, no interpretation of Scripture occurs in a vacuum. You need to stop and reread Talbott's quote, everyone interprets Scripture based on their own set of ideas and assumptions and will always, always be casting one piece of scripture in the light of another.  But Talbott immediately forgets his own observation in the very next example where he bizarrely accuses Augustine of misinterpreting the scope of "all men" in 1 Timothy 2:4, based on get this, a misuse of context!  Hang on Mr Talbott, doesn't every Christian thinker end up interpreting some texts, some documents, and some authors in light of others?

This is where Talbott and I become completely unstuck.  At almost every instance he wants to reserve the right to interpret Scripture in context only as far as he sees fit.  Back on page 48 I agreed everyone interprets Scripture in the light of other scriptures but Talbott refuses to take his own medicine. Although at the end of chapter five he concedes that Romans 5:18 could be read in the light of 2 Thess 1:8-9.  It also should be noted that Talbott makes a lot of the argument that in each of the "all" passages the universalist reading is a possibility. (e.g.Talbott, 79)  Therefore, he claims it cannot be simply dismissed by an appeal to other contradictory texts. This is partially true but not insurmountable for the traditional viewpoint, if you concede, as I've blogged about before, that the collective weight of the whole of Scripture correctly interpreted through church tradition determines which verses have primacy.

I'll blog later about chapters six to nine where Talbott offers his explanation of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the definition of 'eternal' and the nature of God.