Hidden in Plain Sense

Regardless of the tools and methods used in interpreting the Scriptures, the Fathers had a common assumption – they agreed that the truth was hidden behind the letter of the text. They believed that something was hidden and that it was God Himself who had done the hiding. There were a variety of methods employed for revealing what was hidden, some more concerned about the text itself than others. Many modern believers…

History and the Gospel

I remember a grumpy student once saying: “I hate history! It’s just one darned thing after another!” And so it is. For although we study history, we think of it as a simple collection of events, a way of telling the story of the world. Like a well-written newspaper account, we expect history to state the facts as accurately as possible and leave for the reader the task of interpretation. Is it…

Again – The Sin of Democracy

In light of the present discussion of reading the Bible, I offer this reprint. Our modern age has drunk the kool-aid of philosophical democracy (the autonomous authority of the individual) to the dregs and seeks to use the Bible to underwrite the project. A book that could not have been owned by an individual prior to the printing press in the 15th century (by reason of cost) cannot be used philosophically to…

Making Known the Mystery

The trouble with reading Scripture is that almost everybody thinks they can do it. This idea is rooted in the assumptions of Protestant thought: only if the meaning of Scripture is fairly obvious and more or less objective can it serve as a source of unmediated authority for the believer. If any particular skill or mastery is required, then the skillful masters will be the mediators of meaning for all the rest.…

The Debt of Sin and the Sin of Debt

There are a number of ideas and phrases that most Biblically literate Christians would swear were in the Bible, but are not. Among those is the phrase (or concept) of the “debt of sin.” It is simply not there. Nor is there a phrase that describes sin as something that we “owe.” Again, it’s simply not there. The phrase, “the debt of sin,” or “sin debt” is extra-biblical. It is an idea…

The Scope of Passover and Penal Substitution Theory

One of the terms used in the early fathers when interpreting the Scriptures was the “scope” of Scripture. By this they meant backing away from the detail of the text to see the larger picture, the “scope” of a broad reading. This technique was particularly valued in the so-called Antiochene School of interpretation, which is usually associated with a more historical/literal reading of Scripture. The failure to see the “scope” of the…

Christ Our Passover

St. Paul offers the familiar words: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” (1 Cor. 5:7). Most readers of the Bible will find nothing surprising about this – though they should. It is an extremely sophisticated commentary on the death and resurrection of Christ uttered at a very early date in Christian history. For what is equally as remarkable as the eye-witness accounts of the resurrection, are the primitive proclamations about what…

Dying to Become Human

St. Irenaeus was perhaps the first to suggest that the creation of man was a “project.” “Let us make man in our own image,” is strikingly different from “Let there be man!” And the project goes wrong from the beginning. Rather than becoming fully what he is created to be, man breaks communion with God and brings death upon himself. The first time we hear, “It is not good,” is spoken of…

Creation and Evolution

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the proper beginning point for all Christian theology. Christ’s Pascha should be the source for all Christian reflection. It is clear that the disciples themselves did not understand the Scriptures nor Christ Himself until after the resurrection (Luke 24:45). We cannot approach Pascha as a midpoint in a historical narrative. It is the beginning. That which came before is only understood by reading backwards…

Evolution, Creation and the Hidden Cause

Recent pop culture presented a debate between a scientist and a fundamentalist Christian over evolution and creation. The Christian, a Biblical literalist, holds to the idea of a “young creation,” a universe that is roughly 6,000 years old – this – based on calculating from the Biblical record. It is the most extreme form of Biblical literalism – one in which the appearances of the universe to be much older must be…