Monday, April 21, 2008

Why Krister Stendahl read the Bible

Stendahl passed away a week ago and left a rich theological legacy. Here's a small taste.

...let me share with you as a tribute to the Bible—and perhaps in a strange way—five "no" statements. It is usual when one is describing love to describe it in positive and glowing terms. But my friendship with the Bible gave me the joy, and the courage, to express my love in five statements of "not." The first is the one I have pointed at: It is not primarily about me. Second, it is not always as deep as we think. Third, even Paul isn't always totally sure. Fourth, don't be so uptight. And fifth, it is probably not as universal as we think.

It is perhaps odd to express my love in such negative terms. But it is also perhaps in the line of that wonderful word of Jesus in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John: I do not call you any longer servants, but I call you friends. Somehow I became friends with the Bible. In the biblical tradition, and in the Jewish tradition, to be called the friend of God, you had to be one who argued with God. Abraham, arguing about Sodom and Gomorrah, was called a friend of God. Job was called the friend of God. To me, Jesus is the friend of God, because he argues with God. And so, these five "no's" of mine I bring to you as a sign of love and friendship.

The first "no" is the one which became the watershed in my love story with the Bible: It is not about me. In Galatians 3 it says that the law became, as many people translated, the tutor unto Christ. And I had learned, in good Lutheran theology—and John Wesley was on that line, too—that the law was for the preparation of my conscience. The law was the tutor, and tutored me so that I could fully understand not only what I should do, but also that I couldn't live up to it, and hence needed a savior. The law was a tutor unto Christ, preparing, tendering my conscience, so that my need for forgiveness would become so great.

Then I...(read the whole thing here. Top to bottom)
Thanks to Brian Rude for sharing this.

No comments: