Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Monday, October 04, 2010

Peter Leithart, on the Importance of the Shape of the Text of Scripture

The following is a great quote from Peter Leithart's book Deep Exegesis (pg. 55), which I have been reading as of late. I'll resist the urge to comment on it any at this time, other than to say I highly recommend it for anyone whose task it is to study and teach Scripture. Here, Dr. Leithart has been discussing how texts are like music, and are, in fact, musical. He then comments on our own tendencies in approaching a text:

We are often impatient with music, and we are impatient with texts. A writer lingers, and we want to grab him by the throat and say, "Get to the point, man!" Evangelicals would reverently refrain from throttling an apostle, but the demand for practical Bible teaching often has this threatening subtext. "Don't give me all these names, lists, genealogies, stories. Tell me what to do. Tell me about Jesus."

God in his infinite wisdom decided to give us a book, a very long book, and not a portrait or an aphorism. God reveals himself in his image, Jesus, but we come to know that image by reading, and that takes time. God wants to transform us into the image of his image, and one of the key ways he does that is by leading us through the text. If we short-circuit that process by getting to the practical application, we are not going to be transformed in the ways God wants us to be transformed. "Get to the point" will not do because part of the point is to lead us through the labyrinth of the text itself. There is treasure at the center of the labyrinth, but with texts, the journey really is as important as the destination. "Get to the point, man" is the slogan of the liberal theologian; it is a demand for the kernel without the annoying distraction of the husky twists and turns of the text itself.

The fact that this is a foreign notion to most Evangelicals strikes me as odd. If, after all, we proclaim belief in the plenary inspiration of Scripture as a key tenet of our faith, how can anything other than what Dr. Leithart has said above be true?