Feb 12, 2012

Having a Canonical "Conversation"

"While a number of metaphors work well to express the Bible’s theological plurality coherently and constructively, my preference for the interpreter’s practical task is conversation. Naturally, there are different kinds of conversations. A canonical approach to the NT’s pluriform subject matter envisages a conversation that is more complementary than adversarial. In one sense, the intercanonical conversation is very much like an intramural debate over the precise meaning of things generally agreed to be true and substantial. The purpose or outcome of debate is not to resolve firmly fixed disagreements among members of the same community or panel as though a normative synthesis were possible; rather, more often it is the sort of debate that clarifies the contested content of their common ground. Likewise, the biblical canon stabilizes and bears continuing witness to the historic disagreements between the traditions of the church’s first apostles, which were often creative and instructive (cf. Acts 15:1-21; Gal 2:1-15). Not only do these controversies acquire a permanent value within Scripture, but Scripture in turn commends these same controversies to its current readers, who are invited to engage in similar acts of what Karl Popper calls ‘mutual criticism’ in order to provide more balance to parochial interests or supply instruction to clarify the theological confession of a particular faith tradition."

Robert W. Wall, "Reading the New Testament in Canonical Context," in Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation, 2nd ed., ed. Joel B. Green (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 384. 

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