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Reading, Understanding and Applying Scripture - a 'New View'

"The most important theological debate over the next 20 years will be about the doctrine of scripture: how we read, understand and apply the Bible." believes Andrew Wilson [2012].

Certainly, how we read, understand and apply the Bible has a huge influence on what we believe and do about God, the world, others, etc.

2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth criticised the Jewish experts for not seeing in the their Scriptures the true character of Yahweh God. They saw God as a ruler with strict demands couched in their Law; Jesus saw God as a Father, who values all, including 'ordinary' people, yearns over the evil in the world, acts to save it, and has a final glorious future for it. This future would be secured by the One who had come into the world as Messiah. They took Scripture very seriously, yet could not see any other interpretation than their own.

Are we making a similar mistake?
- even though we might take Scripture very seriously?
What was it about the way they interpreted Scripture
    that blinded them ?

Those questions have formed my ways of interpreting Scripture
leading me to explore ways that might be new.

I believe the Bible is God's communication ('Word') to humankind [Note 1], so the main question I have is: how should I read, understand and apply the Bible so that every part is relevant and coherent with all the others, and no part to be discarded as meaningless or irrelevant today? [Note 2]

This has sub-questions, which dictate the contents of this page:

See also Understanding the Laws of Moses: Some Principles to Help Us.

How Scripture is Interpreted

Rejecting Demythologization

Though I make use of academic tools in interpreting Scripture, I choose to largely disregard the demythologizing attitude that still pervades academic thought.

Eras of Interpretation

Philip Alexander [2014] suggested there have been at least five main eras of people commentating on the Bible:

I do not presume from this that the later ones are better, nor worse. What I call "demythologizing" infected the Enlightenment and Modern eras.

Important question: are those five the only ways in which Scripture has been interpreted?

I suppose I feel closest to the Earliest, the Reformation and Postmodern, but also use reason and reference to discoveries in the Bible Lands. Philip Alexander's thinking is formed from looking at written commentaries, which reflects some of the thinking during historical periods of time.

However, this view is perhaps less relevant; the question is how people treat the Bible today.

The following table gives some more down-to-earth ways in which people treat the Bible today. The following table tries to capture many of the ways in which the Bible is interpreted. (Please let me know if you find more.)

How Scripture Interpreted (Who)
Scripture is ... Strengths Weaknesses How I interpret
... statements to believe literally, being given word for word by God (Fundamentalists, also Muslims, Mormons) Tends to takes parts of Bible they read seriously. But tends to restrict which parts they read and take seriously, ignore many other parts. Like the Pharisees and Teachers of Law in Jesus' time were, they are not open to surprises or new things from God.

Holds a false view of what language is. Misunderstands the nature of the Holy Spirit's inspiration.

I try to take seriously all parts of Bible, whether I like it or not, but without ignoring any parts. Expect surprises from God, cutting across, expanding and enriching what I believed before. Sees the Bible as genuine language, with a variety of semantics and pragmatics, rather than only literal semantics. Look beyond the statements, to find the 'large messages' and have God's communication written on my heart rather then mere mind [Jeremiah 31:32].
A source of texts for Christian teaching (A certain type of evangelical preacher) Tends to know a lot of Scripture, and to seek out the connections between different parts on given topics. But the texts they pick out and the links they make are often not the Bible's whole message on their chosen topic.
Tend to pick out texts that support the preacher's message (whether deliberately or subconsciously).
Tends to find surface links rather than deeper ones.
Tends to evince a spurious air of authority; the preacher's wide knowledge of the Bible is applauded, so listeners are influenced to accept the preacher's message without question; the preacher has already gained their reward in the form of people's praise.
Tends to overlook tacit knowledge.
For any topic, seek all Scripture says about it, but always be self-critical about the picture we build from this, realising how much we don't yet understand.
A textbook of doctrines (Evangelical theologian) Develops clear understanding of general doctrines. and Builds a clear system of doctrines, and systematic theologies. But the clear system and systematization tends to become rigid and inappropriate to new situations; those who hold the systems of doctrines tend to resist new movements of God.
Reduces truth to that which can be expressed in doctrines, thereby constraining people unnecessarily. "You put heavy burdens on men's shoulders and life not a finger to help."
Tends to overlook tacit knowledge.
Much that is most important in the Bible cannot be expressed in a doctrine, but it is helpful to develop clear, coherent understanding of what is generally applicable from Scripture, which is what doctrines can express. Doctrines are seen as theorizations rather than truth always in need of further modification. Intuitive, tacit knowledge is important.
A text to criticise (or even debunk?) (Liberal theologian) Exercises critique Tends to debunk rather genuinely critique.
Elevates reason as the absolute judge, ignoring that reason is always driven by ideology or other beliefs
Treats Bible as a theoretical treatise and obliterates its pre-theoretical (everyday) nature.
At mercy of academic fashions, especially those in social sciences.
I try to exercise genuine critique, but beware of debunking. I recognise that critique is itself driven by human interests, often vile ones, and try to eschews academic and other fashions. I treat the Bible as a pre-theoretical communication, so that any attempt to theorize and critique it is partial and flawed.
A man-made account, written to maintain a power position (Some liberal theologians ) Takes seriously the humanness of those who wrote and compiled the Bible. But tends to sees the human authors as one-dimensional figures (the power dimension), rather than full, rich human beings.
It ignores that God communicates (because of his love), and tends to deny the reality of divine revelation.
Its focus on power is a twentieth-century preoccupation of the rich North.
I recognises the Divine inspiration of the Bible, because I believe God wants to communicate with humankind. But I also take seriously its human authorship and compilation. I values but try to surmount the preoccupations and presuppositions of twentieth-century (or later) theologians.
Verses that speak to me, because the Holy Spirit lights them up (Pentecostal / evangelical lay person) Recognises that God acts in our lives and this is how he sometimes speaks into our specific situations. But the messages we recognise tend to be only of certain specific types (how often is comfort spoken, and how seldom, challenge?)
Prevents seeing the whole story;
Individualises and privatises the Bible's message.
Tends to make the recipients like 'children' who do not think for themselves but wait to be told what to do.
Has a false view of what it means to be submitted to God (as action or thoughts rather than heart).
I want to mature in my understanding and be formed around the whole story of the Bible, but recognise that God can speak to us specifically. However, these individual messages must not be allowed to bully us, and must be harmony with the attitude and orientation of the whole and we should test them.
One of many religious books (Humanists who shy away from the challenges that Scripture might offer them) Open to seeing common themes between Bible and other religious writings. Tends to be shallow in dealing with common themes.
Their presuppositions hinder them from doing justice to the differences between religions and between different religious writings
Tend to have a very shallow, one-dimensional view of religion, often commenting on it from the outside.
The Bible is God's unique communication to humankind, though it shares many themes in common with other religious writings. The nature of the uniqueness is critically thought about, rather than dogmatically asserted.
The holy book for Christians (Members of other religions, and some Christians) Recognises something of the differentness of the Bible. Discourages (prevents) others from taking the Bible seriously.
Used as weapon by those Christians who want to attack others.
The Bible is meant for all humankind, not just Christians, but it generates a people who take Jesus Christ seriously (not necessarily a religion called Christianity).
A holy book to venerate (Roman and Anglo Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) Treats Bible with respect. But it is usually an unhelpful and misguided kind of respect, which is not what God wants; c.f. "I do no want your sacrifices and religious feasts; instead let justice roll on like a river."
Prevents us allowing the Living God to speak into our everyday lives, attitudes and structures
Treats Bible as an everyday object with which we engage in life, but also with respect.

[While the Bible is indeed holy in the sense of being special and uniquely related to God, it demands being read and understood, and taken seriously to affect all we are, do, aim for and aspire to. ]

I don't like any of those - though each has some insights. So ...

How I Find it Meaningful to Interpret Scripture

Esepcially see general principles below.

Summary of My Attitude and Method

My Attitude to and Beliefs About Scripture

My method of interpretation

Keeping those in mind, here is the method I employ:

Specifically, I try to avoid treating Scripture as a theological treatise, and especially as a system of logic from which doctrines may be formulated.

In More Detail ...

(This is in essay style, written before the summary above.)

I will relate how I understand how I interpret Scripture, and later on refer to what some others suggest. The following account is not yet complete.

Maybe I feel close to Miroslav Volf's explanation in his book Captive to the Word of God because I am certainly 'captive' but in a way that allows criticism:

"I read the Bible as a sacred text and a witness to Jesus Christ; a site of God's self-revelation; a text from the past through which God addresses all humanity and each human being today; a text that has an overarching unity yet is internally teeming with rich diversity; a text that encodes meanings and refracts them in multiple ways; a text we should approach with trust and critical judgment as well as engage with receptivity and imagination; a text that defines Christian identity yet speaks to people beyond the boundaries of Christian communities."

But that does not do justice to the everydayness of Scripture and its place in everyday life. I take the Bible to be of a pre-theoretical rather than theoretical attitude towards life, a record rather than a theoretical textbook.

Here are some pointers on how I interpret Scripture. Not as a dictation from God (as Muslims and Mormons believe their Scriptures to be), nor as a text book full of information (as fundamentalists believe it to be), nor as a sacred book (as mediaeval Roman Catholicism saw it), nor as an object of criticism to pull apart (as Enlightenment unbelievers and some liberal theologians saw it). But ...

The Bible is God's written communication to humankind,
written by human beings who
were inspired (and more) by the Spirit of God
and understood God and his ways very well
not just at the front of their minds
but also in their experience, attitudes and tacit knowledge
within a cultural background shared with others of the time
and even to a large extent with us today.

So, in reading the Bible, I ask:

What did the author mean when he wrote this?
- not only at the front of his mind,
but what was his network of meanings as he wrote that piece?
Those are usually where the Holy Spirit of God worked inspiration.

However, words cannot fully express nor capture full meaning. Words carry subtle nuances of implications of meaning, which are often not found in dictionary definitions. So I want to understand these as far as I can.

Why this word, rather than any others?
Why did the writer write this way rather than another?
Why did the speaker say this rather than something else?
Why use this word instead of a different one?

Words are usually chosen 'on the fly' almost without thinking,
by the network of tacit knowledge in the author's mind.
Especially the 'little' words that NT Wright finds so important [Note: Little Words].
What other similar words could have been used here instead?
That this word was chosen instead of them: does it tell us owt?
Are there subtle differences?
Especially in how each word tended to be used in all places?

However, even so, words carry something of the meaningfulness of every part of the creation. And this refers beyond itself to all the others. Meaningfulness is cosmic, permeating all that is and occurs, and referring ultimately to its Origin, the Creator. Therefore, how can we understand what God communicates via Scripture?

We must triangulate. We must take account
of multiple texts that all point to the kernel meaning, and from these build up an inner grasp thereof, before we can have any confidence in interpretation of what God communicates to us, and the proportion of importance of each piece.

The Hebrew Psalms make triangulation easy, because most are written with deliberate repetition. Most of their verses are composed of two parts, which each contain some expression of the important central meaning. For example, at the start of Psalm 139 [Note 4], we find:

"You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar."

both parts of which say something about God's knowing us: actions and thoughts. And in the first part are two parts, "sit down" and "rise up", which both point to God knowing our actions.

Meaning, or rather meaningfulness, is not just the semantic meaning of a word or phrase, but links with much else, including what we intend and hope we will achieve by writing, our memories, what we are half aware of as we write, what we take for granted, and the background understandings we share with others. So I ask,

What did the author intend by this?
What was its pragmatic meaning?
as well as its semantic meaning?

Example: When Jesus said "You are worth more than many sparrows" [Luke 12:6-7], what was he trying to do with his disciples? Was he not trying to encourage his disciples to trust their Heavenly Father even when they are persecuted? (In that case, is it not wrong to take this verse as an excuse to ignore our responsibility to birds, as some do? Jesus was not intending us to do that.)

Recognising all this, ...

I test my interpretations.
If I think that a passage tells me X, I ask myself:
"If the writer had believed X, would they have written this,
or would they have more than likely written something else?"

How do we know what the writers and recorded speakers believed? How can we know whether the writers had true insight into the things of God? Remember that Jesus criticised the Jewish leaders and interpreters of his day for not seeing things the right way. This implies that there is a certain world-view, under which we would, if we read the Old Testament, come to the view that Jesus did.

I take the writers to have had a certain world-view,
a certain insight into what God is like and what his 'cosmic plan' is,
in creating, in making humanity within creation, and in acting in his creation.
I assume this world-view pervades entire Scripture,
- none of it is irrelevant.
I seek a world-view that makes coherent sense of all Scripture.

How do we apply Scripture? Not primarily letting verses 'jump out' at us (though we should be open to that). Not primarily as proof texts to prove or disprove our propositional beliefs or theories. Though sometimes we can indeed apply pieces of Scripture in those ways, I prefer ...

I look for principles behind what is written or said.
I ask "Why?" and "Why not something else?"
I try to understand something of the historical situation.
Then I see how those principles were implemented in that situation.
I try to apply them in my situation, while aware of other principles too,
and aware of the times I live in and the past and present.
Crucially, I draw principles from an everyday perspective,
and am suspicious of principles rooted in religious theory or doctrine.
Example: stuff from Westminster Confession or Roman Catholic beliefs.

Most importantly,

I relate Scripture to everyday life
and the 'down-to-earth' issues of life
- challenging the little jealousies and arrogances I have,
and which mess up the lives of many -
as well as the 'high level' issues
- like climate change or poverty.

Am I not feared of getting it wrong? Or do I think my interpretation is 'the correct one'? Neither ...

Getting it right is not on its own going to bring salvation,
because it is God who brings salvation.
And getting it wrong is not a huge problem
because Jesus Christ died to cover and counteract all evil.
So I try to be humbly, cautiously bold and innovative.

So what hermeneutic (way of interpreting) do I bring to Scripture?

All interpretation is a responsible act.
It involves what has been called double hermeneutic:
In fact, I would extend that to multiple hermeneutic: my understanding of the detail informing my view of the whole,
and my view of the whole informing my understanding of the detail,
and both of these informing and informed by
my view of the world, my view of God, of the role of humanity.

The New View sees an interconnected world as meaningful created by God for rejoicing, the role of humanity to be to represent God to all creation with authority, to show the character of God as seen in Christ, who brought us rich redemption.

See also Understanding the Laws of Moses: Some Principles to Help Us.

For example, I take the letters of Paul to be the writings of a person who is completely sold out to Jesus Christ, much more so than most Christians today, and in whom the Holy Spirit inspires sometimes with ideas, who is steeped in Jewish understanding of the world, good and God, someone who is humble and yet courageous, someone who had amazing intellectual powers and yet engaged fully in 'real life' and was subjected to massive struggles and challenges in that life. I take his letters to express his understanding, motivation and feelings at various times and in various contexts. Sometimes he writes reflectively, sometimes passionately, sometimes with generic understanding and sometimes with reactions to specific situations and emotions. Paul was not a static repository of theological or moral logic, but he changed during his life and varied with situations and how he felt at the time. So I do not take his letters as textbooks of theological truths to quote in arguments or to apply to every situation regardless, but as expressions of deep understanding and response of a really godly person filled the the Holy Spirit. However, I don't ignore what they say, as many of a liberal persuasion do, but take them all very seriously, and I do expect the Holy Spirit to speak to me - both my intellect and my will - through them in the situations I experience.

Expecting Surprises

God's communication is full of surprises, often seemingly going against what we believed up to that point. For example, Jesus showed God as a Father more than than a tyrant or king. It was the ardent Jew, Saul of Tarsus, whom God sent to the Gentiles. The Holy Spirit told Peter to "kill and eat" the unclean - to show that he was to associate with ('unclean') Gentiles. Elijah was surprised to find God as low-profile "still, small voice" after the high-profile victory at Mt. Carmel. Much more recently, Helen Roseveare was surprised to find "God thinks as an African".

It is to be expected! What we know of God at any time is not only partial, but also constructed around many cultural assumptions and theoretical presuppositions. ('Theoretical' - i.e. beliefs that we hold to be generally true; 'presuppositions' - those deep ones that determine what we think are meaningful.) Usually, I believe, God acts in ways that take into account the culture, history, the expectations and assumptions and presuppositions, of the people to whom God is communicating, and in ways and thought-content that is appropriate to them so that they will understand. He often communicates in order to counter or correct something that is wrong and harmful in that culture, and especially an aspect of reality that has been overlooked or ignored in the past. So God's surprises are thus culture-related. (So, for each hymn, ask what it is speaking to.) (Moreover, is not humour also the demolishing of expectations?)

But, as C.S. Lewis has pointed out in a different context, the new does not obliterate the old, it expands it, enriches it, fulfils it. We try to draw a circle - but when the more perfect circle is drawn with a compass, we see it as what we were aiming for all along. So, when God surprises us. The Father still has authority, but it is different. The Gentiles having access to God makes the Jews' access more valuable and gives it a different meaning, as representation rather than favouritism. The low-profile still, small voice had a power and authority of a different kind. God thinking as an African showed that God's thoughts are higher than ours and that no race is above another.

So, expect surprises. Don't assume that what we currently believe is correct in all ways. If someone seems to come against what we believe, don't assume they are going against God.

Yet, don't go to the other extreme. Don't assume that my new ideas are of God (no, not even the present author's 'New View'!). Be cautious but bold. Be humble either way. And remember that we are here not to promote particular truths, but to be part of God's Plan and Mission.

At What Levels Should We Read Scripture?

The most important level at which to interpret Scripture is one that seems least used:

to see the broad-brush messages that Scripture teaches us.
This is the approach of
A Brief History of God.

Then look for principles that arise from these. Then apply these.

Never use a verse to construct and impose a universal rule. The people are put in unnecessary bondage that is not of God, and people will react against your rules and all you stand for. Perhaps more serious though less obvious, because deeper, God's people then veer to one side and do not demonstrate "the whole counsel of God". Here are a couple of examples:

Instead, for example, we need to understand principles, such as expressed by "The LORD owns the cattle on a thousand hills." and "Do not worry about what you will eat and wear; your Heavenly Father knows you need these things" [Matthew]. George Müller's experience bears this out.

With What World-view Lens Should We View Scripture?

One crucial element of the world-view with which I approach Scripture is that the Old and New Testaments together, relate humanity's experience of the Living God, including God's real action in the world, to a degree that is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" [II Tim. 3:16]. (There is one exception to that, the pre-human start of Genesis, which I take to be revelation.) As far as I can tell they are unique among all writings in the world in so doing, and is by a long, long way the best guide to all this, which can be relied on. This is what I understand when it is claimed that these two Testaments are 'the Word of God'.

So I treat Scripture, not as a set of doctrines or teachings to believe, nor even as a set of laws to obey, but as a record of God's dealings with and in his Creation, which includes human beings. I learn much from the history parts of the Old and New Testaments about the character of God. I treat 'teachings' as the result sense-making that is part of what we do. I treat e.g. Paul's letters not primarily as teachings but as the response of one, who was filled with the Spirit of God in Christ, to the events in his life and activity.

Within that approach, I look for an understanding of God's cosmic plan that is reasonably commensurate with all that is written in Scripture. The only one I have found so far is that being explored and developed as 'A New View'.

Comparison with Other Views

N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright identifies four methods of reading the New Testament [why only New Testament?] [see Berriman]:

I think that our New View takes in elements of each but cuts across them. Wright's ways of reading seem drawn from the history of movements of Western thought, which of course indicate important ways, but they are by no means the only ways possible. Our methods (above) are drawn from more fundamental considerations, and Wright's ways and ours are orthogonal to each other, cut across each other, and hence might inform and enrich each other:

(This was written before the summary of method above, to which I have added putting myself in the shoes of writer or speaker.)

Some elements of our five are of course detectable in Wright's four, but I think they are very different. 1. For example, while our cross-context approach might be found within Wright's historical and theological approaches, it is more specific than they are. Our At-face-value and Pre-theoretical do not seem to be recognised in Wright's approaches. 2. Whereas Wright's views seem to be derived from movements in theoretical thought (both philosophy and theology), ours are not, but characterize aspects of interpration. 3. Whereas Wright's approaches are more-or-less mutually exclusive, our occur simultanesously, working together. 4. Wright's four does not seem to express awareness of the fundamental effect of presuppositions.

For example, many take statements uttered by Moses, the Psalmists, Prophets, Jesus or Paul as theological truths that may be used as axioms in our arguments. Our approach takes most of them to be part of conversations (or ongoing situations), responses to what is going on within those conversations. However, we do not take the so-called postmodern approach that there is no truth behind them, but rather see in those statements some expression of truths (or rather verities) that transcend our situations and cultures, and relate to God. The former is because our uttering things within ongoing situations ("conversations") is our response as subjects thereto. The latter is because what we utter in the midst of them expresses that which enables all situations to be and occur, namely meaningfulness and basic laws that God has woven into the fabric of Creation. This includes lingual laws that enable us to signify things by symbols.

(In this I reveal my presupposition of meaningfulness of all, a kind of ocean of meaningfulness in which we and all reality swims and exists. This ocean of meaningfulness, which transcends humanity and makes all Creation meaningful without needing reference to humanity, is what enables conversations and situations to occur and us to understand what others intend. As a Christian, I believe that this meaningfulness refers to, expresses, and is a gift from, the Creator.)

Wilson's Questions

Wilson suggested there are three question we should discuss:

The second question seems OK to me. It is addressed partly the four characteristics of our approach above.

The first seems to be the wrong question. It presupposes that we should expect Scripture to provide statements that we can understand or apply either directly or with some modification. And it presupposes that our understanding is with our analytical faculty, rather than tacit or intuitive. I think rather that Scripture shows rather than provides, and that God's people (and indeed all human beings) have a responsibility to work out in humility and with a pure heart what is meant. So, by definition, Scripture is often not analytically clear. The philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd has suggested that the Bible is meant to be read pre-theoretically rather than analytically. It is supposed to be understood and applied with intuition and as part of everyday understanding, primarily, and analysed theoretically only secondarily.

Hence our At-face-value and Pre-theoretical characteristics above. As I say above, most utterances in Scripture are not intended to be used as axioms in arguments, but as part of ongoing situations or conversations, and thus they are not 'clear' but should be seen as complexly woven into those conversations.

However, sometimes, those who utter things intended to be clear, and then we should take them as more clear than at other times. And also, there are a few statements in Scripture that are not responses to ongoing conversations, such as the first chapter of Genesis. We should be careful when interpreting the latter.

The third question could be broadened to the relationship between other things and Scripture, including aesthetics, assumptions, prior beliefs, worldviews, shared background understandings (lifeworlds), attitudes, the notion of justice, economy and language. Do not all these come into play as we seek to understand and apply Scripture, alongside reason? Does Wilson pick out reason because the Scholastic way of thinking pitted Faith and Reason against each other, especially after the Enlightenment? Should not we take a broader view? Should we not understand all of them? (This suggestion too arises from Dooyeweerd via his notion of aspects.

Some Examples of This Way of Interpreting Scripture

Let us take Ephesians 3:8-12. Since all translations are influenced by a worldview, I like to look at the Greek words using my Interlinear. Via the lens of this New View, I understand the meaning of each word using the above five characteristics of our approach. (Especially as set out in the Overview of its Theology.)

Example: "ekklesias" (v.10) is usually translated "church" but "church" has connotations and layers of meaning today that might differ from what Paul had in mind (see page on church). Instead, under this New View, in which Representing God is an important element, I might think of 'ekklesias' as 'people of God' or 'people of God in Christ', seen as an assembly, a community, a group of people, whether or not this has been institutionalised.

The Greek words that I understand differently from the convention in this passage include:

Greek Conventional My understanding
oikonomia, v.9 stewardship (IL)
plan (NIV)
economy, as in beautiful-frugality, elegance, efficiency that inspires God's mystery and plan is achieved, not through piling on superior resources (waste) even though God is the ultimate Owner or all resources, but through pure frugality, without waste. It inspires great admiration: !Wow!"
panta ktisanti all-things having-created (IL),
[God] who created all things
As Interlinear, but in context "Creator of all things" is often read as an adjective or title added to God, but this New View urges me to think it possible that, in Paul's mind, God creating all things was linked in with God's plan, in which reality is to rejoice and humans have a special role, with Christ's rich redemption and manifested via those who represent God (the ekklesia).
gnoristhe nun (God's wisdom, to heavenly authorities) might-be-made-known now (IL) As IL, but in context Why should God's wisdom now be revealed to heavenly authorities?
dia tes ekklesias through the church (IL) through the people of God, those who represent God on earth See above. The theme of representing God has several levels and manifestations Scripture, it is a recurring theme. It is the way God chooses to act in the world, because God loves to involve creatures with Godself.
polupoikilos sophia multi-faceted wisdom (IL) the wisdom of God in its rich variety (NIV) Probably as IL "multi-faceted" is interesting. It is like Dooyeweerd's aspects, which are spheres of meaning in which humans function and which define shalom, and creation's health and joy. The aspects, which are designed by God for the shalom working-well of the Creation (reality rejoicing), are interwoven with each other and each supports the others in ways, which we find marvellous and exciting as we discover them.
prothesin ton aionon plan of the ages (IL) OK To this New View, God's cosmic Plan is important and central, and we are able to understand it, at least as far as humans can. And, as we understand it, as it is rolled out and revealed, we marvel. It is fuller and more glorious than previous ages had expected. Initially a people, then rulers, then ordinary people, and now the entire non-human creation, are all involved in God's Plan of a reality that rejoices. And, this Plan is centred in and secured by Christ Jesus. No wonder in Christ Paul has "boldness" (parresian)!

Other passages and how I have interpreted them:

Notes, SeeAlso, References, Etc.


Note 1. Wilson suggests that evangelical Christians, though once fundamentalist, now distance themselves from both fundamentalists at one end and liberals at the other. This is true of me, too. However, the way I read, understand and apply it seems to be different from how some of my evangelical colleagues do.

Note 2. I recognise that many of the instructions that we so often argue about were written for a particular people and culture, but they are still relevant.

Note 3. Prof Philip Alexander taught this during a course on interpreting Scripture in 2014.

Note 4. Thanks to Martin Ansdell-Smith, Frodsham, who pointed this out clearly when expounding Psalm 139 on 27 August 2017. The example is from him.

See Also


Wilson, A. (2012). War of the Word. Christianity, Jan 2012, pp.43-47.

This page, URL= "", is part of the on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology and practice that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome by emailing

Compiled by Andrew Basden as part of his reflections from a Christian perspective. Copyright (c) Andrew Basden to latest date below, but you may use this material for almost any purpose, but subject to certain conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext in the style of classic HTML.

Created: 30 August 2009. Last updated: 31 December 2009 Bible summary started. 16 January 2011 keywords; new title 'How to...', keywords. 23 April 2012 cross-context. 29 April 2012 redone the centred bits; Wilson, with Wright, given a new section. 5 May 2012 removed summary, and improved interpretation. 20 May 2012 table 27 May 2012 more in table. 10 June 2012 more. 16 June 2012 Jesus and interpretation. 23 January 2014 Surprises, link to mission-wright, reword Intro, better Contents. 2 February 2014 Philip Alexander. 5 June 2014 Miroslav Volf, thanks to Prof. Dr. Soo-Young Chang, Korea. 17 June 2014 better title. 17 September 2014 small addition about authors; link to law.of.moses, new .end. 16 July 2015 examples of Scriptures interpreted this way. 27 September 2015 Never use verse to impose universal rule. 27 August 2017 added 'earliest' and Jewish interpretations, added everyday life; added about triangulation and pragmatics. 22 February 2018 culture-related surprises. 6 July 2018 minor corrections. 17 August 2018 Eph 3:8-12; and rearranged and extended Worldview. 3 May 2019 see-also links. 2 February 2020 choose to Largely disregard ... 3 January 2021 Extended comparison with other views a lot, and added about statements being within ongoing situations. new .end, bgcolor. 13 January 2021 Paul's letters. 3 June 2021 links to bhg, Jesus use of Scripture, s/. 11 November 2023 adjustments, esp headings; moved our approach to a separate section, and also added attitude to Scripture. 2 January 2024 Vicarious. 14 May 2024 why this word r.t. another; canon. 22 May 2024 whole Bible. 24 May 2024 link: bible.discoveries.