Wayne Meeks: “Renounce the Phrase, ‘The Bible Clearly Teaches'” (Skinner)

Here’s another gem from the Meeks lectures I mentioned yesterday:

So let us renounce the phrase, “the Bible clearly teaches.” And every time we hear it let us immediately be on our guard. Of course, it is a convenient shorthand to personify the Bible as agent, as teacher. St Paul did that when he quoted a text in Romans 10:6 with the introduction, “the righteousness of faith says…” But let us remember that when Paul said that he then proceeded to give that text a meaning that was outrageously different from its contextual, grammatical, plain sense. In our situation, when people say, “the Bible clearly teaches,” instead of, for example, “we can learn from the Bible if we stand within a certain community’s tradition,” or “we can find these ideas in Scripture if we construe Scripture in such-and-such a way”…. When they make the Bible the agent of their assertions, you see—“the Bible teaches,” not “we teach because this is the way we understand it”—when they do that, they are really masking the locus of the authority they are claiming.

52:39 – 53:55 of the Lecture 4 discussed here. (Update: Thanks to Dave Mackinder for pointing out that these lectures were the basis for Meeks’s book, Christ is the Question [Louisville: WJK, 2005]).

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Emory Lectures by Wayne Meeks (Skinner)

MeeksI am always looking for resources that I can recommend to students or that I will find helpful for my own thinking about certain issues. Today I have a recommendation that accomplishes both of these nicely. Over at iTunesU, on Emory University’s Jesus and Culture page, I stumbled across a series of lectures given at Candler School of Theology back in 2010 by Wayne Meeks, Woolsey Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Yale Divinity School. These lectures are obviously five years old, but like my 1998 Dodge Stratus (which I purchased in 2005), they were “new to me.” I had a chance to listen to several of these lectures while working in my yard the other day and they’re quite good (as you might expect).

Here’s a general description of the lectures:

The Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture is supported by gifts from the McDonald Agape Foundation, chaired by Alonzo L. McDonald. McDonald was a longtime trustee of Emory University. The McDonald Agape Foundation “supports lectures and other public presentations that deal creatively and imaginatively with the person and teachings of Jesus as they shape and form culture.”

If for some reason you don’t have access to iTunes (1) you should probably consider joining the 21st century, and (2) you’ll be able to find Professor Meeks’s lectures here (numbers 11-15 on the list). Their titles are as follows:

(1) “Does Anybody Know Jesus?”

(2) “Memory and Invention”

(3) “A Story to Think With”

(4) “The Bible Teaches….”

(5) “Is Jesus the Last Word?”

Given the particulars of my background and biography (which many readers of this blog know) I found lecture number four particularly insightful. Like me, you can cut your grass and trim your weeds while being instructed by one of the great thinkers and communicators in our field.