Thursday, May 08, 2014

How the West became deaf to the biblical voice that had led it

By Robert Jenson
May 2014

What happens to a culture shaped by the Bible, if the culture ceases to believe that the Bible tells truth?” This was the question asked by my initiation paper for a liberal arts discussion group that met more than fifty years ago. In the meantime, we have been finding out the answer.

It is not my purpose, grimly enjoyable though it might be, to set forth a lament over our developing chaos—our nihilistic ideologies, the collapsing sexual order and related social and political dysfunction, the idiot’s greed of masters of the financial universe, and so forth. In order to understand more deeply, we need to attend to specific features of the Bible and to correlated aspects and developments of Western culture. The following is offered as a limited contribution to that effort.

Now, we may think of Scripture as both an encompassing narrative of the Creator’s history with his creatures, and as torah, his gracious communication of what is good for participants in that history. These of course are inseparable, but it will be convenient to take them up in sequence. Christians and Jews tend to order them differently: Christians make the narrative primary; Jews, the Torah. I presume the Christian
ordering but think both Christians and Jews can agree about much of what I will say.

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