Thomas Jay Oord, one of my favorite theologians in the Church of the Nazarene, posts here with a preview of the  keynote address from the upcoming The Bible Tells Me So conference. The address is being given by Randy Maddox, considered by many to be the world’s foremost authority on the theology of John Wesley and how Wesley viewed Scripture. Of particular interest to me was Oord’s summary of Maddox on a Wesleyan  view of inspiration and interpretation of the Bible.

Maddox notes that Wesley affirmed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit both to the authors of the Bible and to present-day readers. “We need the same Spirit to understand the Scripture,” says Wesley, “which enabled the holy men of old to write it.”

Maddox says Wesley’s deepest concern was personal embrace of the saving truth in Scripture. Even “the devils” believe the Bible, says Wesley, but they do not embrace its saving truth for themselves.

Wesley believes we need to read the Bible “in conference” with others. Some people are simply more mature, and we can benefit from their insights if we listen in community. Meeting in groups to study the Bible is important for forming people and helping to identify the Bible’s central purposes.

Wesley recognized the limits of all human understanding. Even spiritually mature persons see through a glass darkly when interpreting the Bible. Wesley writes:

“Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it); yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true.”

Part of interpreting the Bible well, says Maddox, involves “not limiting our dialogue partners to those who are most like us, or those with whom we already agree.” Those who see things differently than we do might identify places where our understanding of something in Scripture might be wrong.

The connected issues of inspiration and interpretation seem of particular importance at current time, when the Church of the Nazarene is assailed by those who insist on biblical inerrancy  –  which the Church of the Nazarene has never held as a doctrine.

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