Three Christians Speak About the Bible

Here’s what Stanley Hauerwas has to say:

No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own. [1]

Now compare that to this, by William Tyndale:

I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.[2]

Hauerwas can dress it up as much as he wants, but what he is saying here (whether or not he meant to be so obvious about it) is that his understanding of what the Scriptures teach isn’t winning converts like it used to. Instead, a different vision is. Rather than engaging his opponents in a dialogue over how to interpret the Scriptures, he wants them not to meddle with things that are beyond their simple wits. Hauerwas has friends who are equally irked at having to debate what the Bible says — the ones Luther said this to:

Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason (for I believe in neither the Pope nor councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures that I have adduced, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God; and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.[3]

and this:

Paul subordinates himself, all preachers, all the angels of heaven, everybody to the Sacred Scriptures. We are not the masters, judges, or arbiters, but witnesses, disciples, and confessors of the Scriptures, whether we be pope, Luther, Augustine, Paul, or an angel from heaven. [4]

Note also that behind Hauerwas’ thought (as expressed in this quote) is an idea that what he belongs to is the Church. The places his Bible-reading opponents go on Sunday must, ergo, but something else. (“Synagogues of Satan,” perhaps?)

Now there’s a possibility that this quote is taken out of context. Maybe he’s really okay with what the evangelicals and pentecostals are finding in the Scriptures, and teaching their part of the Church to find there. But I doubt it. More likely he was trying for the provocative conversation-starter and his mouth ran away with him. He should read both verses of James 3:1-2.

And in the meantime, I’m grateful he doesn’t have the authority to burn his opponents at the stake the way his intellectual forebears did Tyndale.

[1] From his book Unleashing the Scriptures, cited in the Spring 2008 issue of Panorama, a publication of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

[2] Cited in White’s Great Controversy.

[3] Citation needed. (Google it, for goodness’ sake!)

[4] Commentary on Galatians 1:9.

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