Biblical and Theological Reflection: There is a difference

There is a big difference between reflecting Biblically and reflecting theologically. Now, maybe most of us don’t care very much about that difference, but it is an important one.

Obviously, to reflect Biblically ought to be simple enough. You look at a passage of scripture, read it, think about what it has to say, and maybe you can take some lesson from what you have read. But it is not always that simple. The Bible is not really an easy book to understand. What’s the context in which the story is told, or the pronouncement is given? What are the particulars to the case? And is it really applicable to all times and places? In my time, I have heard it said that the Bible is an answer book for all human conditions. There are some ways that may be true if it pertains to understanding the spiritual estate of human beings. But it won’t tell me some other things—like how to fix my car, or my computer. Now please hear me clearly—I am NOT saying Bible is unimportant. But it can be very complicated to understand. In our culture we have two phenomena going on simultaneously. First is that there are more and more Bibles in the hands of more and more people. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is that even if the first thing is true, still the ignorance of the Bible in all its complexities is still staggering.

The second order—theological reflection springs from a certain facility with Biblical reflection, but it attempts to make a connection with the culture in which we live, the lives we live, the news of the day, and what is happening in life in the here and now. It takes into account the incarnational nature of God’s self-revelation in the earthly life of Jesus and in his divine life, but it does not overlook that God uses the substance of this world to reveal himself. Theological reflection uses the Bible as a source, but still looks for the hand and the presence of God here and now.

Advent invites you to engage in the more challenging order of theological reflection. Where do you see the hand of God here and now? With what eager expectation do you await his coming?


Canon Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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