Quote for the day: Perriman
Happy Christmas to all of you!
Over my Christmas break I took the time read Andrew Perriman’s breathtaking Re:Mission. Biblical Mission for a post-biblical church which I shall review when I return to Germany. It either will be or already is available from Paternoster, in the ‘Faith in an Emerging Culture’ series.
Perriman is certainly one of my favourite authors. His thought is rich, eloquent, provocative, committed to scripture, and very often, and I mean this quite honestly, has the mark of genius. He is, at least for me, a reformer of the evangelical gospel. Perhaps it is for that reason that I feel he hangs too loosely to the canon-forming, interpretive and exegetical streams of church tradition - traditions, I dare to hope, which have been guided, albeit more or less, by the Holy Spirit.
Let me put it like this (without wanting to give the impression I am a closet Catholic!). It is church tradition (A) that has shaped the ‘canon’ of scripture (B), and this ‘canon’ is itself the backbone of our understandings of the scriptural narrative (C). Yet it is this narrative (C) that Perriman employs with such devastating and illuminating effect to (overly?) boldly critique … church traditions (A). This process (A-B-C-[critiques]->A) needs to be handled carefully, and I’m not sure Perriman is at his most nuanced at this point. I thus find myself backing away from some of Perriman’s conclusions, even though I find his method and results so exciting.
Am I just being a boring old stuffy traditionalist conservative, paying lip service to critical scholarship while ‘running to the hills’ when it starts to hurt? I’m not sure I can answer that yet. I admit that there is some he writes that I find myself disagreeing with, and I regularly find him unsettling. But it is precisely for this reason that I so enjoy reading his works!
So here is my quote of the day. I read the text below and had one of those ‘ah ha!’ moments. For a moment, I stopped feeling guilty for making the text of scripture appear so alien and distant in discussions with some friends.
“I would question the assumption that Scripture ought to be immediately accessible, easily intelligible, to the modern reader. The problem is that the Bible is not a modern text: it is an ancient text, written to address ancient circumstances, constructed out of the peculiar thought-forms of an ancient worldview, and it should seem strange and irrelevant to us” (Perriman, Otherways, p. 57)
An afterthought: If you are reading the bible with due consideration of its historical context, it should seem strange, and, in many ways, irrelevant. I hasten to add, it doesn’t work both ways. If the bible is strange and irrelevant to you, that is no proof that you are reading the bible with such due consideration!