Reading Scripture with Character
August 10, 2011
Bruce Longnecker offers these insights about reading Scripture as it relates to Galatians:
At the most basic level, problems have arisen in Galatia due to a defect on the part of those whose Christian character was being compromised . . . This defect of Christian character has resulted in a compromise of the gospel itself, fuelled first and foremost by an unwise handling of Scripture. In Paul’s view, the ‘hermeneutical debate’ between himself and the agitators was not simply about which scriptural passages are normative and which are not, but about Christian character. The agitators read Scripture incorrectly not simply because they prefer some passages of Scripture that differ from those preferred by Paul. Instead, their errant interpretation arises from a perversion within their character, a character that has not been continuously nurtured by the Spirit. The compromise of Christian character jeopardises reading Scripture for Christian edification . . . The development of Christian character through the power of the Spirit is the prerequisite for the proper reading of Scripture in the Galatian communities. Without a mature, Christian character nurtured by the Spirit, Paul knows that Scripture can be read to support and justify ways of life that oppose the gospel . . . For this reason, his hermeneutical programme is rooted in the more fundamental issue of character, with Christ-like, cruciform character as a presupposition for proper reading of Scripture (The Triumph of Abraham’s God, 170).