A Moravian View of Biblical Interpretation. Definitions 2/28/2014. Ground of the Unity Personal Belief. Moravian Theology Since 1957

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1 A Moravian View of Biblical Interpretation Moravian Theology Since Definitions Doctrine= the official teaching of the church, requiring official action of approval (Unity Synod, Provincial Synod or PEC) Theology= the science or study of God, a quest for ultimate truth about God, about the church, ourselves and the world we live in. (Leslie Guthrie) 2 Ground of the Unity Personal Belief The belief of the Church is effected and preserved through the testimony of Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit. This testimony calls each individual personally, and leads him or her to the recognition of sin and to the acceptance of the redemption achieved by Christ. In fellowship with Him the love of Christ becomes more and more the power of the new life, power that penetrates and shapes the entire person. As God s spirit so effects living belief in the hearts of individuals, He grants them the privilege to share in the fruits of Christ s salvation and membership in His body. 3 1

2 Ground of the Unity The Holy Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments are and abide the only source of faith, doctrine, and life of the Unitas Fratrum. (1957) The Triune God as attested to in the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments is the only source of our life and salvation; and this scripture is the sole standard of our doctrine and faith and therefore shapes our life. (1995) 4 Additional statement In interpreting Scripture and in the communication of doctrine by teachers and preachers in the Church, we look to two millennia of ecumenical Christian tradition and the wisdom of our Moravian forebears in the faith to guide us as we pray for fuller understanding and ever clearer proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 5 God s Word and Doctrine 3 rd paragraph now reads The U. F. takes part in the continual search for sound doctrine. In interpreting Scripture and in the communication of doctrine in the Church, we look to two millennia of ecumenical Christian tradition and the wisdom of our Moravian forebears in the faith to guide us as we pray for fuller understanding and ever clearer proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But just as the Holy Scripture does not contain any doctrinal system, 6 2

3 God s Word and Doctrine cont d. so the U. F. also has not developed any of its own. It knows that the mystery of Jesus Christ, which is attested to in the Bible, cannot be comprehended completely by any human mind or expressed completely in any human statement. Also it is true that through the Holy Spirit the recognition of God s will for salvation in the Bible is revealed completely and clearly. 7 Sola scriptura Sola scriptura is a principle which in Latin literally means, by Scripture alone and refers to the ultimate authority of Scripture in defining church doctrine and belief. In its more extreme form it holds that Scripture is self-authenticating, inerrant and is not subject to interpretation based upon cultural or historical context, but must be interpreted literally. 8 Wesleyan Quadrilateral Warrants of Authority: Scripture human reason ( wisdom of forebears ) church tradition ( ecumenical Christian tradition ) experience/leading of the Holy Spirit( as we pray for fuller understanding ) 9 3

4 Guiding Principles of Biblical Interpretation Prepared by the Interprovincial Faith and Order Commission at the request of the NP and SP PECs as an aid to the churches in discerning God s Word in Scripture. Subsequently reviewed by bishops and approved by both PECs. 10 God s Word and Doctrine From the earliest days of our history, Moravians have held the Word of God in highest esteem. Yet we have always made it clear that the written word points and directs us not to itself, but to the Word made flesh, that is, Jesus Christ. 11 Zinzendorf In the 1700 s, Zinzendorf reinforced the distinction between the written word and the living word (Christ). He did not speak of the Bible as the Divine Book but rather spoke of the divine truth inthe book. For Zinzendorf, the starting point had to be Jesus Christ. He believed that once one came to know the Savior, then the Savior would reveal the truth about the Father and the Spirit. 12 4

5 Zinzendorf cont d. And, he said, that to which the Savior did not lead was not necessary for salvation. With this in mind, Zinzendorf affirmed different degrees of clarity within Scripture: basic truths about salvation (these are clear); matters of knowledge that require historical understanding; and mysteries that remain uncertain (even for those with interpretive tools). 13 August Gottlieb Spangenberg Spangenberg expressed his views on the nature of Scripture, saying that the Holy Spirit did not dictate the words to the authors but rather led them as they wrote according to their own abilities and knowledge. Spangenberg s view is similar to that of Augustus Schultze s notion of dynamical inspiration of Scripture. 14 Guiding Principles of Biblical Interpretation That as Moravians, proclaiming Christ and Him crucified as our confession of faith, and believing that the Triune God as revealed in Holy Scriptures is the only source of our life and salvation, we do not believe that Jesus points us to Scripture so that we find the answers there, but rather that Scripture points us to Jesus so that we can find the answers in him. (2012)(italics added) 15 5

6 Ancient Unity Understanding Threefold understanding of doctrine and practice in the ancient Unitas Fratrum: Essentials= God creates; God redeems; God sanctifies. Humans respond with faith, love and hope. Ministerials= those things which serve the essentials, e.g. the church, Scripture, sacraments Incidentals = traditions, customs, structure, etc. 16 Guiding Principles As Moravians, we understand that Scripture: points us to Christ for answers ministers to the divine and human essentials Scripture, as a whole, is the sum of many parts. includes Hebrew Bible and New Testament not all texts are equally clear: basic truths are clear; matters of knowledge require historical understanding; mysteries remain uncertain 17 Guiding Principles cont.d Considerations for Interpretation: every reading of Scripture is an act of interpretation no one way of interpreting is the prescribed way any one text must be interpreted in light of all of Scripture all interpretation should be guided by heart and mind, piety and rationality, doing and thinking 18 6

7 Guiding Principles cont.d Faithful interpretation acknowledges: the historical context out of which the texts arose the contemporary cultural and global contexts out of which questions of interpretation arise (including scientific, archaeological, and other forms of knowledge) 19 Guiding Principles - Conclusion Given the mystery of God, we cannot predict in advance the final result of our search for truth. Refraining from starting with a specific end in mind is aided by acknowledging that we come to the text and task with presuppositions. By naming our presuppositions, we deepen our ability to discern meaning and truth in the Holy Scriptures. Even with shared principles of interpretation, we realize that individuals, congregations and provinces of the Moravian Church may draw different conclusions. 20 Equal Rights 1974 SP Synod Resolution WHEREAS, discrimination has deprived the church of valuable resources in leadership which the church now urgently needs if it is to accomplish its mission; therefore BE IT RESOLVED, that candidates for the Moravian ministry or for ordination in the Moravian ministry be considered equally regardless of their sex, race, or national origin. 21 7

8 1980 SP Synod Resolution Parish Placement of Ordained Women BE IT RESOLVED, that the Synod of 1980 reaffirm the action of the Synod of 1974 which was as follows:. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the congregations of the Province and the Provincial Boards and Agencies be urged to implement this resolution in every respect and 1980 SP Synod resolutions on ordained women Neither resolution makes any reference to scripture. Whereas, discrimination has deprived the church of valuable resources in leadership which the church now urgently needs. (1974) Be it resolved that the Synod of 1980 reaffirm the action of the Synod of (1980) 23 Scripture References to Role of Women in the Church CON 1 Corinthians 11:3 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35 1 Timothy 2:8-12 PRO Galatians 3:27-28 John 4:7ff John 20:1ff 24 8

9 Guiding Principles Applied Given the diverse witness of Scripture, we believe that any particular scriptural text must be interpreted in light of all Scripture. Faithful interpretation acknowledges the historical context out of which the texts arose. Faithful interpretation acknowledges the contemporary cultural and global contexts. Our interpretation is guided by heart and mind, piety and rationality, doing and thinking. 25 Guiding Principles Applied Cont d. Scripture points us to Jesus so that we can find the answers in him. Regarding the question of the ordination of women, the church determined 40 years ago (or earlier) that the example and teaching of Jesus, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the application of human experience and reason offered sufficient authority for the ordination of women and their full participation in the life and witness of the church. 26 For full text of Guiding Principles Go to Click on What Moravians Believe Search: Guiding Principles of Biblical Interp Scroll down to: Faith and Order Commission presents Guiding Principles of Biblical Interpretation (summary and full text) 27 9

10 Divorce Other Doctrinal Matters Remarriage of divorced persons Ordination of divorced persons Slavery 28 Concluding Affirmation As Moravians proclaiming Christ and Him crucified as our confession of faith, and believing that the Triune God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only source of our life and salvation, we do not believe that Jesus points us to Scripture so that we can find the answers there, but that Scripture points us to Jesus so that we can find the answers in him (Guiding Principles, 2012) 29 10

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