Since my proposal has been submitted, I am able to begin to report on some backlogged events. The first of which is the seminar on the “Use and Abuse of the Bible” which I attended, along with my colleague Havilah Dharmaraj, on December 5-8, 2007 at the Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC), Whitefield (near Bangalore), India.

While I had a lot to say about the seminar, both good and bad, I think it is best to first just put out the final statement of the seminar, and then, in a later post, present my own response to the statement. I must admit that I was involved in drafting the response, even though I had certain concerns about some of the ideas represented in it. Those concerns I will express in my response.

Before all this, though, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the “use and abuse of the bible” seminar; it was challenging/stimulating and even constructive for a lot of people; and since it was an ecumenical venture, it provided a vast exposure to varying points of view. On to the statement.

ECC Seminar Participants

Statement of the National Seminar on the “Use and Abuse of the Bible” for Theological Teachers, a joint programme of the Indian School of Ecumenical Theology (ISET), ECC and the Association for Theological Teachers in India (ATTI)

Preamble:

The Seminar on “The Use and Abuse of the Bible” for Theological Teachers in Commemoration of the Birth Centennial of Dr. William Barclay was held from December 5-8, 2007 at the Ecumenical Christian Centre. There were 37 participants from 17 Theological Institutions under various theological fraternities in India such as the Senate of Serampore University, the Roman Catholic Seminaries and the Asia Theological Association. The 5th December 2007 being the birth Centenary of Dr. William Barclay, the participants acknowledged the appropriateness of the theme and the dates of the Seminar.

Dr. William Barclay (1907-1978) was an author, radio and television presenter, a minister of the Church of Scotland and Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. Though a man of humble background, he became a theological celebrity. He was widely known in Great Britain for his radio and television broadcasts, but his most significant legacy was his writing.

Dr.Barclay dedicated his life to “making the best biblical scholarship available to the average reader”. The eventual result was the Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by Saint Andrew Press, the Church of Scotland’s publishing house. Despite the series name, these commentaries do not set a program of regular study. Rather, they go verse by verse through Barclay’s own translation of the New Testament, listing and examining every possible interpretation known to Barclay and providing all the background information he considered possibly relevant, all in layman’s terms. The commentaries were fully updated with the help of William Barclay’s son, Ronnie Barclay, in recent years and they are now known as the New Daily Study Bible series. They are the only commentaries on the entire New Testament that have been written by one person.

He described himself as a liberal evangelical and as a universalist believing all people will eventually be saved.

Dr.Barclay was a scholar in his own right. His other works The Mind of Jesus and New Testament Words are powerful examples of his brilliant mind and erudite scholarship. We owe a lot to Dr.Barclay who has made the study of the Bible a delightful and meaningful endeavor.

The Seminar was held in the context of the use and abuse of the Bible in theological circles, in the Church and in the preaching and exposition of individual Christians. Therefore the Seminar featured a united search of people from diverse persuasions and perspectives to evolve a common consensus regarding an appropriate and relevant approach in biblical hermeneutics.

Statement:

We, 37 participants of the National Seminar on “The Use and Abuse of the Bible” coming from 17 Theological Institutions across the country acknowledge the complexity of the Seminar topic and are thoroughly aware of the tensions that exist in the whole process of biblical interpretation. The participants came to a consensus with the following statement outlines.

1. The Bible: We affirm that while the text of the Bible can be manipulated, the Word of God cannot be misused or abused. This is because we distinguish between the Word of God and the biblical text. We acknowledge that the biblical text emerged as God-inspired faith communities responded and witnessed to the Word of God from various socio-political and religio-cultural contexts. We seek to recover the Word of God from the biblical text though, in view of the evident difficulties of this enterprise, we do this humbly and reverentially.

2. Hermeneutical Mission: We admit that the biblical text is not only a God-inspired response and witness to the Word of God, but is inadvertently also a political, historical, ideological, social and even gender-biased collection of texts. As a result, we recognize that the Bible has been used to oppress subalterns such as women, Dalits, tribals and other socially ostracized communities. We look to liberate the Bible from these oppressive tendencies. We do not reject the text but employ liberative re-readings of the text to encourage the emancipation and empowerment of the oppressed.

3. Hermeneutical Key: We uphold the need for a life-affirming motif to better understand the meaning of the Bible. We reject biblical abuse through literalism and biblicism, while encouraging the recovery of more metaphoric and contextual meanings. Most importantly, however, we recognize the need for ‘Christic sensitivity’ in our readings of the text especially as guides to our liberative and contextual readings.

4. Hermeneutical Methodology: We acknowledge and even laud the multiplicity of readings of the biblical text and encourage an interdisciplinary hermeneutical process. We recognize the value of various hermeneutical methodologies, but also look to incorporate a more integrated ap­proach that includes the careful study of the text in its historical-cultural contexts.

5. We feel the need to integrate the findings of the Conference with Christian institutions and lay people in a language that is clear and meaningful. In this regard, we look forward to the development of a ‘People’s Bible Commentary’ in the near future.

Rev. Dr. Jones Muthunayagom, President, ATTI, United Theological College
Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi,
Dean, ISET, ECC Programme Co-ordinator
Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko, Director, ECC

January 8, 2007

Advertisements