After considering a number of shortcomings inherent to both extremely conservative and extremely liberal interpretations of the Bible, this study guide advocates the more restrained path toward a “moderately hermeneutical” engagement with Scripture. So far as conservatives are concerned, literalist renditions overlook the text’s interpretive depth and ascribe an inerrancy to the Bible in spite of its many incompatible statements and its often antiquated morality. Meanwhile, liberals stop short of going beyond a legitimate application of historical-critical methods and neglect to reengage with the text in a more significantly meaningful manner than that provided by rational analysis alone. Providing an alternative to these deficiencies, this guide affirms the proper utility of a responsibly interpretive relationship with Scripture but also reserves space for positive affirmations that respect the depth of its existential and symbolic meaning. In this way, a dialectic develops whereby one first moves away from an initially naïve comprehension of the Bible through the distancing made possible by critical reflection, only to move past such criticism by subsequently integrating it with the actual text itself and returning to a higher form of “second naiveté.”
The guide has been specifically designed for use in a small group or Sunday school environment and is probably best suited for intentionally moderate congregations. Broken into four sections, the consideration of each view described above is accompanied by a set of questions to facilitate discussion and prompt further reflection.
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