Why Theological Interpretation?


We practice theological interpretation because it is a habit of life that conforms us to Jesus. Theological interpretation is not just a theory. Theological interpretation is a set of concerns that we bring to the text as we read it. We follow professor and scholar Joel Green here, who lists two.

1. Theological interpretation is concerned with the role of Scripture in the formation of persons and faith communities.*  This means we read the bible not just to gain information about God. We read scripture to become more like God. It also means that we do not read to be shaped as individuals, we read to be shaped as a community of people whose allegiance is to Jesus before and above all else. 

This community devoted to Jesus is a radical community who for all practical purposes, lives in exile from our home with God. Home with God is not found in territories and nations. Home with God is God making his home in us. You know Jesus’ words – The kingdom of God is within you. You are “at home” with God when your heart and soul exist in the domain where what God says goes.

2. Theological Interpretation is concerned about being encountered by the God. God stands behind the text and mediates himself through it. Karl Barth wrote in his lectures on the Gospel of John that if we do not acknowledge ourselves as the ones to whom John’s words are addressed, we have not really been reading John’s words at all. John does not allow us to read his words “at a distance.” We read them as the Word of God to us or we do not read them at all.  Exegesis that does not take us to this level of confrontation with the God behind the text has not done the work of exegesis. It has only prepared us for it. 

God encounters us in these words. God in his freedom meets us in these words. He does this in his power, not in ours. This is not just theory. This is reality. The Gospel confronts us as the Word of God. We can receive it or reject it, but we cannot remain neutral to it. Such an option is a modern innovation without foundation. 

*Green, Joel B. Practicing Theological Interpretation. (Baker: Grand Rapids, 2011), p.4-5.

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