(...and we're back.) Airing out Suitcases | N.T Wright

(Okay, hiatus on writing and reading while I survived December and holidays is over.  Back to the blog.) I've been all over on books, but I've finally picked back up NT Wright's Scripture and the Authority of God, and like usual, always quickly wonder why I ever put Wright down. His writing is simultaneously fun and data-rich—I wind up pencil marking on nearly every page. That's not typical for me. So many other writers I grasp their point in the first page of the chapter, and from then on it's just repetition. Wright repeats themes, but always with nuance that makes not want to miss a paragraph.

Anyway, here he's talking about the "authority of scripture" as a phrase that gets thrown around a lot but needs more critical examination.

In Christian theology, such phrases regularly act as "portable stories"—that is, ways of packing up longer narratives about God, Jesus, the church and the world, folding them away into convenient suitcases, and then carrying them about with us.

(A good example is the phrase "the atonement." This phrase is rare in the Bible itself; instead, we find things like, "The Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures"; "God so loved the world that he gave his only son," and so on. But if we are to discuss the atonement, it is easier to do so with a single phrase, assumed to "contain" all these sentences, then by repeating one or more of them each time).

Shorthands, in other words, are useful in the same way suitcases are.  They enable us to pick up lots of complicated things and carry them around all together. But we should never forget that the point of doing so, like the point of carrying belongings in a suitcase, is that what has been packed away can then be unpacked and put to use in a new location.

Too much debate about scriptural authority has had the form of people hitting one another with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go moldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron.