The Taser's Edge

Reading Ed Stetzer (Part II of a Series)

There are things worthy of being critiqued in Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer, it is true.  One of them is that it is written with certain assumptions undergirding everything.  I’m not sure if they are hidden assumptions, but I think they are not discussed because Stetzer’s presumptive audience holds the same assumptions.  But I think that my time at Duke has led me to question some of those assumptions, and there seems not to be a good way to do that.

When I brought up this idea of invisible assumptions of mainstream evangelicalism at lunch, the main one that I could think of, was the use of the Bible.  On p. 21 of Planting Missional Churches, Stetzer reproduces a graph called The Hughes Scale:

“Content” on the y-axis refers to Biblical content, “Culture” refers to cultural relevancy, and the ideal church would be in Quad B, with high Biblical content and fidelity as well as a high level of cultural relevancy.  The assumption behind “Content,” however, is not that the Bible is used in worship or even that Scripture is central to the formation of faith.  It is a very particular kind of Biblical hermeneutic (working def.–“way of reading”), one which I and other, smarter people have a difficult time defining.

The easy way out is for us to call it a “literal” reading of the Bible.  Unfortunately, this falls short.  At least some of the time when people are accused of reading a text too literally, the accuser actually doesn’t want to read the text in any way at all, and thus is not actually calling for a metaphorical, allegorical, spiritual, or any other kind of non-literal reading.  My offered description–“one-to-oneness.”  Contemporary evangelical Christianity has a high one-to-oneness in its reading of Scripture.  That is, an understanding that the Bible can be directly applied to contemporary lives in one-to-one relationships, and that the Biblical text and each individual Christian life overlap near perfectly.  High one-to-oneness unfortunately masks the very real gap between my life today and the lives in the Bible (and perhaps, moreover and more dangerously, the distance which always exists between my life and any other person’s life).

This type of reading masks the fact that there is always a need for translation when reading the Bible (or, again, interacting with any other person or thing).  We all do translate when we read the Bible, but some of us, especially us Protestants, believe that our Bible reading does not require translation.  We are wrong, and it is only when we begin to notice that we need some process of translation that we can begin talking about whether we can define what is a faithful translation and what fails to be.