Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bible and culture

Dennis Eric Nineham was a British theologian and academic, who served as Warden of Keble College, Oxford, from 1969 to 1979, as teaching theology at the universities of London, Cambridge, and Bristol. I have frequently consulted his commentary on Mark's gospel. Recently, I came across this statement from him that explains why contemporary people find traditional Christian doctrine incomprehensible and why Christianity requires constant reinterpretation:
... people of different periods and cultures differ very widely; in some cases so widely that accounts of the nature and relations of God, men and the world put forward in one culture may be unacceptable, as they stand, in a different culture ... a situation of this sort has arisen ... at about the end of the eighteenth century a cultural revolution of such proportions broke out that it separates our age sharply from all ages that went before. (The Use and Abuse of the Bible, 1976)

In a cosmos characterized by constant change, presuming that humans alone remain unchanging makes no sense. Consequently, imagining that human thoughts about the cosmos, its nature, and its creator should be fixed also makes no sense.

The mystery of the cosmos is one into which each human is privileged to live. Theology, at its very best, is an individual endeavor in which a person attempts to express in words how she or he seeks to make that mystery intelligible. Thus, theology is inescapable and few endeavors are more challenging, exasperating, potentially rewarding than theology.


What is your description – in words, images, or sounds – of that mystery?

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