At any university you visit there will be two primary goals: teach students and conduct research. While at Trinity Western University it can be easy to forget this dual purpose because we place so much of an emphasis on teaching, Trinity does have a thriving (if small) community of researchers who are attempting to expand the limits of human knowledge. Jens Zimmerman, one of these researchers, is in the middle of his second 5-year term as the Canadian Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion, and Culture, a position he is using to bring major theologians and Biblical studies researchers to our campus for the lecture series Scripture, Theology, and Culture: Acts of Interpretation.
The series is meant to be an awareness raising project that gets the Christian community talking about important issues regarding Biblical interpretation, theology, culture, and the inescapable connections between these areas. At the series’ foundation is the idea that within Christianity, there have always been differing opinions and beliefs, and that true spiritual growth comes from engaging those differences openly. The focus of the lectures will be on Biblical interpretation. According to Professor Zimmerman, our interpretation of scripture, which is deeply affected by our cultural context, often lies at the heart of these theological divisions. By studying the effects of these three things together, hopefully we will move to a greater understanding of God and His work in the world.
The first of the lectures, “Reframing Scripture”, was given by Professor Joel Green of Fuller Theological Seminary. Within his discussion, he focused upon the divide between Biblical studies and theology, and the need for those two disciplines to work more closely together.
Each of us, when reading the Bible, brings a particular set of circumstances and experiences that colour our interpretation. The discipline of Biblical studies is content to determine the ways in which a community’s cultural experiences affect its scriptural interpretation. However, Green correctly points out that it’s not enough to simply draw attention to these differences, or explain how they arise. The different interpretations must also be judged by their theological ramifications. Not all interpretations are valid and we must use theology as the primary means of determining an interpretation’s legitimacy. However, Professor Green pointed out in his concluding his talk, that there is not one correct interpretation of the Bible. While sometimes the tradition we grow up in will lead us to a bad reading, more often it will simply shape which portion of Biblical wisdom we focus on, and which portions we most heavily model our lives after.