Understanding Scripture is a life-long challenge. What was once obscure can become clear, and vice versa! Johnson’s lecture sits in the context of a shift from ‘if you are orthodox you will tick the infallibility / inerrancy box’ to ‘so you accept the authority of Scripture so explain to me how you read it’.
There are die hard 7 day creationists, not because of compelling scientific evidence, but because of a prior commitment to a biblical view. There are also convinced evolutionists who are evangelical believers, e.g. Francis Collins who led the Human Genome Project that was at the forefront of mapping DNA. His book ‘The Language of God’ ties together his work as a scientist and his firm belief in God as the author of life.
There are (really there are) those who believe in the priority of male over female as part of creation and redeemed order, and there are those who refute that. That was a disputed area some 30+ years ago and although the discussions rumble on there certainly is not the same strength that suggests anyone who explains ‘man as the head of woman’ in a non-hierarchical way is denying the authority of Scripture. The same arguments abounded a few generations earlier with the debate on slavery where one well-known evangelicals of the day said that slavery was one of the clearest tenet of Scripture! Now issues of sexuality are centre stage, with evangelicals on both sides of the many divides.
I have become more agnostic on certain issues, realising how we can use Scripture to defend us, reading there what we want to read. Dare I suggest God is more interested in my ability to reflect Jesus than he is in my doctrinal set of beliefs. Orthodoxy (right doctrine, though one could argue that the word should mean giving right glory) and orthopraxy should go hand in hand. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures but…
The challenge that the shift Johnson outlines is how do we read Scripture if we are not simply finding a set of textual evidences that back our view (and sometimes either ignoring ones that don’t or doing them a disservice by squeezing them into our already formed box). There is a challenge beyond how we read the Bible – it is allowing it to read us! That’s when the ouch can hit our rightness. More tomorrow.