Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Configuring Scripture, Criterion #2

2. The Criterion of Love
There is a bias for interpreting scripture in ways that are merciful and cultivate charity.

Jesus asserts this in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments [love of God and neighbor] hang all the law and the prophets [all of scripture]. It is also implied in Jesus’ teaching in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath [symbolic of the law] was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath.” Paul reinforces it in Galatians 5:6 (the only thing that counts is faith working through love), 5:14 (the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”), and 6:2 (Bear one another’s burden, and in this way you will fulfill the law.). The criterion of love was encouraged by Augustine (354 – 430),
Anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up the double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them. Anyone who derives from them an idea which is useful for supporting this love but fails to say what the writer demonstrably meant in the passage has not made a fatal error, and is certainly not a liar.
On Christian Teaching [De Doctrina Christiana], English trans. R. P. H. Green (New York, Oxford University Press, 1997), 27
But, we should beware of assuming we know fully what love is or what love requires aside from our engagement with Jesus Christ (Criterion 1). It is good to keep in mind Charles Williams' observation,
The famous saying 'God is love', it is generally assumed, means that God is like our immediate emotional indulgence, not that the meaning of love ought to have something of the 'otherness' and terror of God.
He Came Down From Heaven, Charles Williams (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2nd edition,1984, p. 11)
The love of God has something of terror in it because it summons us to love others with the self-sacrificial, dying-to-self love with which Jesus loves us. There is nothing cheap, easy, or sentimental about it.

With that caveat, the basic principle remains that configurations that encourage the double love of God and neighbor and cultivate habits of mercy and charity are to be preferred.
Criterion 3. Rule of Faith

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