The Bricks of Scripture

“The items in a code stand to the moral law as bricks to a building.  Wisdom must involve some comprehension of how the bricks are meant to be put together.  This has an immediate bearing on how wwe read the Bible.  Not only is it insufficient to quote and requote the great commands of the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount (and there are still many who need persuading of this, in practice if not in theory); but it would be insufficient even if we added to them, if we could compile a complete list of things commanded or prohibited; it would be insufficient even if we included in such a list, with a shrewd awareness of the relativity of semantic forms, principles derived from other modes of moral teaching in the Bible, such as stories, parables, and lments.  

We will read the Bible seriously only when we use it to guide our thought towards a comprehensive moral viewpoint, and not merely to articulate disconnected moral claims.  We must look within it not only for moral bricks, but for indications of the order in which the bricks belong together.  There may be some resistance to this, not only from those who suspect that it will lead to evasions of the ‘plain’ sense of the Bible’s teaching, but from those who have forebodings of a totalitarian theological construction which will legislate over questions where it would be better to respect the Bible’s silence.  But in truth there is no alternative policy if we intend that our moral thinking should be shaped in any significant way by the Scriptures.  For it requires only very limited talents at scepticism to raise doubts about the application of any biblical teaching, however plain, to any situation whatever; and if, when such doubts have once been raised, we are denied any biblical recourse in quieting them, then we are doomed to think the Scriptures inconclusive for any question that is worth stopping to doubt about in the first place.  The result will be tht all important moral questions will be settled explicitly on non-biblical lines.  It hardly needs to be added that it is constantly stressed in the New Testament itself that to understand the moral law of the Old Testament we must attend to the principles of order which are to be found within it.” — Resurrection and Moral Order, p. 200

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