Thesis 8: In dealing with difficult texts, two criteria should guide us: the two-fold love commandment, and asking “how can we pray this text publically?”
In negotiating difficult texts, the Church should thus, in addition to consulting the Two-Fold Love Command, also interrogate itself as to how a text could be faithfully prayed publically. Placing itself in such a position requires her to attend to the force a text might take if it were prayed as, say, a praise, an exhortation, an intercession, a questioning, or even a lament. If a Church cannot faithfully pray a text publically, this is a sign that further exegetical, relational, and meditative work is required such that she can become the kind of community whose witness renders the words of Scripture capable of meaning, and thus of being understood. However, such a task does not require finality or exhaustion of meaning; rather, it invites the Church to become a praying people, who in seeking to love God and neighbor, conformed to Christ, and Spirit-inspired for mission, boldly proclaims the relationship made available in the resurrection of Christ to all people, a relationship whose exciting, challenging, and transformative possibilities are mediated, in all their diversity, through the story of God with God’s people witnessed by the narrative of the Bible.
(Examples abound: Regarding Romans 1.27, one of Paul's infamous narrations against homosexual practice, would it really be faithful to pray, "dear Lord, you accept us just the way we are. Your church refuses to judge or make a decision regarding this passage; therefore, we leave the status of the definition of your homosexual disciples' love up to the vote of congregations, and with it, the validity of their relationships"? Or, would it perhaps be more faithful, in following the way the words of the text run, to pray, "Lord, creation groans under the weight of sin, and in our own fallenness, we cannot see the way. We are all guilty of infidelity towards you, and in our fear of covenant use sexuality as an instrument of depersonalization and self-pleasure. Give us wisdom, in light of the brokenness of our community, to become the kind of community where your disciples, homosexual and straight, can pursue love and fidelity to your Son Jesus Christ, and, in the midst of such pursuits, and in living into the fullness of the new creation instituted by the coming of the Righteous One of God, help us discern together what form righteousness should take in the public gift of sexuality you have given to each of us together" ? Admittedly, the first prayer is a bit of a straw-man caricature; my point is, however, that if we were to pray our readings of scripture, as in the latter instance, we would be in a more formative posture to learn God's ethos, and so to live it, prior to any theory that might eventually straight-jacket the untamable and surprising wildness of the Word. As we return to Scripture to read it, meditate upon it, and to pray it publicly, not only would the prayer just written ad hoc grow and change, but with it, so would we.)