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It is always desirable to understand better than we do the nature, function, and role of Scripture in our lives, our churches, and our culture. This is essentially a theological enterprise. However, we may not realize that our efforts to draw theological meaning from biblical texts are shaped necessarily by our contemporary cultural and existential concerns.

In applying Scripture to contemporary living, there is a double dialectic at work: (1) a dialectic  between how ancient texts would have been understood in their original cultural context and how they can be understood in contemporary cultures; (2) a dialectic between these respective understandings and human experience of all kinds both then and now. Thus, even though my own religious heritage and training prompts me to privilege the biblical text and its ancient cultural horizons, my own life experiences form the most urgent and relevant horizon for drawing meaning for living from Scripture.

One of the most remarkable, humbling, and at the same disconcerting dynamics that emerges from Scripture is its capacity to transcend its ancient  idiosyncratic contexts to perform personal, social, and cultural critique (then and now) in the service of the present and coming Reign of God.

John D. Fortner

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