The world in which we live is a very complex system of connected and rich cultures. This is not a new concept. From the beginning of time, man has always been a shaper of culture. The same is true today. We are each culture makers. When we post a comment to Facebook, or share a photo on Instagram, or tweet a comment about your favorite restaurant, you are influencing culture. The way we view world says a lot about how we interact not only with culture, but also the people within those cultures. As we share the story of God as one who seeks and pursues His creation, we must begin to use the Bible to inform the culture in which we live.
When we read the text of the Bible, it is possible different readers to get different interpretations of the text. The text is written with the perspective or worldview of the author. Also the reader brings his own worldview to the table. The text can have at least two interpretations, an original meaning and a contemporary significance. As the reader is influenced by the circumstance of his reality, he will interpret the text to address a particular need in his life. This does not change
the original meaning, but the application of the text to real life events might differ. For example, those from a background of poverty might apply or interpret a particular text differently than those who are wealthy. I do not think that one interpretation is better than another as long as the original meaning of the text is not lost. Their are three approaches that most people use when studying Scripture:
Author Centered Approach
The author brought a lot of things to the table when he wrote a particular text. This approach requires one to take into account the author’s world when reading the text.
Text Centered Approach
This approach dissects the text and looks to literary forms
and writing style to help bring meaning to the text
Reader Centered Approach
This approach acknowledges that the reader has certain biases as he reads a text. It take in to account the background of the reader as a primary way to interpret the text.
As I have thought about this question, I would have say that the authority lies in the source of the text. The text itself has no power unless it comes from an ultimate truth giver. In other literature, the text only has power if it comes from a source that has knowledge and authority based on the author’s subject of study. For instance, a doctor who writes a book on the study of cancer writes a text based on his knowledge and exposure to the source of that text which his education and practical experience. This is what gives authority to the author to write the text. The author has no ability within himself to give meaning to the text apart from the source of his knowledge. It is the same with scripture. As the writers experienced a personal, intimate relationship with God, they gained the knowledge and experience to pen the text that they were given to write. The writers of the Bible hold no authority over text apart from the source, which is the “Ultimate Truth Giver”.
The Bible is God’s Word and is inspired. All people do not use the phrase God’s Word in the same way. I believe that the Bible is God unfolding His Great, Grand Story of who He is and His relationship to his creation, humanity. Although I believe it is inspired, many people have different ideas of what the term “inspired” really means. There are at least two views of this issue.
First, Verbal Inspiration is the view that “God dictated each and every word of Scripture to each individual author, and that they wrote every word faithfully and recorded exactly what was received.”
Second, Conceptual inspiration is the view that “God communicated a message to an individual through a dream, vision, mental impression, or some other means, and left the author free to choose the form in which his message would be conveyed”.
We need to take the truth of Scripture and adapt the way we deliver it to the culture in which we find ourselves. In doing so, the interpretation or its contemporary significance may differ.