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Lakeland religion professor Karl Kuhn addresses one of the more fundamental issues on which Christians disagree - how to regard and read Scripture - in his new book, "Having Words with God."
On one end of the spectrum, many argue that the entire Bible was dictated to human authors by God, and thus all of its elements are to be embraced as God's "inerrant" or "infallible" Word. On the opposite end, others claim that Scripture is simply human testimony to various experiences of God, and therefore Christians and non-Christians alike are free to draw from or dismiss any part of it as led by their personal inclinations.
The goal of Kuhn's book, published by Fortress Press, is to offer a middle path between these two polarizing views, and one which faithfully reflects Scripture's own persistent witness to its character.
Kuhn argues that Scripture is not best understood and read as a "divine monologue" - as the solitary voice of God scripting a flawlessly unified declaration of God's character and will. Neither is Scripture best understood as simply human testimony to God. Instead, Scripture is most faithfully engaged as a sacred dialogue between God and humanity, and among believers.
"The Bible inscribes and bears witness to an ongoing conversation which God initiates, inspires and participates in among humanity, as believers struggle to discern and express the character of God, God's will and what it means to be God's people," Kuhn said.
Drawing from examples throughout the biblical canon, Kuhn illustrates the various ways Scripture embodies and invites a dialogue marked by unity, diversity and even discordance. He further proposes that the sacred dialogue modeled in Scripture is to be our paradigm for faithfully conversing with God and one another today.
"Kuhn's focus on 'dialogic' reading is exactly appropriate at the present moment," said Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. "He is alert to the reductionist dangers of monological reading that may take place anywhere on the ideological spectrum. Against such reductionism, Kuhn exhibits the powerful, open dynamism of Scripture that both practices and invites ongoing interpretation.
"Kuhn not only champions a more open practice of interpretation, but shows us how to do so in an intellectually and theologically responsible way."
"Karl Kuhn shows what it means to read the Bible on its own terms," said J. Clinton McCann Jr., evangelical professor of Biblical interpretation at Eden Theological Seminary. "Scripture has canonized a principle of growth and change, and thus the Bible itself authorizes the people of God in every generation to reflect upon and discern what God wills for our place and time … This interpretive perspective is desperately needed in the church today."
"Having Words with God" is available at Lakeland's Campus Shop, through Fortress Press (800-328-4648 or www.fortresspress.com) and Amazon.com.