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The Similes of Light and Sight

[continuing modern parables for the Anglican Communion--and others facing similar issues]

As the master and his disciples entered Cardiff, they made their way to the university area.  They found some students sitting on the grass, discussing the authority of Scripture.  

One student, wearing a Druid gown, said that Scripture was ancient revelation, not in the sense of the lifting of a veil but in the sense of being important, foundational documents of the Church that still enlighten and inspire discussions of faith and practice in Christian communities today.  

A second student, from Germany, claimed that Scripture had little value for Christian theology and ethics as its many authors did not always agree.  

A third student, studying practical theology, agreed but suggested that the problem was rather that many interpreters offered different interpretations and, therefore, there was no single interpretation.  

A fourth student, who had fashioned for herself a mitre from paper and had coloured it in with bright colours but no Christian symbols, said that Scripture needed to be revised in light of the greater understandings of science and psychology and other religions.  

A fifth student, from South Africa, claimed that the only way to read anything was in a way that supported the fight for liberation and activist causes.  

A sixth student, from America, said that Scripture said too many things that made him uncomfortable and that we should not read it to understand and obey it but read against it if we read it at all.

The disciples were troubled.  One of them asked their master, ‘Which of the students is right, as each puts forward a strong argument?’  

The master said, ‘None of them.  They have been breathing the magical smoke of doubt for too long, and paying good money for it too!  Do not mistake the clear articulation of a thesis for an argument.  These students have learned to state their views fairly clearly, but that is all.  

'Now, the first student is like a person who carries a flickering candle to light the trail on a long hike in the mountains at night.  

'The second student is like a person who has no depth perception and remains confused by what he sees even in broad daylight—he will fall.  

'The third student is like someone visiting different campfires at a campsite: things in the shadows look different from every angle.  

'The fourth student is like someone who prefers ultra-violet light or a heat lamp to a torch for the trail.  

'The fifth student is like someone who puts on blinders, like a horse, and runs through the hills at night on windy and rocky paths.  

'The sixth student is like someone who refuses to turn on the light in a room lest it reveal things that must be minded.  

'But what does Scripture say? ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’’


But,’ said one of the disciples, ‘How can Scripture testify to itself?’  

The master replied, ‘Truly, its many authors testify to one another, and their unity is because all Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit.  But know this: if an authority is to be an authority, there is no better testimony other than its own—else whatever testifies would be more authoritative.  The highest authority must testify to itself.

'Each of these students wishes to find something more authoritative than Scripture.  While they have different reasons for what they believe, they are all trying to find a reason not to believe and obey what they read.  But I tell you, ‘all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.’’