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Worldview Method (2)

A Christian worldview begins with Scripture.

A Celtic Christian Worldview (18)

Holy Scripture is understood by three methods of approach. The first way of reading it is when it is understood only literally, without any figurative purpose, as St. Jerome says, “The Acts of the Apostles seem to me to speak of plain history.” The second way is when it is investigated following a figurative understanding without any regard for actual events, as with the first and final parts of Ezekiel. The third way is when, retaining the record of historical events, it is understood with a mystical meaning, for instance Noah’s ark, the tabernacle and the temple were actually built, and through them are traced with the understanding the mysteries of the church. So too paradise, the place of the first Adam, which is the form of the one to come, undoubtedly did exist and prefigured the mysteries of the church to come, which is the homeland of the second Adam.

  - The Book of the Order of Creatures X.6, 7[1]

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

  - 2 Timothy 2.15

Book X of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum deals with the subject of paradise. This is fitting at this point, because the writer sees paradise as both the beginning and end state of those chosen and loved by God; and he indicates that understanding paradise has benefit for us who, as the Church of Christ, are on a journey together with and in Jesus, the second Adam.

The writer has previously mentioned that his method in this study is to start with Scripture and then look to trusted theological authorities of the past. In this chapter the writer provides a brief outline of Biblical hermeneutics. Since Scripture is his primary source in this worldview outline, it is fitting that he should give us some insights to his approach.

He mentions three. The first we might call the historical approach to Scripture. Here we study the Word of God to learn how it was intended for its original audience, how they would have understood it as applying to themselves in their times. Some books lend themselves more easily to such study – such as Acts and the histories of the Old Testament. But all books have an historical element in that they were written at a particular point in history, to a particular people in history, focusing on particular historical themes and subjects, relevant to those people.

Second, the writer mentions what we might refer to as the allegorical approach to the Bible. In this we understand that the text under investigation does not necessarily relate to historical personages or events; its intent is to convey a larger message. A river does not flow from the temple in Jerusalem, as Ezekiel reports; however, the river of life flows from the temple of Christ and His Spirit, through His people to the larger world around (Jn. 7.37-39), and it is this to which Ezekiel’s prophecy points.

Finally, we approach certain texts with both of the above methods, using a binocular approach that appreciates the lessons of the historical method and yet sees in them larger and more spiritual and abiding lessons, ultimately pointing to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

This is what they do who rightly divide the Word of truth. Such an approach to Scripture requires diligent preparation and careful, prayerful, contemplative study of Scripture, to gain the depth of messaging the Spirit has embedded in any text.

The writer applies this last method to the question of paradise. He insists that the report of the garden in Eden is true history. There was a garden, it abounded in plants and animals, it was subject to the care and development of Adam and Eve, and everything in it was good.

That lost garden becomes the template and type, first, for the new heavens and new earth which are to come. Do we wonder what our lives will be like there? Be diligent to study Genesis 2, contemplating all its social, cultural, and creational implications, and you begin to get some idea of what God has in store for those who love Him.

At the same time, the second Adam – our Lord Jesus Christ – has even now taken up residence in His new paradise, the Church, which is His Body. And, like the first Adam, He is appointing people to work in His garden, teaching them how to define things according to His Word, binding them to one another in relationships of love, leading them to tend and enlarge His garden, and superintending, by His Word and Spirit, the edification of His Body and the increase of His rule in love (Eph. 4.11-16).

That most preachers and teachers are a little fuzzy on proper hermeneutical method is probably obvious to most of us. What seems to matter in preaching and teaching today is one of two things: (1) Either we concentrate on imparting right information, so that we’re all on the same page doctrinally; or (2) we invite people to find something of meaning unique to themselves and their needs, so that we’re all on the same page by finding whatever we need in Scripture.

Any worldview developed out of such approaches will be stunted and stalled, if not wrenched and wrong. Let us learn from our forebears how to understand God’s Word, and we will discover brighter and wider vistas of salvation awaiting us there, leading us ever more deeply into Jesus and the full and abundant life for which He has saved us.

For Reflection
1. What can we learn from Genesis 2 about God’s intentions for creation and the culture we make to rule over it?

2. In what ways is Christ working in your life to make you a more fruitful plant in His garden?

Psalm 125.1, 2 (St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!
Like the hills surrounding safe Jerusalem,
Christ surrounds His Church and holds her in His mighty Hand!
Refrain, v. 1
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!

Teach me to understand Your Word Lord, and I will…

Studying the Bible
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All Psalms for singing from
The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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[1] Davies, pp. 17, 18

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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