Here are some more thoughts (a follow up from previous post) on rereading Scripture from a contextually sensitive interpretation:
The practice of hermeneutics is one that needs to be carefully treaded upon, but one that must be consulted if we are to read the Bible for the sake of our children as Nolan Fewell has argued in her book: The Children of Israel: Reading the Bible for the Sake of our Children. On hermeneutics, Robert McAfee argues that we must enter into the world of the Biblical characters and allow their stories to speak to us as they are. He suggests that what we will hear will be “unexpected” and most likely upsetting (1984, 16). In his book Unexpected News, McAfee carefully rereads Scripture analyzing contemporary contexts in Central America. He chooses the biblical passages “because they are important to third world Christians and because they are familiar to us. The text gives us a common meeting ground to compare different interpretations” (1984, 14).
I am suggesting that it is time we put forth a new set of questions to the Bible, inspired by our relationships with at risk children and youth. Scientist review old data in a similar way. New instruments reveal new data and for our purposes, new questions reveal new answers (Howard Yoder 1984, 70-71). In part, missiology consists of allowing Scripture to speak into our particular context. Thus as I approach the issue of children and the Bible, I do so out of my encounters and missionary activities with children in primarily Latin America but experiences with at risk children in Asia and North America as well.
One of the major problems I have encountered in seeking to understand Scripture from the place of children at risk is that my questions have been all wrong. If I approach Scripture as a middle-class gringo, forgetting what I have learned from the children I have spent so much time in getting to know in Venezuela and other parts of the world, then I will receive answers to questions that have no relevance for such children.
To appropriately understand historical figures in Scripture and to rightly understand the text and the immediate message for our context, I would argue that we must have an age and gender based understanding of the text. Instead of glossing over the age and gender of those in the text, we must answer the question, why did God include the sex and age of the individual? And how does that speak to the message? How often have we heard stories of Moses and Joseph without focusing on their age? As we enter into a dialogue with children in Latin America and an appropriate understanding of the passage, based on gender and age, we will enjoy a new understanding of some familiar passages.
What is key here is that we must develop tools to help us read Scripture with children, youth or adults in the context in which they are found. This could be middle class surfer kids in Southern California or poor children in a Brazilian favela. The cultural context must guide the questions we bring to Scripture so long as we are honest with the text. Does that make sense?