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Scripture & Discernment: Decision Making in the Church Paperback – March 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Luke Timothy Johnson begins his study of the practical issue of how decisions are made in the church by admitting to a bias: that there ought to be a connection between what the church claims to be, and how it does things. Because the church claims to be a community of faith, it does not reach decisions simply on the basis of good management policy, or the analysis of market trends, or efficiency, or even ideological consistency, but in response to God's activity in the world that presses upon us and urges us to decision. Faced with how to respond to God's leading, the church decides what to do on the basis of two realities: Scripture and discernment. Because it calls the church into being Scripture is the fundamental authority in the church's life. Yet it is not enough for a congregation simply to turn to the Bible when a decision must be reached, for Scripture does not directly address all issues which face the church today, and those it does often reflect greatly differing historical and social contexts than our own. Thus, added to the authority of Scripture in the church's decision making is a process of discernment, in which the members of the community, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, recall how God has worked in their lives as individuals and as a community and discern together God's direction for the future. Johnson argues that this very pattern of decision making can be found in Scripture itself, notably in one of the central events of the book of Acts. Beginning with the conversion of Cornelius and culminating in the Apostolic Council of Acts 15, we see how a string of smaller narratives combine to tell the story of God's movement within their midst, and how thisnarrative became the basis for the reinterpretation of Scripture and the inclusion of Gentiles into the fellowship of the church. Looking at a number of thorny issues facing the contemporary church, Johnson demonstrates how the interaction of Scripture and discernment can and must become the basis for how we respond to the decisions with which the church wrestles today.

About the Author

Luke T. Johnson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of new Testament and Christian Origins, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia (The Roman Catholic Church).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press; Subsequent edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0687012384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0687012381
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Matthew T. Phillips on July 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Dr. Johnson has updated this book, making it a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the ways the church should use scripture to discern the will of God. Johnson hits important issues, including the place of homosexual Christians in the church, but rather than using the book as a soapbox to take stands on issues, he uses the issues to demonstrate the way scripture is used and understood. The book is helpful to religion/seminary students and clergy, but is accessible to lay persons who care about making scripture the basis for their decisions and those of their church.
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Format: Paperback
Johnson begins conveniently by defining terms and concepts to be used throughout the book.
Johnson defines church as by various terms throughout, including an intentional community, a living organism (juxtaposed to an organisation), but perhaps the most fundamental is this: 'The church in the strict sense is found where there is a specific group of people who assemble together to call on the name of the Lord in prayer and fellowship.'
Key to the definition and existence of the church is faith. Faith is defined as the response in trust and obedience, a deeply responsive hearing of another's word or call. Faith in God, theological faith, the faith of the church, is therefore the hearing of the call of God. And the distinctiveness of the community called 'Church'
Johnson's definition of faith is different from many theologians in that is requires a recognition that God acts now, and continues to act. Johnson's faith is 'not attachment to a body of doctrines but a process of responding in obedience and trust to God's Word,' which continues to speak to us through the interpretive prism of community and experience.
Johnson then proceeds to discuss the normative use of scripture, which he returns to in each chapter. Two quotes are essential from the text here: 'It is an expression of the church's faith to regard these writings as prophetic for every age, and therefore as speaking God's Word.' Also, 'The theologian serves the church by allowing the text from the past and the text of the present to enter mutual interpretation.'
Johnson proceeds to discuss techniques to show how diversity of voices can be recognised and accepted without any single voice being dominant or neglected.
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Format: Paperback
The author joins several other modern scholars who point out quite rightly I think, that one must avoid the Biblical fundamentalism of proof texting the Bible. You can prove anything you want from the Bible if you simply pick your passages. Rather the person who is really seeking the Lord's will in modern life, should note the broad themes of scripture. We should see how God has dealt with His people in the past, and apply that learning to our present situation. The Word revealed in the words of scripture will guide us into all truth.
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