Community Hermeneutics and Individual Responsibility

Yesterday I listened to three theologians talk about the authority of Scripture. I was surprised when one of them said, “We don’t read the Bible individually. We read it in community.”

That sounded postmodern to me. The speakers did not go on to give a clear explanation of what this meant. I thought it meant that our community tells us what a given text means. If our community has more than one view of a given text, then those views, plural, are the only views we can hold.

I went online to see what I could find out about reading the Bible in community. It turns out that emergent church leader Brian McLaren discussed this question in his book A New Kind of Christianity. (For more details see the two-part review, “Christianity and McLarenism,” by Kevin DeYoung at  One of the ten questions McLaren considers is “How should the Bible be understood?” He thinks that the Bible need not be consistent (that is, one Biblical author can contradict another) and that we learn what the Bible means by conversation within our community. He also evidently does not believe in an orthodox view of verbal plenary inspiration.

With further online research, I found that reading the Bible in community means slightly different things to different people.

There is more:


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