Bernese Oberland ++
Hundreds of different runs, that sweet crunch on being first on fresh snow with your mates, all armed with skis and snowboards and sledges and whooping away, and as the sun emerges from the other side of the mountain – getting out of the way of terrified voices squeaking,”Snow plough! Snow plough!”, going off piste, hiking through snowy paths smelling the pine trees (and where the snow is melting, cow poo), listening to Mike Ovey on The Trinity and Servant Leadership,
innumerable exciting rides (cable cars from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren via Gimmelwald and Stechelberg, and another to Schilthorn on which lives the infamous Piz Gloria of James Bond (the forgettable one) fame, a furnicular from Mürren to Allmendhubel, numerous cute alpine trains every where including ones that cut through Eiger to Jungfraujoch, where you can go and stare down the hapless Aletsch Glacier),
and also, the valley town of Lauterbrunnen that looked suspiciously like J.R.R. Tolkien’s elven Rivendell….and what do you know? Not a mere figment of my imagination! Forgot to take a photo, so here are some of Kleine Scheidegg that look nothing like Lauterbrunnen. Shan’t even mention the excitement over Grindelwald.
Cut short the fun prematurely by forcing myself to eat some “dead chicken”* a few days into the trip, thinking my ongoing revulsion a senseless affection that needed to be stamped out. 20 minutes later, despite my best attempts to keep it in while talking to some people, i soon had the old head in the wastepaper basket heaving up dinner. A squad team, on the lookout for Brits harbouring the norovirus had to come disinfect the place, much to my embarrassment.
Spent the next few days drifting in and out of sleep, full of feverish dreams that trouble sick people – of mathematical conundrums and all possible permutations of alpine travel routes.
In the more lucid moments, tried to triangulate a proper position (if indeed this was a right thing to do) between:
- biblical interpretation (individual and corporate);
- an awareness that we live in an age that worships egalitarianism (according to Mike Ovey’s definition, not just equality but also value from being completely autonomous and not having to submit to anyone) and that this would definitely skew contemporary thinking that everyone can and should read the Bible for themselves; and
- what was wrought for us by the Reformation and if this was indeed correct or do we hark back to it as another baseless “tradition”.
This was partly to do with an earlier conversation with Mike Ovey about the merits and in fact the necessity of going to theological college (being principal of Oak Hill Theological College, he of course thought it quite useful), partly to do with the last chapter of Tim Ward’s Words of Life, wherein he argues that Luther and Calvin merely wanted to recapture the theology of the early church fathers – that although Scripture is our sole revelation of God, Scripture was never meant to be alone – it was always to be delivered to people through the church, citing 1 Timothy 3:15.
(Not sure about the sort of Anabaptist Tradition ‘0’ referred to in Ward’s book. Sounds quite different from the Anabaptists mentioned briefly in Mike Reeves’ The Unquenchable Flame: Introduction to the Reformation, that I was reading contemporaneously in Lauterbrunnen.)
Evangelicals speak often of the perspicuity of Scripture. Does Scripture itself promise this? (Yes, the Spirit is promised to convict us of our sin etc, but is there specific promise of him helping Christian Joe Bloggs understand Scripture without further explanation or education?)
Soon i was at the airport in Basel and, in no time at all, home in London where i duly offloaded all this on the housemates and their respective guests. What are the practical implications of this, they asked. Off a rather travel-stained cuff:
- thus Tim Ward suggests that the individual reading of Scripture should therefore be “derivative of, and dependent on, the corporate reading and proclamation of Scripture in the Christian assembly” – that is, because “the church is the primary means God has given us for coming to encounter him in his Word in a way that enables us to hear his voice and respond to him”, “giving priority to the corporate use of Scripture over the individual…recognises that the Lord continues to give his church pastor-teachers who will expound the biblical writings of the prophets and apostles, in order to equip his people for works to service…” and “the fact that Scripture has been read, prayed over, wrestled with, talked about and taught for two millennia before any of us were born…have produced settled convictions about the Bible’s most significant teachings, as well as reliable practices of interpretation. Our primary attitude towards these things ought humbly to be that of a learner not a critic”;
- and so Ward suggests turning to a good Bible commentary sooner rather than later (as he had some times been encourage by others, both as a preacher and as a Christian who reads Scripture for himself, only to turn to Bible commentaries as very last resort, when, after much wrestling and searching for himself, he still could not make out the sense of a passage – or perhaps just to check that what he thought was its meaning was not entirely off-beam);
- what is the role of the Bible teacher? Should the Bible teacher then teach the content of Bible without bothering to teach people to interpret the Bible for themselves?
- how would any one then be able to tell good teaching from bad, life-giving faithful teaching from hell-beckoning heretical teaching if they did not read the Bible for themselves?
*my distaste for “dead chicken” is unfortunately well-known. Of course, all chicken meat is dead bird but there’s some sort of chicken I just have never been able to bring myself to eat – it’s hard to describe it – no matter how it has been cooked, it just tastes decomposed and repulsive. Kosher and halal birds are safer but not totally exempt from this category.