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Understanding each other is key to scripture discernment

   

July 17, 2012
-Dan Dyck

Vancouver, B.C. — Understanding the world views each of us hold can help us better understand each other when we disagree on matters of faith and biblical understandings.

That was the central thesis of Gary Yamasaki’s workshop for Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2012 entitled the “Getting the Big Picture.” Yamasaki took participants down a historical journey of pre-modern, modern, and post modern thought and explained how each emphasized different characteristics of faith and belief.

Pre-modern thought is fatalistic, hierarchical, and holds supernatural power in high esteem, while modern thought emphasizes reason, science, self-determination, and rejects authority. By contrast, post-modern thought is characterized by distrust of authority, relative truth and subjective truths, and trust in authenticity. “In the post modern world, intelligence is trumped by personality,” Yamasaki said.

Following this pattern, Yamasaki next explored the life of the church in the three thought categories: pre-modern church values are grounded in tradition and passed down the generations – what was good enough for my grandfather is good enough for me. The modern church places great value in analyzing the context of scripture, its surrounding text, and studying Greek and Hebrew to getter grasp the original languages of the text. A post-modern church emphasizes the role of emotion; how it connects with the reader depends on how it connects with their current feelings, beliefs, and biases.

In a sort of Meyers-Briggs personality test, Yamasaki asked workshop participants to weigh the role each category – pre-modern, modern, and post-modern – played in their personal world view and then assign a percentage to each.

One participant heavily weighted the role of supernatural power – a pre-modern characteristic. Another’s self-analysis strongly favoured the emotional connection to a text and subjective truth – a post-modern emphasis. As a theologian and teacher, Yamasaki himself held most strongly to a modern world view of reason and analysis.

Knowing how and why we think the way we do when studying scripture can help us navigate the path of communal Bible study and discernment, he said.

Gary Yamasaki is professor of Biblical Studies at Columbia Bible College. He holds a PhD from Union Theological Seminary and a MDiv from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

See complete coverage of Assembly 2012