Is there More Light and Truth in Scripture? asked Sean Winter in his 2007 Whitley Lecture. This was an excellent discussion of hermeneutics done from a baptist perspective. In the written version of the lecture, Sean covers huge ground and some of the paragraphs or sections need some more unpacking and detailed discussion. Some colleagues have already suggested Sean turns this into a book length treatment of the issues. I would encourage this. The main thrust of his argument is that God does have more light and truth to break forth from his word and that although this may and will lead to disagreement over interpretation, this should be embraced, because baptists are a covenant people. If baptists are committed to the Bible, and Sean believes that they are, disagreement over the meaning of texts is going to occur. In recent years the historical-critical hermeneutic as the one and only way of reading scripture has been found wanting and other ways of reading have either made a comeback or been started. (This is one point where the lecture is thin on the ground on what has been happening in biblical studies.)
Sean says that interpreting scripture is an activity of the church and that it is work and that disagreement is not something to be avoided, but is a sign of a healthy church. He quotes Stephen Fowl: 'a tradition that cannot sustain debate, discussion, disagreement has long since ceased to have a viable future' (p.31). The Baptist way of understanding itself as a covenant community - formed together and bound together by the love of God - is a community that should be able to handle diversity in interpretation. Why is diversity in interpretation something to embraced? Sean here makes reference to the diversity in the created order is to be expected as the creation of the triune God (p.20). He also says our relationship to God is not through any particular interpretation of scripture, but through the God who makes himself know in scripture. Diversity in interpretation will emerge because God has more light and truth to break forth from his Word. There is never a point when we have exhausted scripture and becomes masters of it.
The implications of his argument are the need to create space for interpretive diversity (to welcome it and not fear it); to read scripture communally rather than individually (this is so important!); to find ways to communicate a clear distinction between scripture and interpretation (to avoid the suggestion that those who preach and interpret have the last word on scripture); and finally we need to deepen our commitment to biblical education (echoing those who want to see 'deep church'), within the church and with those who are training for minster.
There was much in the lecture to encourage Baptists (and others) to read Scripture and also a challenge to find ways to read it more deeply. For my own thoughts on reading scripture see here.