Thursday, July 26, 2007

What authority does typology have?

Typology is a very common and useful way of reading the Scriptures. By typology, we usually mean an interpretation of a passage which, while not contradictory to the literal sense of the passage, is read to mean more than the bare words. Typology was used by the early Church, the Apostles and Jesus Christ himself. How much authority does a typological interpretation have though?

There is a difference between the authority of a typological interpretation of the Scriptures we make and ones contained in the Scriptures themselves. We are usually not dogmatically bound by a typological interpretation outside of the ones given in the Scriptures--but we read the Scriptures typologically. So, we should read the Scriptures typologically--in fact the whole Lutheran, and I would guess EO and RC approach to typology, is that the Scriptures typologically refer to Christ, even if they do not directly refer to him. The problem arises, though, when we see typology everywhere, like when Jacob was carrying wood, we see Christ carrying the cross. Dogma? I don't think so!

This is the kind of thing many an RC apologist does when he says St. Paul's Damascus road conversion is a type of prots, and I would guess EO, coming to realize that the RCC is the True Church ™. There is no Christological reason to read this passage typologically like that. And if St. Paul's experience can mean that, why can't it mean a host of other things--like the turning of Israel to Christ, or those who see will be made blind, as in John 9, or any other readings we can see in an event like that. These are not necessarily wrong interpretations or even a useless ones--they may be right and a very useful ones, but I would hardly base a dogma upon them. To do so comes off sounding a little trite.

Typology is the norm because a typological reading of the Scriptures is enjoined by Christ himself. But typology apart from the historical settings of God's recorded acts in history is Origenist, which I believe is dangerous. We need to be careful how we establish dogma--and if we can read the Scriptures typologically apart from their historical setting, why not allegorize the the Gospel itself? That is the road to Anglicanism,--a form of Gnosticism in my opinion as expressed in the ECUSA, where the only Church Tradition that matters is the one which says bishops cannot interfere in other bishops' diocese. (A similar thing happened in the Church of Sweden, a "Lutheran" Church, where the only requirement for being a minister is to receive communion from a women priest's hands, Trinity? Optional!).

So, we must not read the Scriptures as bare words, but we also must not give our imaginations free reign when we read the Scriptures. There is a continuum, and the guide, as always, is Christological and Incarnational. The dogma of the Incarnation, for one guards against the over spiritualization of Christianity. The idea of God becoming man throws all neo-gnostic ideas like "soul-mates" intothe garbage.

1 comment:

William Tighe said...

Did you receive the e-mail that I sent you some time ago, anmd sent again today?

Post a Comment