Hardly a Patristic studies devotee, I am recently intrigued by Christopher Hall’s Reading the Scripture with the Church Fathers. One early quote has caught my attention: “The Scriptures have been given to the church, are read, preached, heard and comprehended within the community of the church, and are safely interpreted only by those whose character is continually being formed by prayer, worship, meditation, self-examination, confession and other means by which Christ’s grace is communicated to his body” (p42).
Discovering and recovering biblical community can become ironically individualistic. The church is a place where I can be myself without fear. It is a place where I can have my convictions without threatening reprisal. While that is certainly true at one level it is hardly what makes the church glorious. What makes the church lovely is that it is a place where we become together what we could never become individually.
The church is not a community with a resident theologian, but a theological community of residents. The pastor does not offer univocal monologue, simply studying the Bible and telling people what it says. Rather, he compels a healthy dialogue, cultivating a love for Scripture among a Spirit-guided community. God redeems and sanctifies a people (not persons) that loves the Bible and loves being shaped by it together. Christlikeness is a team sport.
It is only by the gracious power of God that a collection of self-minded misfits becomes a gospel-minded community. It is a joy to know that I don’t have to worry about finding a place to be myself. Jesus has found a place for me to be like Him.