Saturday, December 26, 2009

Looking Deeper at the Meaning of Christmas

Peter Kreeft invites us to take a deeper look at the meaning of Christmas by recovering an ancient, four-fold approach to Biblical interpretation:

Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world — but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Read it all.


George said...

Thanks for sharing that, it is a wonderful perspective that resonates well within me. I often struggle with 'fixed' one perspective views on scripture as they always seem to have much more depth, (except for those trying to defend a position of course)

Joe Rawls said...

We really need to get away from the "either-or" approach to scripture. I'm currently reading Kreeft's book on apologetics and benefiting greatly, though of course I disagree with some of what he says.