All over the UK, Evangelical Anglicans read and study the Bible, in churches and in homes, in groups and as individuals. They do this because they believe the Bible is God’s word, a collection of texts that is authoritative, inspired, consistent, clear and sufficient. But what does this mean for the way the Bible is read? Should the Bible always be read as historically accurate? As theologically accurate? As relevant for today? In other words, how do the beliefs that such readers have about the nature of the Bible, affect the way that they interpret and the conclusions that they come to? To answer these questions, Anna Hutchinson conducted field work analysing Evangelical Anglicans as they study the Bible. Utilizing qualitative methodology, she argues that the doctrine of Scripture is often narrowly conceived amongst Evangelical Anglicans, such that its influence in interpretation is often qualified and overshadowed by various factors including beliefs about God, genre and personal experience.
Anna Hutchinson is lecturer and tutor in theology at St. Mellitus College, South West.
Chapter 1 Situating the Research
Chapter 2 Research Methodology and Design
Chapter 3 The Influence of the Doctrine of Scripture: Reading Historically
Chapter 4 The Influence of the Doctrine of Scripture: Reading Theologically
Chapter 5 The Influence of the Doctrine of Scripture: Reading for Today
Chapter 6 The Influence of the Doctrine of Scripture: Some Conclusions
Chapter 7 The Influence of Belief: Reading through Doctrine
Chapter 8 The Influence of Literature: Reading through Genre
Chapter 9 The Influence of Context: Reading through Experience
Chapter 10 The Influence of Education: Comparing Responses
Chapter 11 The Influence of the Text: Reading for Transformation
There is a lot written about how Christians should interpret the Bible, but finding out what they actually do when they read it, and why, is a much trickier thing to explore. Anna Hutchinson reports on her research of groups of Evangelical Anglicans reading specific passages of Scripture and shows what these encounters reveal about the way that readers create meaning in different ways. This is a clearly written account of a valuable research project that helps us to think creatively about the place of the Bible in the lives of ordinary Christians today. This book is another important piece of the jigsaw for those who believe the Bible is crucial for faith today but need a more thoughtful understanding of how that can be a reality rather than a vague hope.
This well-grounded study helpfully blends theological analysis with empirical observation to probe how evangelical UK Anglicans read the Bible in dialogue with their doctrinal commitments. Hutchinson probes thoughtfully into multiple important issues, such as the priority of the doctrine of God over the doctrine of scripture, the way that doctrinal framing can overtake hermeneutics, and the propensity to over-focus on application rather than transformation. A consistently engaging and reflective study that raises excellent questions for further refining an evangelical Anglican approach to scripture.
More than any other Christian tradition, arguably, Evangelicals claim to cherish the Bible and its truth claims. But does that really work out in everyday life? Anna Hutchinson’s empirical study of the practical realities of Evangelical biblical understanding and interpretation offers ground-breaking insight into the ways in which the Bible does—and doesn’t!—shape people’s lives and thinking. Highly recommended insights for anyone who is interested in the contemporary shape of British Christianity and the role of the Bible in theology and public life.