One Landscape, Many Perspectives – Reflections on Authority and Scripture



Imagine communities of different people that are given the task to examine and interpret a particular landscape. Would one expect the same examination and interpretation from each different community? Of course not, for each community is different and cannot be abstracted from their cultural, social, geographical, etc. context. For instance, a community investigating the landscape could point to the mountains and say: “Now that’s the purpose of this picture!” while another community points to the clouds in the sky and says: “No! This is the purpose of this picture.” Which community is correct? Well, both communities have good warrants for their claims because their warrants are rooted in the object that they are examining, the landscape (the landscape still is the authority for the interpretation) – so this should caution any attempt to disregard any interpretation rooted in the picture – but whose interpretation is correct? Such a question is not the right question to postulate.  What if the different interpretations were a result of the communities differing perspectives? Maybe these perspectives are influenced by the social, geographical, cultural make-up of the community? Therefore, such interpretations are not wrong for they find their interpretative key within the pictures. The different perspectives only become negative when they are not explicitly acknowledged; almost always, the result takes on an aura of universality (González, 16:1996). Consequently, these interpretations must be seen as a part of the whole, that is, these interpretations should be seen as a group of interpretations that contribute to the whole picture.

From a theological perspective, the same can be true of Christianity. Each community enters into a dialogue with the Scriptures (their authority- the landscape) from a certain perspective. In entering into this dialogue with the Scriptures one cannot interpret the Scripture in any way that they would please, rather “the otherness of each party is respected; what one party says is not to be understood merely on the basis of the whims of the other; I must not allow myself to hear you saying whatever I please, whatever fits my presuppositions” (González, 13:1996). Approaching Scripture is like entering into a dialogue, in that dialogue “words have a normative dimension that I must not violate” (González, 14:1996), yet the understanding or the information derived from these dialogues vary from community to community. These differing perspectives are not only valuable but they are necessary – these different perspectives enrich and enhance our view of the landscape (the Scriptures). González comments:

Such a variety of perspective is not only valuable; it is absolutely necessary. Although in the preceding paragraph I have used words such as “enhancing” and “enriching”, we are not dealing here with optional enhancement to Christian theology – like chrome trimming out an automobile. We are dealing rather with something that belongs to every nature of the church, and without which the church cannot be true to its own nature – more like the four wheels on a car. To say that the church is “catholic” means that it includes within itself a variety of perspectives. To say that it is “one” means that such multiplicity, rather the dividing it, brings it closer together. This is the miracle of communication, which in Christian thinking we ascribe to the Holy Spirit (González, 20, 1996)

Moreover, lest we think that this dialogue is a one-sided conversation the Holy Spirit that is present among the Church enables her to communicate within a diverse context of peoples. Again González ably writes:

Significantly in the book of Acts the first consequences of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples – men and women, the Twelve as well as the others – is their ability to communicate. Thanks to the Spirit, these disciples can communicate with a variety of peoples; and their communication is not centripetal or imperialistic. The Spirit does not impose on all the languages of the original disciples, but rather makes it possible for various people to understand “each in their own native language.” From the very outset, the Spirit makes the church truly catholic by including in it a variety of languages and cultural perspectives – even though, as the rest of the book of Acts and the entire history of the Church show, on this score Christians have constantly and repeatedly resisted the Spirit (González, 21:1996).

Therefore, in light of all that has been said, lets us, Christians seek to be enhanced and enriched by one another as we are daily guided by the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit among us. I shall end my reflection with this prayer: “O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”


González, Justo L. 1996. Santa Biblia: the Bible through Hispanic eyes. Nashville: Abingdon Press.


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