Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth

Manifold_witness1
This is the title of a recent little book by John Franke who teaches at the Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. As someone who has argued for a similar construal of the nature of biblical interpretation, I was interested to read Franke's theological defense of notions of plurality. The book is easy to read, and Franke is a good theologian. I guess, however, that it is written to help those whose own cultural or ecclesial location already tilts them in the directions that he lays out. My own experience in speaking about interpretative pluralism among Baptists in the UK suggested that for many people, there needs to be a much more extensive and rigorous demonstration of why many of the inherited and assumed epistemological models are problematic. (Incidentally, it is his concern to do this kind of ground clearing work that makes Douglas Campbell's book on Justification Theory in Paul 200 pages longer than it might have been – and all the better for it). Franke's book therefore provides a starting point – but the questions raised here require deeper levels of engagement with the tradition, the traditional views of truth, and with the contemporary implications for ecclesial life, biblical interpretation and theological method than we find here.

Here is an excerpt from Franke's conclusion:

'Plurality in the Christian community is not a problem to be overcome but is instead the very intention and blessing of God who invites all people to participate in the liberating and reconciling ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. the plurality of the church constitutes the manifold witness to the plurality of truth lived out in the eternal life of God, made known in the revelation of the Word of God, and exemplified in the pages of Scripture. We cannot bear this witness alone. we were never intensed to do so. we need each other. It cannot be otherwise.'

John R. Franke, Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth, Living Theology. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009. pp.136-137)

One might compare this view with that expressed in the quotation from Timothy Ward in his book on Scripture and God which I mention here. Mark Thompson also has a lengthy review of the book in which he argues for the kind of direct, unmediated form of divine revelation that Ward also endorses.