Unleashing the Scriptures
Hauerwas, in Unleashing the Scriptures, offers the bold statement that urging Christians to read the Bible on their own is a bad idea.
The Bible is not and should not be accessible to merely anyone, but rather it should only be made available to those who have undergone the hard discipline of existing as part of God’s people (9)
His point is that without transformation by proper training we are not capable of reading the Bible correctly because we will read it with the hermeneutics of liberalism. In other words, an individual will read the Bible as he or she wishes. Therefore, a Christian must be a member of an interpretive community, the people of God, in order to authentically interpret the word of God. In contrast to the reformation doctrine of sola scriptura which assumes Scripture is accessible to all, Hauerwas – allegedly representing the catholic church – believes that without initiation into the Holy Tradition we will be agents of nationalistic ideologies. The outcome is the continuation of hegemonic cultural religion.
It is a common strategy of Hauerwas across his writings to unduly emphasize that theology requires training from a master. It seems that this must be held in balance with making our own judgments and questioning long-held beliefs as well. Not for the purpose of abandoning them but to imaginatively investigate them and test to see if they ring true and worthy of worship. This is particularly the case when the people of God, the agents of salvation, become part of the problem. I do not think we necessarily have to take these at odds with one another either because critical thinking requires training from a source beyond ourselves (for further elaboration see Jeffrey Stout, Democracy and Tradition, 31).