To begin with the common Christian confession: the common confession is ‘We believe in Jesus Christ with the apostles’…The complexities intrinsic to any Christian theological interpretation of the scriptures becomes clear. For Christianity is not, strictly speaking, a religion of the book like Islam. And yet ‘the book’ does play a central role for Christian self-understanding. Christianity, in more explicitly hermeneutical terms, is a religion of a revelatory event to which certain texts bear an authoritative witness.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this distinction between event and text for Christian theological self-understanding. To fail to grasp the distinction is to lead into two opposite difficulties…[T]he route to Christian fundamentalist readings of the scripture under the banner cries of ‘inerrancy’ soon take over. Here Christians believe, in effect, not with but in the apostles.
The opposite danger is equally devastating…The difficult is, rather, that since the scriptural texts are not allowed to play any authoritative role, the contemporary Christian community can never know whether its present witness to the Christ-event is in continuity with the original apostolic witness. The historical central Christian theological affirmation–’I believe in Jesus Christ with the apostles’–would then be narrowed into the affirmation ‘I believe in Jesus Christ’.
From David Tracy, ‘Reading the Bible’ in On Naming the Present, 1994 (originally in Concillium 1991/1).