"Interpreting the Bible is absolutely central to a local church’s understanding of itself."
Matt Skinner believes that pastors and lay leaders must help their congregations understand that Scripture is not a relic, but that we experience it as a living text that works on us and in us.
"Interpreting the Bible is absolutely central to a local church's interpretation of itself," he says. "Reading Scripture critically and openly has the power to transform a community of faith. It helps a local church understand its identity, and it calls members to witness of various kinds."
Skinner emphasizes a conversational approach to scriptural understanding. This conversation should occur both between the reader and the text, and among readers. To interpret Scripture in the company of other interpreters opens us to other perspectives and other people whose voices we may not have heard before.
"When we read Scripture together, surprising things start to happen. When we struggle to make sense of Scripture in our diverse yet connected contexts, we learn a lot about each other and what it means to be believers," he says.
He wants students to leave his classes confident that they have the tools to interpret Scripture with theological creativity — in other words, to understand the text in a way that is meaningful in both their own context and the larger context of Christian tradition.
A member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Skinner completed both a master of divinity and a doctorate in New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary before answering a call to Luther in 2002.
He appreciates the fact that Luther prepares students for service to the church in a way that is academically rigorous. "As a Presbyterian, I believe that theological learning or the study of God is a vital spiritual discipline," Skinner says. "To study theology is to love God with our whole mind."
He also appreciates Luther's openness to other traditions. "Mutual understanding is the first way to repair divisions and help us find common ground," he says.