Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nitty Gritty on the Good Book

I know you have been waiting, checking back every few minutes for the next installment of Conversations with Bob! To satisfy your desire, my response:


Thanks Bob for your last response!

I won't belabor the point about the Word of God and get on to its authority and interpretation, although I think we may need to keep coming back to it. Before I do that, I want to clarify my comment on ecocide. You wrote:

While we humans may think we are so important, the earth did fine without us and could do so again. wonder if our concern about ecocide is not really a concern about preserving an environment in which humans in our current state of evolution can live.

Yes, I agree. In fact, we could get wiped out by a meteor or any number of other things beyond our control. However, this is a unique point in history, in which humankind could actually end life on Earth, human and otherwise. If that happens, Earth will continue to spin on its axis. No humans or other species aboard. We cannot control what we cannot control. But we must control what we can.

This to me is a religious/spiritual issue, and why I am so stubborn about a non-escapist theology. It is why I find theories of afterlife so irresponsible. I just want to scream: "Forget about going to heaven or hell, or being reincarnated, or following the light. It is none of your concern! This Earth is your concern! Future generations are your concern!"

End of rant.

On to the Bible. We may have some disagreements. It may be a matter of nuance, perhaps more. Let me say what I can say about the Bible (that is the 66 texts the Protestants call the Bible). This opens up the question of whether or not the Roman Catholic or Orthodox canons are "the Bible" or whether or not the Hebrew Scriptures are "The Bible." But leaving that aside, for now, here is what I can say:

1) The Bible is unique. No other book is like it.
2) It is authoritative for the synagogue and church, according to each worshiping community's respective canon. These are collections that we have said we have found valuable.
3) I can affirm, for instance, my ordination vow regarding it, "God's word to you." Yes. We may differ in our interpretation of that phrase and that vow.
4) I have no idea what "God's word" really could possibly mean in any objective sense. It appears to be an anthropomorphism that I simply cannot get my head around. I have a hard time wondering what it means to say "God" for that matter.
5) It is a book, like every book, written by, for and to human beings.
6) YHWH is a character of the Hebrew Scriptures as Jesus the Christ is a character in the New Testament.
7) It is the central text of Western Civilization.
8) It has some wonderful stories. It has some horrifying stories. It has some inspiring theology. It has some horrific theology.
9) The characters, including YHWH and Jesus, are products of human imagination. For example, the stories surrounding Jesus were an attempt to speak of his significance rather than historical reportage.
10) With all of that, the Bible has a way of drawing me into its tale and confronting me with its strange new world--a world that would be if YHWH/Jesus had fully transformed our hearts, minds, and wills.
11) I think my interpretive grid is a combination of my needs, what the world needs, and what the text says. It is a complicated hermeneutical circle as you mentioned.
12) I don't see the Hebrew Scriptures concerned at all about Creation, Fall, Redemption. Frankly, I really see more than that happening in the New Testament as well. That is a later Christian grid placed upon the texts. I don't think we are stuck with Augustine or Paul, for that matter. I think we are always in the process of reinterpreting.

Bob, that could be a way in which we see things from a different angle. I am more interested in re-interpreting than you might be, even if that re-interpretation calls some central doctrines of the church into question. To me that is what sola scriptura is all about!

You asked me:

So tell me, are we saying the same thing when I say there are no bad texts but only bad interpretations and you say there are bad texts but good and bad is determined by how we interpret them?
We may or may not be saying the same thing, but we could end up with similar results on many important topics!
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