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

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ecocide, Ethics, The Bible, The Whole Ball of Wax!

More Conversations with Bob! Hop in!

John,

Nice response. I think it does point to areas where we agree and areas where we may disagree.

But first, Progressives and Evangelicals, Ecocide and Ethics.

As you have discovered from my posts we Evangelicals disagree with one another on a lot of social issues. Then again Evangelicals disagree about all kinds of stuff. Some accused Billy Graham of being a communist for preaching in Russia back in the 70’s or 80’s and not saying negative things about the government of the time. Like the Catholic bishop quoted in the article, I’m a whole life kind of guy. I’m against abortion and capital punishment. Speaking from the viewpoint political strategy I don’t think that trying to reverse Roe v. Wade is a good idea. I think abortion kills a life but reversing Roe v. Wade at this point would simply kill more lives, the mother and the child. I’m ready to go with Hillary Clinton for the time being that abortion should be safe legal and rare. I suspect that most evangelicals would disagree with me about this.

When I was in Oneida I served on a community board that oversaw the work of a group that worked this teens and sexual issues. It was n abstinence based program. (Abstinence based means that the group promoted abstinence as the best policy but understood that some teens weren’t going to abstain so the group taught sexuality, encouraged abstinence and provided information about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.) Planned Parenthood was part of the group too and I was pleasantly surprised that they promoted abstinence first. The PP from Utica was pretty strong about this, particularly as a way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. I agreed with them and so did the Pentecostal pastor on the board that there so youth, including some in each of our youth groups who were going to have sex and we didn’t want them to have babies at 15!

So I think there are a lot of issues on which Progressives and Evangelicals can agree or at least agree partially and work together. Certainly ecology, poverty, the spread and power of multinational corporations, making support available to those who might seek an abortion because they think they have no other choices and, some of us Evangelicals, the war in Iraq, are issues on which we can and should work together. Finally, I think some Evangelicals have allowed themselves to be too closely tied to the Republican party and Progressives may be in danger of doing the same with the Democratic part. We all need a place to stand that allows us to speak to the principalities and powers.

Ecocide. I think we really agree. While I think some life would survive the attempts humans are making to destroy all life on God’s good earth I do think we have reached the crisis stage. I think those who look for a quick trip out through rapture are not only theologically but also ethically wrong. But remember there are a lot of us Reformed types and Wesleyans and others out there that believe in radical stewardship of creation. I don’t think believing in an afterlife, at least for me, makes any difference in the way I think and act about stewardship of God’s creation and the false belief that we can actually own part of creation, (all of creation belongs to God!). In fact it is in part my belief in life after death that gives me motivation. A day will come when I will have to give an account to God about my stewardship of creation as well as the rest of my life. I want to be able to stand before God and say I worked to heal the damage we humans have done to the earth.

On to the Bible

I’m going to respond to your list but I’m not going to repost it here. Those who wish can zip back and forth.

  1. We agree
  2. We agree but I have a comment. See #3.
  3. I would add that the Bible is not only God’s word to me but God’s word to the whole world.
  4. I don’t think that saying the Bible is the Word of God can be objective. Objective suggests to me that it can be proven. It can’t. Even the Westminster Confession says that while the Bible has lots of great attributes a person cannot perceive that it is the Word of God without the Holy Spirit opening one’s eyes. I also think every theological statement has to have some “God is greater than we can know” in it. While I do believe that God reveals God’s self in the Scripture (particularly when the Bible describes God’s relationship with humans and how God acts in covenant with humans) I don’t think we can say that we can ever know all there is to know about God. We can know what God has revealed about God’s self and even then human minds have to say that we can’t really understand all of it.
  5. Here we agree and disagree. It is certainly a book written by humans. Nevertheless I believe it is inspired by God in a way that no other book is inspired. It is revelation from God.
  6. I agree with reservations. First I believe YHWH is an actor in the NT as well as the OT. When I read the word Lord applied to God in the NT I hear the writers/editors carrying over the Hebrew tradition of saying Adonai in place of YHWH. Also while I think I understand your use of the word characters here for YHWH and Jesus and agree that they are persons in the stories and therefore characters I would add that YHWH/Jesus are the main actors in the stories in the sense that they act and humans, (in the case of Jesus other humans), respond.
  7. I agree.
  8. I agree but I would add that I suspect we might disagree about some on what might be horrific and what might be wonderful. An example: the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.
  9. Hmm . . . I believe both YHWH and Jesus exist. I know you do too so let me say how we might disagree. I suspect that I think there is more historical accuracy in the Biblical stories than you do. Having said that the Bible sure isn’t history in the sense that modern historians use the term. Every writer/editor of the books of the Bible brought theological perspectives to their writing/editing of the text. We see this in the arrangement of material in the Synoptic Gospels. I believe the people who recorded progressive layers of the stories and people who edited the texts put the materials in specific orders so as to make their own theological points. Certainly the choice of materials reflects those theological viewpoints too. I think that people saw things happen, told the stories with theological interpretation of what happened, and those stories with further theological interpretations were put in their final forms. Do I think that some of the things that the Bible says happened didn’t happen? I’ll go with Karl Barth on this: I think so but don’t ask me to say which is which except where I see evidence that the writer intended to write fiction to make a theological point. I will add that I think Genesis 1-11 is prehistory.
  10. I agree. But while I love the stories I think that we have to pay attention as much as we can to the Holy Spirit as we interpret the text. The problem is, fallible, sinful human beings that we are, how do we know when we are guided by the Holy Spirit and when we are not? I think this is best done in groups. I need the help of others to correct me. And even then we make mistakes in groups too. Sometimes the lone individual is right and the group wrong.
  11. I agree. I think one of the best things we could do is talk about, to the extent that we can, why we chose our particular interpretive grids.
  12. I agree and disagree. Certainly creation, fall and redemption is a New Testament Christian grid placed on the Old Testament. Having said that I do think we can say that creation and fall are themes in the Old Testament and redemption, though portrayed in a very different way, is also a theme in the Old Testament. The Exodus story is a story of redemption according to Deuteronomy. I don’t think Augustine is the be all and end all. He carried a lot of his Neoplatonic baggage with him into Christianity. And I do think that Paul must be interpreted in the context of the rest of the Bible. One of the prime Reformation statements is that Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture with Christ at the center. And yes, this does mean that we interpret the Old Testament through New Testament eyes. Nevertheless I like seeing the Old Testament through Old Testament eyes too. It is a lot of fun that way. (Elijah to the prophets of Baal: “Maybe your god is in the bathroom!” I love it!)

Finally I’m not entirely sure what you mean when you use the word reinterpretation. If it means that the Bible shapes doctrine and not the other way around, I entirely agree. So what do you mean by this?

Grace and Peace

Bob

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