Shuck and Jive

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Authority of the Bible

Fred is generating a few comments from a fine post: The Real Authority of the Bible. Pay him a visit.

Fred quotes Kenneth Cauthen's two principles of interpretation:

  1. No Christian allows the Bible to teach as the authoritative word of God what is known or believed (for whatever reasons) to be either untrue or immoral.
  2. Every Christian finds what the Bible teaches as the authoritative word of God to be identical or congruent with what is known or believed (for whatever reasons) to be true and right.
Fred's post reminded me of what Hal Taussig pointed out at our Jesus Seminar on the Road.

The reason we find the canonical stories "normal" and the extra-canonical stories "weird" is because we have had 2000 years to domesticate the Bible. The canon is pretty weird when we read some of what it actually says. Hal pointed to this example:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. Matthew 19:12
Those who claim to follow the Bible as the authoritative word of God will undoubtedly find a clever way around that one.

But regarding issues for which they already have prejudices (ie. against homosexuals, for instance) passages that apparently condemn them are etched in stone.

20 comments:

  1. I thought a eunuch John was someone without any genitals. If that's the case, then they could not perform the homosexual act that Paul prohibits...

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  2. Ummm, and neither could straight people. Are you a eunuch for the kingdom?

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  3. From the Westminster Confession:

    The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

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  4. And when the Westminster Divines put on their thinking caps in the 17th century, doctors were still using leeches to release bad blood.

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  5. And when the Westminster Divines put on their thinking caps in the 17th century, doctors were still using leeches to release bad blood

    That reminds me, I've only used half my leeches and the expiration date is drawing near. Maybe Stushie or Paul would be willing to split the next batch with me, so they get used up before they go bad.

    Oh, and don't forget, now that Fall is just about here, everyone should get their phlogiston tanks refilled.

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  6. If that's the case, then they could not perform the homosexual act that Paul prohibits

    Oh, Stushie, Stushie, Stushie. Are you now claiming that it is only a sin to "top"?

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  7. In all honesty, unless I"m totally misunderstanding the nature of the radical progressive movement (religious naturalism) in our churches, personal views concerning the specific nature of Scripture, and committed gay sex would be among the least of my concerns.

    It's incredible to me.


    In my denomination, there seems to be little real concern expressed for clergy who have totally left their ordination vows, affirm heresy, and have rejected the gospel, mock the resurrection of the Lord..

    And, yet the election of one gay man as a bishop who loves Jesus Christ, and is totally affirming of the creeds and confessions of the church, is cause to split the entire Anglican communion.

    What is wrong with this picture,folks???

    Lord have mercy! Grant your church wisdom, and true spiritual discernment.

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  8. In my denomination, there seems to be little real concern expressed for clergy who have totally left their ordination vows, affirm heresy, and have rejected the gospel, mock the resurrection of the Lord..

    Sounds like a great denomination!

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  9. I had no idea that things were that bad in the ELCA. Those Lutherans...

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  10. No ELCA churches in my area. I've jumped ship, and joined the piskies. It's also probably the only GLBT inclusive church around, too.

    Guys, if only you were able to understand, you would see my concern, and could never mock. Phil. 3:7-ll

    As it is, I think I've said enough here.

    Sad,
    Grace.

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  11. Grace,

    You wrote:

    In my denomination, there seems to be little real concern expressed for clergy who have totally left their ordination vows, affirm heresy, and have rejected the gospel, mock the resurrection of the Lord..

    Who are all these demon clergy? Are you the judge? Do you have proof? What you seem to regard as fact others might see differently.

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  12. John,

    Grace is making your case! All this single issue church politics makes no sense. Why split over the topic of homosexuality when no other issue is cause for split?

    As far as eunuchs are concerned, it is just as likely that was a metaphorical statement based on politics. Eunuchs were brought in to the confidence of Kings because they could be trusted not to pose a political threat. They could not father any children and therefore were not eligible for usurping power. If I remember my history lessons, only once in history did a eunuch ever actually become a king.

    Not being candidates for power, they could provide unselfish and unbiased service to the King with unquestioned loyalty.

    Usually eunuchs were born that way. But sometimes a man would be so loyal to his King that he would agree to castration in exchange for the privilege of being the confidant of the King.

    Jesus may have been alluding to that kind of loyalty as the kind of devotion his disciples should have for the Kingdom of God and for His service.

    The Roman culture, not being capable of metaphor, turned that into vows of celibacy for priests. But I think it was a metaphor for humble loyalty.

    Either way it had nothing to do with gay sex.

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  13. Grace is making your case! All this single issue church politics makes no sense. Why split over the topic of homosexuality when no other issue is cause for split?

    Grace is that.

    As far as eunuchs are concerned, it is just as likely that was a metaphorical statement

    Now you're messin' with the word o' god.

    It wasn't a metaphor for Origen, who although he interpreted the scriptures allegorically, decided this verse should taken at face value and cut off his jo jos for Jesus.

    I know this passage has nothing to do with gay sex.

    This text is clear. If you want to show your devotion to Christ, then knock off your nuts.

    Until fundies are willing to do that and obey the rest of the Bible to the letter, they have nothing to say about what the "Word of God" says about them or anyone else.

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  14. Stushie,

    Sorry. If your point is that the Fundamentalists don't know how to read the Bible I have no quarrel.

    If you wish they'd all go castrate themselves, it's harsh, but I sometimes share the sentiment.

    But I do think the church fathers did not share the metaphorical reasoning skills that the Aramaic speaking culture was so good at.

    (neither do American Fundamentalists for that matter)

    The early hijacking of Christian theology by Greco/Roman philosophy has probably run its course. It served us well in many respects, but it's time we moved on. Every other field of human thought has.

    It is sad and ironic really. At one time the Church was at the cutting edge of human thought. Now it's in the stone age.

    I'm thinking I'd rather spend my time moving forward.

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  15. Hey Jodie,

    I am not sure if your last comment was for Stushie or me.

    I don't think anyone should castrate themselves. I do think that some in the early church felt that doing that was a way to show devotion. It is possible that Matthew's community shared that sentiment by placing that text on the lips of Jesus.

    My point was to affirm Fred's original post regarding how we view the authority of the Bible.

    In sum, we don't find texts in the Bible authoritative for our lives unless they confirm what we view already as moral and ethical.

    The evidence for that is (like this passage from Matthew) that we don't follow the biblical texts in regards to ethics. We cannot. They are too varied.

    For me, that is not cynical. That is a good thing. We need to decide what is ethical. That is a messy thing.

    Appealing to authorities such as the Bible for our ethics is simply fooling ourselves (and an attempt to fool others).

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  16. Hi John,

    yes, it was for you. sorry.

    Your point I think is extremely valid. The art of reading the bible (or any text for that matter) is as much one of projecting our own values, beliefs and assumptions upon the text as it is one of fishing for information.

    Very very hard to tell the difference.

    I think cognitive scientists have done much to teach and explain how that works, not only with our reading, but in all the ways we sense the universe around us. The theory is well developed in the mathematical sciences as well. Image compression techniques for television and youtube, GPS receivers and cell phones are all products of such theory.

    Basically we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear and make small adjustments as we go based on perceived contradictions.

    We have to in order to function.

    The raw amount of data coming at us all the time is more than the largest fastest computers can process by far. This little ball of meat in our skulls seems to manage it fine, but not without some clever tricks that can have some serious pitfalls.

    (Which leaves charlatans an opening. All they have to do is manipulate our perceptions and we will read/see/hear what they want want us to.)

    The implications to theology and ethics are tectonic. If your faith is based on what you think you read in the bible you are going to be in for a really rough ride. You start to understand why Fundamentalists hate science so much. It creates too much cognitive dissonance.

    So the theological question of our time really is what is the basis of our faith. But we should not let the Fundamentalists hijack the bible in order to save their faith. It belongs to all of us.

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  17. Grace is making your case! All this single issue church politics makes no sense. Why split over the topic of homosexuality when no other issue is cause for split?

    I disagree with Grace that descending into a theological witchhunt to get rid of all the heretics is somehow better.

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  18. Fly,

    I'm heading out the door for the weekend. So, won't be around for awhile.

    But, hey, I don't want to get rid of anyone. I'm all about lovin, and telling the truth, praying for "conversion."

    If He can bring me, this skeptic to faith..Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

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  19. If He can bring me, this skeptic to faith..Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

    Apparently, it is a bit more of a challenge for the Lord to bring Grace to an understanding that those clergy whom she declares

    "have totally left their ordination vows, affirm heresy, and have rejected the gospel, mock the resurrection of the Lord.."

    may actually have something to teach her.

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