Friday, 28 March 2008

Treating the Bible Properly

Blomberg has been interviewed over at Between Two Worlds. One of the questions asked of him was:
Are there certain mistaken hermeneutical presuppositions made by conservative evangelicals that play into the hands of liberal critics?

Absolutely. And one of them follows directly from the last part of my answer to your last question. The approach, famously supported back in 1976 by Harold Lindsell in his Battle for the Bible (Zondervan), that it is an all-or-nothing approach to Scripture that we must hold, is both profoundly mistaken and deeply dangerous. No historian worth his or her salt functions that way. I personally believe that if inerrancy means “without error according to what most people in a given culture would have called an error” then the biblical books are inerrant in view of the standards of the cultures in which they were written. But, despite inerrancy being the touchstone of the largely American organization called the Evangelical Theological Society, there are countless evangelicals in the States and especially in other parts of the world who hold that the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative, even if not inerrant, and they are not sliding down any slippery slope of any kind. I can’t help but wonder if inerrantist evangelicals making inerrancy the watershed for so much has not, unintentionally, contributed to pilgrimages like Ehrman’s. Once someone finds one apparent mistake or contradiction that they cannot resolve, then they believe the Lindsells of the world and figure they have to chuck it all. What a tragedy!
A slightly different but related issue being perennially discussed here in NZ is the place of the whole Scriptures in our theological and ethical formation. For example:

Thankyou for your response to my question - as to whether there is any part of Scripture you could no longer support (or believe in). Indeed, you have provided just a few items which might embarrass you to have to subscribe to in today's world. However, I particularly noted your reference to 'development in certain ways in Scripture' that might just support my contention that 'not all of Scripture as it is presented to us is to be relied upon for guidance in today's world'.

I repeat your third paragraph here:

(3)Clearly we find development in certain ways in Scripture. The
punishments prescribed for the community to enact in Leviticus are
remitted by the teaching and example of Jesus. The question of
whether we are authorised to continue such development beyond
Scripture (e.g. on the basis of the Johannine understanding that the
Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth) is a large one. The Roman
Catholic church offers one answer, the Pentecostal church another,
and the liberal wing of the Anglican church yet another. Speaking as an evangelical who has consciously refrained from becoming RC, or Pentecostal or a liberal Anglican I continue to work theologically on the basis of being grounded in Scripture - the whole of Scripture.

You talk here about 'The punishments prescribed for the community to enact in Leviticus are remitted by the teaching and example of Jesus'. Precisely! The moral and theological concepts of Jesus are not always those of the Old Testament. Nor, I suspect, are some of the teachings Paul in line with what Jesus himself might have taught. In other words, the Dominical teaching is, par excellence, the teaching that is commended to the Church as primary, in its engagement with the world on matters of theology, orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

With regard to your statement in your note (i), you infer, that to say Jesus said nothing about homosexuality is 'a false statement'. That may be your opinion. But there again, are you the expert here? You say that Jesus never 'abrogated' the moral aspects of the Law. However, he certainly made sure that the woman caught in the act of adultery was not stoned! Was that not an abrogation of the Law!

You have also implied that Jesus 'by implication' did say something about homosexuality. I cannot personally find any evidence of that. can you tell me where i might find it? However, we'll stretch a point and say that there might be a possibility that his teaching about heterosexuality applied equally to homosexuality. Then, the very same proscriptions would apply. No more and no less!

You say that a "proper engagement with Scripture at this point would incorporate a careful study of the relationship between 'law' and 'gospel' - with particular reference to Pauls 'law of Christ' " The verse which you quoted say just this: "You should carry each other's troubles and fulfil the law of Christ". It is interesting that, in my J.B. version, this section is headed: 'On kindness and perseverance'. This heading alone indicates that Christ's 'New Commandment' - to love - is paramount in our relationships one to another - whether those relationships are of marriage, kinship or friendship.

In my understanding of orthodoxy, Peter, if God does not condemn something, then God cannot help but bless it. Remember, Jesus came not into this world to condemn the world, but to redeem it. We are all sinners, and Christ came into the world to save sinners - that's you and me, and every single person that God has created in the divine Image and Likeness of God's self. It is my job and yours, as clergy in our Church, to proclaim the Good News of God's love for all God's children. My hands were meant to bless, not curse. Why? Because that is my calling and vocation - not to condemn people to hell, but to show them the way to heaven.

Such an approach seeks to (impossibly) posit the person of God over the words of God, and I think, is seen implicitly in the practice of standing for (only) the gospel reading. Biblical Theology, Divine authorial intent, and, somewhat ironcially, a truly Christological hermeneutic need to be applied to the second author's position. When I get the time...

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