Sunday, October 01, 2006

On the Narrow (Pt. 2)

I can't adequately describe the position that the Bible is authoritative but open to allowing us to determine our own morality, because I don't fully understand it. I've been reading quite a bit of articles written from this viewpoint, but I just don't get it. That may be my fault...I might not be smart enough, elite enough, or too entrenched in my fundamentalist, evangelical indoctrination. Or, maybe it doesn't make sense.

I've always said, that if you come to the Bible and something seems wrong, it's probably you. And I'm adding a second clause: if something Biblical needs as much explanation as the idea that Jesus left the door open for us to create our own moral setting, then it's probably made up. The new clause isn't quite as concise, definitive, or certain as the original, but I'm just throwing it out there. This article is from Progressive Christian Witness, a site dedicated to the spread of progressive theology.

I think this part is the key:

But sometimes, also, like the biblical writers—prayerfully and within the lively mind of the community—we take views that differ from some of the past voices in sacred Scripture...We do so, not despite the Bible, but because of it. We live in relation to our sacred Scripture—always listening, always learning, sometimes reverently “talking back”—because it empowers and, indeed, impels us to do so.

The Bible "impels" us to talk back and take differing views? Yes, and a Jenny Craig luncheon is a good place to find a perfectly cooked porterhouse. I believe the Bible tells us, in a few places, that changing or adding or reducing teh Scriptures is purely wrong. Jesus, though he laid to rest some aspects of the Mosaic Law(ritual washing, food laws, tithing) and focused on the freedom to be found in him, said that not one "jot or tittle" (the smallest letter and the smallest mark in Hebrew) will pass from the law until "everything is accomplished". I don't know how that works exactly, but it's there nontheless. Perhaps it means we should stay away from polycotton blends. He does say that the Law breaker will be call the least in the kingdom of heaven, so I guess you can still get it, you'll just get the first floor apartment with the bad plumbing.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11 and Galatians 1 that if anyone comes preaching a Gospell different from the one they (the apostles) had preached, then let them be eternally condemned. Now we know that the apostles were (at the time) 13 individuals who had their own style and rhetoric, so the Gospell each preached must have had some stylistic differences. But in scope and substance they had to be the same, based on their own writings, particularly Peter and Paul's endorsements of each other.

So how exactly does the Bible "impel" us to talk back and come up with views that oppose it? The author of this article uses one of the definitions of the Greek word "exousia" to promote this position. The word is translated as "authority", and is used a number of times in the Bible. The definition he uses is this: power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.

Typically, as in Matthew 7, it is attributed to Jesus, and rightly so. The Son of God, does have the power of choice. But it can also mean physical strength, and, the most likely candidate, the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed. Now, most of us, when discussing Biblical authority, and the authority of Christ, will acknowledge the first definition, but give the most creedence to the last. Jesus and the Bible both drip with "the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to." As a Christian you can't deny that. So, how does this type of authority encourage and impel opposing viewpoints?

The story of Israel and the Gospel are based in love, and God is love. Love conquers all, but not the feel-good, live and let live kind of love that is alluded to by this type of theology. But the real problem is not that idea of love, it's the idea that our thoughts are more imortant than the Bible. So much so that if the Bible disagrees with us, it must be wrong. What a world.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,'
declares the LORD.

'As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"

Isaiah 55:8-9

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight?
I Corinthians 3:19


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