September 23, 2014

A Horse of a Different Color

Misreading Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
by E. Randolph Richards & Brandon J. O’Brien
IVP Books (2012)

This is part one of a series of discussion-starters from this fine book.

* * *

“That is a good horse,” said the man as he watched it pull the farmer’s plow with strength.

“That is a good horse,” said the girl at the circus as she watched it do a series of amazing tricks.

“That is a good horse,” said the guide as he pointed the novice rider to one that he recommended for the trail ride.

“That is a good horse,” said the rodeo rider as he picked himself up and brushed himself off after having been thrown to the ground.

“That is a good horse,” said the bettor as he went to pick up his winnings after the filly he chose won the race.

“That is a good horse,” said the owner of the horse farm as she walked up to the prospective buyer who was purchasing a special gift for his daughter.

“That is a good horse,” said the guest at the table of his Kyrgyz hosts who had just finished the meal he had been served.

Five words. The same five words. And yet, five words that convey entirely different meanings because they are spoken in five different contexts and cultures.

Is the horse good because it is a dependable worker? Is the horse good because it is entertaining, having been trained to do unhorse-like things? Is the horse good because it is gentle with new riders? Is the horse good because it provides a top challenge for a skilled rodeo rider? Is the horse good because it runs fast? Is the horse good because it would be a suitable gift? Or is it good because it tastes good?

Is it a good farm horse? circus horse? trail-riding horse? rodeo horse? racehorse? pet? meal?

E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien remind us that reading is not as simple as we imagine, and that reading a book like the Bible is an even more complex task.

We can easily forget that Scripture is a foreign land and that reading the Bible is a crosscultural experience. To open the Word of God is to step into a strange world where things are very unlike our own. Most of us don’t speak the languages. We don’t know the geography or the customs or what behaviors are considered rude or polite.

…Another way to say this is that all Bible reading is necessarily contextual. There is no purely objective biblical interpretation. This is not postmodern relativism. We believe truth is truth. But there’s no way around the fact that our cultural and historical contexts supply us with habits of mind that lead us to read the Bible differently than Christians in other cultural and historical contexts.

One of my favorite examples the authors give involves the familiar story of the “Prodigal Son.” They cite a professor who did an experiment in reading this parable from Luke 15. He had students in his small seminary class read it and then retell the story to a partner. Not one of the student mentioned the “famine” in Luke 15:14 which precipitated the son’s return home. Finding this omission intriguing, he repeated the experiment in a group of one hundred people. Only six mentioned the famine. All of the participants were from the United States.

On another occasion the professor had the chance to repeat the experiment with a group of fifty students in St. Petersburg, Russia. Forty-two out of fifty mentioned the famine! The authors point out that Russians had experienced several famines in their recent history. It was a part of their life and something with which they were familiar, whereas those from the United States had no such background.

Americans tend to treat the mention of the famine as an unnecessary plot device. Sure, we think the famine makes matters worse for the young son. He’s already penniless, and now there’s no food to buy even if he did have the money. But he has already committed his sin, so it goes without being said that the main issue in the story is his wastefulness, not the famine.

…Christians in other parts of the world understand the story differently. In cultures more familiar with famine, like Russia, readers consider the boy’s spending less important than the famine. The application of the story has less to do with willful rebellion and more to do with God’s faithfulness to deliver his people from hopeless situations. The boy’s problem is not that he is wasteful but that he is lost.

horse_of_a_different_color___bright_colored_abstract_horse_64fd7e343e611f5e67ade2d3178798d6The authors’ point is not that one of these interpretations is “right” and the other “wrong.” Rather, they only want to suggest that we read the Bible out of our cultural context. We can’t help but do so. We need to be aware of this and do all we can to factor in our cultural blinders when we advance our interpretive conclusions.

However, there is a problem according to Richards and O’Brien — the most powerful cultural values that affect us are those of which we are least aware. It’s like an iceberg. We are able to identify only some of our presuppositions and conscious assumptions. However most of these powerful, shaping influences are below the surface, out of our sight. “The most powerful cultural values are those that go without being said,” claim the authors. We are fish that take little notice of the water in which we live. When we read the Bible, we tend to fill in any “gaps” of understanding with pieces from our own cultural perspectives — subconsciously.

The horse that you see may be a horse of a different color to me. And neither of us may really understand why.

Comments

  1. “our cultural and historical contexts supply us with habits of mind that lead us to read the Bible differently than Christians in other cultural and historical contexts”

    Which is why we interpret scripture with a close eye on the church’s past 2000 years of interpretation and don’t make up wholly new doctrines never before taught by the church.

    • Viva Tradition!

    • And how much of the church’s 2000 years of interpretation has been colored and shaped by Western culture and philosophy?

      Or rather, I’m genuinely curious about how much non-Western Biblical scholarship has made it into our body of regularly cited literature about interpretation. Are there oft-quoted African church fathers from Ethopia or other places where Christianity got to early on? (I’m not sure we can count Early African Church fathers like Augustine as being really non-Western, but feel free to disagree.) What about India? Christianity has been there at least apocryphally since the apostle Thomas. Are there theologians there who helped shape the Church’s interpretation through the centuries?

      • The Catholic Church is very much catholic in this regard. The Doctors of the Church who chimed in on Scripture and who underscore 2000+ years of tradition hail from the corners of the earth.

        As ever, not trying to convert anyone, but for me, the beauty of my faith is that it IS all over the world…….and that minds far more intelligent, learned, and Spirit-filled than mine have put scripture into context. I am not a historian,sociologist, antropologist, or theologian; I don’t read Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic; and my devotion to the Lord could be much more intense. Thankfully, there are men and women, past and present, who have gone before me, and left me with guidance, so that my own stupidity and blind spots don’t mislead me or allow me to read my own opinions into the Word of Godd.

        • +1

          The early discussions came from both east and west with North Africa mixed in.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          It’s the solid historical trace (plus tolerance for eccentricity and creative arts) that ended up with me swimming the Tiber.

          Far too many Evangelicals have the same take on church history as the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses:
          1) The original New Testament Church at the time of the Apostles, founded by Christ in 33 AD and perfect in every way (and coincidentally Just Like Our Church, Altar Calls, KJV, Pre-Trib Rapture, and all).
          2) But it went off the rails into Apostasy (usually Romish Popery) by Constantine at the latest.
          3) And all was darkness and Apostasy and Satanic False Church and Mystery Babylon until…
          4) The Founder of Our Church restored the Original New Testament Church — US! (Some trace this re-founding to the Protestant Reformation in general, others to the founding of Our Particular Church by Our Head Apostle/Founding Pastor. Some, like Landmark Baptists, try to maintain a trace through various non-Papist side groups, trying to establish their own variant form of Apostolic Succession.)

          This multi-century gap between the New Testament Church and My Church has the side effect of putting the times of the Apostles and the writing of the New Testament into a mythological “Holy History” with no direct connection to present-day reality, just like any other mythology. they become Old Stories from way-back-when, Myth in every sense of the word.

          • This is what I’ve read described elsewhere as “ecclesial deism” (I’ll let you Google the term.). In other words, Jesus founded the church, but then failed to protect it from error, which it rapidly fell into. Until OUR GUY ™ came along to set things right.

            A couple of too-brief observations. [WARNING BROAD BRUSH GENERALIZATIONS] This immediately raises the question of “uh, what about those folks in the years from say 400-1517? Were any of those folks saved?” Some deal with this, some don’t. The Reformed response to that is part of the doctrine of election, God saves whom He will no matter if they’re in an apostate body. Interestingly, Mormonism deals with this by trying to retroactively baptize all the dead they can find.

          • Well, he certainly failed to “protect it” from the error that led to it exterminating those ecclesial deists the Cathars, and almost exterminating that other group of ecclesial deists the Waldensians, didn’t he? It’s a theological commonplace that the empirical church is not coextensive with the true church, neither in the past nor in the present. What kept the church unified through the Middle Ages was fratricidal hegemony, pure and simple. The medieval church was an extension of the same collusion of state and religious interests that crucified Jesus in the first century; in that cultural context, the horse looks very red indeed.

      • I think that probably depends on what you mean by “non-Western”… how about the Churches at Alexandria or Antioch? Western or non-Western? Both had a huge part to play in the development of Biblical exegesis…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          If they were before Constantine, they pre-date the split between Western and Eastern (and Coptic?). Things were still shaking down back then, and the later differences didn’t exist — at least not in the same form.

          Though my tradition is definitely Western-Rite Liturgical (RCC), these days I tend more towards the Eastern Rite’s concept of “Christus Victor” than the Western-Rite tradition (from Augustine) of Original Sin.

          • They pre-date the various schisms, for sure, but it’s all still from cultures that were impacted by the Roman Empire…. all I’m saying, is that one man’s East is another man’s West.

            You should definitely check out an Eastern Rite Mass if you haven’t had the chance…I’ve been to a few Maronite Masses, and while it’s not as desperately beautiful as the Divine Liturgy of Chrysostom like you find in the Byzantine Rite and Eastern Orthodox Churches, it’s still an intense liturgical experience for those of us RCC that are used to the Novus Ordo…

        • I have in my library one of the Classics of _Western_ Spirituality series: St. Ephrem of Syria, who lived near what is now Kirkuk,Kurdistan in northern Iraq.

    • +1000

    • True, but they are no less susceptible to being overly influenced by their culture(s). Age or popularity don’t necessarily make them accurate.

    • The tradition of the church is obviously not an infallible guide, but it is an indispensable resource for helping us penetrate our own cultural blinders.

  2. Three things.

    1. I live in a rural area and have gotten involved in the farming community. Kids go to 4-H. We’ve started raising livestock. I’ve gotten more into gardening and have a small orchard. Suddenly, I have found that a lot of Biblical allusions have so much more meaning. People talk about “Bible codes” and numerology hiding messages in the Bible, always on the hunt for “secret” stuff. The fact is, the “secrets” are in plain sight. Our urban and suburban cultures are totally blind to the significance and meaning of most of the agricultural allusions and historical setting. Even an intellectual explanation is inadequate when compared with actually working with sheep, goats, vines, and fruit trees.

    2. My daughter is on a missionary internship working with Bible translators. She is learning first hand that it’s not easy to translate the Bible into another language/culture/people group. When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” what do you do in a rice-based culture that doesn’t have bread? And just as importantly, what of the culture that takes the translations and pushes analogies beyond their original intent and meaning? And what of our culture that does the same?

    3. The British made a miniseries about post-WWII soldiers in Palestine and their experience handing over what became Israel to the Jews. It is called The Promise and is available on hulu: http://www.hulu.com/the-promise I watched this in startled awe because I could not comprehend the deep tribal hatreds that infected all sides and continue to infect all sides in the Middle East conflict. Tribal hatreds are so foreign to Americans that so much of the Bible goes past us without even a glance because, as was pointed out about the famine, there are important points of the story that are alien to our culture, so we miss them.

    I look forward to getting this book and reading it. Thank you for posting it, CM.

  3. Interesting. I’m doing a series on the book at my blog as well. I’ve done a couple posts already. I still think Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet and Peter Enns’ Inspiration & Incarnation focus on the challenge of hermeneutics even better. But the book above does help conservative Christians very much understand the challenges we face in Bible reading, interpretation and application.

  4. And one more comment. Martin Palmer’s book “The Jesus Sutras” is an excellent example of “what would happen if…?” treatment of Christianity. Those who ask to what degree the current stat of Western Christianity is a fabrication and artifact of Western Culture and how much of it is “true” Christianity (philosophical discussion worth having right there – what if Jesus intended that Christianity adapt to the surrounding culture?) can find an alternative culture where Christianity developed and see how it was shaped in this book. You can get it form Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/aq8865c

    Another source of non-Western Christian thought can be found in the nearly 2,000 years of Coptic Christianity. In this we see an African form of Christianity shaped by the surrounding culture. A lot of their works have been destroyed, but there is still a tremendous body of writing that is worth investigating.

  5. That was interesting about mentioning or not mentioning the famine, Chaplain Mike. I think I would have been one of those many Americans who did not mention it.

    • For what it’s worth, this would be true of American me as well.

      Further, a statistical sample of 1 indicates that Taiwanese recollections of the parable forget the famine as much as we Americans. My wife actually had to look it up in her Chinese-language Bible to believe me when I told her about it.

      Fascinating!

  6. You know, I’ve been going to church all my life, attended Sunday School faithfully as a kid, was active in youth group, was briefly studying for the ministry as a young adult… in other words, I’ve probably heard the parable of the Prodigal Son a thousand times if I’ve heard it once. And I don’t think I’ve EVER noticed that a famine takes place in the story…crazy! I just looked the verse up to double check, because I couldn’t believe it. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I found myself saying, “Famine? What famine?” When reading the above. I’ve been hearing and reading that story since I was a baby. In fact, when I was in pre-school and early elementary school, my favorite tape was an adaptation of the Prodigal Son but with bugs and ants, called “Antshillvania.” And I knew from the get-go that it was based on the bible story of “The Boy Who Ran Away” (as I called it back then).

  7. That was truly fascinating. I just put this at the top of my Amazon wishlist. As I shared this on Facebook it really struck me just how scary the word “famine” should be. If I happen to get the chance to read this I think I’ll substitute “horrific terrorist attack” for famine – and then point out that your average famine is far worse than any terrorist attack.

    I have a feeling Jesus was very intentional with this, setting it up as a bit of a standard morality play and then pulling the rug out from under the whole thing and making the moral failures much less relevant.

    • I like that. I’ll have to reread the parable with that in mind.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In another blog, someone related that the Prodigal Son might have been a twist on a standard morality fable where the Older Brother was the hero for keeping Torah and family honor. If so, Jesus took a standard morality fable and filked it with a one-eighty twist ending. I can appreciate that.

      • Indeed, the story is as much about the stubbornness of the older brother as it is the salvation of the younger. And to support the notion that this was a twist on a Jewish morality fable, I have heard many a Christian articulate their support and empathy for the older brother! Seems that “keeping the Torah and family honor” is alive and well, even with Jesus followers!

  8. The NT prof that Richards and O’Brien refer to who discovered the Prodigal Son ‘difference in meaning’) is Mark Allan Powell (of Trinity Lutheran Seminary). He has written a book (one of nearly 20 he’s written) along these same lines, about what we hear, and how/why we interpret the bible the way we do – especially in how congregations and pastors differ in what they hear in the gospel stories.

  9. Why am I intuitively afraid to order this book as if it is going to be one of those life-shaking things? But I am ordering it anyway.

    Thanks Chaplain Mike. I think.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    Even our 2000 years of church history and tradition can mislead us, because every step of the way the fingerprints of various interpreters remain stuck in our heads. Just because something was “passed down” doesn’t mean we understand the cultural milieu from which it started. If that were true then examples such as “famine” would have been clear to us on first glimpse. That doesn’t necessarily mean that doctrinal theses that have been given to us are wrong. It just means that we are missing a lot when we read and study the bible. We have better tools now for arriving at biblical understanding than did our church forefathers.

    • True we have better tools for study, but we are also much farther removed from primitive cultures than they were. Phrases like “daily bread” have no impact on us in our age of canning, packaging, and refrigeration. Storing up in barns and building bigger barns has become so acceptable that we take it for granted (SS plus 401K anyone?). Just technology alone has far removed us from the historic reference point. I think their proximity in time gives them a great advantage over us.

      • David Cornwell says:

        True, at least in some ways. However I think the tools we have now can bring new understanding of ancient cultures. I would never throw out tradition because it’s one of the legs we stand on. We learn from each other hopefully. However the book makes clear that we also lack total understanding of ancient texts. Reading Luther or Calvin alone won’t restore it.

        However it seems that the bible always brings it’s most important meanings to us even across traditions, cultures, and the church fathers. God still speaks to even the most simple and least educated of us through it.

        Anyway, this is an interesting discussion.

        By the way TPD, your photo looks very interesting. I like those kinds of roads.

  11. Recent filters placed on scripture are so difficult to remove. This may have begun with liberals applying textual criticism, but conservatives have applied their own similar filters in the forms of systematic theology, where scripture is bent to stay consistent with the systematic construct, rather than the other way around. Another of course is the on-going discussions of applying scientific exactitude to scripture. And of course there is the issue of political correctness which has gone on for centuries. I read a few years ago how the King James version – the darling of fundamentalism – was edited in a way to soften passages which may have cast a negative view of the crown. Try as we may to make chronological or chapterless versions of the bible, these filters remain. The filters are in the eyes of our leaders, which leads to the blind leading the blind.

  12. That Other Jean says:

    Context, context, context–we have to consider it to understand, yet so often we don’t. I’ve studied a lot of history, and had it drummed into my head by many a professor that we see history through the lens of our own lives and cultures; yet we forget. Unless we study a different culture in its own context, we will misunderstand–and to do that, we have to consciously learn what life meant to the people who lived it.

    All that applies to modern cultures, as well. I had that brought home to me just yesterday, when I went out for sushi with my sister. She loves smoked salmon; I don’t. I picked up the piece that came with my order with my chopsticks; but there was no place to set it down in the bento box in which her lunch had been served, so I held it out to her. She hesitated for a long time before she took it, then explained ( she has two Japanese daughters-in-law) that to pass food directly from one set of chopsticks to another is considered quite rude in Japan. It should always be set down on something before it is given to the other person. I will not soon forget.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    However, there is a problem according to Richards and O’Brien — the most powerful cultural values that affect us are those of which we are least aware.

    That’s why they’re called “blind spots”; because only an outsider to the culture is aware of them.

    As an example, let’s take slavery and race in the Civil War period, when White Supremacy was as fundamental a law of Nature as gravity on both sides of Mason-Dixon. (An attitude which persisted well into the 20th Century.) In one of his standalone time-travel/alternate-history SF novels (Guns of the South), Harry Turtledove wrote a very harrowing slave auction scene, whose impact comes from being played completely straight. Including a secondary character who’s a retired Confederate Army officer we’ve encountered earlier in the war, great officer to his men, courageous, virtuous, and considerate, who remarks he’s at the auction because “I’m thinking of selling off some of my n*gg*rs and wanted to see how the prices are running.” And this is normal to everyone there, nothing out of the ordinary at all.

    And every time I read a scene like that, I observe “That was their blind spot, invisible and normal to them, obvious to us now.” (Later in the same novel, a copy of a 20th Century history showing the Confederates what future generations thought of their Peculiar Institution has quite an impact.) And after observing, I wonder “What are our blind spots? What of us would be so obvious and odious to someone 150 years from now?” And in my attempts at far-future SF, I try to take that into account.

    • If quoted this before, but it fits perfectly with your comment, HUG. It’s from C.S. Lewis’ Introduction to Anthanasius’ On the Incarnation:

      Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. . . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

  14. OK. Chaplain Mike, you’ve found my hot button. Without mincing words, I believe that a serious injection of the historic and cultural context of Scripture could well be the cure for what ails the evangelical church in America and elsewhere. Intellectual vigor would return to the study of scripture and that would, in turn, attract a large segment of the substance-starved evangelical body back in droves. More importantly, the whole story of God’s intervention in history would be revealed in wide-screen, full dimensional technicolor (with dolby sound). First, however, seminaries need to teach it. To the best of my knowledge, few pastors have been exposed to it and, as a result, find nowhere to go beyond ingrained denominational traditions and wallowing in their comfort zones. Your thoughts on that count, CM?

    The doors should open later this year for the Institute of Biblical Context in Colorado Springs. The mission will be to fill in the gaps in the education of both pastors and laity from across the country. Doug Greenwold, Senior Teaching Fellow at Preserving Bible Times near Washington, is now developing the curriculum. They deserve our attention and support. We feature Doug live every Wednesday morning on the air at Broken Road Radio, for those interested. His podcasts are also available on our site. Context is a huge priority for us.

    Another book well worth your time is Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” also published by Intervarsity Press. Dr. Bailey illustrates how cultural bias can thoroughly obfuscate scriptural intent, describing a certain Pacific Islander culture that particularly values cleverness and deception as personal traits. In their reading of the Passion of Christ, Judas becomes the hero and Jesus the poor fool who was duped. Among other topics, this book devotes some 150 pages to the cultural decoding of many of Jesus’ parables and explains why parables were His chosen tool for reaching His first-century Middle Eastern agrarian audience. I obtained the book from Amazon.com. It has fast become a prized possession.

    • Bailey’s book sounds great, Jim. I suspect the Pacific culture he was referring to was the Sawi from New Guinea, detailed in Don Richardson’s excellent “Peace Child.” If you haven’t ever read it, you might enjoy it.

      • Thank you for the tip, Damaris. I may just make that my first e-book to read on the Kindle I got for Christmas!

        Dr. Bailey grew up in Egypt and has spent 60 years there all told, teaching in seminaries all across the Middle East, including Cyprus, Lebanon and Jerusalem. He also maintains that there is a huge body of Arabic Christian literature on the Gospels that few of us here in the west are even remotely acquainted with. Ahh, so many books, so little time …. :)

    • Bailey’s work is important especially where he points out things that go right over our heads. One being the honor/shame framework that dominates the cultures of the Bible. We are aghast when we hear of ‘honor killings’ on the news, but in some cultures, bringing shame to the tribe or clan is literally a capital offense. The Prodigal Son does everything that would bring horrible shame down on his family; the older son does everything to bring honor to the family. His response at the end is the natural response: “You honor the one who brings shame to us? The one who made us a laughingstock? That made the Smiths refuse to let me marry their daughter? And HE gets a party?”

    • Bailey’s book is quite good, though he does tend to read a little too much current middle-eastern culture back into biblical times, which is not nearly as anachronistic as what one usually finds preached from pulpits every week. One key observation Bailey makes is how much attention is given to women in the gospels, which in itself was somewhat scandalous in those days.

      Another important author, who brings invaluable Greco-Roman cultural insight to Paul’s letters is Bruce W. Winter. His three main works (‘Philo and Paul Among the Sophists’ [his doctoral thesis], ‘After Paul Left Corinth’ [indispensible for understanding the issues in 1 Corinthians], and ‘Seek the Welfare of the City’ [emphasizing the role that client-patron relationships played in New Testament times and arguing the apostles encouraged participation in secular, even political life in the Empire]) definitely shed light on (and debunk many traditional interpretations) Paul’s letters.

  15. Interesting stuff. When you think about it, some of this played out in the writing of the gospels. Most theologians agree that Matthew wrote his gospel account for a Jewish audience by including many Jewish references, while Mark wrote his for the Gentiles, leaving out many of the Jewish elements that the Gentiles wouldn’t relate to.

    Once the Bible was “set in stone” so to speak, however, there could be no further additions that might address/target any other culture that wasn’t either “Jewish” or “Gentile.” No additions to be written specifically for the Muslim culture, or the urban American, or the Chinese, etc. That means translation is VERY important.

  16. I used to have an old “Peanuts” cartoon on my office bulletin board. Snoopy was at a typewriter (I told you it was old) working on a book on theology. Charlie Brown said, “I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy replied, “I do–Have You Ever Thought that You Might Be Wrong?” We all know far too many people who haven’t and maybe wouldn’t ever, think that.

  17. It’s interesting to push this line of thinking forward from contemporary Western culture to where Christianity is obviously headed demographically: the Global South. To what extent are the burgeoning expressions of Christianity in Africa and parts of Asia embued with those cultures’ assumptions?

    In what ways are Korean Presbyterians different from Indian Believer’s Church members? How do these differ from Nigerian Anglicans or Angolan Pentecostals? Are the distinctives primarily the result of varied missional origins, or (especially as time goes by) are these swamped by cultural elements?

    • What may be worse, along with christianity a set of cultural assumptions/standards is also being promoted.

      So, what this post by CM is saying is that maybe we can’t always read the bible plainly? Oh such heresy!!!

    • Josh in FW says:

      good questions

  18. I once had a boss named Horace Stone. When he neared retirement, I hoped he would convert to Catholicism and enter the priesthood. Then he would have been a Horace of a different collar. Alas, he disappointed me.

    This is a true story that probably says more about me than about Horace..

    • Ouch. :-)

    • Instead, he took up marine ornithology, at which he was so good that even professional ornithologists would say, “there was no tern unStoned.”

    • I’ve heard of him. He’s quite popular and was being courted by many institutions of higher learning. Apparently, everybody must get Stone.

  19. Christiane says:

    I’m blogging over at SBCvoices, and Grudem is being put forth as a biblical expert there. My problem is that I can’t seem to make sense of ‘The God Who Hates Sinners’ comments . . .

    this is probably for me the most frustrating experience, where I point to Christ as the fullness of Revelation ever given to us about God, and I’m told that according to the Bible, I am wrong about seeing the truth about God through the lens of Christ.

  20. Thanks CM This looks like a great read.

    Hopefully you don’t take this suggestion/critique awry, but here it is:

    I didn’t totally know who “they” were when you wrote ” One of my favorite examples that they give involves the familiar story of the “Prodigal Son.” ”

    I think you should have said “the author gives” or “examples mentioned”

    Blessings!