November 18, 2017

The Bible: An Ongoing Dialogue

In short, the very creation of Scripture stemmed from an ongoing dialogue between God and God’s people, and of God’s people with one another, as they sought to know God and God’s workings in the world and faithfully to respond to God’s call.

• Karl Allen Kuhn. Having Words With God: The Bible As Conversation

• • •

I have just started reading what looks to be a remarkable book on scripture, called, Having Words With God: The Bible As Conversationby Karl Allen Kuhn. Today, I will just share a quote from Richard Bauckham that Kuhn cites.

These words remind us that the Bible is what Pete Enns calls “messy,” not lending itself to common characterizations of scripture as an inerrant handbook of propositional teachings and practical instructions.

Kuhn will make the case that the Bible is “a conversation,” “an invitation to sacred dialogue.” But before we get there, it is important to recognize that the nature of scripture is much more compatible with this understanding than it is with the “inerrant handbook” view.

Here is Bauckham’s quote:

[T]he diversity [of the Bible] is such that readers of Scripture have their own work to do in discerning the unity of the story. Moreover, the diversity of different versions of the story is not the only feature of Scripture that requires such work. There is the sheer profusion of narrative material in Scripture, the narrative directions left unfinished, the narrative hints that enlist reader’s imagination, the ambiguity of stories that leave their meaning open, the narrative fragments of the stories of prophets in their books of or writers and churches in the apostolic letters, the very different kinds of narrative that resist division into simply alternatives such as “history” and “myth,” or “fiction,” the references to stories external to Scripture. Such features, even apart from the bearing of the nonnarrative literature on the narrative, make any sort of finality in summarizing the biblical story inconceivable…. The church must be constantly retelling the story, never losing sight of the landmark events, never losing touch with the main lines of theological meaning in Scripture’s own tellings and commentaries, always remaining open to the never exhausted potential of the texts in their resonances with contemporary life.’

• Richard Bauckham, “Reading Scripture as a Coherent Story,” in The Art of Reading Scripture, ed. Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays, 43-44.

Karl Allen Kuhn summarizes:

Bauckham’s comments on Scripture’s narrative form help us to see that the goal of Scripture is not simply to provide us with a set of propositional truth claims or a detailed, one-size-fits-all-for-all-time list of the dos and don’ts of faithful life. Rather, the narrative form of Scripture leads us to lively, imaginative, and humble reflection with God and one another on what it means for us to live into God’s will in our time and place. This is its function in our lives of faith. “The church must be constantly telling the story,” Bauckham says, “always remaining open to the never exhausted potential of the texts in their resonances with contemporary life.” [emphasis mine]

Comments

  1. Yesterday a bright kid at church, 10 or 11 years old, asked in relation to the Old Testament text wherein God is said to have drowned horse and rider in the sea, “Why did the horses have to die?” Who has an answer to that question? I don’t. I mean, it’s obvious that the soldiers who were about to destroy the escaping Jews in the story are malefactors, and in some rough moral logic deserved their end, but the horses? No doubt this child is in need of understanding scripture as an invitation to dialogue, rather than a closed statement about the nature of God and the world. But who among his teachers at my church, or any church, has the tact, sensitivity, and perceptiveness to help him enter into that dialogue, in a way that will help him move toward mature grappling with a sensitive issue of theodicy? Who can help him to maintain faith in the midst of such a perplexing dialogical struggle?

    • “Why did the horses have to die?”

      Dramatic storytelling effect, whether written or oral. It’s in the same vein as “I’ll be with you always.” Clearly not.

      But that’s not a response that a child would necessarily understand. Or his adult leaders.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > “Why did the horses have to die?”

      My answer: because the consequences of evil/sin are not confined to the perpetrators, or the victims. Evil is a spreading stain, a poison that overflows its glass; and many of those consequences can never be undone [death being the most notable, but not only, example of ].

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      StuartB’s explanation is that of a storyteller.
      Adam Tauno Williams’s is more like a theologian’s.
      And never these twain shall meet.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Dunno I am comfortable with both. If it is exaggeration it serves the “theological” point.

        • Theology has always seemed more story than fact. If religion is what happens when God leaves the room, then theology is the story we tell around what facts we connect with.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Horse+rider = military might. Ergo,there is no power, particularly “earthly” power, greater than God. This passage figures prominently in the Holy Saturday Liturgy in EO (which children will hear and participate in every year). Horse+rider = power that can bring death; Christ is about to bust open the tomb,and Death’s power is not greater than God. *Both* storytelling *and* theology. The twain do meet, but not in a rigid “Bible as handbook” interpretation.

      Dana

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But in American Evangelicalism, there is ONLY “Bible as Handbook”.

        Chaplain Mike once speculated this was the result of the one-two punch of the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution, changing the Bible from the Old Stories of God and Man to a Spiritual Engineering Handbook of FACT, FACT, FACT.

    • Late to the party here, but I think you’re all over-thinking this. My simple answer to the question “Why did the horses have to die” would be:

      “I’m not sure, but I’m with you, my young man. I don’t like that they died, either.”

      • That sounds like the best approach, Rick. I know how the kid feels; I don’t like it either. It doesn’t much matter if it’s an historically correct account, or the stuff of religious legend and allegory: I don’t like that the horses died. It’s a part of the story that sucks.

        • Let’s expand the story even further. Can we assume that some of the Egyptians killed in the Red Sea were fairly innocent, maybe even kindly, loving husbands with young children at home? I’m not sure I like that part of the story, either. Or how about all the firstborn killed during Passover. Umm…

          • Agreed. The killed firstborn I really dislike.

            But the kid latched on to that image of horses and riders drowned by God in the sea; it’s a canticle, you know, meant to be sung in celebration. It bookmarks all the other things you mention, and more, as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Ben Carmack says:

    If Scripture is an errant non-handbook containing no propositional teaching of any practical value, any hope for social transformation according to the Gospel is dashed. Rather, Christianity becomes a purely interior, reflective faith powered by a Gnostic spark called “my relationship with Jesus” or “my relationship with Scripture.”

    You can either have an embodied faith that speaks to all of life, or you can have a Gnostic faith that helps you feel better about yourself, but doesn’t change your world or actions. Pick one.

    • False dichotomy. Especially because I’ve yet to see your gospel lead to any changed world or actions short of by the sword.

      I choose option C or D.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > False dichotomy.

        +1

        – Fallacy of the undistributed middle [assuming even that this is a linear spectrum with a “middle”]
        – Fallacy of the extremes.
        – False Dilemma / Bifurcation

    • Ben, why are you making the choices so stark and absolute? Why are you not reading the post more carefully?

      No one said the Bible contains no propositional truth or teaching of practical value. And please note that this is the farthest thing from Gnostic or individualized spiritual experience. It’s about “lively, imaginative, and humble reflection with God and one another on what it means for us to live into God’s will in our time and place.”

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        After reading the Rev. Bolz-Weber’s response to the the feckless Nashville Statement, I am waiting with bated breath to see the shape of that conversation.

        I have no problem with “humble” reflection. There is no lack, these days, of “lively” and “imaginative” reflection. The sideboard of IMonk is chock-a-block with it. ‘Faithful’ and ‘Discerning’, as always, are less in evidence, but then they always were.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        “These words remind us that the Bible is what Pete Enns calls ‘messy,’ not lending itself to common characterizations of scripture as an inerrant handbook of propositional teachings and practical instructions.”

        Why are you making the choices so stark and absolute? Why are you not writing your posts more carefully?

        If the Bible is “messy,” do you trust “messy” books to help you do big things, like structure society, teach you about eternal salvation, show you the way of Christ? Do you pay attention to the words you quote or the words you write on this blog for years and years? Do you think we’re all stupid and can’t understand what language conveys?

        • To say the Bible is not an inerrant handbook of propositional teachings and practical instructions does not mean it contains no propositional truths or practical instructions.

          That is the plain and simple meaning of what I was saying to you. This is not a zero sum game, Ben.

          And yes, I do trust “messy” books to do exactly what you’ve said, just as I trust an incarnate Savior who died a messy, hard to fathom death to give me new life.

          I don’t think you’re stupid, I just think you have a certain point of view and can’t tolerate anything that has the slightest appearance of contradicting it.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            “I don’t think you’re stupid, I just think you have a certain point of view and can’t tolerate anything that has the slightest appearance of contradicting it.”

            That’s hilarious coming from a guy who has deleted my comments multiple times. Phyisician, heal thyself.

            What’s lurking in the background of this conversation we’re having is this extreme, Gerhard Forde-influenced, anti-nomian “Lutheran” view of the law that’s been propounded by you on this site more times than I can count. Effectively, the Bible as law, the Bible as practical instruction for anybody, Christian or non-Christian, is eviscerated.

            Unless you’re willing to dump your antinomianism overboard, my indictment stands. Your Christianity is interior only, it is weak, and it is semi Gnostic.

            • “the Bible as law, the Bible as practical instruction for anybody, Christian or non-Christian, is eviscerated.”

              Good. It was never intended to function like that, at least not forever. Read Acts 15, and Hebrews 7-8. The Law was a burden Israel could never bear, and the New Covenant abrogated it. You want laws? Love God, and love your neighbor (which Jesus defined as EVERYONE, even your enemies) as you love yourself. That’s the sum of it.

              • Each book of the Bible (off the top of my head) was written decades after the events depicted, either by 1st or 3rd parties, or in the name of another party, and often written centuries after the oral traditions had been around the park a few times.

                If you don’t agree with that, with what the Bible actually is, our discussion is over, and I wish you a good day. I won’t entertain such fancies anymore. But for the rest of us, we have to remember that. These laws were collected over time and became oppressive and binding for a people that they no longer applied to or needed to apply to, and it took one man and his followers to break that open and remind people of what the point of all of it was.

                If you are a Christian, if you name Christ, then what Jesus said about Love God and Love Others is all there is. All there should be. That’s the teaching. Call yourself what you like otherwise.

            • Ben, I’d be much more open to having discussion with you about our disagreements, if you just weren’t so damn mean and if you didn’t ignore the vast majority of posts on this site that completely contradict what you’re saying.

              Oh, and BTW, not a Forde-ian Lutheran. Those guys used to rip me apart in the comments.

              • Ben Carmack says:

                Mike,

                I refer you to Stuart and Eyeore’s comments above. They are friendly commenters. They have read the content of iMonk and realize it agrees with them, for the most part.

                If you wanna be a liberal mainliner, own it.

                As for me being mean, I’m simply matching the snarkiness regularly displayed by regular commenters like Headless Unicorn Guy toward me in the past. I figure what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > If the Bible is “messy,” do you trust “messy” books to help you do
          > big things, like structure society,

          Absolutely, yes.

          > teach you about eternal salvation

          I doubt the bible is really “about” that, it is incidental.

          > , show you the way of Christ?

          Absolutely, yes. The same way as I trust messy people to do so.

          > Do you think we’re all stupid

          Occasionally, at least, I most certainly am.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > like structure society

            Aside: Huh? I’m not clear on what Scriptures say about that beyond ‘Monarchy Bad’; they are notably not sociological in nature. There is little to no socio-political critique of the structures that were present.

            • I had a friend in seminary tell me of a missionary acquaintance of his who insisted that the people he preached to move from tribal chiefdoms to elective town-hall democracy – because the latter was the definitive, BIBLICAL model of government.

              I shudder to think what twisted sort of exegesis would yield that conclusion.

        • Ronald Avra says:

          I have acquired a strong conviction that whatever perspective one approaches scripture from, the Chicago Statement notwithstanding, it will be a messy read.

          • Or it will teach us how to read the Bible differently, and instill in generations that it has always been thus the only way to read the Bible.

            I wonder when we’ll have an admittance on that. It would be **so** refreshing…

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2017/06/29/defenders-slavery-taught-us-bible/

            This approach makes us all a little less literate and a little less smart. It prevents us — forbids us — from seeing and making connections, only permitting us to consider isolated passages in isolation. This isn’t just due to the paramount, trump-card significance attributed to those carefully curated clobber-texts, but due to the clumsy concordance-ism by which those few texts are chosen.

            Consider the actual mechanism at work in that “Bible debate” over slavery. Consult the concordance and look up passages containing the words “slavery” or “slave.” But don’t look up passages containing the words “kidnap” or “captive” or “rape” or “oppression” or “bondage” or “justice” or “theft” or “wages” or “children.” Those passages are not allowed to be considered. The idea of a “biblical defense” of slavery only became possible once it was painstakingly extracted from the otherwise inextricable fact that such a defense would require a “biblical defense” of kidnapping, torture, theft, rape, abuse, oppression, and the forced destruction of families.

            Concordance-ism, in other words, does as much to distort our understanding of the “controversial subject” being debated as it does to distort our ability to read written language and understand it. And so these ongoing “Bible debates” shaped by the ideology of concordance-ism aren’t likely to help any of us better understand either what the Bible says or whatever it is we imagine we’re “debating.”

        • Dana Ames says:

          Ben,

          “big things” are nearly always done in small, person-to-person increments. In the first few hundred years of Christianity, society was actually restructured in that way.

          Christians nursed diseased people who were not related to them, did not abort their children, and cared for exposed and abandoned infants (mostly female).
          It seems that most Christians actually tried to live their – to the surrounding people – very strange sexual ethic.
          Following in the wake of their emergence from Judaism, Christian men treated their wives and daughters extremely well by the standards of the day.
          Christians ended gladiatorial games.
          Christians started the first hospitals and orphanages.
          Christians saw the value of, and preserved, already ancient learning. (The famed scientific prowess of Muslims, particularly in medicine, came from studying ancient Jewish and Greek writings that were preserved by Christians in the continuing Roman Empire of the east, which the Muslims accessed in places they conquered; it did not appear de novo.)
          Christians devoted themselves to prayer and hospitality (monastics).
          Christians were the only ones who spoke out against slavery; St Patrick in the 5th century was the first of whom we have written record regarding this.
          Christians promoted learning and had centers of learning, not only universities. (In the East, if you had access to Scripture and were literate, you were expected to read it.)
          Christians were the greatest patrons and producers of art and music.

          Most of this happened as grassroots movements; not much came down from authorities, governmental or ecclesiastical. The Church has always had its problems and issues, but all of the above happened in a time when the whole Church was sacramental and ecclesiastical – forgive me, long before the Reformation – and people did not have the split view of reality that had its roots in the late Renaissance and emerged fully in the Enlightenment.

          Christian anthropology is underneath all the ideas that have emerged in the last 2000, and especially the last 400 or so, that we take for granted, about human rights particularly, but about so much else that we deem either “conservative” or “progressive”, depending on one’s POV.

          I don’t know if you ever ask yourself questions like I began asking – as a Bible-loving Evangelical not wanting to be any other kind of Christian – when I got into my late 40s:
          What is the Good News?
          What is the meaning in suffering?
          Why, in supposedly Christian societies, has there been so little change?
          Jesus and Paul both said the Law is good; how do I reconcile that with what I have been taught, and experienced?
          If we can do nothing good outside of Christ, how come there are plenty of unbelievers doing good – atheists, or those who don’t have the Bible, or who have weird interpretations of it?
          If morality is what Jesus came to establish, why is “Christian” morality better than other morality? If Morality is the point, why shouldn’t I just become a Mormon or a Buddhist?
          Is there really no connection between “spiritual” and “earthly” realities?
          What does it mean to be fully human?
          …and yes… What is “salvation” actually?

          iMonk was one of the few places, and still is, where I can show up and attempt to talk charitably about stuff with other people who really do respect the Bible and are struggling to live the way we believe – from our reading of Scripture – that Jesus wants us to live, and not be pounded into the ground when people don’t agree with me. Sometimes the sarcasm stings a little, but I can say that, too. We’re all here because we’ve had some kind of frustration or another. (For example, one of my current frustrations is that Enns, though brilliant and an engaging writer, seems to be kind of spinning his wheels, after having asked some very good questions and helped us think about some important things.)

          Of course, you’re not obliged to answer, but I wonder: What is it that you want, really?

          • +1

            Amen.

          • Ben Carmack says:

            What is it I want?

            An acknowledgement of the obvious contradiction of chopping away at Scripture’s reliability and applicability on one hand (The Bible is “messy,” the Bible is errant, the people who wrote it weren’t who they said they were, applying the law is legalism), and, on the other hand, chiding evangelicals and conservative Christians of all stripes of lacking an “embodied, incarnational faith.”

            Look, if you want to apply Scripture, apply it! But once you do, you’ll find that you will, you know, have to believe what it says.

            • Dana Ames says:

              Sometimes the brush is really broad, that’s true. One of the reasons we need places to talk charitably about this stuff is so we can see where we’re over-generalizing. I’m not going to question others’ motives; I don’t even know my own much (?most) of the time. Part of being committed to Truth is being willing to tell the truth about how we encounter Scripture, and how some doctrines about Scripture that were held up for us as axiomatic have caused problems for our faith.

              Here are some things I do know, as someone who has wanted the True God since from when I can first remember anything, and has learned another language to fluency and done a bit of translating:

              One can’t say “The Bible says….” unless it is read in the original languages. Translation is an act of interpretation. So, reading Scripture in English, we are already one step removed from “what it says.” Even with knowledge of the original languages, everyone approaches it with biases of some sort. Those biases form an interpretive grid. This is easily observed in the variety of translations.

              *******Everyone******* reads Scripture through an interpretive grid – what we bring to the text. ALL text must be interpreted to be understood, Scripture not less than any other text, even in the original languages. Unlike other texts, we particularly trust the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as to interpretation. That doesn’t mean we always hear Him well.

              “The Bible is messy” = Sometimes interpretation is difficult. Do you really disagree with this?

              “The Bible is errant” = This doesn’t mean “the Bible is full of holes and therefore can’t be believed.” It does recognize that the doctrine of “inerrancy” is pretty new (early 20th century) and besides that is problematic, for reasons much discussed here.

              “The people who wrote it weren’t who they say they were” – Well, this was common in ancient literature. Whether it was the case with Scripture is a matter for study, and we can still take authorship at face value. Both ideas can exist together. The truth and trustworthiness of Scripture are not affected either way, if someone wants to believe and trust it. Truth can include facts, and is much larger than bare fact.

              “Applying the law is legalism.” – Which law are you talking about, and for what purpose? There’s been a lot of discussion among conservative theologians about how the Jews and early Christians saw law and works; this is completely relevant to how we interpret Scripture and form doctrine.

              None of the above need “chop away at Scripture’s reliability and applicability”. I have worked through some of these issues, at the same time having made a major faith community change. On the other side of a lot of struggle, I love and respect and trust Scripture’s reliability and applicability more than ever, especially after having examined the various interpretations of different Christian communities. I think the vast majority of people who show up here would affirm love for Jesus Christ as God, and respect for, and trust in, Scripture.

              One other thing I know, that I see over and over again in Scripture: God meets us where we are, and according to what He sees in the depth of our being. May He grant you every good thing, Ben.

              Dana

        • “do you trust “messy” books to help you do big things, like structure society, teach you about eternal salvation, show you the way of Christ?”

          Name me one thing – ONE THING – that isn’t “messy”. Mathematics? Nope – calculus is messy. Society? Messy. God? Ask Job if *he* thought God was neat and tidy – to say nothing of Christ at Gethsemane. You can try to use logic and selective omission to impose an understandable order on things, but eventually the messy ends bulge out the sides of the box. Take it from someone who tried that, very hard, for 15 years…

          • Ben Carmack says:

            Words have to read in context.

            In context, using the word “messy” to describe the Bible in this blog post is code for “The Bible can’t be trusted to tell us very much about reality above certain broad moral principles that happen to fit in whatever the Church of What’s Happening Now believes.”

            The Bible isn’t history. It’s principles. Not reality, but principles.

            When Mike the Geologist writes articles in which he defends anthropogenic global warming with more verve than he defends the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that tells you about everything you need to know.

            • For a book that’s about principles rather than history, a massive chunk of its space is taken up with history. And historical tales. And biographies. In fact, the part of the Bible that’s most concerned with principles – the Law sections of the Pentateuch – us actually the part that is least applicable to NT believers.

              • Ben Carmack says:

                Perhaps I’ve been unclear.

                I do think the Bible tells us history and shows us reality, not only broad moral principles.

                Men such as Chaplain Mike and Mike the Geologist only want us to look at principles. Their view of Scripture is Gnostic, as Jim Jordan (mentor of Peter Leithart) has said.

                • Ben, you could not be more wrong. I have no idea how you come up with this stuff.

                  Do you even know what Gnostic means?

                • Clay Crouch says:

                  Ben, please elaborate on the history portion or your claim. What proofs do you have? What would happen to your faith if there was no conclusive proof to a historical claim made in the Hebrew scripture?

    • “…Christianity becomes a purely interior, reflective faith…”

      If only that were true.

  3. Burro [Mule] says:

    There are too many kill switches in place these days for any dialogue to take place. Tell me who you trust and I’ll tell you which sector of the echo chamber you’ve taken up residence in.

    Indeed, the very word ‘dialog’ makes me immediately chary. It is redolent of a latitudinarian ecclesiastical environment which I suspect.

    The prophets were men sure of their God and of themselves. They didn’t do “dialog”. For better or worse I prefer someone in my face telling me I’m wrong to someone asking me “How do you feel about that, Mule?”

    • Mule, they may have been sure of themselves and of their God, but Kuhn’s point is that the very nature of their faith was arguing, debating, discussing, and living with disagreements with each other.

      He’s describing a robust, ongoing conversation that never gets fully resolved, not a therapy session.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Well, we have some of that going on around here, at least, as long as Ben, Seneca, Miguel, and myself aren’t run off on a rail.

        I’m still waiting for Peter Enns to invite a conservative like Peter Leithart onto his “Bible for Normal Folks” broadcast. Most “normal folks” whose conversations I overhear on public transit with treat the Bible more like Leithart does than Enns does.

        • Ben Carmack says:

          I’ve put in my 0.02 for Peter Leithart and his mentor, Jim Jordan, a time or two at this site. No takers, of course.

          Respecting the Bible as literature isn’t on Enns’ radar. Making fun of evangelical Christians and skewering the Bible is. That’s the play Enns is running.

          • Uh, just a reminder: we’ve run articles by Peter Leithart here and have often linked to others by him on the bulletin board.

            And if you think Enns’s work involves “making fun of evangelical Christians and skewering the Bible,” that tells me a lot more about you, Ben, than it does about him.

            • Ben Carmack says:

              Why won’t Enns invite Leithart on his program? Why doesn’t Enns engage with serious scholars who can disagree with his take on things?

              Tells you a lot about the snowflake Peter Enns.

              • You’d have to ask him about that, Ben.

                And I wish you wouldn’t name-call. It’s beneath you. If you disagree with someone, fine. But show some respect and grace.

                • Calling someone a snowflake is a favorite insult of the Alt Right, along with calling them a SJW (Social Justice Warrior). I doubt that Ben would identify as Alt Right, but the fact that usage of Alt Right terminology has become so widespread as to be almost common is a marker of just how successful the Alt Right has been in moving toward realization of its social goals. Change the language, and you change the world.

              • I wonder why Leithart doesn’t invite Peter Enns to be a guest on his forum…

                • Clay Crouch says:

                  I don’t know of anything more entertaining or ironic than watching an evangelical have a melt down while calling someone he doesn’t agree with a snowflake.

              • What is your obsession with Pete Enns??!! Do you even know him? Do you know anything about him on a personal plane?

            • Burro [Mule] says:

              If you pop the hood on Ben’s provocative language, there is an engine underneath.

              I remember listening to the first five episodes of Mr. Enns’ podcasts. I think it was the fourth episode, the one with Walter Bruggeman, when after about forty minutes of dismissing Scripture as hopelessly unsystematic and contradictory, the two gentlemen took a money shot:

              “After everything we’ve said about Scripture in the last almost-an-hour, Alphonse, what ethical guidance do you think we can glean from its pages?”

              “Well, Gaston, I believe we should be more serious about redistributing the benefits of society more equitably.”

              “I concur wholeheartedly, Alphonse!”

              “As do I, Gaston. Most wholeheartedly!”

              It would be **so** refreshing to hear moderate/’progressive’ Christians say something like “Maybe it’s a good idea that children learn about the feminine qualities of God from their mothers than from their clergy” or “maybe it’s not such a good idea to sacramentalize same-sexual practices”, but I don;t think I ever will.

              • It would be **so** refreshing to hear moderate/’progressive’ Christians say something like “Maybe it’s a good idea that children learn about the feminine qualities of God from their mothers than from their clergy” or “maybe it’s not such a good idea to sacramentalize same-sexual practices”, but I don;t think I ever will.

                Why? I’m curious. Why are these markers?

                • Burro (Mule) says:

                  It’s where the battle is currently being waged, a Verdun salient as it were.

                  I don’t want any red herrings about “social justice” and “pelvic issues”. I’m a both/and kinda guy, and try to practice both disciplines, albeit imperfectly. I remember a quote by CS Lewis that to fight everywhere except where the Enemy is pressing the battle is cowardice.

                  If I were to target Nominalism (this is merely that under another name – no essences, just convention) as such, which is basically the root cause of all the other cabronaje the Church is facing, only 12 or 13 people across the Theosphere would rise to the battle.

                  • Perhaps the sexual battle is the Enemy’s diversionary attack. Non-hetero sex isn’t running the economy, or grinding the poor into the ground, or pouring catastrophic amounts of greenhouse gas into the environment. The Bible, taken in whole, says far more about economic sins than sexual ones.

                    • +1

                      But that requires reading the Bible as it is. And it would challenge the lukewarm.

                    • Burro [Mule] says:

                      I don’t know if I can get this past the diamantine crania of people here, but it is not the behavior I complain about. Men have been bumping uglies since forever and will continue to do so even if the Republic of Gilead takes over. the Law is of no use here.

                      God values repentance over moral performance.

                      For this reason, I object to the massive societal absolution that has been performed, the moving of the goalposts. Nos vos absolvimos. The State has decided that sodomy, divorce, serial polygamy, etc. are not something over which anyone need to feel any remorse, as long as the letter of the law is upheld. If all of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual encounters had been consensual (and I’ll bet the lion’s share of them were, albeit cynically), he’d still be a lion of the Democratic party.

                    • You seem to forget the hypocritical, would-be moral enforcers of the right, like Bill O’Reilly, more ready to tell the rest of us what’s acceptable from their antiquarian perches than to enforce those standards on themselves.

                    • Burro [Mule] says:

                      I like to think of myself as being ‘hard on myself’ in this area, but thank God I’ve never been tested by any real power, wealth, or influence.

                      Maybe I’ll light a candle for poor Harvey and poor Bill next week. Maybe they’ll take the censures to heart. It’s not impossible…

                    • So what? The state dies not exist to validate Christian mores.

                    • Burro (Mule) says:

                      No, it doesn’t. But I was talking about the standards of the Church. The State doesn’t sacramentalize anything. You guys don’t pay much attention to language do you?

                      In the end, the Protestants will follow the worldlings about 20 years behind, except for a dwindling number of despised “fundamentalists” who have gotten so used to being hated it will no longer matter what you say about them. The majority of the world’s Christians, the Catholic and the Orthodox will probably “hold the line” to the increasing bafflement of the mainline Prots, who still admire them.

                      Say what you will. I don’t believe even Pope Francis will allow two men or two women to marry.

                    • Worldlings?

                      A few comments above, you were objecting to the State’s decision “that sodomy, divorce, serial polygamy, etc., are not anything over which anyone need to feel any remorse” anymore; and you were objecting to the “massive societal absolution that has been performed” in this regard. If words matter, then you were not just talking about the standards of the Church.

          • Do Federal Visionists have a seat at the table?

            Probably, yes. But I’d argue their theology is damaging. It doesn’t appear to be of Christ.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            Ben, maybe Doug Wilson over at Blog and Mablog can scratch your itch. Doug’s well stocked up on what you’re missing here.

    • In other words, the faith as described in the Bible and as characteristic of the Bible is, in fact, more Talmudic than most Christians recognize.

      The problem I see in most of Christianity is that we want to cast out those who disagree and burn them at the stake as heretics. We can learn a lot from the Jews of whom it is said, “Wherever two are present, there are three opinions.”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1,000

      • Well, if (as Ben suggests), truth is only ever absolute and propositional, if we disagree one something one (or both) of us MUST be a heretic.

      • “We can learn a lot from the Jews…”

        That’s because no matter how passionate their controversies they have something binding them together. Christians don’t have anything like that. [Insert appropriate sarcastic emoji]

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “”Indeed, the very word ‘dialog’ makes me immediately chary””

      Fair point – it is certainly a beaten-to-a-pulp meme. Lots of people say it that don’t mean it.

      “”There are too many kill switches in place these days for any dialogue to take place. Tell me who you trust and I’ll tell you which sector of the echo chamber you’ve taken up residence in.””

      Nah, this is an overstatement, dialog happens all the time.
      There are plenty of people who engage in honest good-will dialogue; but mostly it is behind closed doors, as the mobs are so frenzied these days. That is sad.

  4. I can take Enns up to a point (I don’t mind many of the questions he asks, and I do think it can be messy as can be seen by where, when, and who God uses in Scripture), but then Enns begins to just come off as a deconstructionist. I don’t know if his experience at Westminster impacted to the point that he holds a grudge that impacts his perspectives and how he asks his questions, or if he is so unsure himself.
    However, I do think Bauckham asks the questions and provides more constructive, clearer ways forward.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Coming late with this, it’s been a complicated day, but I generally agree with your observation.

      • +1.

        I like Enns…up to a point…LOL.

        • Come to think of it, I like myself….up to a point…

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            This. I don’t see how saying “Enns has a good point” is making him Protestant Pope or endorsing everything he has every said 107%; this is fallacy of the extremes again.

    • Not that Pete needs me to defend him, but I wouldn’t say he holds a grudge, as much as he bares wounds and scars. And give him a chance. reconstruction takes a long time, and never is fully complete, is it?

  5. Dana Ames says:

    Report from fire country:
    Evacuees in the communities north of me are being allowed home, but are being urged not to disturb the burned sites even to try to retrieve valuables, or they risk losing State funding for clean-up of all the toxic stuff our houses and belongings contain. Fires are starting to burn back on themselves, and fire fighting personnel are getting a handle on things. To the south, a few of the smaller fires are 100% contained. Most others are somewhere around 50% contained, thanks to the hard work of an enlarging army of firefighters from CA and neighboring states (and elsewhere across the country) throwing themselves at the fire lines. Weather over the weekend was not as bad as expected. Sonoma Co. still has mandatory evacuations in place, but just over the hills in Napa Co., Calistoga residents have been allowed to go home. It’s still bad, but an end can be seen through the smoke and haze.

    Dana

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Heartbreaking news, Dana.

      Any rain in the near future?
      Any way you know of to donate to an affected parish or congregation directly?

      • Dana Ames says:

        It’s supposed to rain Thurs & Fri.

        Thankfully, no church facilities have been harmed, but there are few families who have lost their homes at my parish, St Seraphim, and the other Russian-heritage church, Sts Peter & Paul. I don’t know about the Bulgarian parish, Holy Dormition, or the small Antiochian mission. St Seraphim has its own web site, saintseraphim dot com. If you email the office there, they can tell you the best way to donate and put you in contact with the others, if you wish. Several good, capable people have been sorting through information and jockeying phone calls.

        Since our parish has quite a few people who have passed extensive background checks to be able to work with the children & youth, a group of them has organized community child care this week in our hall, for any parents who need a place to park their children while they are at work, as the SR schools are still closed.

        Thanks for your prayers & concern, Mule.
        D.

  6. –> “Rather, the narrative form of Scripture leads us to lively, imaginative, and humble reflection with God and one another on what it means for us to live into God’s will in our time and place.”

    I’m trying to balance what others believe about the Bible with what I’ve come to believe. I find myself believing like Paul more and more every day: “I used to look at the scriptures and saw nothing but the Law, but now I look at the scriptures and see nothing but Jesus.” (paraphrased)

    The gospel accounts lead me to understand Jesus better and to see what he valued and recognize that he didn’t fear what we typically fear. Reading the epistles further solidifies, “Make it all about Jesus, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” And now I read the OT stuff and discover, “Oh, this is all exists to foreshadow God’s intention of saving us all through Jesus.”

    To me, then, the on-going dialog about the Bible and the church’s “conversation” needs to be all on that. Anything else is just foolish controversy and genealogy and argument and quarrel about the law, and these are unprofitable and useless. (to steal from Paul’s letter to Titus)

    • Susan Dumbrell says:

      Robert, you find amazing youtube clips.
      Another gem.
      Your ability to find the right clip at the right time is legendary.
      Susan

      • This poem, Susan, is comprised of six haiku-stanzas.

      • And rhyming haiku, at that. But the rhymes are so natural, so unforced to the point of seeming unplanned, that you almost don’t notice them. What a miracle of poetic simplicity.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Thank you for sharing that beautiful work of art.

  7. A sound reading of scripture virtually always fosters a greater desire for union with Christ and my neighbor. The rest generally serves ego inflation. It’s a blessing or a curse.