Friday, December 4, 2009

A Light For Our Path...

Advent Candles
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
First, let me point to a fine Advent reflection over at the Jeff Street (my church) blog. Our daring youth minister, Roger, wrote and passed on a wonderful start to our Advent season that is worth reading.

Moving on...

I've been in conversations with the usual gang lately (names withheld to protect the guilty), and we were discussing biblical exegesis and why we take some parts of the Bible literally and some parts figuratively. Most on the Right freely admit that they take parts of the Bible figuratively (no one much believes that the earth has four corners or that Jesus really wanted us to poke our eyes out, for instance), so it's not a matter of WHETHER we take the Bible literally or not - none of us do, fully - but WHEN do we take a passage literally and when do we not.

I suggested some fairly standard/orthodox critical biblical reading criteria that I use (judge any one passage based on the whole Bible, judge any passage based on Jesus' specific teachings, interpret the unclear and obscure through the clear, strive to understand context and language, etc). From what I gather from them, their main approach to deciding what is and isn't literal is the "obvious" test - ("It's OBVIOUS that there aren't four corners of the earth, so it must be figurative..."). I pointed out that that is a fairly subjective measure but never got much of a response except what we've come to expect from them (yer an idiot!).

When it came to a specific passage like where God commands Israel to wipe out a city, including its children, I would say to them, "Well, isn't it OBVIOUS that a good and just God would not command the slaughter of children," which was not well received. (No, is the short answer. It is not obvious that God would not command the of children - who says they're "innocent," anyway?)

Anyway, all of that to say that this led me to ask, continually and with never an answer: ON WHAT BASIS? On what basis would we assume that such an outrageous statement about God ought to be taken literally? Just because it is obvious to them? That's not a very authoritative source.

Because it was written in a section that is "obviously" history was their best answer. To which, I responded, yes, OT passages like this ARE telling a history. BUT they are doing so NOT in the manner that we tell history today, but using more mythical, legendary, epic type of storytelling.

This led me to do a bit of research (and I know that this has been done and done better by others, I just couldn't find a source online - please feel free to point to any books or sources for better info) about how history was passed on in the early years of human history. Consider...


Alan said...

Ugh, I can only imagine the fun you've been having. However, I can't imagine why you bother. Sometimes it's best just to kick the sand off your sandals and move on.

Your method of exegesis is indeed orthodox. As we Reformed types say, "Scripture interprets Scripture." I think the one point of difference is that the anabaptist tradition seems to give more weight to the words of Jesus than the rest of Scripture in rendering an interpretation, but otherwise that's been the traditional understanding of how to interpret scripture for a very, very, very long time. The fact that your "friends" don't get that doesn't surprise me at all. I've never found their works-based Bibliolatry to be anything approaching orthodox. After all, Pelagius was a heretic and they're the sons of Pelagius.

They've simply been snowed into thinking that a particular cult of Christianity, Fundamentalism, invented in the 1920s, is actually "traditional" and "orthodox" when it is neither.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Alan.

As to this...

However, I can't imagine why you bother.

Because, if nothing else, it helps me think about how I explain things and hopefully, makes me a more reasonable person to communicate with.

For instance, this "On what basis?" question I think is an extremely great way to communicate with people interested in Bible study, even and especially the more fundamentalist amongst us. They should care about the answer to that question and should be prepared to deal with it and, if not, then perhaps it will get them thinking.

Anyway, I engage partially just as a way for me to learn how to better communicate. And ultimately, that's perhaps the biggest reason I started blogging, to practice writing and communicating and to think things through.

Selfish reasons, I guess you could say.

Alan said...

"then perhaps it will get them thinking."

LOL Good one. Oh....were you not joking?

Heh. What makes you think they'd start thinking now? ;) That's the whole *point* of fundamentalism, someone else did the "thinking" so you don't have to. You receive your list of "fundamentals" which you have to believe in to be saved, and you're all set.

I agree that the "On what basis?" question is an important one, perhaps even the critical question to interpretation. And I agree that such a discussion can be interesting and enlightening, if it were had with people who were themselves either interesting or enlightening (or both.) But having such a conversation with the amerikkkan-descenters is probably going to be about as useful as having it with your dog -- actually less useful because in talking to a dog there's at least the possibility that Fido might understand a word or two of what you're saying, particularly if it's food related. :)

Dan Trabue said...

You're being too harsh. They're not wholly unreasonable (much evidence notwithstanding), just extremely convinced and not inclined to think much more about beyond what they've already thought about it.

Or at least that's how I was not so many years ago.

Marty said...

"That's the whole *point* of fundamentalism, someone else did the "thinking" so you don't have to. You receive your list of "fundamentals" which you have to believe in to be saved, and you're all set."

Yeah and they regurgitate that list over and over again, no matter what is said. When someone comes along who has acutally thought for themselves the only way they know how to deal with it is to pull out the heretic card. It happens every time.

Alan said...

"You're being too harsh."

Too harsh? We are talking about the Amerikkkan Descent crowd, right? Guys so hateful they'd make Dick Cheney reach for his blankie and a puppy? Too harsh? Not even remotely, in my opinion. I'd say that I'm underselling it a bit, actually. :)

"They're not wholly unreasonable"

Heh. I've never seen evidence for that assertion so I'll have to put their purported reasonableness in the same category as unicorns and a good Star Wars prequel movie: things that sound good, but unfortunately don't exist.

And while you may have held some of the same opinions as they currently hold, it seems to me that's where the similarity ends.

But then, I'm a heretic. ;)

Dan Trabue said...

Ahh, but if there's hope for one such as myself, the chief of sinners, (and truly, I WAS those guys), then surely none are beyond God's reach?

Dan Trabue said...

"WAS those guys?"

I WERE those guys??

Where am I going wrong, here?

Alan said...

We're not talking hope.

Is there hope for them? Sure.

Are they capable of reason? Nope. Not a single shred of evidence exists to support your hypothesis.

Dan Trabue said...

If nothing else, Alan, you can look to me as someone who would have seemed fairly unreasonable at one point in my life who was able to back away from where I was to a more reasonable position.

Of course, they can reason. Anyone can reason, given half a chance.

Alan said...

You're quite the optimist.

I however am a skeptic by nature and by training and thus rely on evidence. So far I've never seen any to support your hypothesis.

Dan Trabue said...

Don't ever become a pessimist, Ira; a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun--and neither can stop the march of events.

~Robert A. Heinlein

Alan said...

Ah! Common misunderstanding to equate skepticism with pessimism and/or cynicism. I'm definitely the former, but definitely not the later.

Dan Trabue said...

You know I'm just messing with you, right? You, sir, are the antithesis of a pessimist!

Alan said...

Yup, I know. :)

Marty said...

I'm a skeptic in many ways, but on this subject I'll have to agree with Dan. I was there too. After all, I used to listen "religiously" to Marlin Maddoux and James Dobson.

I even forced my son to get rid of his record albums because of a guy named Paul Vick who went around churches teaching about the evil subliminal messages in music. After that I refused to have any music in my home that wasn't what I considered "christian".

My daughter was young enough at the time that it didn't have too negative of an effect on her, but my son..well...different story... after 2 tours in Iraq and hearing fundamentalist army chaplains and crazy inmans, added to that his fundamentalist christian upbringing....he didn't necesarily let go of God... but has turned his back on christianity and considers himself an Agnostic.

By the time I wised up my son was an adult and my daughter in jr high.

Not a good thing - this fundamentalism in any faith.

Marshall Art said...

Wow! It never ceases to amaze, astound and annoy me just how self-righteous a heretic like Alan can be. What in all of the "Amerikkkan Descent crowd" do you consider "hateful" or unorthodox? You like to sling hateful comments of your own, but to project that hatefulness onto us just shows your own smallmindedness. Of course, that's become so obvious over the years that it really shouldn't amaze or astound, but it still does annoy. Kinda like the faucet dripping when trying to sleep. What a sad and sorry person you are.

And I also wish to state that you'd be hard pressed to show how we are works-based in our beliefs. I know you like to say that when we discuss the meaning of Biblical teachings and all, but how else can it be discussed without insisting on the plain meaning of a given verse? Or, are you saying that your own sinful lifestyle is how a fully faith-based belief is made manifest? Just ignore the teachings and say you believe? Good luck with that.

Alan said...

Really, MA, the "I'm rubber you're glue" defense?

I'm astounded you could think up something so mature.

My evaluation of your beliefs is based on a very long and actually almost reasonable blog conversation we had once about the notion that we are saved by Grace Alone. In that conversation you admitted that works play a role in our salvation because a just God would not grant salvation to someone without any regard for that person's behavior in life.

So yes, you do believe in works-based salvation, and while you may not be a Pelagian, your views as you expressed them in that conversation are at least semi-pelagian. (Look it up. If you're going to talk about "heresy" you should at least know a few heretics.)

BTW, not now, nor has there ever been a historical, traditional, orthodox understanding of heresy that is based on sexual orientation. I believe your beliefs about God's grace are indeed heretical and those sorts of doctrinal disagreements are precisely how the term heretic was used.

But please, by all means, keep up your yapping if it makes you feel better, kiddo.


Alan said...

"but it still does annoy"

Excellent. Glad to do so.

You however, only merely occasionally amuse, much like my neighbor's yappy dog.