Sunday, May 7, 2017
Hard Questions... Reasonable Questions
I like reading conservative Christian commentary. Call me crazy, but I do. It helps me to think through positions and invariably raises questions. I sometimes ask Stan at the Winging It blog some questions and, even though he doesn't post my questions and says that he doesn't read my questions any more, nonetheless, he regularly answers them, often in a second blog post. Good for him.
He recently did this in his post, "Hard Sayings, Give to the One Who Asks..."
In an earlier post, he raised questions about taking the Bible's teachings literally. I asked him if he took Jesus' command literally, "Give to EVERYONE who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back." and, if so, I would like to ask him for $500, please and thank you.
In his post and his answer to my question, he gave a very good and correct answer, I think. He said...
You may say you believe that all this stuff is woodenly literally true, but what you believe is always displayed in what you do.
No, this can't be taken that way.
Jesus was making broad statements to provide principles. What we need to do is discover the principles He was trying to provide. That's much easier, much clearer, much more reasonable. We are not to hate. We are not to lust. We are supposed to have integrity. These aren't that hard to figure out.
On the question at hand -- "Give to everyone that asks" -- what is the principle? It is unavoidable that the principle is compassion and generosity.
So, Stan is saying that the rules/commands/teachings in the Bible need not always be taken woodenly literally. Even Jesus' commands to his followers are not to be taken woodenly literally. These are more of guidelines, Stan says, not woodenly literal rules.
Well done, I applaud Stan's answer and thank him for answering the question. I followed up with another question, something along the lines of, "Why then, take so many of the more 'sexual teachings' woodenly literally? There are two lines in the OT that say, "Men shall not lie with men. If they do, kill them." and Stan takes that teaching (the first half, anyway) woodenly literally. THAT, he says, is a hard rule for all times and all people. Why does he think that rule should be taken woodenly literally (and indeed, extrapolate out to clarify that this means gay and lesbian people can't marry those they're attracted to, even though that is not a literal rule anywhere in the Bible), but not Jesus' command about money?
And to Stan's credit, he answered that question, too, saying,
The point is not "Don't take it woodenly literal." The point is "Take it as intended. Historical when historical, poetic when poetic, parable when parable, analogy when analogy, hyperbole when hyperbole, doctrinal when doctrinal." Those who take it in a woodenly literal fashion every time make as much of a mistake as those who never take it at face value.
Fair enough. Thanks again for the answer. But then, this begs another question... and that is the point of my raising the initial question and this question remains unanswered:
So, who decides which lines in the Bible ARE to be taken woodenly literally and which are not? Is it not the case that you, Stan, are using your reasoning and making your best judgement to decide if something is literal? And that is certainly what I'm doing.
So, if we are both using our human judgement to make this call, even if you disagree with me, can you not respect that I, too, am seeking the good and the right and God's way? And can you not agree that you have no rational or biblical basis to say, "MY human opinion (and those who agree with me) are authoritatively, objectively correct and those who disagree with us are objectively wrong..."?
The thing is, humility.
We all have our opinions when we read the Bible (or Koran, or Huck Finn, etc) and reach conclusions on truths and opinions. But they are human opinions, God has not told Stan or me what God intended, or what Matthew or Luke intended, when they wrote what they wrote. Except for things that are demonstrable (Israel was an actual nation is provable, Jonah was an actual man is not provable), we can't prove our opinions. They are human opinions and thus, it is not rational or fair for some to say that they are the ones who speak authoritatively for what God intends.
In all things, humility, this is a reasonable opinion on unprovable matters and, I'd say, consistent with biblical teachings.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
~St Paul. Probably.