The question “What is the plain reading of scripture?” seems like a crutch for evangelicals lately.

Adopting the coin phrase “What is the plain reading of scripture?” as a rule of thumb for interpretation can lead professing Christ followers to appear more like followers of Epicurus, Zeno and even Moses rather than Christ. The phrase sounds nice but what does it even mean? Please understand that I consider myself an evangelical deeply committed to the Gospel and the authority of scripture so please interpret any criticism that I may have in light of that.

Our culture today has new influences, leaders, philosophers, etc. Christ’s followers need to engage in not against their cultural context. A plain reading of scripture is in many ways apposed to our culture today. Why are we not talking about this more? Is it bibliscism? Come on, we need to grow up. 2000 years has passed and I am tired of superfluous questions like “What is the plain reading of scripture?” being used as the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong… there is a time and place for a phrase like “the plain reading of scripture” however, it seems like a crutch lately regarding certain topics.

It takes time, study, prayer, community, hard work, cultural immersion, discussion and many mistakes to take a 2000 year old text written in the context of a 2000 year old culture and plant it’s many messages and themes in our world today. Some of our doctrinal transplants are obviously not thriving (many are dying). Are we content with blaming this present evil age (Gal 1:4) for a crisis of doctrinal atrophy? The apostle Paul wasn’t content with that. It’s hard work planting seeds and seeing them to fruition in a new and foreign environment. Please don’t take the easy-way out and say “I go by the plain reading of scripture.”

1. Have you heard this phrase used lately in an unhelpful way?
2. What ways or ideas have you used to bridge the biblical text from then to now?
3. Can our churches remain committed to Sola-Scriptura and do away with phrases like “plain reading of scripture”?

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If you enjoy reading The Bible here is something to meditate on from William Webb (pretty much my NEW hero)…

First of all I want to encourage you to purchase this book by William Webb…
Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis

“As one might suspect from its name, a key component of a redemptive-movement hermeneutic is the idea of movement. The Christian seeking to apply Scripture today should examine the movement between the biblical text and its surrounding social context. Once that movement has been discovered, there needs to be an assessment of whether the movement is preliminary or absolute (see criterion 1). If it is preliminary and further movement in the direction set by the text would produce a more fully realized ethic, then that is the course of action one must pursue. The interpreter extrapolates the biblical movement toward a more just, more equitable and more loving form. If a better ethic than the one expressed in the isolated words of the text is possible, and the biblical and canonical spirit is headed that direction, then that is where one ultimately wants to end up. The alternative, of course, is to work with an understanding of Scripture that is static.
A static hermeneutic does not interest itself in discovering movement. It is primarily interested in exegeting the text as an isolated entity and finding comparable or equivalent expressions (alternative forms) of how that text may be lived out in another culture. In the case of slavery, a static hermeneutic would not condemn biblical-type slavery, if that social order were to reappear in society today. Proponents of a static hermeneutic are generally willing to condemn American slavery, which was often worse than the biblical form, but they will not speak in a negative manner about the kind of slavery presented in the Bible. In the meantime, the household codes concerning masters and slaves are transferred to the modern context of employer/employee relationships. Equivalent admonitions of “obey” and “submit” are popped in like sure-fit items. This type of application process amounts to a rather wooden swapping of ancient-world and modern-world equivalents. When a static hermeneutic is pressed with the actual words of the slavery texts, however, it produces grotesque, mutation-like applications. Imagine taking the words of Peter and advising modem employees to accept physical beatings by their employers for the sake of the gospel (1 Pet 2:18-25). Or, think about instructing contemporary employers from the Pentateuch that, should they limit beating employees to within a hairbreadth of their life, they would not be guilty of legal reprisal (Ex 21:20-21). Or, maybe our modem world should consider handing out lesser penalties for sexual violation against an employee (= slave) than in the case of sexual violation against an employer or self-employed person (= free) (Deut 22:25-27; cf. Lev 19:20-22). These examples, of course, show the utterly ridiculous nature of a static hermeneutic. Even a static application utilizes a redemptive-movement hermeneutic of sorts, on a lesser scale, by its selective choice of that which can and cannot be carried over to our context.
One might be able to persuade a modern congregation into believing that employees should “obey” and “submit to” their employers based upon the slavery texts. This happens all the time. But the outcome reflects a tragic misunderstanding of Scripture. The rest of the slavery material, beyond the obey/submit instructions, is often left at arm’s length and simply not applied.  This kind of static approach to the slavery texts is not persuasive. In fact, the wooden nature of a static hermeneutic becomes a liability to any Christian seeking to live out their commitment to God’s will, as revealed through Scripture. Having discovered the movement of the biblical texts on slavery relative to the original social context, an extrapolation of that movement today leads to the abolition of slavery altogether. On this issue our culture is much closer to an ultimate ethic than it is to the unrealized ethic reflected in the isolated words of the Bible.

In addition to the complete removal of slavery, a redemptive-movement hermeneutic proposes quite a different way of applying the household codes in our modern context. A redemptive-movement hermeneutic does not argue that modem Christians apply the household codes through submitting to and obeying their employers. Such an application not only neglects the element of movement to a more fully realized ethic but overlooks fundamental differences between slavery and modem employee-employer relations. The most crucial difference is that of ownership compared to a contractual basis for working relationships. In the modern contractual setting we should not preach obedience and submission, but that Christian employees should fulfill the terms of their contract to the best of their ability in order to bring glory to God and enhance their gospel witness. In addition, a redemptive-movement hermeneutic seeks to reapply the spirit or movement component of the slavery texts relative to the surrounding cultures. Scripture sides heavily with the plight of the slave, the poor and the oppressed. This life-breathing spirit, which bettered the conditions for slaves in the ancient world, should also influence the application process today. Contemporary Christian employers, then, should not abuse their power in pursuit of bottom-line production but advance their businesses in ways that value their employees as people and encourage their productive contribution in humane and just ways. Working conditions, levels of income, and disparity between the rich and poor are all issues that the redemptive spirit, evidenced in scriptural movement, ought to impact as we bring these texts to bear on our modem world.”

William J. Webb. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Kindle Locations 319-339). Kindle Edition.

What are your thoughts?

1. “A static hermeneutic does not interest itself in discovering movement.” What do you think about the idea that scripture is not static?

2. As we read scripture are we able to see the trajectory of a text not just the shooter or the place where the text is being shot from?

The text for this Sunday’s sermon. I welcome your thoughts, questions and perspectives.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:35–45, ESV)

 

Q 1: Where is this passage located in redemption history and how does it relate to us? (See this post to help to help with this question… HERE)

Q 2: What does this point mean for the non Christian?

Q 3: What does it mean for us as citizens, as employees, and so forth?

Q 4: What does it teach us about Christ?

Q 5: What does it mean for us as individual Christians?

Q 6: What does it mean for our church as a whole?

Here is a great blog response to this Sunday’s message…

My phone is not working so I am not sure if I received any texts this week. Here is a great blog response to this Sunday’s message…

“Maybe God has placed us in this community so we can realize we are not alone. Maybe God has asked us to share with each other and grow as a community in love and discipleship. Maybe we are incapable of standing on the scale of faith as individuals but as a community, through communication and openness, we can stand strong on the scale with two feet and no crutch.”

http://poeticindifference.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/the-scales-of-faith/

Theologically dehumanizing people….

“Homophobia is LIKE racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to DEHUMANIZE a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.” Coretta Scott King

Wow I just came across a profound quote by Coretta Scott King. It really puts into perspective how we can attempt to “dehumanize” an issue in order to avoid dealing with our fears or phobias.  I do this all the time with other cultures and people that I am afraid of or not familiar with. It is the easy way to deal with the human condition… to dehumanize it. I have been taught how to theologically dehumanize people. I am learning how to be more Christlike… now when I disagree with a person, don’t understand them or don’t sin like them…  I need to remember that I should not deny them their , humanity, dignity or personhood.  In that sense we both bear the image of God… our humanity.

Profound. I am thankful Jesus died for my phobias. I don’t want to reduce people to theological problems anymore in the name of Christ.

Sermon response… “I am ready to live again. I am ready to start having a dialogue with God about my faults. I want to reach to Him and try to comprehend the reasoning behind his love for us and our shame of ourselves.”

Sermon response from Sunday the 8th of August.

Poetic Journeys

To all those who suffer and to all those who pray, I hope to leave you with a vision into the mind of a man who is not running anymore. It is time that we, with those we feel comfortable, lay our cards on the table and reach out for a hand in dealing with the pitfalls of the mind and body without shame, judgement and fear.

I am ready to live again. I am ready to start having a dialogue with God about my faults. I want to reach to Him and try to comprehend the reasoning behind his love for us and our shame of ourselves. This shame has forced some of us to hide in the shadows of fear and the masks we have created. We want to appear “normal” and therefore we hide the parts of us that we most need help with. We need to…

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“A chicken sandwich, a chicken sandwich! The Kingdom for a chicken sandwich!”

This is what the whole “Chick-Fil-A Stand” looks like to me. 😦