Saturday, August 27, 2005

Fragments from Answers to Questions on Biblical Authority

I am glad you reassured me of our brotherhood in
Christ in your salutation. It seems critically
important that we both do so in a day when the Body of
Christ is so deeply divided. That being said I wonder
how you can consider me to be a brother if innerrancy
was so necessary for you to overcome agnosticism. Does
my current dispute with inerrancy mean that I am
agnostic? I trust that your response is no and that
for many genuine Christians (and many much more
sanctified than I), inerrancy of scripture is not a
necessary prerequisite for true faith in Christ.
I do agree that Wesley was concerned for much more
than prayerful reading of scripture, even though
prayer before and after the reading of scripture was
his rule. I point out the need for prayer in rightly
dividing the word of truth because it seems that we
need that means of grace in order for scripture to be
the Word of God. Good exegesis (something that well
trained agnostic scholars are capable of) does not
mean that the Truth of Scripture has been communicated
anymore than the real presence of Christ is
communicated to us without the consecration of the
elements. I do hold to sola scriptura but not in the
sense that Bible is to be understood truthfully
without the aid of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church.
If it could be read truthfully in such a fashion then
private interpretation would be permissible. The Bible
is sola scriptura as it is the only sufficient and
necessary book of faith to which we must return
continuously. While Wesley did not invent the word
quadrilateral, he did use the Bible as his primary
source of authority and he saw tradition, reason and
experience as supplementary sources of authority. When
however, Wesley becomes a bit hyperbolical as in:
"Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there
may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood
in that book, it did not come from the God of truth"
then Wesley is just plain wrong. I think it is better
to say that whatever God intended for the Bible to
teach, that is all true. I do not believe that God
intended the Bible to teach that rabbits chew the cud
(see my correction in previous post ...ty again
CoHo)or that a woman who defend her husband in the
heat of a battle should have her hand cut off if she
happened to grab a genital and that she should be
shown no mercy. I believe that God speaks through the
Bible despite the ignorance and immorality of the
Biblical writers and some of what they wrote. I do not
even want such texts ignored or stricken from the
canon for I believe that under the illumination of the
Holy Spirit the Church can glean a kernel of truth
even from texts of terror and ignorance. To paraphrase
Joseph, sometimes the Biblical writers wrote and meant
it for evil but God meant it for good.
God is the author of all truth whether is found in the
Bible or not and all truth (whether factual or
mythical) participates in the Truth Who is Jesus
Christ. If we can agree to this, when we find truth
outside of scripture that contradicts certain
understandings of the Bible, then we need to question
if not discard those interpretations. I think that
the converse is also true, when we find truth in
scripture we need to question if not discard those
interpetations of reality. Epistemology is a
complicated thing before and after conversion to
Christ. One thing seems certain: neither the believer
nor the unbeliever has a security blanket to cling to.
Let us not insult God nor his Bible by treating it in
such a childish way. Let us instead continue to
struggle to see through a glass dimly till Truth in
all its clarity and glory is fully revealed. (1 Cor
13).
First of all I want to apologize for what I now see
was an overly polemical comment about security
blankets and childishness. I do wonder how you
understand 1 Corinthians 13 and what Paul meant by
putting away childish things. I do not think that Paul
was speaking merely of each individual having a dim
mirror to look into in this age. I think he was
speaking to the universal epistemic situation of
humanity this side of the eschaton. (Don't you just
love this arcane theological nomenclature! I highly
recommend you throw some of that in your sermons if
you have some doctors, lawyers and other well paid
intelligensia in your congregation. It is even better
if you do it in a northern congregation with a
southern drawl...drives the yankees insane.) The
problem of less than perfect knowledge of God's word
is not merely an exegetical one. Exegetical perfection
in this lifetime is a possiblity (doesn't that sound
so darn Wesleyan?!); however, I think that the problem
is that whether mystic or evangelical (St. Paul was
both) what we are looking for is the Living Word of
God, Jesus Christ, face to face....in this lifetime,
the very best we might hope for are misty
approximations. This life is, at best, for assurance;
the next, for certainty.
I am a little confused as to your understanding of
inerrancy. Do you see the Bible as inerrant only in
regards to essential doctrine? If so, we are much
closer than you might think. If you go as far as some
of the points in the Chicago Statement which seem to
make the Bible a science text book on natural history,
then we would have a big difference of opinion. I
would call that position in the most unpolemical tone
possible, intellectual dishonesty. I guess one might
be able to make a tenable arguement for retranslating
the phrase chewing the cud as taking up again when it
comes to rabbits and haires. I do not think anyone can
defend the punishment of a woman in the manner
described in Deut 25:11-12. (Please spare me the
extra-biblical contextual appeals to theocratic rule
and distinctions between judicial and moral laws. I am
not a relativist.) As to the nebulous prayers before
and after reading scripture, I think Wesley was
speaking to the Methodist Societies more so than to
private readers of the Bible. (Many of the early
Methodists, I imagine, could not afford a Bible.)
Wesley's rule is no more nebulous than the prayer of
consecration before the sharing in the elements of the
Lord's Supper. To Wesley, it is not nicety but a
theological necessity.
I am also glad that you have agreed that belief in the
inerrancy of Scripture is not a necessary prerequisite
to true faith. Am I right to infer that this would
mean that such a belief is not one of the essential
doctrines of our faith? (Perhaps the essential hedge
to protect the essentials in your view?)
As to your reasonable charge:
"Such an approach would seem to make the Scriptures
say only what the pray-er wanted them to say. What
will
you do when two or more pray-ers arrive at different
understandings of the truth?" This is always a danger,
but is it not an equal danger given the diverse
numbers of individuals and denominations and sects who
hold exactly your view of inerrancy? (Wesleyans,
Seventh-day Adventists, Primitive Baptists, Free Will
Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals,
Pentecostal Fre Will Baptists, etc.) Have no
inerrantists ever committed henious atrocities and
thought they were doing the will of God?
As to the confusion:
"Now I *am* confused. You suggest that prayer for the
guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential to
understanding the Scriptures and then suggest that an
agnostic is capable of performing the same function.
Or will you divide between exegesis and "spiritual"
understanding?"
Perhaps I have not yet been clear enough. Let me try
again. Good exegesis is essential to good
interpretation but good interpretion is not complete
if we stop at exegesis. Prevenient grace works in
different ways and at different paces for different
people. Yes it is universal but the heart which is
justified by faith in Christ is able to disern the
spiritual meaning (the meaning intended by God) where
as the heart convicted but not yet justified, no
matter how much she knows of Greek, Hebrew and ancient
history, does not yet know the intended meaning of God
which is communicated in the Bible. Biblical knowledge
is intimate knowledge. This I believe is the highest
form of knowledge and does not depend on education or
IQ. It does not even require that one knows the Bible
even exists. It is the knowledge of trusting in the
living Christ crucified, risen, reigning and
returning. (Please do footnote me should use that
alliterative short hand!) The justified person living
in the jungle before the missionaries arrive knows
more of God than the agnostic scholar teaching New
Testament at Harvard (though certainly she knows
something of God)!
I would guess that you and I have much more in common
than our beleif in the power of prevenient grace. I
think we both deeply mourn the expanse of biblical
illiteracy in a society full of Bibles. I suspect we
both wish that families would stay together, that
corporate greed should cease, the races worship
together in the same sanctuary, that swords be beaten
into plowshares and that our own hearts be made alot
more pure (though Lord be gentle in your sanctifying
love!). I would also venture to guess that we have a
different set of folks targetted in a our apologetic
lenses (now ain't that a warlike turn of phrase?). I
have in mind people who are flabbergasted when
Christians think that the human species was created
along side the dinosaurs, the Bible endorses supply
side economics, that women should keep seated in pews
and pregnant in the kitchen, that homosexuals ought to
be jailed or excecuted, and that democratically
elected and still popular presidents should be
assasinated by the CIA. I think you have in mind
people who are weary and oppressed with all the
confusion of choices this world presents them. My
words to the agnostics I try to reach is not "the
Bible is innerrant and let me prove it to you," but
rather "do unto the Bible as you would have the Bible
do unto you." I think the Bible gets a fighting chance
with my way and dismissed with yours, at least amongst
those in my mission field. Needless to say, I do have
confidence that once folks respect the Bible enough to
read it as a human document, that they will begin to
see within it the traces of divinity that lead to
knowing Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Look fowarded to another spirited and Spirit filled
reply form you.
meant to say that contrary to what the priestly source
says, rabbits do not chew the cud. Such an error is
understandable and should not detract from the
veracity of the Bible, but that veracity is Jesus
Christ himself, not the the Bible itself.
Forgot where I was but to clarify a little further...I
beleive that Christ is present in the Bible in the
same degree and manner he is presnet in the
sacraments. This makes him I suppose mysteriously
present for us Methodist but I would not object to the
more precise Lutheran formulation of "in, with and
under" the human words. In my opinion, many
conservative and fundamentalists evangelcials hold to
a view of scriptural authority which is essentially
transubstantiationistic and sometimes even worse sense
since our Roman Catholic friends at least acknowledge
the need for the unction of the Holy Spirit following
the priestly blessing for the elements to be changed.
Some fundamentalist almost have a Muslim type view of
the Holy scriptures. I refer of course to the verbal
plenary view of inspiration of the autographs. i have
often heard many evangelicals (and btw I am one
myself) say that if God did not give us an absolutely
perfect scripture we would have no way of knowing his
will. I hope you agree that this is utter non sense
since God gave his word long before it was ever
inscribe much less canonized. Moreover, if perfection
in the autographs is necessary ,then why is it not
nessary in the preserved and translated texts. if we
can get along seeing now through a glass darkly, why
the obsession with rigid views of inerrancy (something
the scriptures nowhere explicitly demand). I suspect
it has to do more with preserving one's tradition more
than defending the Bible. In fact it is this naive
view which so often hinders seeing scripture in new
light and appreciating the diverse Christian
traditions which have sprung authentically from the
text. I am sure you see the irony. I prefer to let the
scriptures function like the angel of the Lord who
wrestled with Jacob through the night. A good wrestler
is always using contrary moves and I suspect God doe s
this with the illusive diversity of the Scriptures.
...Been back and forth here with several other
responsibilities. I'll shut up for now and let someone
else talk. Peace.
Thanks for your insights. I wonder how do you define
inerrancy? I here so many definitions and I see no
place where the scriptures actually declare inerrancy.
Jesus does say that scripture cannot fail
(infallibity) but that begs the question as to what
God intends the scriptures to not fail to do? (Would
that include factual natural history?) I would say
that I am a qualified infalliblist. Scriptures are
infallible when read under the illumination of the
Holy Spirit within the community of faith in a
Christ-centered and trinitarian bound manner. Without
these qualifications, infallibility is overly
ambiguous.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I did a little
looking at the Greek and eperotao is used in Luke to
request unknown information on a number of occasions.
A good example of this is Luke 23:6. Given this and
other texts in Luke and elsewhere, it seems
appropriate to assume that Jesus was not just
demanding answers that he already knew as if he were
merely testing the elders. Given the context of his
growing in wisdom (v.52), it is reasonable to assume
that Jesus was learning in that context. Point taken
however as to the possiblity that he may not have
been surprised by the Canannite woman. I wonder what
you have to say though in relation to the Markan text
of the woman who touches the hem of his garment. Was
his question, "Who touched me?" a docetic one? (He
only seemd not to know who touched him.) I hope you do
admit that at least sometimes the divine omnscience is
not disclosed to his human nature. Certainly, there
were suprises in his life that even though his divine
nature may have been privy to in advance, his human
nature had no idea of what was coming. As for the
nature of omniscience, exhaustive definite
foreknowledge is not necessary. (God knows all that is
knowable...the future free decisions of his creatures
are not knowable.) That again is another discussion
but please admit that the human nature of Jesus was
not omnscient and that the divine nature's knowledge
was not always disclosed to his human nature. Thanks
for the reminders of the rules of good exegesis. After
Steve buys your commentaries perhaps he would have
some spare change to buy my systematic theologies. One
final thought: his human nature was not the source of
his abiblity to heal the little girl.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Unedited chat

Here is an unedited chat I had recently. I am evangelicalfuture and my dialogue partner is a conservative Calvinist witht eh screen namejase_uk_25:

jase_uk_25: Hey, is Gene on your pal list?
evangelicalfuture: yes but i am not on his
jase_uk_25: Hmmm
jase_uk_25: He is signed on
evangelicalfuture: yes he is but he does not accept pms from me
jase_uk_25: Not on speaking terms
evangelicalfuture: i am not sure...i don't have any problem speaking with him
evangelicalfuture: don't know about him
jase_uk_25: Is homosexuality a gift from God then?
evangelicalfuture: lol
jase_uk_25: Would you say that was a fair representation of what you believe?
evangelicalfuture: yes but what i believe is not as important as what the church teaches
jase_uk_25: Hmmmm
jase_uk_25: I would say that the church is subject to the final authority of scripture.
evangelicalfuture: i would say that the Bible is the primary authrority for what the church teaches and the Triune God is the final authority for both.
jase_uk_25: But how does the Triune God make Himself known?
evangelicalfuture: By the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus Christ who is the exact reflection of God the Father
evangelicalfuture: i am not allowed in that room
jase_uk_25: But how do you know that it is the Holy Spirit communicating to you?
evangelicalfuture: by measuring what I may be hearing against in light of the central teachings of the universal church.
jase_uk_25: So, the church is the final authority then?
evangelicalfuture: God reveals himself both inside and outside of scripture...
evangelicalfuture: no God is the final authroity...the church is the interpretative authority
jase_uk_25: I would agree, but He has revealed Himself ultimately through the scriptures.
evangelicalfuture: no...he reveals Himslef ultimately in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
jase_uk_25: But again, how do you know what God is saying, if you don't actually have an infallible standard of truth?
evangelicalfuture: Jesus Christ is the infallible standard of truth...
evangelicalfuture: more importantly He is Truth in person.
jase_uk_25: Can you point to anything that Jesus has said outside of the Bible?
evangelicalfuture: No but we know from the testimony in John's gospel that Jesus said and did many things not mentioned in thBible
evangelicalfuture: Jesus is still alive...he is not frozen in the 1st century...He is the Living Lord...I take that very seriously
jase_uk_25: Right, and do we have access to those things?
evangelicalfuture: access of the specifics of what the historical Jesus said that was not mentioned in the bible ....no ....but access via the teaching of the Holy Spirit yes.
evangelicalfuture: who si the admin in that room?
jase_uk_25: KnownbyHim
jase_uk_25: But, again how do we know its the Holy Spirit? We are told to test the Spirits.
evangelicalfuture: yes we are and we do that by the discipleine of prayer, sacrament, study of the Bible, righteous living, etc. it is when we are immersed in the commuity of faith that we obtain the discernment we need.
jase_uk_25: A community of faith made up of fallible people?
evangelicalfuture: i do not need ultimate knowedge of the ultimate Truth, this side of the eschaton and i do not beleive that the closing of the canon was an excercise in theological cryonics
evangelicalfuture: yes fallible peopel like those who were inspired by god to write the Bible
jase_uk_25: Yes, but they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
evangelicalfuture: your standard was non-existent for nearly 3000 yrs of covenant hisory but those ancient people heard the word of God...we can too.
jase_uk_25: They say you are welcome
evangelicalfuture: and the Holy Spirit is also alive and with us as well.
evangelicalfuture: evidently not
evangelicalfuture: i am blocekd
jase_uk_25: Well God revealed Himself progressively. There was an Ultimate authority in the past
jase_uk_25: God spoke through His prophets
jase_uk_25: To disobey them was to disobey God. Would you say anyone today has such authority?
evangelicalfuture: ultimate authority is in the future not the past...primary authority came from the past but ultimate authority according to scripture is stilll outstanding (1 cor 13)
jase_uk_25: In the past God revealed Himself through Prophets. People like Isaiah
evangelicalfuture: yes but we obviously do not obey everything that the bible teaches nor are we obligated to.
jase_uk_25: So, we are in the business of picking and choosing what we think is right, and thus we become the final authority.
evangelicalfuture: the Bible is not a bottle to trap the Holy Spirit like a genie.
jase_uk_25: Nor am I suggesting such a thing
evangelicalfuture: no jase we are not.....u and i and every Xn on the planet is selctive in waht text we obey and what text we relegate to non normative information.
jase_uk_25: But how do we test whether something is of God or not? The community of faith made up of fallible people who may or may not be correct in what they discern?
jase_uk_25: I don't deny that Christians have their traditions which can stand in the way of their understanding the scriptures.
evangelicalfuture: jase the communty of faith is always having to prayerful re-evaluate what it has dicerned...it is a situation of perpetual humility..u seem to thin that u can interpret the biel apart forom any community of faith.
evangelicalfuture: and traditions which can enhance and facilitate their understanding of scripture as well.
jase_uk_25: Well, my belief is that our traditions need to be drawn from scripture.
jase_uk_25: The problem is when we have traditions that are actually anti-biblical.
evangelicalfuture: and i feel the same way but i have no illusions about the reality that i cannot do that apart from the church
jase_uk_25: brb
evangelicalfuture: smae here brb
jase_uk_25: I believe that the church certainly has a role to play in teaching and preaching the truth
jase_uk_25: She is the pillar and support of the truth
jase_uk_25: But she is subject to the scriptures themselves. She is to be tested by them, otherwise she can not say with certainty what God has said.
evangelicalfuture: back
evangelicalfuture: the church is certainly obligated to continually and prayerfully read and reflect upon the scripture and certainl there is a meausre of testing which goes on in the process but the ultimate test is when the church stands before the judgement throne of God
jase_uk_25: But can the church know for sure that it is teaching the truth?
evangelicalfuture: again u seem to thing that an individual can simply open the Bible and with good reading skills know the truth ultimately.
jase_uk_25: I believe that God is able to do that
jase_uk_25: Well, I need to qualify that
evangelicalfuture: jase can u know for sure that ur teaching the truth...our understand will always this side of the final advent of Christ see through a mirror dimly but then we shall know truth face to face.
jase_uk_25: The Child of God is able to know what God has revealed in His Word
evangelicalfuture: ah now we see ur church guiding ur interpretaion and that is fine as long as u know that it is doing so and that it like all Christian traditions has a provisional authority
jase_uk_25: Yes, and it is subject to the ultimate authority of the scriptures. Just because people have traditions that blind them to the truth of God's word, it does not mean that the Bible is not the ultimate authority by which we should measure things by.
evangelicalfuture: jase u keep saying ultimate authority do u know what the word ultimate means?
jase_uk_25: I believe that my interpretion is not infallible
jase_uk_25: But the word itself is
evangelicalfuture: If the bibel were the ultimate authroity the return of Christ would be unnecessary.....u must ultimately become extremely preteristic if u carry this hermeneutic forward consistently
jase_uk_25: But I didn't say that the Bible would always be the sole, ultimate authority. Obviously, when Jesus returns the Bible will no longer be necessary.
evangelicalfuture: The bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the Word of God.
jase_uk_25: It will be better to have God Himself with us in the fullest sense.
evangelicalfuture: oh now we are starting to come around
evangelicalfuture: why?
jase_uk_25: Because then our sinful nature will be done away with. God will finally have restored His creation
evangelicalfuture: and it is just this sinful nature which prohibits us from ever having anauthority this side of eschaton which we can call ultimate truth
jase_uk_25: James White has a useful analogy
jase_uk_25: He likens the Bible to a perfect computer manuel
evangelicalfuture: and Christ is the perfect computer?
evangelicalfuture: or the perfect programer?
jase_uk_25: You get a new computer and with it comes the best, most clear computer manuel you could ever have. Everything you need to know is in there. But, human nature being what it is, we often don't bother reading the manuel, or we don't bother to read it properly.
jase_uk_25: But that doesn't change the fact that it is the best, most clear computer manuel you could ever have.
evangelicalfuture: White's analogy is ironically helpful...the perfect computer manuel does not exist...the best computer manuel does not exist
evangelicalfuture: no..i mean the best manuel is not perfect
jase_uk_25: His point is, if someone doesn't bother reading the manuel properly, it is not the fault of the manuel.
jase_uk_25: The fault lies with the person reading it.
jase_uk_25: So it is with the Bible.
evangelicalfuture: what is the computer analogous to again?
jase_uk_25: The Bible
jase_uk_25: Oh, the computer?
evangelicalfuture: i thought the manuel was the Bible?
jase_uk_25: I suppose it could be analogous to our lives. How are we to respond to God and to each other?
jase_uk_25: The manuel tells us
evangelicalfuture: ok...so our lives are the computer and we are the operators of the computer?
evangelicalfuture: (this analogy is beginng to sound a bit Pelagian...perhaps James can explain it)
evangelicalfuture: brb
evangelicalfuture: back
evangelicalfuture: u there?
jase_uk_25 logged off at 8:36 PM
evangelicalfuture: hey...what happened? thoguth we were getting somewhere

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Love

Love is like honey, sweet, sticky and slow. me is the wise guy would said this so don't any of u-ins swine go stealin' it without footnotin' me. Keep reading and one day, I'll get to writing again.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Real Simple Progressive Income Tax Reform Proposal

April 15th has passed and once more I had to get an extension because I always wait late so as to delay finding out how little I am worth. GWB is talking tax simplification which means simply he and his buddies pay less and you and I pay more. I am not an expert but here's a radical proposal for a progressive tax simplified. Give every individual an exemption of the first 5K in income, 10K for a couple and 20K for a family of 4. After that give every tax payer who earns 10K or more a 10K tax credit voucher card to pay for education, mortage, public transportation and anything else our democracy deems virtuous. This means all deductions, loopholes and other exemptions are gone and the IRS retires 80% of its employees early. Tax every 5K above the exempt first 5K at 5 percent up to 40 percent (the top bracket). It would look like this for a family of 4:

1st 20K exempt plus 20K on tax credit voucher card for two income earners who earned more than 20K in the year.

2nd 20K taxed at 5%

3rd 20K taxed at 10%

4th 20K taxed at 15%

5th 20K taxed at 20%

6th 20K taxed at 25%

7th 20K taxed at 30%

8th 20K taxed at 35%

All income above 160K taxed at 40 %.

Now if some greedy pig wants to incorporate himself, make sure he qualifies by paying a minimum of 5K in SSI for his employees and/or himself. No exceptions to this rule. For genuine businesses exempt the first 100K gross from all income tax. After that exempt 50 percent of all labor, equipment and supply costs and charitable contributions up to 10 million. The tax brackets for non exempt income would look like this:

100K-250K taxed at 10 %
250K-500K taxed at 15%
500K- 1 million taxed at 20%
1million - 5 million taxed at 25%
5 million- 10 million taxed at 30%
10 million- 100 million taxed at 35%
Above 100 million 40%

Tell me ye wise: how would you like that? April 15th would take all of 10 minutes to deal with. Accountants and tax collectors would be in the unemployment line and billions of dollars and hours would be saved.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

New Blog Promoting Church Unity

Here is the address for my newest blog. Please do comment: http://evangelicalcore.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Shiavo

The case of Terri Shiavo is a heart breaking one. I am not sure what I would do if I had medical power of attorney for a relative in this sort of situation. I think that if I were the one in Terri's position and there seemed to be no chance of recovery of consciuosness, I would not want to live. However, what I want and what is right are not always the same. One of the issues involved in the this case was that both sides wanted to say something about the consciousness of Terri. This betrays a anthropology which sees the soul as naturally immortal and as equated with consciousness. If the Christian understanding of embodiment and resurrection of the body are true, then as long as the body is a alive, the person is alive regardless of her or his state of consciousness. Whether or not we label the feeding tube medicine or food (it seems to be both) is irrelevant. What this means for public policy is hard to say. Certainly sympathy and flexiblity are needed whenever there is not a clear ethical consensus on such issues but the Christian case for disconnecting Terri Shaivo's feeding tube were never made.
On a related matter, I think that Jesse Jackson's political instincts are correct on this: tie the issue to the whole corporate run health care crisis. Same thing when it comes to pro life issues at the beginning of life. (Don't hold your breath waiting for the Democratic party to wise up.)

Monday, February 14, 2005

If I Were the Devil

If I were the devil, I would try to convince some folks I am around every corner while I tried to convince others that I do not exist.