Comments: Opinion - 9 April 2016

Jayne's article on 'shared confidences' touches an interesting and problematic face-off:

The reluctance of some evangelicals to let feelings inform or influence dogma. "Because they will then be giving some ground, under no circumstances should their emotions sway them from the truth. They need to remain resolute in their belief."

I have had such conversations myself, with well-intentioned evangelical friends, and I feel familiar with the priority given to 'reason' over 'feelings'.

There is sometimes (I'm trying not to generalise) a tense mental control... an urgent need to defend biblical statements - in the face of personal and human experiences - and for 'reason' to trump 'emotions'.

In my lifetime's walk with God, I have not found relationship given to me by God to be purely cerebral. Far from it, I have found it to be emotional, impulsive, compassionate, heart-rending, intimate, convulsive, passionate.

God does not come across to me as a coldly dogmatic and mentally controlling person.

And, made in God's image (to some extent) I don't think we are created to be cold and mentally controlling either. Reason and self-control have their place. But our relationships with God need to open up to the realities of emotion, relationship, love...

And if love is the primary imperative, arguably all the policed bible verses elsewhere in the scriptures need to be read and understood in the context of this love. Love trumps dogma, where the two seem to conflict. God is personal.

The spiritual key is not "who is right"... but "who, through grace, can open up to love?" And in that opening up - largely accomplished by God's Spirit - we encounter *sharing*. That is the nature of contemplative experience - that God the Holy Trinity (who lives in eternal relationship and love, three persons in one) seeks to share... even consciousness and awareness... with us as God-created persons... created for that very purpose.

And for us to share in that way, with one another too.

Fear of the unravelling of scripture - "if one verse isn't true, how do we know any of it is?" - leads to a kind of grim, tense mental need for control. A control that polices the boundaries of dogma, lest a system of belief gets infiltrated and subverted, subverting even the defenders themselves.

Feelings threaten the watertight nature of an infallible bible, and that constitutes dread to some people.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 9 April 2016 at 1:03pm BST

As the owner of Rycote, near Thame, Mr Taylor (who is to chair the review on the future of church buildings for the benefit of the Secretary of State) has next to his house a famous chapel that is the size of a parish church with special pews constructed for James I and VI, and for the Bertie family. It has services a couple of times a year (very well attended and usually conducted by the incumbent of Great and Little Milton and Great Haseley) and it is often open. I suspect that the management of the chapel will inform his attitude towards the production of the relevant report, as will the very patchy attendance in his local churches, of which I imagine he cannot be unaware.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 9 April 2016 at 1:14pm BST

Everyone knows that after the waste of time and money, we will be told that the CofE is not ready to change its position and is mindful of the Anglican Communion's Primates stance. This will happen & English liberals will pour another G&T but never leave the job & income. A liberal communion could be easily formed but because even TEC is desperate to be part of a global organisation with larger numbers, people & principle are thrown under various buses ....by 'liberals'

Posted by S Cooper at Sunday, 10 April 2016 at 12:06pm BST

Susannah,
your comment leaves me with the question of how we define "reason". Because knowing what we now know about homosexuality, about the perfectly normal lives of gay people and about the harm caused by preventing people from having stable relationships, there is absolutely nothing rational and reasonable about sticking with traditional theology.

And if people stick with traditional beliefs against all the evidence, then I would be more likely to think that there are unexamined emotional reasons for insisting the their kind of theology overrides everything.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 10 April 2016 at 5:28pm BST

Susannah and others can I offer two comments? I realise the context for this discussion of experience and ‘reason’ is how evangelical faith manages this relationship but it is not just an evangelical problem is it? Mind and heart, reason and experience is a relationship than any and every approach to life or faith must work out. I simply note how emotional even the most intellectual and academic contributions can be on ‘Thinking’ Anglicans – and how strongly the observation is resisted if made. Brain research shows that the times we are in our thinking/reasoning function the ‘affective’ stimuli in the brain are as active as when we are being ‘emotional’. This led a professor in human development to refer always to the ‘emotional mind’. I recall one of the observations of Western denominational church life by a Pentecostal theologian some years ago - he noted a terrible impoverishment and fear of emotion - and the consequent repression of passion – that was evident to those looking in.
Secondly, the evangelical Christian tradition (like others) is characterised a deep devotion and obedience to scripture, but is facing an overwhelming pressure to change by compelling ‘evidence’ from ‘the outside’. Telling them their concerns at this point are based on fear or attempts at keeping control are not helpful or strictly true (though it is deeply unsettling). The question ‘how can I be faithful to the teaching of scripture and while accepting what scripture has long been assumed to condemn’ is for them (and others) a real one. There is a hermeneutical journey going on - and for many it is actually enriching and deepening the understanding of scripture. Of course it will. The truth sets free.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 11 April 2016 at 10:38am BST

David

Evangelicals are right to look to Scripture as the yardstick. For me Jayne Ozanne demonstrates the fundamental woodiness of many liberal arguments. Inherent in her argument is the proposition that since gay Christians are suffering the teaching on same sex unions must be wrong. Christ and Scripture, however, both teach that following Jesus is costly and liable to involve suffering. For me, her argument is without merit.

However, Evangelicals do need to be pressed to explain how they can simultaneously read Scripture to prohibit same sex unions while not imposing Biblical punishment for sins like adultery, opposing slavery, and allowing women to speak in church. While liberals argue on the basis of feelings or rights we will get nowhere; but I think a consistent reading of Scripture would be transformative.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 11 April 2016 at 11:57am BST

Kate,
if Jayne Ozanne's argument is without merit, could you point me to any other example in Scripture where God demands something from a whole group of people that is known to be harmful to them and that has no apparent moral benefit for them or for society?

Yes, individuals sometimes suffer. That's not the same as God deliberately imposing suffering.

We know that gay people benefit from the same stable relationships straight people benefit from, and that telling them that, for an inexplicable reason God believes them to be so sinful that they must never seek love causes untold harm. Not just the harm of enforced loneliness but also the harm of an extra layer of intrinsic sinfulness imposed that straight people are not having to cope with.

I think we can safely say that when we have created a God who treats people like that, we have created a God in our own image.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 11 April 2016 at 5:25pm BST

Kate - suffering for the sake of the gospel and being made to suffer by others because of the colour your skin, your social group, gender or sexual identity are not the same thing at all.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 11 April 2016 at 8:53pm BST

Kate, you seem to imply that everything in the Bible should be taken as correct and infallible - the biblical infallibility line of argument, espoused by many (but not all) evangelical Christians. The idea that scripture is inerrant.

On that basis, I would believe that man-man sex is irrevocably wrong. Personally (others disagree with me) I believe the bible condemns men having sex with men.

And yet, as a human being with a God-given conscience, I believe man-man sex is NOT wrong. On the contrary, in contexts of love and flourishing, I believe it is desperately right.

And I lose no sleep whatsoever from that.

Because I believe, on this topic, quite simply, THE BIBLE IS WRONG.

Why? Because I don't believe the authors of the Bible were infallible, any more than I believe the Pope is infallible.

The bible was written by fallible human beings like you and like me. Human beings "trying to make sense" of profound encounters with the living God. Human beings, trying to express encounters with deeper reality. But doing so, not as robots doing automatic writing, but as ordinary fallible human beings, writing from within their own contexts, from within their own culture, from within the limits of their own science and understanding... "trying to make sense".

To read the Bible intelligently and with integrity (in my view) is to de-construct, to contextualise the words.

The bible is full of profound meaning - it is an amazing collection of texts - but it needs to be read as a set of messages, some of which impart deep meaning, some of which are dated and cultural and contextual.

Or else we strangle our conscience in submission to a fairy text. And having been given consciences by God, I do not believe that's what we were meant to do.

The bible has already been shown to be wrong - about creation, about Noah's Ark - it is also almost certainly wrong about God's command to ethnically cleanse the Canaanites, to kill Jephthah's daughter, or the story of the whale... so there are precedents pointing to how we should read the Bible in its contexts... and it can be wrong about man-man sex as well.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 8:22am BST

Love, as the bible also says, trumps all the other verses in the scriptures. The whole Bible should be read in the context of love, and responded to with conscience, and understood as a series of contexts, through which we can try to navigate the contexts of our own lives, and to navigate them with conscience and with love... not in robotic submission to a text "that is always right"... that would be a subjugation of the very conscience God has given us, reducing our moral capacity and potential.

We are meant to worship God not the Bible; to draw on insights of bible writers, but not to idolise them, or set their moral codes (springing from their own times and cultures) in aspic or stone.

The Word of God "is alive and active", working in our hearts, and cutting our consciences to the quick. By 'Word of God' I mean the living Word who is Jesus Christ... still calling us into being and our own becoming...

God speaks to us, often or sometimes, directly to our hearts, to our consciences. We know intuitively, by the Spirit, that something is wrong. We receive a compassion. We are opened up to a givenness... the givenness of the love of God.

Or else, religion can become like a stone, hard and engraved, and morally inflexible. We see that again and again in world history, and in countless private lives. And it reduces us, reduces our capacity.

Some people are frightened by the idea that the Bible can be wrong. But I think it makes the Bible more real not less real. And I think it makes the Bible more credible to others too.

We should celebrate love - in all its orientational expressions - because love is the whole point, and is beautiful, lovely and true. And not condemn it because the Bible tells us otherwise.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 8:25am BST

The world, our faith, the goodness of God, do not fall apart when we open up the book to our consciences. On the contrary, with freedom to read the Bible in contexts, we engage with God's conscience and our consciences directly, face to face... without rigid mediation and subjugation of our minds... and yet, still drawing on many of the Bible's insights, lots of which are profound and dynamic. We also listen to other writers, and scientists, and neighbours, and communities. We engage God through them all, which are the contexts we have been placed to live in.

Gay sex is lovely, not because the bible does or does not say it is, but because love is lovely. there is not enough love in the world.

It is a travesty when some Christians try to close down our consciences on this matter.

I am in a lesbian relationship that has dignified my life, brought me (and my partner) tender compassion, fidelity, sacrifice, givenness, goodness... and deep, whole-making, happiness. For this, I surrendered a calling to be a nun, even when the door was opened to me.

That is my context. So many have contexts like that. Contexts of decency and love.

The bible (and its authors) also had contexts. What we each have to do is to "try to make sense" of our lives, and to exercise conscience.

Different people will do that in different ways. That makes for challenge, and calls for grace... but in Christ, we can love one another, even in diversity.

May God hold us together as a church of many people, many communities, many consciences. But may we open our hearts to love, grace, kindness, even when we stridently disagree.

Love can win, and God calls quaint and queer people to that task, fallible human beings, a mishmash of eclectic folk. Different people, people made quirky and unique by God. But what is priceless is the capacity (if we open to God) to love, to tenderly give, to surrender to the divine impulse. We are conduits, even the Bible is... for the divine love. We are cracked, imperfect, sometimes wrong.

And yet, we can become children of God. We all can.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 8:27am BST

So the idolatry of men's written word - the great YARDSTICK - is still overwriting the Spirit of God. What "gospel," what "good news," is there in pretending that harsh and mindless cruelty to a group of people for their social group, gender or sexual identity is liberating? What greater gospel is there than to suffer rather than allow such a lie to stand?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 10:37am BST

"Kate - suffering for the sake of the gospel and being made to suffer by others because of the colour your skin, your social group, gender or sexual identity are not the same thing at all."

Agreed and I did not (intend to) suggest otherwise. But if someone experiences deep pain because they cannot marry their true love, being an individual of the same sex, then that pain and suffering is for the sake of the Gospel. If gay men refrain from relationships because of their faith - or Church teaching - then that sacrifice and suffering is for the Gospel. If a preacher is denied permission to officiate because they have admitted their sexual orientation, their sacrifice and suffering is for the Gospel. If a national church cannot participate fully in the Anglican communion because other national churches revile their treatment of LGBT people, then consequence that is for the Gospel.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 3:55pm BST

Erika: "Yes, individuals sometimes suffer. That's not the same as God deliberately imposing suffering."

Well according to the Bible, God did get a bit narky with Ai. He ordered Joshua to wipe its citizens out (Joshua 8:2) and do what they did to Jericho...

i.e. "they destroyed with the sword every living thing in it - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys" (Joshua 6:21).

Part of the ethnic cleansing of Canaan.

Or you could argue that God's mandate was claimed by the victors, and by the authors of the Bible, but actually God would not desire or demand slaughter of innocent children, defenceless women, the elderly and disabled.

The problem is not that the Bible doesn't command harsh things, but that arguable the Bible is wrong... needs to be read and interpreted in context... the context of its authors, their culture, their narratives.

These authors were not infallible. They honestly believed God was on their side, and their values had God's mandate, but they were limited by their own times and insights, they were not all-seeing.

Where these cracks occur in the biblical narratives, we need to look for the love. If a God who said "Let the little children come to me" is reported ordering the slaughter of little children... is God wrong, or do the authors simply not understand God? And attribute their own values to God's will?

That's not to say there isn't profound value in the Bible... just that it needs to be read with care and discretion, and critical, contextual reflection.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 5:18pm BST

Susannah Your assertion 'I believe, on this topic, quite simply, THE BIBLE IS WRONG' is based on a prior understanding of what kind of revelation/literature the Bible is. Fine. But when I say I don't agree with you it is not because I am afraid of the idea. I of what the able is as revelation and so I simply do not believe the Bible actually teaches what you assume it teaches on this subject. In the appendix of the Pilling report I outlined how many, like me, from the evangelical tradition believe the Bible teaching leads to an 'including' understanding of sexuality and relationships. And we come to this on the basis of what the bible teaches not in spite of it.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 5:58pm BST

Susannah

I have not said that the Bible is inerrant. But the Bible is unambiguous in stating that the Word is God (Gospel of St John). In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says he is not come to take any the law of Moses, but to fulfill it. So while the Bible is not inerrant in things like history, in terms of the revelation of God and his expectations of us, at the least the Bible itself claims authority. Of course it has to be read carefully and sensibly. If it is then it certainly does not speak agAinst lesbianism. Male-male sex is more complex but I still think Scripture accommodates it, but possibly only within a marriage recognised by the Church.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 6:12pm BST

"if Jayne Ozanne's argument is without merit, could you point me to any other example in Scripture where God demands something from a whole group of people that is known to be harmful to them and that has no apparent moral benefit for them or for society?"

Erika, we need look no further than the tribulations of the Jews. Although they were, and are, God's chosen people they were still dragged into slavery which had no direct moral benefit for them or for society.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 12 April 2016 at 6:16pm BST

David, when people try to ameliorate what the Bible says about man-man sex, and its impossibility anyway outside the authors' views of marriage, I am tempted to suppose this softer view of gay sex - involving alternative interpretations of words - may be kind of 'letting people off the hook' to appease their sensitivities.

Evangelical Christians I have known are often generous-spirited towards gay and lesbian people in their congregations... at least loving the sinner, and at best, wanting to accept that their sexuality is alright.

However I am not convinced the Bible and its authors are fine and dandy about man-man sex. The bible authors in the old testament were more or less apoplectic about guys having sex with other guys... it deserved surefire stoning. The bible authors in the new testament never wrote any specific repudiation of that teaching, and indeed preached sex being legitimate only inside marriage, which was seen as one woman and one man... there was no other take on that in their society.

So if the authors insisted on a firm line on marriage, and condemned even a man and woman having sex outside of wedlock, why would they have mandated guys having sex (inevitably outside marriage).

In the event, the only comments on man-man sex in the new testament are negative ones.

I honestly believe the views and values of the biblical authors - notwithstanding "there is no male and female" - was that two guys having sex with each other was an abomination.

However, I don't believe that is God's opinion. Anymore than I think the slaughter of Canaanite children was God's opinion.

I just think the Bible can be wrong and mistaken, and reflective of the authors' own culture and times.

Yes, trying to conjure up a soft biblical interpretation of man-man sex may enable believers to both believe in inerrancy, and not feel out of step with modern society and their gay friends.

But I don't buy that. I personally have more time for a biblical inerrantist if they say, yes, the bible condemns men having sex: because that seems more consistent to me.

I think one has to twist the bible's own teaching on sex inside marriage, and overlook that men in Judaism would have faced condemnation for having sex together, and then re-interpret certain words used in the text, to fit this biblically and socially inconsistent conclusion.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 12:09am BST

Just to add, David, of course, I am just arguing my point of view. I am not trying to critique your personal faith, or your right to hold your views. I believe in diversity of conscience and Christians holding conflicting views. I may disagree on this matter, but our hearts may of course both be inclined towards Jesus Christ.

It's just that I do feel that lesbian and gay people face marginalisation because of the enforcement of biblical inerrancy and bible statements, strongly asserted in some Provinces, which both they and I believe are condemnatory of guys having sex together.

That's why I take the issue seriously. I believe the biblical inerrantism is a core problem, although personal and social homophobia can obviously play a part as well.

Prelates in some African provinces use biblical inerrancy as the basis for condemning sex except between a man and woman inside marriage. I suspect prelates in England may also view the Bible in this elevated way as well.

I'd argue that, since the Enlightenment at least, God has been giving clues and signs that the Bible texts need to be read in a different way.

The bible is not all literally true, and it can be wrong.

The key is to not be afraid of that (I accept from your own statement that you are not, but I think many are). The key is to recognise profound truth in the Bible, notwithstanding it is fallible... a conduit of much truth, but not infallible.

For some Christians, the infallible and faultless Bible has to be defended ferociously, because their concern is that if one hole appears in the dyke, what will happen to the rest? If one statement in the Bible is wrong, how do we know that all of it isn't wrong?

There is a lot of fear and anxiety along those lines - LGBT people tend to be on the receiving end of it.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 12:23am BST

So, people who wrote stuff told us that what they wrote is The Word of God, and you buy that, entirely, while discounting what people tell you now, because it is now?

That's not faith.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 5:03am BST

Kate: "the Bible is unambiguous in stating that the Word is God"

I don't know what value there is in making statements like this. It uses coded language (very particular meanings for "unambiguous", "God" and "the Word") that no-one needs to decipher unless they want to debate with someone unable to think in ordinary language. For most of us, is that really worth the effort? Is anyone with that disability likely to be convinced by argument?

Evangelicalism may be oblivious to the disconnect, but perpetuating it effectively advertises that you don't want outsiders bothering to talk with you. It achieves the opposite of opening channels of communication. Without that, you have only church as a sect bubble that really is not worth bothering with. That's not good news for anyone, progressive or traditional, gay or straight.

Posted by David Marshall at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 11:57am BST

Susannah thank you for trouble in responding. I totally agree that the only examples of bible teaching about man-man sex it is condemned. But the key questions to ask are - what precisely is being condemned in this or that text and why? There has been a growing awareness that in ancient patriarchal society central where the priority for sexual relating where procreation was (where the man was the seed bearer and the woman the fertile soi)l, the abomination lay in what was perceived as one man taking a feminised, non-procreative role. This as seen as overturning the created order. Quite clearly the overall trajectory of the Bible is away from that high of sexual hierarchy and towards a more including understanding of human relating and intimacy. So this is part of a much larger context of the evolving understanding of human identity and belonging in the divine image. I must leave this necessarily brief ...

I do not use the word 'inerrancy' by the way. Nor am I trying to find a way of reading the bible in a way that is not 'out of step with modern society'. That idea alarms me actually. The challenge in every age and context is to read and hear the Bible on its own terms and to allow our living to be critiqued by it.

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 3:49pm BST

The Word of God is Jesus Christ incarnate. If the Bible is the Word it is only so in a secondary sense.

Posted by David Emmott at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 6:00pm BST

The Bible is a wonderful conduit for the living Word who is Jesus Christ - the God who called creation into being and who calls each one of us to be the best and whole of who we are uniquely made to be. He calls us into our being and our becoming.

However, it is a conduit for Jesus Christ, a container, not the thing it is containing. The Bible is like a water channel through history, through the lives of fallible human beings, who like the rest of us have "tried to make sense" of the divine mystery and the God they have (individually or communally) encountered.

The Bible is a vessel, a conduit, but like humans themselves (who wrote it) it is broken and chipped in parts, imperfect, yet nevertheless quite wonderful.

By reading of its authors' divine encounters, we can find ourselves opening to encounter too. And the same living Word (our God) can flow in our hearts ... "springs of living water" etc ... even though we're muddly, even though we're imperfect, even though we don't know everything.

So I think it is mistaken to elide the written words of the Bible, with the living Creator Word who is God. The one is simply a channel or stream bed through which and along which God is found to be present.

The channel, the conduit, is written by fallible and limited human beings - limited by their culture and contexts, and capable of errors.

Yet God can be found to be present in it, can draw us into that divine encounter too. In that sense, God operates dynamically through the Bible.

It is God we should worship, not the flawed and fallible (but still astonishing) Bible.

Or else we risk anaesthetising our consciences, suspending the need for our own moral agency, and falling back on the Bible to make our decisions for us - on the basis that "the Bible is right because the Bible says it is right"... which leads to a kind of theological tautology, and sometimes a religious bunker mentality, resisting social change.

Jesus is not the Bible. Jesus appears IN the Bible which is formed of words of sinful men or women, wrestling for understanding, trying to grasp meanings, but laying down reports, like a kind of historical conduit and narrative, a succession of encounters, lives touched by the living God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 10:22pm BST

When Jesus was challenged about healing on the Sabbath He could have responded by saying that the Law of Moses had to be considered as relevant for its time but He didn't. To my mind that undermines the use of the argument today that Scripture has be to considered in the context of its time. Man-man sex is clearly prohibited in the Law, but so are many things which Christians accept but modern Jews don't.

Jesus though (and to some extent the Epistles) taught that we need to look beyond the letter of the law to do a moral balancing act. So driving on a Sunday night be work and therefore against the law, but driving to go to church to worship is clearly morally different to driving to see a movie on a Sunday. In each case, our consciences are there to help us perform the moral balancing act setting the good in certain conduct against the letter of the law.

It should be obvious that there are similar moral decisions in terms of man-man sex between say self-indulgent cottaging and sex within a marriage with the sole purpose of giving comfort and pleasure to the other.

I don't agree with Susannah's view that our consciences can be used to decide what is generally right or wrong. That's the role of Scripture and the starting point is that man-man sex is prohibited. But so are very many dietary practices which most Christians decide not to follow: I have been to many Christian breakfasts in which pork bacon is served. Consciences are, I think, there to support us in the moral balancing act in particular circumstances, but can't as a generality make something OK which the Law prohibits.

For me both conservatives and liberals are both right (and both wrong). Liberals I think should acknowledge that man-man sex is prohibited but conservatives should accept that love can transcend that prohibition and that it is therefore vital to support same-sex marriage to provide a supportive framework for couples were love has transcended the more general prohibition.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 10:31pm BST

Dear Susannah, of all of your many contributions on this thread, I can certainly agrre with this epoc paragraph:

"The bible was written by fallible human beings like you and like me. Human beings "trying to make sense" of profound encounters with the living God. Human beings, trying to express encounters with deeper reality. But doing so, not as robots doing automatic writing, but as ordinary fallible human beings, writing from within their own contexts, from within their own culture, from within the limits of their own science and understanding... "trying to make sense". - Susannah -

Christ is risen, Alleluia. He is risen indeed!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 1:46am BST

"The Word of God is Jesus Christ incarnate. If the Bible is the Word it is only so in a secondary sense." - Posted by: David Emmott -

Alleluia! AMEN.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 1:48am BST

When Jesus was challenged about healing on the Sabbath He could have responded by saying that the Law of Moses had to be considered as relevant for its time but He didn't.

First, I'm not sure you can conflate the rabbinic interpretation what was both religious and state regulation for Israel with simple reiteration of Scripture as it stands since the Christian canon was compiled. It would be sort of like taking Roe v. Wade and elevating it to Holy Writ.

Second, by appealing to the process of halakhic (and, in some cases, aggadic) interpretation (i.e. - the question of saving an animal on Sabbath) Jesus is, indeed, arguing from a very present and situational position, thus, yes, he did use a method which was the equivalent of the modern exegetical method of the consideration of Scripture as relevant to time and place.

Thirdly, (and, I confess, somewhat tangentially) by the story of Jesus' response to the rebuke concerning plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath - the example of David's men doing what was clearly and concretely against the Law - Christ did, indeed, show willingness to argue the irrelevance of certain provision of Mosaic law.

Indeed, Jesus' personal relationship to the Law of Moses was dynamic and flexible, very much centered on the world as He encountered it, not on rigid literal or traditional interpretation.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 11:31am BST

"The Word of God is Jesus Christ incarnate."

Nah. It's a wonderfully imaginative idea, God becoming man to reveal God to humanity. But like Alleluias and Christ is risens it's become a flag of convenience for Christian tribes. It so overloads coherent language that it has no sense-making value now, if it ever did. Without at least an explanatory "in Christian mythology" or "we know God is not really a man", it's another brick in the wall of incomprehension around the value in Christian tradition. I've said it before, but a Church with a worthwhile future will have to do better than this.

Posted by David Marshall at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 12:03pm BST

Mark, I don't follow what point you are making. Sorry - I'm being a bit dense I am sure.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 9:04pm BST

David

I think you are suggesting that the world is too prosaic to entertain Jesus as both human and divine, but in quantum mechanics a photon can be simultaneously a wave and a particle so maybe science is catching up with some Biblical memes?

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 14 April 2016 at 9:27pm BST

The point is found hidden here, in this statement:

"Christ did, indeed, show willingness to argue the irrelevance of certain provision of Mosaic law.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 15 April 2016 at 9:03am BST

Thank you Mark, but His view was that the then prevailing interpretation was wrong not that the correct interpretation varied over time according to cultural factors.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 15 April 2016 at 10:34am BST

Kate

In one sense quantum mechanics does resemble the idea of Jesus being both man and God. Both are incomprehensible from a common sense point of view. The essential difference is that quantum theory produces results that measurably describe reality at the level of sub-atomic particle physics.

There are no "measurements" of Jesus' divinity. The idea clarifies nothing; it's a form of words concocted to resolve a political dispute that makes no sense now, because we do not take seriously claims by present-day emperors to be god. What it is does is make a non-sense of God. Instead of society being able to discuss and relate to God as the metaphysical reality underlying both gravitational and quantum physics, it first has to filter out millenia of anthropomorphic obfuscation. With the Church's history and continuing self-interest it's hardly surprising that most of us don't bother any more. I think we're all the poorer for that.

Posted by David Marshall at Friday, 15 April 2016 at 12:45pm BST

David Marshall, there you go! In your attempt to demystify the Divinity/Humanity of Jesus. Arrogating to yourself the ability to 'plumb the depths of God', reminds us all of the challenge of Scripture: "Where are your wise-men/philosophers now?" or, equally, "The wisdom of God is wiser than men".

Any reputable Christian apologist would not try to mess with the simple acceptance of the traditional accummulated wisdom concerning the Incarnation of Christ. This sort of arrogance is normally left to militant atheists.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 18 April 2016 at 12:42am BST

You're very predictable, Ron Smith! "Not mess with the simple acceptance of accummulated wisdom"? Why on earth not, if it no longer makes sense. Our knowledge of the universe, our capacity to access and debate that knowledge, is way beyond anything available to the scripture writers.

Real wise people/philosophers have always been open to new ideas. They become wise because they listen and reflect on both tradition and innovation in their context. Anyone who relies on received wisdom can only parrot what they have heard. Sooner or later, they go the way of the dodo.

Posted by David Marshall at Monday, 18 April 2016 at 1:36pm BST

"Anyone who relies on received wisdom can only parrot what they have heard." - David Marshall -

David, I am not defending 'received wisdom' as the 'only' way of living out our Faith. However, neither can it be ignored, for to do so would be to reject the God who is at the heart of it all. I do agree with you, that Scripture can no longer be thought to contain 'all that is necessary' to live the Christian life. We have to be open to new activity by the 'Holy Spirit.. given to us"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 21 April 2016 at 12:42pm BST
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