Thinking Anglicans

weekend columnists

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times: A gentle reminder that soft answers can turn away wrath.

Chris Hardwick writes about Conscience in Face to Faith in the Guardian.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about how The Bible is not a legal document.

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Göran Koch-Swahnedave williamsFord ElmsChristopher Shelllaurence Recent comment authors
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Pluralist
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The background to Giles Fraser’s piece is the decline in all the various inspiration theories of the Bible, to the point where the bible stands nakedly as “regulative” for the Christian religion. If something becomes regulative, then in its nakedness is becomes something legal, like how the regulation applies. This notion of being regulative is supposed to happen in a general sense, and should not open itself to line by line legalities. Whilst the fundies who send in the lawyers maintain more supernatural views of inspiration, it is an evidence of their creakiness among even their own that the lawyers’… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

Sometimes I fear I must sound like the ultimate sycophant, enthusiastically shouting “What he said!” to virtually EVERYTHING Giles Fraser writes. Nevertheless, “When someone put in those nasty verse numbers, the lawyers started to feel it was their book — a set of regulations. Chapter and verse started sounding like paragraph 1, subsection 3 of a legal contract. That was the point at which some Christians began to reject the idea that the Bible could be read in various ways, and, worse still, that it might contain contradictions or poetry. Such things would undermine its status as the ultimate legal… Read more »

Maduka
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Maduka

What exactly does the Bible mean to the Christian? On the one hand we have a legalistic, puritan and rigid school of thought. On the other hand, we have an “anything goes, anything is justified” school of thought that gradually chips away at the authority of the Bible. It is simply not enough to criticise a “legalistic reading of the Bible” or “Biblidolatory”. You have to explain to people who do not have degrees in theology how the Bible should be read. This is the problem with progressive christianity – it prefers analysis to solution of problems. The evangelicals may… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

>it prefers analysis to solution of problems<

What is the problem? Is it the vast cultural and understanding difference over time, or is that just more analysis?

Solution… Should we perhaps read something else instead/ as well? Or should we carry on, and just explain the various informed views about the readings, possible connections, and let people make of them what they will? Is that a solution? Depends what you want.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

I was reading ?Gorringe on the Atonement not so long since, and he made the point that theology did not reign for long in the Middle Ages — they discovered Roman Law and realised very quickly that this was where the action was….

Maduka
Guest
Maduka

Pluralist, Our problem is not in what we know, it is in what we do with what we know. Let us KIS (keep it simple). We are “over-theologising” ourselves out of existence. There are things we will NEVER understand about scripture till we die (Now we see darkly). In our quest for “deeper and more complete” knowledge we are missing the basics. The man on the street does not give a toss about the “historicity or cultural context of the Gospels”, he wants to know how Jesus can make him a better person. We are failing to impact our society… Read more »

Maduka
Guest
Maduka

>Solution… Should we perhaps read something else instead/ as well? Or should we carry on, and just explain the various informed views about the readings, possible connections, and let people make of them what they will? Is that a solution? Depends what you want.< First step. Let’s get them to actually HEAR what we have to say. Nobody is listening to us, we are talking to ourselves (amongst ourselves). The important question should be: In a world of Big Brother, Pop Idol and Shop till you drop, how do we get people to HEAR OUR POINT OF VIEW? How can… Read more »

Raspberry Rabbit
Guest

More negative theology. Yet another tiresome, flaccid protest by this writer. I’m going to put the kettle on and do my taxes and come back later to see if Giles Fraser is able to say anything other than what the Bible is *not*. The confessing Church in Germany was able to keep its form in the midst of the massive compromises that had been made by the National Church by dwelling on what the bible said about the Lordship of Christ and the contingency of human structures. In short because the Biblical witness spoke to them and laid the claim… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

Maduka, Let your light so shine is how we have been told to get our message across. We are certainly not doing that. We do not show to the world our esteem for the human life God created, for example, we instead show our desire to punish and have control over those who would have an abortion, or those who are not heterosexual, or those whose marriages fail, or those who in one way or another do not follow the narrow Law we claim was given by God. We obssess on the Law so much that we forget what our… Read more »

Maduka
Guest
Maduka

Ford Elms,

I wish we could break out of the “Oxford Theologian” mode. Everyone knows we are smart – so what?

JCF
Guest
JCF

Come off it, Maduka. It’s obvious that your anti-intellectualism is a thinly-veiled disguise for justifying abuse-of-POWER. To wit: “On the other hand, we have an “anything goes, anything is justified” school of thought that gradually chips away at the authority of the Bible . . . This is the problem with progressive christianity – it prefers analysis to solution of problems.” Oooh: how awful, those progressives. Kick ’em out! …IF that’s what they stood for. BUT THEY DON’T. (and I suspect you know that) Rather, progressives (frequently) see DIFFERENT problems and (usually) propose DIFFERENT solutions—reading (“learning, marking and inwardly-digesting”) the… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

>The man on the street does not give a toss about the “historicity or cultural context of the Gospels”, he wants to know how Jesus can make him a better person.< Maduka Really? Do people want a relationship of dependence, how Jesus can make each a better person? Is this what they seek? The whole point about recent theology, even if it is us talking among ourselves (for a time) is because it sees that (some) people might want to be better people, but they want to do it as autonomous people. This was the whole point about the Secular… Read more »

Maduka
Guest
Maduka

JCF,

People are engrossed with the “Big Brother” culture, because that is what is available.

How do we present alternatives to the prevailing culture?

laurence
Guest
laurence

‘…a world of Big Brother, Pop Idol and Shop till you drop, how do we get people to HEAR OUR POINT OF VIEW? How can our voice be heard above the din?”..’

The message of the Churches has even less to say of the shag till you drop culture ….

…. we seem to get a mixture of enjoying it (goes without saying ) but THEN either splitting it off and ignoring it; or condeming it.

Maybe be we need a lot more pop reflection on its meaning for us all

( a kind of pop Adrian Thatcher perhaps ?)

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Perhaps the Who are “we”? should be answered first.

Pluralist
Guest

Now, Maduka, you are analysing. Join the analysts. You ask, How do we present alternatives to the prevailing culture? The answer is that we already do. People who present a dogmatic and usually simplistic view of the Christian story do so along with present day culture, in other words they have a high belief distance from the culture but do it with ease of entry via spiritual entertainment. It has some success with rotating to it frustrated people from other churches and a few new captures. People who present the Christian story in relationship to how people think today (and… Read more »

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Lawyers are great scapegoats aren’t they -they have a bad image. But plenty of Christians in much more user friendly professions will share the LCF’s interpretation. So Giles does no favours by playing the man not the ball. Besides any lawyer would have told him that his argument was seriously flawed. Adding verse numbers to the Bible doesn’t make it any the more a legal document. As a Philosophy lecturer and a theologian he is surely familiar with plenty of classical works that use paragraph numbering, not to mention poems and songs. At the same time with or without verse… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Adding verse numbers has defaced the inspired writings and turned them into something different from the orgiginal surely. If God had wanted verse numberings God could have added them God’s self,surely ?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

It is impossible that a document that is studied as much as the Bible would not be broken down into small subsections. This applies to every other much-studied document, Shakespeare, Josephus or whatever. What has this to do with whether it is a ‘legal’ document or not? It is clear, however, that certain parts of it (Leviticus, parts of Exodus and Deut) are definitely legal documents: it would be foolish to deny this. The whole idea that the whole Bible is one genre is a non-starter. It is all sorts of genres. ‘It’ is not even a single book, anyway,… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams,
Would you not agree that the Christian attitude is that our response to the Law must be more than either:
It’s the Law, we have to obey it, or
Jesus frees us from the Law so we don’t have to obey it?

Either attitude would seem contrary to Paul’s nuanced arguments, not that I understand them. Yet “Free From the Law, Oh Happy Condition” remains a truly Christian sentiment, does it not? It seems to me that we need to debate out understanding of what that freedom actually is rather than just falling back on “Bible as legal document”.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Touchy, touchy…

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“What has this to do with whether it is a ‘legal’ document or not?”

Well you know, the paragraphing w a s done (pretty late in Time) by people who read the Bible as “one genre” – and as Law at that.

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Ford,

Yes. I’m a Romans 6 as well as a Romans 5 Christian!

Dave

dave williams
Guest
dave williams

Goran, Nope -as you know there has been a long tradition of referenciing text sections by letters of the alphabet, by paragraphs and by verse. Other classical texts are given reference markers. It’s a useful way of telling people which bit of the Bible we are going to read from or refer from -it’s helpful to you wonderful Anglicans when you use the lectionary… it’s not scripture, it’s not infallible can sometimes imply a divide in the wrong place but pragmatically its useful. I cannot beleive that grown men have resorted to such a silly level of argument but if… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Touchy, touchy ;=)

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

So you’ve found 1 against all the others.

And then it’s “slander the dead”?