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Welcome… everyone October 7, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Church, Life Issues.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Originally posted back on May 14th, I thought I’d bring this post back to the top since it’s attracted some interesting comments recently. Please feel free to join in and let me know what you think: is the Bible “the Word of God” as Jonathan believes? If it is, do “we” — does anyone — have a responsibility to “submit” to it, as Jonathan contends?

In either case, what does the phrase “the Word of God” mean, and what would the process of “submitting” to it involve? Is God a tyrant in the sky who issued a series of once-for-all dictats from above but who, for reasons best known to Godself, stopped issuing them 2,000 years ago and now we just have to go along with them, no questions asked?

Over to you, my splendid friends…

–Original Post–

Believe Out Loud: the ad Sojo wouldn’t run


1. David Marriott - May 14, 2011

Great ad, I really like it. It’s even accessible to those who think homosexuality is wrong – whatever our thoughts upon that. I would hope that my church, and our Church would welcome all colours, shapes, sizes and sexualities.

Phil Groom - May 14, 2011

I find it utterly bewildering that a supposedly progressive organisation like Sojourners wouldn’t run it in their ad space. They say they want to be ‘neutral’ which strikes me as rather like saying you’ll drive down the middle of the road because you don’t want to decide which side to travel on — fatal collision imminent!

Love this quote from Elie Wiesel, cited on one of the blogs: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

2. Jonathan - October 5, 2011

It seems to me, Phil, that you’re rather too keen to draw up a line of confrontation where it’s necessary to take ‘sides’. The Bible clearly reveals that homosexual practise is sinful, but you’re suggesting that those who hold to Biblical teaching on this issue are on the wrong ‘side’, amongst the oppressors and tormentors. I believe in equality: we’re all sinners, and equally responsible to repent of our sin, whatever form it takes.

Phil Groom - October 5, 2011

Not a line of confrontation, Jonathan: more a line of interpretation, and subsequent decision to accept or reject. It can, of course, become a line of confrontation: that depends on where we draw the line, and who draws it, what we do with it: do we stand on one side, with stones of condemnation in our hands, or do we stand on the other, arms wide and hands held out in a gesture of reconciliation?

Your assertion that “The Bible clearly reveals…” is taking one side of one possible line, identifying those who read scripture through that particular interpretive lens as “those who hold to Biblical teaching”, an implicit statement that those who read scripture otherwise do not hold to biblical teaching.

I do not see biblical teaching as so cut and dried and do not accept that scripture must be read in the way you suggest. Whilst I accept that no one is perfect — or, as you express it, “we’re all sinners” — I do not accept that homosexual practice is necessarily sinful.

No doubt it can be, just as heterosexual practice can be sinful; but I do not regard either homosexual or heterosexual practice as necessarily sinful in and of themselves.

Jonathan - October 5, 2011

I think if you were brutally honest with yourself you’d acknowledge that the interpretive lens you’re looking through is a 21st century western socially-liberal one that just can’t accept what is plainly revealed. I understand the temptation, because it’s difficult to resist the emotional and subjective social pressures that are brought to bear on the issue. It’s intellectually dishonest though, and, ultimately, spiritually unfaithful.

Phil Groom - October 5, 2011

That, Jonathan, depends upon your view of scripture. What I see is a collection of writings gathered over a long period of time from a variety of different writers with differing agendas and an evolving understanding of various conceptions of God. What is sometimes “plainly revealed” is their perspectives on faith and life in their historical/cultural/sociological settings; but even that needs a careful hermeneutic to avoid the all too common mistake of simply reading our own presuppositions back into the text. Discerning the will of God is far less clear.

Jonathan - October 5, 2011

Ah, I see, thus absolving ourselves of the responsibility of submitting to Scripture as the Word of God. Neat.

Phil Groom - October 6, 2011

Again, Jonathan, that all comes down to your presuppositions: you are presupposing that scripture is “the Word of God” (whatever that means), then you are adding the view that if scripture is “the Word of God” then “we” have some sort of responsibility to “submit” to it (whatever that means).

Thing is, Jonathan, the God I believe in isn’t a tyrant: s/he doesn’t require submission, s/he desires friendship; so even if I went along with the notion that the Bible is “the Word of God” it would not necessarily follow that anyone is required to “submit” to it. In fact, the idea would throw up far more questions than answers: what do we mean by submit? Put it on a pedestal and bow down to it? Read selected passages and attempt to live them out, as most Christians do? Which passages and why, given that the Bible’s different writers have differing understandings of God and of what God requires?

Far more sensible, I think, to read it as part of humanity’s quest to understand its experiences of God, to learn from both the wisdom and the folly it encompasses…

3. Jonathan - October 8, 2011

So, in summary, your approach to Scripture is ‘Did God really say…?’

Phil Groom - October 9, 2011

I wondered when someone would come out with that one, Jonathan. If you believe that the Bible is “the Word of God” (again, whatever that means), then I guess it’s almost inevitable that you’ll perceive someone who doesn’t share that view as a serpent in the garden. But my question as I read scripture is simple: what is God saying to us through this?

4. Jonathan - October 9, 2011

If you wished to avoid the (obvious) reference to the serpent in the garden, it would be wise not to adopt his hermeneutic.

Phil Groom - October 10, 2011

Why are you trying to trap me, Jonathan? Show me a book of the Bible: whose name is on it?

5. Jonathan - October 10, 2011

Have you heard of Thomas Hansard, Phil? His name is on every publication of Parliamentary proceedings, but the message he conveys is not his own.

25 Then He [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Phil Groom - October 10, 2011

Indeed. Then regard that which comes from God as from God, and that which comes from human beings as from human beings.

6. Jonathan - October 10, 2011

I’m very happy to do so, since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Phil Groom - October 29, 2011

Sorry for delayed response, Jonathan: life, in all it’s fullness 🙂

I’ll go along with the view that all scripture inspired by God is also useful for teaching, reproof, correction etc, which is a closer rendition of the Greek text than most English translations tend to give us — check out http://bible.cc/2_timothy/3-16.htm if you’d like to compare translations and read some of the vast commentary that’s out there; but the notion that all scripture is inspired by God is patent nonsense: the Qu’ran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, the Watchtower Translation — they’re all scripture to their respective communities, but all inspired by God?

But even if we narrow it down to the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, we run into problems: what, every single variant Aramaic, Greek & Hebrew text? The Masoretic text or the Septuagint, or the New Testament writers’ paraphrases? For those who don’t read the ancient languages, which translation?

No: it’s Jesus, God’s Living Word, with whom we must contend, not some letters in an ancient tome; in fact, those very letters point us to him:

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world…

God has given us minds with which to wrestle with scripture as Jacob wrestled with God himself: God does not expect mindless submission to ancient manuscripts but invites us to an ongoing conversation — and revisiting our understanding of human sexuality and relationships is a part of that conversation. Long may it continue!

Just say it, you know you want to...

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