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Karl Barth and literalism

Karl Barth

Karl Barth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Karl Barth said, “I take the Bible too seriously to read it literally.”

Proof-texting, literalism or fundamentalism, the same rose by different names, is not a helpful way to understand Scripture.   Clergy in the LCA, upon ordination, are forced to declare the Scripture as inerrant and infallible.  The alternative is exclusion from ordination, which is hardly an option after many  years of study. Those clergy who are uncomfortable with such narrow thinking are forced to metaphorically cross their fingers while the oath is taken.

About a third of the American populace takes everything the Bible says at face value, reading as they would a history or science textbook.  I don’t read the Bible this way, and can’t imagine doing so. Here are four reasons why: Ref  4 Good Reasons Not to Read the Bible Literally.  (David Lose from Huffington Post)

1) Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant.   … (read more)

2) Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness. … (read more)

3) Most Christians across history have not read the Bible literally. … (read more)

4) Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God.  … (read more)

Perhaps literalism is the biggest sin the LCA needs to confess.  Unless responded to with vigour it may mean that the Church will have virtually disappeared in 50 years time.   According to the current downturn in membership that is not such an absurd proposition.

Women’s ordination will arrive to the LCA.  The alternative is unthinkable. At that time members, leaders and congregations will discover the gentle joy of female pastoral care and begin to apologise for the way they kept women on the margins of the Church.

 

 

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Inerrancy: I think someone forgot to tell the Bible

The walls of Jericho

On our journey of attempting to understand the thinking of inerrantists, here’s a post worth reading – follow the links to read the full post.

Speaking as a biblical scholar, inerrancy is a high-maintenance doctrine. It takes much energy to “hold on to” and produces much cognitive dissonance. I am hardly alone. Over the last twenty years or so, I have crossed paths with more than a few biblical scholars with evangelical roots, even teaching in inerrantist schools, who nervously tread delicate paths re-defining, nuancing, and adjusting their definition of inerrancy to accommodate the complicating factors that greet us at every turn in the historical study of Scripture.

For many other evangelicals (scholars of other disciplines, pastors, and laypeople), inerrancy is likewise no longer a paradigm of explanatory power, but a fragile theory in need of constant care and tending to survive.

Rather than doing justice to the historical complexity, diversity, and depth of the Bible, inerrancy seems burdened by them. Even when defined with flexibility and nuance, inerrancy is in awkward conversation, if not all out tension, with some genuine and widely (if not universally) accepted advances in our knowledge of antiquity (e.g., Israelite history, human history, various branches of science) easily accessible to all, and shared by non-inerrantist Christian scholars working across the theological, ecclesiastical, and academic spectrums.

The problem faced by evangelicals who are critical of inerrancy is that inerrancy has been a central component of evangelicalism for its entire history, a response to the challenges of biblical higher criticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Inerrancy is encoded into the evangelical DNA, and conversations, however discreet, about its continued usefulness are rarely valued; more typically, considerable personal and professional fallout follows in due course.  (more)

“Inerrancy is coded into the evangelical DNA (of evangelicalism).”  This may be useful in beginning to understand conservative’s framing.  If inerrancy is central to faith, without it nothing is sure and key pillars of are threatened. To question the smallest or oldest verse in the Bible or to question a text of terror (last post) is to question the central tenet of their New Testament Christianity.

To us it seems that this leaves inerrantists in the academically compromised position of standing for a belief that can’t then be substantiated without constantly “re-defining, nuancing, and adjusting their definition of inerrancy to accommodate the complicating factors that greet us at every turn in the historical study of Scripture”.

We are still trying to come to terms with inerrancy and are sure that we have misrepresented conservative’s case.  Please add your thoughts, share your thinking and experience, and help us on this journey.  At least read the post referred to and see what you think.

Have you shared this blog on Facebook yet?  Perhaps Twitter or another site? It’s one way of taking part in the conversation when it can’t be had in the pages of The Lutheran.

 

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The ‘shame’ of honour killings

If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the girl’s father and mother … shall display the cloth (that the couple slept on) before the elders of the town …  If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.

So-called ‘honour killings’ are still a reality today in Central and Southern Asia, and the Middle-East.

These shocking verses, however, are from Deuteronomy 22:13-21 an early text from the Christian Old Testament.

What validity do they have for Christians today? What is God’s word here?  If the Bible is inerrant, it would seem, from these verses, that God is a vicious, tyrant.

Isn’t it time the LCA revisited the pledge that graduating seminarians are required to take before ordination?

Can anyone explain the argument for maintaining the use of ‘inerrancy’ in the face of such texts of terror?  Hoping that someone can enlighten us.

 

Further Reading:

Dear Dr Laura

 

 
 

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Attempting to end an impasse

WordPress have just updated their “Add Media” button – it took some for these images to load.

In a recent post, “Hey Mate!” one commenter, Pastor Wally, has had extreme frustration with your authors’ Scriptural understanding and the tools used at arriving at that understanding. We also have had extreme frustration when our language and world views seemed to be misunderstood.

We felt that continued dialogue was pointless.  At that stage Cdonges then commented, in a moderator’s role, asking questions of Wally and us. Here’s the recent comments:

As this conversation is wasted at the base of dozens of comments under a post, we have created a full post in order that the Katie and Martin community, might share and participate.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Guest Post: Lutheran Church of Australia: Church or Cult?

Although we subscribe to Neil Hart’s blog, sometimes there’s just too much happening and posts slip under the radar.  Neil’s post (below) is worth the read.  It gives a couple of examples of Pr Semmler imposing his style of hermeneutics and his interpretation of Scripture on delegates to a General Convention (also referred to as Synod) and the general LCA.

September 25, 2012

The issue of women’s ordination has been bubbling away in the Lutheran Church of Australia for a few decades now. After much theological soul searching the Church’s theological think tanks finally concluded that there is no theological impediment to the ordination of women. Despite this a vote for the ordination of women at the 2006 General Synod, although obtaining a narrow margin in favour of the proposal, did not reach the required 2/3 majority to effect the necessary change.

I was on the floor of Synod on that sad and confusing day. It seemed that we were in a bit of a bind. I remember one pastor giving voice to the problem. He asked the President what should happen now that slightly more than half of the pastors of the church had, by their vote, expressed their disagreement with the public teaching of the Church. I remember that his response went something along the lines of…

The pastors have all sworn to uphold the public teachings of the church! 

PHEW! That was a close one. Division in the church narrowly averted.

Problem is… some pesky pastors and lay people were less than convinced by the President’s weighty argument and have continued to campaign against what they see as an anachronistic and unjust stand against women. They met recently to encourage one another and to remind the Church that they and the issue have not gone away.

So the President saw fit to send out a letter of reprimand.

Allow me, reader, to draw your attention to one telling sentence in that recent letter.

The disappointing issue of those wishing to bypass studies of scripture in discussions and who use human understanding, logic, social justice, equal rights and such cultural contexts to  further a cause is to be lamented and discouraged

OK.  3 things

1. I’m not sure if that is actually a sentence. (But who am I to criticise anyone else’s grammar. Pots and kettles.)

2.  I have been involved in the debate on Women’s Ordination in the LCA for nearly 30 years. In that time I have heard no-one in the LCA ever mention, advocated or even hint at bypassing scripture.  The place of scripture is not and has never been in question on the matter of women’s ordination just as it has not been in question in our debate on the church’s statement on homosexuality.

3. What the President is doing here is outlining HIS understanding of how one is to interpret scripture. According to the President,  human understanding, logic, social justice, equal rights and cultural contexts are to be absent from our study of scripture. More than that, according to the President, the use of these things is to be “lamented and discouraged”.

Correct me if I am wrong but… hasn’t our President just outlined the recipe for the birth of a cult?

On Thursday night I listened to an interview on Radio National with a Western Australian woman who spent a couple of decades as a blindly faithful follower of the Bhagwan Rajneesh. Her uncritical devotion to the master, the absence of human understanding and logic, her complete withdrawal from the cultural context that had previously helped to ground her, her willingness to abandoned her common sense of justice and rights and wrongs left her vulnerable to the will of a narcissistic madman until she was finally ready to kill for him.

Ok Mr President, my logic and human understanding are now disengaged. My sense of justice and my concern for the rights of others has been suppressed. My attempts to apply scripture to our present cultural context have been abandoned…

Is this really the attitude you want us to adopt in interpreting the Bible?

Is this really what you want?

Maybe it IS what the President wants. It is certainly ONE way to maintain unity in the Church.

 

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New Testament Women Church Leaders

Mary Magdalene. Illustration from the Albani Psalter, Hidesheim, 12th Century.

Were there many New Testament women church leaders?

Below is a list of posts from Margaret Mowzko (Christians for Biblical Equity, Sydney Branch) examining New Testament women leaders in some detail.  She provides reminders that women were central among the leaders of the early Church.  Certainly female leadership is supported by multiple Biblical precedents.

My favourite posts: NT Women Church Leaders.

The Chosen Lady:  The Chosen Lady in 2 John 

Euodia and Syntyche: Church Leaders in Philippi

Priscilla: Did Priscilla Teach Apollos?

Junia: Junia and the ESV

Priscilla, Lydia and Phoebe: Working Women in the New Testament

Stephanas: Man or Woman?

Various Women: New Testament Women Church Leaders

 
 

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Love Builds Up

Megan Greulich

Megan Greulich is the editor of Mutuality magazine and the membership coordinator for CBE. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she bakes special occasion cakes and volunteers with her church’s youth group.

“But 1 Corinthians 14 says that women should be silent in churches…right?” It was a shy question from a high school student, in the middle of a church fundraising supper. I had been chatting with this student and his family, and his father mentioned how the Bible passage had come up in discussion at their home a few days earlier. “I believe that women can be preachers. In fact, a woman pastor performed my wife’s and my wedding ceremony more than twenty years ago,” the father said to me as the mother nodded in agreement. “But we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I didn’t know what to say to my son when he read those verses. Maybe you can help us understand.” The father, mother, and son all looked at me with tentative but curious faces.

We launched into a great discussion about the cultural context of the Corinthian church, about the surrounding verses in the letter, and about Paul’s approval of women leaders in other sections of his writings (check out these resources on 1 Corinthians 14 for more information). I love these kinds of conversations. I was so inspired by this family’s honesty, humility, and willingness to ask tough questions.

As we chatted, I watched the mother. While she said very little, I noticed how her eyes began to brighten. She even gently leaned forward in her chair—a sure sign, in our understated Minnesotan subculture, that she was getting excited. I recognized it because it matched my own response when I first heard egalitarian Bible interpretations. It was hope. And relief.

But then another young man at our table decided to jump into the conversation. Interrupting me, he very assertively declared, “All I know is that God will use women leaders only when the men aren’t doing their job and stepping up.”

His words, delivered in such stark contrast to the kind and gracious manner of our conversation up to that point, surprised me. And they stung. I looked across the table at the mother. “Wait…what?” She said under her breath. She slumped back into her chair. “Where does the Bible teach that?” I tried pressing the man. But he had no interest in dialoguing. “It’s there,” he responded gruffly, authoritatively.

“There is no teaching anywhere in the Bible that women are God’s second choice.” I said this more to the mother than to the young man. Yet the damage had been done, and the conversation was effectively over.

Jesus help us, is the simple but passionate prayer I find myself silently saying whenever I think about this encounter. For whatever reason, our conversation made that assertive man very uncomfortable. So he merely repeated—unquestioningly regurgitated, actually—an unbiblical teaching he had heard at church all his life. In his effort to silence the dialogue, he held no concern for what his words communicated to that mother, or to me, the only other woman involved. His lack of empathy, his lack of love, deflated the mother at our table that night, inflicting a subtle but very real wound on a sister in Christ.

Why is it that so often in our conversations about God we are the most unlike God? It is a humbling realization that we are all susceptible to this lack of empathy in our interactions with one another. I could recount many times in which I responded to a complementarian out of pride and anger, more in an effort to silence a conversation, or be right, than to come alongside and support a brother or sister in Christ who is on a journey. But Paul, over and over, warns about this. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 8. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” he insists in Galatians 5:6 emphasis added. And, just one chapter before those tricky verses in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul so beautifully contends that even if he possesses spiritual gifts, all knowledge and wisdom, and faith that can move mountains, without love he is nothing. These are familiar verses to us, and yet sometimes the most familiar ones are the most difficult to live out.

Jesus help us. Jesus help me. May our conversations, as egalitarians and complementarians alike, be marked by love.

via.

What are your thoughts on paying attention to a few verses in order to understand what Jesus is saying to us today?

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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