Monday, November 18, 2013

Picking and choosing

I have a friend who likes to claim the moral high ground whenever we talk about the Bible.

It doesn't matter if we're talking about something like gay rights, the conquest of Canaan, or nomial covenantism. Whenever the discussion centers on hermeneutics, his conservative views trump my liberal views, because he considers his views to be rooted in Scripture and mine in opposition.

"You can't simply pick and choose which parts of the Bible count," he invariably says in a clear signal that discussion is over. "You have to take the Bible as it is."

And that's that. His views are what the Bible actually teaches, while I'm taking a lazy way out and twisting the Bible around to support my own liberal views.

I've always found that a little insulting, honestly. I didn't just wake up one day and decide that same-sex relationships are morally equivelant to heterosexual relationships, or that God was not in favor of the Canaanite genocide. Anyone who knows me well also knows -- or should know -- that the positions I have came after a long, tough slog.

I've spent hours in study and in prayer, wrestling with deep issues like Scriptural inspiration and progressive revelation, socio-historical and literary context, divine justice and authority, the history of Christianity and Judaism, and everything else. And I've had to do a lot of this carefully and slowly precisely because of judgmental reactions like the one my friend keeps having.

If that's the lazy way out, I wonder what it says about people who read two or three verses of Scripture that mandate the death penalty or genocide, and decide "Well, I guess that's OK, then" and never take their inquiry any further, except maybe to rationalize.

As in politics, too often differences of faith aren't a question of being traditional or nontraditional; it's a case of which tradition we want to follow. The Bible itself expresses a broad range of views that aren't always in accord with one another, and questions of how to interpret it are at least as old as the books of the Bible themselves.

In other words, if you look around, you may find some of the most liberal and progressive ideas are actually pretty old, and hold a place of high esteem in church history.

Copyright © 2013 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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