Tuesday, May 6, 2008

response to "why can't i own a canadian?"

ok – i've already written this up once, had it glitch out, and am now going to retype this post (with considerably less enthusiasm)

here's a couple things that jim leaves out of his understanding (in bullet form)

1. you can't interpret the bible the same way throughout. it's not 1 book. it's 66 books, written by almost 1000 authors over 1800+ years in 10+ different countries. neither is it 1 genre. it's poetry, prose, narrative, legislative, historical, personal epistolary, and biographical (and then some) in different spots. SO, just because 1 piece of the bible is taken literally doesn't mean that everything should be taken literally

2. things that are specifically cultural are not meant to be observed in a different culture; so the levites and the nazarenes, the proselytes and the kinsman all had different micro-cultures with different rules that the others were not required to live by. consider also that the greeks and romans in the second testament were not required to live by the ancient cultural practices of devout jews. cultural things are not meant to be translated across culture. some things the bible says we should (or should not) do do not apply to us in our world because those things are cultural, not moral or ethical.

3. those things, however, which appear as either do's or don'ts across cultures/authors/times transcend culture and are always binding to christians. homosexuality, for example, is always regarded as sinful activity in scripture.

4. the one caveat to this, however, is to note the movement of scripture along particular issues. so, for example, some people read some of paul's writings and think he is advocating slavery. this is not true. paul lived in a time in history where slavery was an unquestioned fact of life. it wasn't seen as a violation of human rights, it was simply the way the world worked. a comparable modern-equivalent to slavery would be electricity. for the ancients, slavery was the engine that made the world go-round. paul's writings should not be understood as advocacy of slavery, merely as citizen of a world where no one had yet taken issue with it; however, paul's writings always denoted the movement upwards from oppression and enslavement to liberty and dignity. so, since the writing of the second testament paul's writings have been used more than any other set of writings ever written to effect the end of slavery in rome, greece, western europe and – much later – great britain and the usa.

taken together, hopefully, we can see why jim's logic doesn't really hold in matters of biblical interpretation.

to be fair, these things probably need waaay more explanation, but this'll have to do for now.

for more info, see gordon fee's book “how to read the bible for all its worth”

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