Thursday, October 29, 2009

Highs and lows

We had a pastoral forum at Central last night to talk through some of these issues. We have a congregational vote scheduled for November 8th re. terminating our relationship with the ELCA, so it's important for people to have some way to discuss things and hear some of the reasoning behind this decision.

As I listened to a couple hours of opinions, debate, lament, and questions last night one thing more than any other became clear (not for the first time) to me.

This issue is, as I have said before, NOT about discrimination. It is about whether one takes a low or high view of the Bible.

Simply put, a low view of the Bible means that I see it as a tool I use, a document I can judge and evaluate. If something strikes me wrong I look hard at it and figure out why it doesn't apply, why it is limited by the ancient world's ignorance or the prejudices of the particular author who wrote it. I study how it was all put together to better understand some of the odd sayings and wonder how they got included. Paul's comments about women, for example, are the product of his misogyny. Laws against various sexual practices are the quaint social rules of a primitive people. Somewhere in the book there may be hidden an authentic message from God, but you have to hunt for it among all the clutter from the ancient world and the various human authors.

A high view of the Bible, on the other hand, means that the book reads me. The Bible is not a tool I use, it is the standard by which I judge my conduct. It is the book that reveals to me who God is, who I am, what my condition is. When I go to read it I don't have to hunt for God's hidden message, but rather the Spirit of God who inspired it in the first place is right there speaking through the written word. Every word in it is precious. Certainly I understand that there is context -- the laws against eating pork, for example, are maybe something peculiar to that time or that part of the world. But when I run up against something I don't understand I cannot dismiss it or say that it doesn't apply. Instead, I look to see if that rule or that principle or that concept has been dealt with elsewhere in the Bible, and I let the Bible interpret itself.

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