Archive for January 12th, 2008

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I’m curious if everything in any church is open to being called out by anyone in the blogosphere. What I mean is if there is some church in Lime Ridge, Pa (Population, approximately 1,000 and the town where I grew up) doing something that an individual or any group of individuals believes to be wrong is that open to internet judgment? Be it from Ingrid, Ken, Jim, any of the 1000’s of ODMS or even us. At what point do we as Christians have the responsibility to say, “I don’t know anything about that town or the church and I just need to let it go.” So if Tim Reed, Owosso Mi is sitting in his office surfing the net and one of the three churches in town produces a video about God loving people, is it Tim’s place to put up a hit piece about the failings of that video? Or if Chris L is surfing the internet rather than making drugs safe for us all and he finds one of the three churches in town puts up a piece about the “evils of all music except Classical” –there’s actually a church in the next town over that believes that there–is it Chris L’s job to write something about it here or at his blog warning the readers of conservative fundamentalism found at some church in a town where more than half of the town probably doesn’t have internet?

I’m trying to not say anything about one side or the other here, I’m asking a question about the process. Yes, these thoughts are driven by a recent thread that caused no amount of consternation for all. But I’m serious, what right does someone in Oklahoma or Nebraska have to question someone in Michigan? Now, I get the whole thing that some guy in New Hampshire believes he can question some guy in Michigan because he’s made DVD’s and written books. I disagree with it, but I get the reasoning.

My question isn’t about the “big boys and girls” it’s about the other people. Is it really anyone’s “call” to write pieces about churches across the country? Is that really helpful?

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Last week, I posted an article on hermeneutics both here and on my personal blog. Whoda thunk that this would be the trigger of a bizarre discussion trying to justify homosexual practice (within a monogamous relationship) as being congruent with the kingdom. What it has become, though, is a primer on why the ‘reader-response’ hermeneutic is so dangerous (just as dangerous as Chris P’s literalist hermeneutics, if not more so).

The conversation started like this:

Mark: My Hermeneutic is that everything a Christian really needs to know was said by Jesus himself. That’s why one would call himself a “Christian” instead of something else. All other text in the Bible is relatively minor supporting material. My greatest religious conflicts of opinion arise with people who prefer to give emphasis to Paul’s writings even when it directly contradicts Jesus’ instructions. I have never understood a person who thinks the words of a mere prophet are somehow equal in weight to words spoken by God himself.

Me: Just wondering – Where do you find Jesus and Paul in conflict?

Mark: The first glaring example that comes to mind is that Paul hates Gays. Jesus does not.

And then it spiraled out from there. Here are a few quotes from the conversation, though I would suggest going and reading for yourself (and commenting, if you’d like):

Mark: My question is this. Why do the Ten commandments specifically and clearly forbid lying, stealing, adultery and greed (thou shalt not covet) but yet the Ten Commandments say nothing about homosexuality? This is a point that should not be ignored. This clearly tells me that God does not view committed, monogamous homosexual relationships the same as he views lying, stealing, adultery and greed or he would have said so. Its also very clear in my soul that they are not the same. The commandments are believed to be as old as five thousand years. They have stood the test of time. Then, many thousands of years after the ten commandments were issued by God to mankind, Jesus came to Earth to challenge the significant sins of that day and once again God is completely silent about committed, monogamous homosexual relationships. This second indication from God himself confirms to me very clearly that monogamous homosexual relationships are not a very significant sin if indeed a sin at all.

I believe that Christians should focus on what God actually said (and what he didn’t say) and not worry much about words or meanings that mere people invented and tried to put in God’s mouth. People have been trying to use God to bolster their own profits and egos since the beginning of time.

A smidgen of my response:

Me: You said:

Its also very clear in my soul that they are not the same.

Once again, you have described a “reader-response” hermeneutic in which there is no rule which determines the meaning of scripture other than what is felt by the reader. This has never been an acceptable means of interpreting scripture, especially in Jesus’ day.

Parts of Mark’s Response:

Mark: You are replowing well plowed ground here but you are not addressing my point which is that God didn’t say these words, Paul did. Paul is not God.

The hermeneutic at work in your logic is “reader response”, a subset of eisegesis, which is not an acceptable hermeneutic for scripture.

To restate my point once again, I’m not interested in what or Paul (or any other mere mortal) thinks is an acceptable hermeneutic for scripture. I’m only interested in what God thinks. Paul is only useful to the extent that Paul’s words help me understand the mind of God.

And this:

Mark: Let me respond to this with a theoretically extreme example:

There are passages in the Bible where its claimed that God gives permission for the Israelites to murder women and children in cold blood and take the land for themselves. If someone came along with a logically air tight hermeneutic that requires that I also kill women and children and take their land I will say “NO!”. I will not do that. If I am then asked to show where the Bible says I don’t have to kill women and children, I will simply say that I don’t need to turn to the Bible because its written on my soul and I will not do it no matter what the Bible says.

My point is that there are “soul” issues that outrank the printed word. It is not a “reader-response” hermeneutic to refuse to kill women and children. Likewise, I know in my soul that life long, committed, monogamous homosexual relationships are not the same kind of sin as murder, adultry, lying, stealing and greed. Take special notice that I did not say homosexuality wasn’t a sin, just not the same kind as those listed in the Ten Commandments.

God was not silent in Torah on homosexual sin – it is specifically enumerated in a list of sexual sins in the details of the Law. To suggest that it not being “in the Ten Commandments” completely ignores what God passed down to the people through Moses in the Torah.

Quoting the Torah is always a tricky business. Leviticus is especially interesting.
Did you notice that Leviticus 18 does not forbid having sexual relations with one’s own daughter or one’s own slave? Why is that? Does that mean its ok? Also, in Leviticus 18:17 it says “Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter.” This means that I can have sex with either the woman or her daughter but not both. Focusing on the Ten Commandments and what Jesus actually said helps clear away all this clutter and confusion.

To restate my point. God was indeed silent in the Ten Commandments and Jesus was also silent on the issue of life long, committed, monogamous homosexual relationships. This tells me clearly that if its a sin then it isn’t a very important one, not as important as murder, adultry, theft, lying and greed.

My argument is that the mainstream Christian churches of today are applying their own “reader-response” hermeneutic by reducing the sins of adultery, lying and greed to lower importance while raising the issue of homosexuality to extreme proportions.

And here’s part of my last comment (where we’re at now):

Me: if you do not believe what he wrote is inspired, then you basically have no basis for hermeneutics, as you’ve denied the basic inspiration of the Bible. If that’s the case, then we really have no place for discussion, because you believe that the Bible is optional. However, if you believe the Bible is inspired by God and written by men being directed by the Holy Spirit, then it doesn’t matter if it came literally from God’s mouth (which all of the Torah did) or from Paul’s pen directed by God.

[...] It has nothing to do with my like or dislike for homosexual relationships – I have a number of gay friends who I pray for on a regular basis. They do not ‘creep me out’, nor are they ‘distasteful’ to me any more than other friends who sin in other ways – lying, cheating, being drunk, etc. I has nothing to do with what I want scripture to say – it is just what it says. I have no say in the matter.

[...] Jesus was not silent on the subject – he said For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ‘Sexual Immorality’ for EVERY first century Jew – including Jesus – is based upon where it is defined, that being Torah. Therefore, homosexual practice of any kind is included.

I do not say this because I want it to be that way. For the sake of those who have such temptation and inclinations, I wish it was not a sin, but God defines what sin is – not me – so I have to accept that.

My point is that I’m only interested in what God has to say in the matter.

And you’ve also made it clear that you don’t wish to hear what He has to say on the subject. It’s not a matter of ‘reader-response’ hermeneutics on the part of modern churches that SOME tend to treat homosexual practice as having ‘higher importance’ than other sins.

[...] just because some churches are poor-to-awful witnesses when it comes to their treatment of homosexual practice does not justify an opposite reaction, making homosexual practice a lesser sin – or no sin at all…

I wondered how long it would be until I started getting responses from the left of myself on either of these blogs. This past year has been surreal, finding out that there are folks to the right of me. Aside from 2007, this is more in line with the discussions I’m used to…

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