Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why Scripture alone just doesn't work ...

A piece in the Telegraph that seems just to have discovered that the Bible has passages that are misogynistic. Well, to be fair, it's in response to a report by the Church of England against domestic abuse. And there's no denying that the Bible has been used to enourage women to stay in abusive relationships in the past (and probably still is today?). And to justify slavery. And what not.

The author seems to think the church needs to, well, basically update the Bible. Or at least ignore those passages that are offensive to modern ears -- and it's because the church hasn't done this that millions are fleeing Christianity. But that is a rather slick road to travel down. And Christianity seems to be doing quite well in places that take Scriptural authority seriously; I really don't think the problem is a Christianity that's "irrelevant." [Which is different from one that is attuned to the sign of the times.]

I don't think there's any clear and simple answer to the, well, complicated issue of biblical hermeneutics. But, a few points, I feel, might be important:

1) Offensiveness to modern ears should harldy be the criterion. Sometimes, if Scripture is offensive, it is because we're deaf and need to be jarred out of our stupor.

2) In a real and substantive way, Scripture is -- and ought to remain -- normative for the church. And, as a corollary, Scripture should be read, and studied and meditated with and prayed over and become more and more a part of the life of the body of believers. In one sense, Scripture remains the highest (public) norm. Heck, I'm all for people memorizing bits of Scripture. And wrestling with the "difficult" bits (rather than omitting them from the proclamation during the Liturgy in a, to me, insane exericize in antisceptic sanation.)

3) Obviously, since Scripture speaks with such a multitude of voices, sometimes seemingly contradictory, it alone cannot be a sufficient guide to itself. One has to have an understanding of the overall sense of Scirpture as a whole. And this is also where the Magisterium comes in. As well as the sense of the faithful, and so on. [And, in some situations, there is a room for a legitimate diversity of interpretations as well.]

4) Nor is it just about trying to isolate a "timeless core" within a culturally conditioned matrix.

Of course, I often wonder: so, why is slavery intrinsically evil when it wasn't before (Well, you know what I mean. When it wasn't thought of as such before). Or why is beating women wrong, when there's clear Scriptural warrant? Or what about the Deuteronomic ban? What has changed? Where did these ideas come from? I would think that they came from a worldview that flows from, well the Bible. The same book that enslaved, was also read by the enslaved as liberating.

So, nothing neat and easy. And minds far more brilliant than mine have wrestled with this down the ages. [For one, I might suggestiong the Pontifications blog and looking up Michael Liccione's various posts on doctrinal development. Not directly about Scripture per se, but similar]

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pritcher said...

We just got done talking in one of my classes about Diane Ravitch's take on PC censorship in grade school textbooks--the absurdity of carving out words like "cowboy" or "masterpiece" because they're sexist.

(My favorite quote was from a textbook on human development, that 'quotes' Bob Dylan as saying, "How many roads must an individual walk down before you can call them an adult?" Argh. Even the grammar's bad. Anyways.)

One student made the simple observation: "If you're honest, you're going to offend somebody."

assiniboine said...

The thing about biblical fundamentalists that always puzzles me is: just who do they think established which books would enter the biblical canon in the first place?

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

From the article:

In some senses, masculinity is a nightmare from which our societies are still to awake.

What? I'll skip the pedantic explanations of how masculinity and femininity are part of how we are created, and how neither of these traits is antithetical to genuine feminism (the kind that seeks the betterment of the status of women without the destruction of men.)

It concerns me that a man would consider masculinity to be a nightmare. Being a man, being manly, being masculine, is not to be the Taliban or some wife-beater-t-shirt wearing lout. It is to be strong, responsible, decisive, self-knowing; it is to lead by words and example; it is clearing the Temple AND pardoning the woman caught in adultery.

Masculinity, God-honoring and imitative masculinity, is not pathology.

My $.02 worth.