Fruit for everyone

I saw this post on the God’s Politics blog and was intriguingly comforted by it.

Lisa writes:

Kindness, gentleness, love, peace, joy. Would you be more likely to describe these character traits as “masculine” or “feminine”? If you answered “feminine,” you would not be alone — but you would be wrong. These are human traits — neither exclusively feminine nor masculine. Yet, our society and the church seem overly comfortable associating these attributes as feminine.

The Apostle Paul paints a picture of what the Christian ought to look like. One who is walking with God and is filled with the Holy Spirit will, according to Paul, be kind and gracious and peaceful and all the rest. I must agree with Lisa, though. Somewhere along the way, these have become values for women to aim for – not men.

It is a common accusation for Christians to be called weak. Weak for being patient, modest, avoiding conflict. Now, for many and especially men this accusation can sting. The attributes which are produced by the Spirit in the life of a disciple of Jesus can conflict with what a man expects of himself, or indeed what society expects of him.

So, in many mens ministries, the teaching is about how to be strong and courageous in a typically traditional sense. I endured read Wild at Heart and was somewhat shocked that masculinity was suddenly all about hunting and walking in the mountains and owning a big truck. Man was to ‘cultivate’ his wife and to make money for the household. Many others take this mentality, teaching men that masculinity is about having the power, controlling, dominating.

Being spiritual and Spirit-filled is then for the women. Making decisions and getting things done is for the men. The women can be gentle and kind and gracious. The men, however, should be ‘leaders’ which really means ‘in power’.

The trouble is this: Power and authority don’t seem to be the way of Christ. The accusations of Christians being weak are, frankly, legitimate. Christians are called to be servants. To bless and to care and to love. The world will call it weakness because they do not know the ways of God. We must affirm this as strength.

Christ must transform our views of gender, as he models for us what it looks like to be truly human. May the Church affirm in both men and women the work of the Holy Spirit as we are transformed into his likeness.

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23 Comments

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  1. What would you say to those who’d raise the idea that misogyny is clearly present in scripture, and in the (supposed) writings of the apostle Paul to the early church?

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    • I would point out that we must always read Paul in context: He always writes occasionally, addressing specific needs of a Church at a specific time. I personally don’t believe he delivers a specific hierarchy of church leadership.

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  2. The allusion to ‘context’ surely begs the question: ‘what changed the minds of the church(s) adherents to make them reconsider how they should interpret his writings?’
    After all, the reading I suggested in my previous comment was preached as orthodox, in times when societies’ idea of women was, shall we say, more primitive. You have mentioned elsewhere on here (‘Costly grace and the treasures of joy’, in the comments) that the interpretation of the early church is different to the ‘modern’ church, if you will. That criteria for a different interpretation occurring seems to me indicative of outside cultural pressure, happening over centuries (with the more liberal idea of womens’ equality a relative late-comer).
    If this is correct, and the change in opinion happens because of societal values shifting, what explanation would you give,without compromising the ‘integrity’ of the gospels and the Paul’s writings?

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  3. I would say Ben the answer to your question is that we as Christians aren’t supposed to get our understanding from “parts” of the bible but the whole of it. The trouble with society (even Christian society) is that they have always been willing to mis use and abuse God’s word and make it fit their situation.

    Anyone studying the bible from start to finish asking for revelation – will gain a true understanding of God’s view of women – into which you can then fit Paul’s writing and it works for any generation – not just the people he was writing to at the time.

    The trouble with much of church doctine and theology – which has caused so much trouble – is that people have used “proof texts” to prove a point that suits them rather than truly engaging in the whole of God’s word.

    The idea of women’s equality actually is there in Genesis so it is society that has taken a while to catch up with God – it was always there if one wanted to see it!!

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  4. To be honest, I think it is good for things to move and shift; Christ gave us the authority to bind and loose. Sometimes it will be appropriate for women to be silent in Church because they are talking over the central discussion, and so should be quiet. At other times it will be appropriate for them to dress modestly, but I think both of these also apply to men. For an interesting take on these issues in Paul’s writings see:

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

    I find it a different and helpful take. Still, keep asking the questions people, and keep searching.

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  5. Interesting. My question still stands, though: what are the criteria for a different interpretation of the gospels (there have undeniably been several), and how does this change not compromise the notion of the infallibility of the Bible, since it (the change in interpretation) is often the result of outside cultural pressure?

    I’m also interested in how:
    “women’s equality actually is there in Genesis so it is society that has taken a while to catch up with God – it was always there if one wanted to see it!!”
    This is an enticing claim, and I would hear more of it, since it differs from my own (and many others’) reading of Genesis. Still, when one is attempting to glean moral teachings from a book which begins with a (beautiful) plagiarised Sumerian creation-poem, which has travelled through three different languages, I suppose these things are not unexpected.

    If Paul’s writings ‘works for every generation’, then why is it that so many of his sentiments are glossed over, regarding women? For example:

    “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

    “Now I permit a woman neither to teach nor exercise authority over a man, but let her be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived (when he sinned); but the woman, having (first) been thoroughly deceived, became (involved) in the transgression (of Adam), and she will be saved by the Child-bearing (i.e., the bearing of Jesus Christ), if they abide in faith, and love and sanctification with self-restraint.”

    I’m sure this can be explained by saying Paul was a product of his time – but this is precisely my point – the criteria for change in opinion does not appear to be ‘engaging with the whole of the Bible’, but rather engaging with the changing mores of civilization.

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  6. Yes welcome back Ian – us four have missed you!!!!

    Now I’m intrigued Ben – on what basis you do suppose that the Sumerian creation-poem was the original work as opposed to the writings of Genesis? I presume you have irrefutable evidence of this?

    The word God used for “help” when talking about and creating Eve for Adam is only ever used again in the bible when talking about God being “help” to his people – this particular word means far more than just “helping” it is the very help that a creator, redeemer, superior being offers his creation – this is the very word he used for woman in creating her for man. Hence God’s view of a woman’s role in society was far far greater than what subsequent generations of men made of it!!

    I do not believe many of Paul’s sentiments are glossed over – just not presented accurately. The passage you quote regarding women actually refers to wives specifically – not women in general (there was a perfectly good greek word for “women” which Paul actually uses several times when talking about women in general and not wives in particular). The instruction for wives to be silent has to be taken in context of all the other teachings in the bible regarding a wife’s role in a relationship – and of course equally – there are instructions for a husband’s role in a marital relationship – like – loving his wife like he loves himself!! and being head of a woman IN THE SAME WAY as Christ acts as head of the church – now I speak as a wife – if my husband acted like Jesus every day – I would have no problem at all respecting him!! (although conversely – I am called to respect him regardless of whether he acts like Jesus or not!! I can’t disobey my instruction just because he disobeys his!!!!

    So you see the danger of taking verses out of context and not comparing with all the other verses in the bible relating to the same subject leads every single time to a misinterpretation of scripture.

    The second half of your verse is very interesting too – a) as mentioned above for women read WIVES and for man read HUSBANDS – there is a role for each person in a marriage – this is not the same as a hirachy . Imagine a plane being flown by a pilot and co-pilot or a captain and first mate. Both are competent and qualified pilots – both can fly the plane equally well – but for this flight they have each been assigned a specific role to carry out – they have a job to do – both have a different job – only by each carrying out the different role assigned to them can they safely fly the plane – the same applies to marriage!

    Note that the second half of the verse is actually about Adam being told off here not Eve because Adam was the first sinner – he wasn’t deceived by the devil – he KNEW the truth – the command not to eat was given to him not Eve – he ringfenced the command by telling Eve she shouldn’t even touch the fruit – hence the devil was able to deceive her by persuading her to touch the fruit and finding out she didn’t die (God said nothing at all about touching the fruit!). Adam was at fault – Adam was to blame. Also he was standing right by his wife all the time she was being tempted and did nothing to stop her although this was his role. as head of the house.

    Was also interested in your bracketed “interpretation” of these verses – not sure where you got these from but don’t believe they are a correct interpretation of what this passage means. http://www.awmi.net/bible/1ti_02_15

    So no I disagree with you – true interpretation of biblical text should never never be affected by outside cultural pressure (or indeed pressure within Christian circles) and Paul wasn’t a product of his time – nor was his teaching for a specific time and place. All scripture including this teaching is as relevant today as it has ever been. Woman’s role in society was always supposed to be special and important. Wives were always supposed to submit to their husbands but husbands were always supposed to act like Christ acts …….. now if we saw more of that – just think how wonderful the world would be!!!

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  7. Genesis has remarkable parallels to the Enuma Elish and many other ancient documents. When one reads these similar documents one is presented with a pagan theology of creation usually involving civil war amongst the gods, from which the earth is created as some sort of throw-away. There is one where the earth is in fact made from the body of a god who was killed and the other gods didn’t know what to do about it. In one of the epics (I think it’s the Gilgamesh Epic), the gods are permanently trying to get enough sleep and get all wrathful when deprived of it.

    So, when we read the peaceful, ordered account of creation where God has a plan, and declares each thing ‘good’, the message being conveyed is that the God of Israel is radically different to the pagan deities many other nations worshipped. Genesis undoubtably parodies and alludes to other texts, featuring similar characters and ideas yet seems to communicate an entirely different message about God, about creation and about human beings. The Genesis account gives human beings great worth in the eyes of God. The pagan texts have human beings at best as victims of the gods constant wrath.

    No, before you interject I don’t suppose for a second this makes God’s word any less authoritative or binding for the Christian. Understanding this has, however, unlocked the Old Testament for me far more than I could have imagined.

    This leads me nicely on to discuss the timeliness of Scripture. The texts we have as the Bible today were written at a specific time, for an intended audience with an intended meaning to be expressed. That meaning would be expressed in ways the original readers would be able to understand and thus the writers often employ metaphors and concepts we are unfamiliar with. Thus when we interpret scripture it is very helpful to know about both the writer and the original audience. Neither of these exist anymore and so we do our thinking and our research in the understanding that ultimately this is God’s book and he will guide our interpretation of it. I think scripture is at once both timely and timeless. For then and for now.

    So, our interpretation of scripture is affected by the culture in which it was written and our culture – whether we like it or not. That doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t inspired – it means the Bible is not a textbook.

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  8. Beverly: I think its rather disingenuous to bring up the phrase ‘irrefutable evidence’ when one has none of one’s own to bring to bear on a far more central issue. Apart from faith, how can you defend ANY of the metaphysical propositions you expect non-theists to listen to? On the subject of womens’ roles in the church, let alone the ‘historicity’ of Adam?
    What we can tell of history points to a very literal interpretation of Paul’s (and the Bible in general’s) ethos, being enforced as a matter of course throughout the Middle Ages. I’ll repeat: what changed? ‘Cause, according to yourself, it sure as hell wasn’t the Word…
    Also, the bracketed interpretation is my own. If you’d quarrel with it, I wouldn’t blame you, I’d just disagree.

    Ian: You and I have had another discussion on the similarities between the Abrahamic god, and the surrounding pagan mythologies of the ancient world. I presume we are using pagan in its old definition (i.e. any non-christian religion/cosmology), yes? I agree that Abrahamic monotheism brought something rather different to the table… unlike you, I do not take a positive reading on these differences. Where you see “The Genesis account” (giving) “human beings great worth in the eyes of God” and “The pagan texts have human beings at best as victims of the gods constant wrath”, I see pretty much the same scenario: a series of one-sided covenants with (a) capricious superbeing(s). I don’t think you grasp that, about my perspective. 😉
    No one has clarified to me ‘how’ people became more liberal in their interpretation of the Bible? To your credit, you do a fair job explaining (as alluded previously) how when interpreting the Bible (or any text from that era), it is useful to consider when it was written, and whom it was written for. Then you say something I find VERY interesting:
    “Neither of these (historical context and original writers) exist anymore and so we do our thinking and our research in the understanding that ultimately this is God’s book and he will guide our interpretation of it.”
    I’d like to know more about how you think god guides your interpretation. I realise you can’t speak for all Christians, but at some point I’d really like to hear it explained to me starkly. I am honestly very curious.

    Apologies, guys, if this all comes across as fractious. Heh, it’s possible that you’ve answered me, and I’m not ‘getting it’.

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  9. Basic issue here is obviously I believe there is a God and I must presume you don’t Ben? For me there is abundant evidence all around me that there has to be a God. I believe miracles I have seen – complete healings when doctors had written things off, raising from the dead – as well of course a miriad of other practical tangible for me provable experiences confirm there is a God. Quite apart from anything else Jesus declared himself to be God. God arrived at a point in history and declared himself to be real.

    Now you believe in evolution in just the same way – for you theory becomes evidence even in the light of ridiculous assumption and the non ability to actually “prove” anything – have you seen the latest theory – the NASA WMA probe seeking to try and prove the inflationary theory that says : The key idea behind inflationary theory is the notion that the universe underwent a period of accelerated expansion during the first 10^{-34} seconds (0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds). During this inflationary period, the universe doubled in size at least 90 times. http://wmap.gsfc.nasa.gov/site/faq.html

    Do you know what – believing that the universe doubled in size at least 90 times in the first 10 to the minus 34th of a second – kind of takes a lot more faith than believing God did it in Six days!!!! It also suspends the laws of nature that the whole of science bases its experimentation on.

    Ian and I disagree fundamentally on how the Bible should be read. I do not believe we need to read it in the light of history – if this were the case then only academics could understand the word of God and the only way to grow as a disciple would be to study academia more. I believe God’s word is available to ALL – and at any level must be relevant and applicable to growth so you cannot need to know and understand history, culture, relevant experience, timescale etc to allow the Bible to speak to you. Yes it’s fun and interesting to study and find out more about the background etc. but at the end of the day – it is not necessary.

    Ben – you bring up the middle ages as if I would instantly say – yes I see your point – all I understand from History is that time and time again men have gone again the teaching of the word and got into trouble – and I don’t think you need to single out any particular age – all ages have made the same mistakes because the root problem of man is his pride and arrogance and the mistaken belief that man can at some point know all the answers.

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  10. Beverly: Clearly, we keep very different sets of books. I believe in the discoveries of science because they… work. You reference phenomena such as:
    ” I believe miracles I have seen – complete healings when doctors had written things off, raising from the dead – as well of course a miriad of other practical tangible for me provable experiences confirm there is a God.”
    I have also heard you say that you have ‘healed’ people through your faith. If you want me to take your metaphysical claims seriously – go down to the local A&E and offer your services in your capacity as a ‘healer’. That would impress. That gesture would equal the mathematical inferences of astronomers about the beginnings of the universe, by following up those inferences with a testable prediction.
    If you’re going to quibble about the epistemological limits of knowledge, you merely serve to shoot yourself in the foot, in regards to your own favoured hypothesis (god’s existence); if such a standard is to be exacted, then you cannot place your convictions above its rigours, not without hypocrisy.

    Since we’re all pragmatists, though, and none of us qualified scientists, either, it seems counterproductive to get too technical. Let’s stick with that magic word: criteria. Yours is faith, mine is empiricism. Their only equivalence is when both are subjected to the afore-mentioned epistemological skepticism, where both are rendered moot, and we end up unable to prove the objective existence of the world, of other people, or even ourselves. See what I mean about pragmatism?

    On the subject of our ‘alternative’ interpretations of history, that may be irreconcilable. You say:
    “all ages have made the same mistakes because the root problem of man is his pride and arrogance and the mistaken belief that man can at some point know all the answers.”
    This is naive. The obvious ‘truth’, is that there have always been people who believe they have all the answers they need. It is they, and not those who SEEK answers, that are the problem. I was tempted to bring up the church’s atrocities in the Middle Ages, as well as the Dark Ages, but I’m sure it wouln’t interest you greatly, as you already have your answers.

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  11. I question your belief in science “working” – do you just believe each and every theory that each scientist comes up with and believe it to be true or do you personally try it out before you believe them? Based on the fact that scientists rely on money to be funded to research I question the integrity of results issued to please their bosses? I presume you wouldn’t be so naive as to deny this happens? Thus how do you personally decide what of science that is reported to you is actually true and what is not strictly true but driven by what the bosses want to be found. What is your basis for deciding what you can and can’t believe in as regards to scientific reports? You use the word empiricism. I would maintain that my faith is just as empirical as yours? My faith isn’t blind belief – I have evidence – I had a pain – I no longer have a pain – I had a swollen joint I no longer have a swollen joint. I get a pain I tell the pain to go away – it goes away. I can’t prove that to you – you maybe would believe me more if you knew me – if you knew I was a person of integrity – if you knew I kept my promises, if you had a relationship with me. If you knew me.

    I am not sure what you believe Christianity to be? A set rules to get to a better place? A system of self-improvement? A guide to living a better life? It is none of these things.

    My faith is a personal daily active interactive real tangible evidential real life relationship with a living God who has shown himself to the humanity he created both in nature and in person. He has backed up this evidence with his word – which is consistent, constant, everlasting, true and trustworth. His word contains promises with actually come true – I can depend on his word because it has never let me down. I find answers to questions, I find support in exactly the right way at exactly the right time, I find instruction that when I apply it works, I find admonishment that exactly pinpoints errors at exactly the right time and place – I could go on and on and on but you are not in a place to want to believe me.

    Your writings come across as if you may be anxious to prove that I am not right because if I am right you would have to chance so much in your thinking?

    Have you ever been in love? Can you or anyone prove that love is real? Just because it is not scientifically “provable” doesn’t mean that something doesn’t exist surely?

    Actually there is tons of evidence (especially in countries such as Africa and India – of many many healings confirmed by the medical profession but again I suspect even a doctors’ affidavet would not be sufficient for you – you would suggest that the doctor was biaised or paid off or something – anything not to actually have to consider the evidence in front of you.

    I agree with you it would be amazing if I was firm enough in my faith to walk into hospitals and start healing the sick – hey I’m not there yet but I live in hope – start small but have big visions!! Currently I am content that I and those around me are experiencing better, fitter, healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives because of God’s amazing miraculous power working in and through us.

    Maybe you ought to try it before you knock it!!

    As regards the atrocities carried out by the church in any age you care to mention – I agree and believe these have really happened – but I struggle that you look at the church and assume that equals God? God is not the church – the church is supposed to reflect God – but sadly churches that have done this in any generation are few and far between. Please please don’t judge God by the way his followers behave – we have all got it so wrong – sadly because we tend to trust ourselves and our own interpretations rather than following God’s word doing it his way and trusting his promises.

    If you want to see how God would have us work in the world I can only suggest you study the life of Jesus – the only perfect man on the history of the planet. Find me a church acting like Jesus and I guarantee you they will not be performing atrocities on the people around them!!

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  12. Beverly, this is silly. We will never agree on the definition of empiricism, for example: empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature. I think you’re getting confused over the whole ‘sense perception’ aspect.

    “I question your belief in science “working” – do you just believe each and every theory that each scientist comes up with and believe it to be true or do you personally try it out before you believe them?”

    This is unreasonable, and betrays a skewed view of scientific method. Do you trust your computer, through which we are communicating? Your DVD player? When you fly in a plane, do you not trust that those scientists working in aviation got their equations correct? The same method applies, and if you are still unsure, the independently verified information is out there for you to educate yourself with.
    I notice you bring up that old canard of ‘prove to me you love X’. This is a cliche, but… here goes: we know what we mean by love. We may have very individual definitions, but through a series of semantic games, we can all arrive at a concensus of common attributes or symptoms. About god, though? No. Love isn’t a metaphysical proposition about a creator, let alone a set of attributes (son, etc) of that being.

    You ask me not to judge ‘god’ by his followers. This stinks of evasion. His followers (yourself included) claim extraordinary things (and some of them do appalling things) in ‘his’ name. Who else am I to address my questions than the ones who think they have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. Let’s not have false modesty.

    “Your writings come across as if you may be anxious to prove that I am not right because if I am right you would have to chance so much in your thinking? ”
    I am afraid I don’t quite understand this sentense. In any case, it implies an ad hominem criticism, which I have observed is your forte. Let this paragraph be an end to them. If you have a criticism of my arguments, please fire away. Don’t pick a quarrel with my thinking, and I will not question your motivations in doing so.

    Now… where’s Chesterton?

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  13. know you won’t believe it Ben – but this was sent to me by a friend this morning – you might care to watch http://www.youtube.com/user/steelsfirm

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  14. Well this has been a very interesting discussion to watch. I’m not sure if I want to leap in, Ben!

    Your response about judging God by his followers is a totally reasonable one, to be honest. In a by-gone age, the strongest testimony to the Gospel was the lifestyle of the Christian. In fact a changed lifestyle seems to be the main evidence of one’s encounter with the Resurrected Christ, from the Disciples and Paul to the whole early church. In fact can we say that when a person’s life isn’t changed, they haven’t met Jesus?

    You asked me how God guides one interpretation of the Scriptures? Well I shall start in the Bible for that one:

    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13).

    It is the person of God the Holy Spirit, by whom the Church exists, who leads the interpretation of scripture. In my life, when I’m preparing articles and sermons that looks like prayer, and reading of scripture. If there is a part of scripture which is unclear I shall look up similar passages or check my study bible. If it is still unclear I’ll check a commentary. There are loads of commentaries available these days, by God’s providence. So, God has provided many resources for us to use. The community of faith is also a means by which God guides interpretation of scripture – seeking out those with wisdom and who have lived lives close to the Lord. And as time goes by I have more and more of my own experience to help me. These are all ways in which God has guided interpretation of scripture for others as well as me.

    All of these are really rooted within the Church – God’s spirit working through his church interpret the church’s book – the Bible.

    I think liberalism can creep into the church when we forget we are separate from the world, and try to interpret scripture in a way that makes sense of the world. The world does not make sense because it is broken, and so we interpret scripture in a way to be a community of believers in a broken world. It can also come about when reverence and fear for God is neglected and he becomes less significant than human beings. I’m sure there are other ways, but those two are the most obvious to me.

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  15. Ok Ben – straight forward down the middle – go and read the bible – cover to cover mind you as you would any book you wished to engage in discussion in seriously – not scanning it for “faults and perceived inconsistencies, quoting texts out of context – showing no understanding for the integrity of the whole word” but actually engage in the theme, the thread, the continuing story, the amazing “co-incidences” from start to finish – be amazed at the accurate portrayal of men through the ages – be inspired by the common sense and and pragmatism, the historical accuracy – the continuity of the entire library of books contained therein and the very preservation of the text throughout the ages – the lack of varience of concept or idea – and dare I say – try talking to the author and ask Him to reveal himself to you in his word.

    Once you have done that – maybe come back and start talking to me rationally and realistically about the bible. Present coherent and and well thought out argument from your own point of view and don’t re-iterate something you have heard or read from others. It seems to me you ignore anything you don’t like – churn out the same old arguments that I have myself been taught through education (any independent thought going on here?) and put up a mental block immediately you hear anything which is outside your world view.

    Perhaps the difference is I have engaged in your world view – I have been taught it through education, I have studied it myself, I have a husband and sons who are scientific by nature, I have looked into the claims made – read both sides of the argument – seriously engaged in the claims science makes and have found it to be sadly lacking in any concept of a world where God doesn’t exist.

    Now my personaly relationship with the creator of the universe on the other hand – not let me down once!

    Your mention of science working is interesting – I would suggest that the only bits of science that we see working are those which amount to discoveries of what God had already put in place (electricity, gravity, physical law, natural law etc etc). The bits of science that appear to me to fall sadly short of “working” are the areas where they are trying to come up with theories to disprove there is a God. Interesting how they haven’t managed that yet!!!

    I would add to Ian’s list of ways of biblical interpretation – the Holy Spirit promises to reveal personally to each one of us – we don’t have to rely on third party commentaties etc etc. The Holy Spirit speaks to me – brings scripture alive to me – uses it to show me error, to encourage me to advise me, to comfort me, to show me He knows exactly where I am at etc etc etc. It’s exciting – quite scarey the first time it happens but after a while it is just an amazing part of every day life.

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  16. Beverly, Ian, apologies for the lateness of my reply (I’ve been away).

    Beverly: Your supposition on my exposure to the Bible is sorely inaccurate; since I was a very young child, I have read the Bible, first it was in the form of bedtime tales read by my father, finally, as a student with academic sensibilities, interested in its origins and historical context. I know it very well. Is that strange? That I can know the Bible as well as I do, and not see merit in it, beyond its (great) value as literature?

    At any rate: enough ad hominem please, like this:
    ” Present coherent and and well thought out argument from your own point of view and don’t re-iterate something you have heard or read from others. It seems to me you ignore anything you don’t like – churn out the same old arguments that I have myself been taught through education (any independent thought going on here?) and put up a mental block immediately you hear anything which is outside your world view.”
    Come now, if my arguments and ‘world view’ are feeble, then please critique THEM. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting things wrong when it comes to what you think you know about me. Also, how can I “Present coherent and and well thought out argument(s) from (my) own point of view” while also “put(ting) up a mental block immediately (I) hear anything which is outside (my)world view”? Which do you want? Do I voice my criticism, in which case you say I am parroting others, or… what?
    If you have run into my arguments before, then congratulations – you haven’t been living on another planet; it would indeed be very difficult for someone who has –
    “engaged in your world view – I have been taught it through education, I have studied it myself, I have a husband and sons who are scientific by nature, I have looked into the claims made – read both sides of the argument”
    – NOT to come across the myriad criticism of religion in general, and Christianity in particular. If you have superior knowledge to me of any faulty thinking in these arguments, then please, I would be delighted to hear them. I notice that they are not forthcoming, so far. Independent thought? I’m not the one who has a creed which proclaims precisely what I believe, shared by millions of fellow members of that creed. But enough of this… nit-picking. It is tedious and takes us nowhere of value.
    What I can do is summarise that all of your arguments seem to rely on the assumption that the Bible is the revealed and true word of god – something I have never seen compelling evidence for. The case for it being divinely inspired is very, very low, on a par with many other holy books, and snatches of scripture. Since that is the primary hurdle, perhaps it is best to tackle the larger concept of religious ‘faith’, since that is the anchorstone of all the other claims. Perhaps that’ll come up in a future post… (hint-hint, nah Ian, just kidding 😉 )

    Ian: Cheers for the clarification. I can sort of imagine what I think you mean. It jells with what others have said when I’ve inquired (though not many of them were studying theology, heh). This holy spirit, is this the same one you’re filled with once you accept Christ? I’m not mocking, I’d just like to be sure.
    I’m interested in what you say here:
    (“I think liberalism can creep into the church when we forget we are separate from the world, and try to interpret scripture in a way that makes sense of the world. The world does not make sense because it is broken, and so we interpret scripture in a way to be a community of believers in a broken world.”)
    I presume the broken world is a reference to the Fall? Whereby humans were separated from god? I wonder how it is possible to be both seperate, and engaged with the world, given what the Bible does have to say on one’s conduct in the here and now… whether there are any grey areas dure to historical context no longer applying to 2010, in your opinion? For instance, the topic of this post, and the writings of Paul?
    Cheers.

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  17. Also, since we’re exchanging youtube videos of ‘faith-healing’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9U_lWmAsYM&feature=player_embedded

    Made me laugh.

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  18. Let God be true and every man a liar
    The Word of the Lord is perfect
    The Testimony of the Lord is sure
    The Statues of the Lord are right
    The Commandment of the Lord is pure
    The Judgements of the Lord are true and righteous

    Sorry Ben – this is the foundation upon which I build my life – God is REAL – He offers me a relationship with Him – I have taken Him up on His offer and He is in my life. He has changed my life – as I submit to him he continues to work daily in my life – he fulfils my life like no other relationship or experience i have ever felt – as I am probably over half way through my life now I make this claim based on more than a few relationships and experience!! His way is perfect – the more I obey and submit and follow – the more my life becomes perfect too – through Him – the Holy Spirit has made a home in me – I am no longer mine but his.

    Jesus is Real – he really existed – he really claimed to be God – I have not found one reason to doubt him. He changed the world – of this there can be no doubt. Some power for an ordinary man hey. He declared himself and His words to be the way the truth and the life – he was not a liar – they bring life changing experience – here and now and for eternity – he has certainly done that for me.

    Anything I hear, am taught, is said to me is equated by me throught the funnel of the reality of God and his Word being True. I have never found anything that “man” has declared (that is not according to God’s word) to be in any way as satisfying as fulfilling as edifying as peaceful as calming as sure as reliable as every Word of scripture.

    As I have just written to Nathan – if I am wrong Ben then don’t bother waking me up – I wouldn’t swap this life I am living – this joy and peace and fulfilment I am experiencing, for anything.

    (good laugh Utube Ben – but please don’t mock my personal experience – you can deny everything I say but you can’t take away from me my personal experience – it works, I have all the evidence I can handle.

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  19. The Holy Spirit is God, and by the Spirit the Church exists. Those who are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ are members of the Church:

    There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
    (Ephesians 4:4-7)

    In fact the whole of Ephesians 4 is a good place to go for this. The Holy Spirit creates the Church, and sustains it as the real presence of God on earth. Where the Church remains faithful to Christ we glorify God the Holy Spirit for it. Where the Church is weak we pray the Spirit to strengthen and sustain it.

    I borrow Stanley Hauerwas’ phrase where he calls the Church ‘resident aliens’, a colony in a hostile world. I think the teaching of Jesus is intimately tied to the community of the Church – God’s people. In fact, the Church seems to be the place where the teaching of Jesus is first to be lived out, before proceeding from the Church into the World.

    Yes, the Bible has a great deal to say about one’s conduct here and now but I would stress that the Scriptures exist for God’s people primarily. Thus it’s interpretation is best when in the context of God’s church. The Bible could be described as the manual of how to be Church.

    It is a challenge to remain separate and yet engage with the world, and I’m reminded of Bonhoeffer’s work, again, as I was reading it the other day. He reminds us that there ought to be a close guard kept between the Church and the World. Partly to prevent too much ‘World’ getting in the Church, thus corrupting the people of God and partly to prevent too much ‘Church’ getting into the World, thus cheapening the Gospel.

    There is a lot of material available bout Paul’s writing and the whole of the NT here:

    http://www.ntgateway.com/

    http://www.thepaulpage.com/

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  20. Beverly: “if I am wrong Ben then don’t bother waking me up” I don’t think I could, even if I aspired to such a course of action. I would never attempt to ‘take away’ someone’s personal experience, but that doesn’t mean I’ll keep silent when it appears that my opinion is solicited, or there is a case being made for ME to believe it – I won’t hold back in that case. It wouldn’t be respectful to keep silent. Believe what you like, and I’ll respect you, if not your beliefs themselves.

    Ian: I’ve been thinking about commentaries. Specifically, about your mention of “loads of commentaries available these days, by God’s providence. So, God has provided many resources for us to use”. These are one of the ways you’ve said you interpret scripture.
    I want to articulate a criticism which I think is worth voicing. There are a number of Bible verses which seem to refer to women in what could be called a negative light (and it is undeniable that, for a long while, this was the orthodox interpretation of said verses). Now, the next step from this appears to be for one to check a commentary to place these verses into proper historical context (as we’ve discussed). Through this, and prayer/contemplation, you can arrive at an interpretation of scripture which rings ‘true’, and provides an alternative to that surface reading.
    Right.
    Here’s what I’d like to recast that process as: instead of coming to the most likely conclusion that the Bible is wrong on a topic like sexism against women, one searches really hard for any other interpretation than what the text seems to be saying. One doesn’t let passages bother one when you can explain them away through commentary from a totally non-Biblical human source. Through this process, you can rationalise the stark dissonance between the mindsets of the bronze-age palestinians and the western enlightenment heritage of our society, while simultaneously fostering a blindspot in one’s critical thinking, preserving that dissonance.
    Have you considered this? I’d be surprised if you haven’t, and if you have – what is your explanation?

    P.s. Cheers for the links, by the way.

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  21. I agree with you on your take of Wild at Heart… seemed to push me the wrong way…

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