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June 04, 2012



"It clearly doesn't function well as a locus of doctrine, praxis, ethics, or history."

What do you mean by "doesn't function well"?

It may not be univocal, and it need not even be authoritative...but it seems like it can function as a reasonable center for all 4 of those points. I think a more comprehensive hermeneutic needs to be used by "Christians" in general, but I would be reticent to totally discount the functionality of the bible as a locus of any of those issues.

Doctrine - I'm not sure how much this really matters unless we establish that doctrine either equals or leads to praxis, otherwise it's just language manipulation.

Praxis - There are obviously deplorable praxis that happen at different points in the Biblical text, but I think there are far more important and overarching praxis that are nearly all beneficial to the progress of humanity, individuals, and communities. Forgiveness, Redemption, Sacrifice etc.

Ethics - I tend to think Jesus provides an incredibly compelling and useful ethical model that is not likely in need of a major critique. Understanding that the biblical text from beginning to end points to Jesus, should probably foster an elevation of his teachings above the rest of the text. But again, that requires exegesis be about comprehensive understanding rather than about proving points.

History - Unless Jesus just simply doesn't matter, I don't understand how someone identifying him/herself as a Christian could possibly dismiss the Bible altogether as useless historically. It is the only major writing that deals with Jesus historically, especially as a Jewish figure, and what that means for him and the way he interacted with the world.

Throwing out old documents because there is inconsistent interpretation and use ought not be grounds for wholesale dismissal of said documents…particularly if the document has functioned as important for the development of individual and communal identities (The writings of forefathers, including the Constitution, are good examples of like documents…they are just so much younger than the Bible)

Greg Horton

Let's take this in a weird order. The text does not deal with Jesus historically. The text presents a theological position, not an historical one. This is why liberals feel free to tell the same stories, because the point is beneath the "history." Back to the beginning. It can function in all four areas for groups so diverse it seems bizarre to call them all Christian. If that's the case, any book or system will do, since the text has been stripped of authority given the communitarian approach to ascribing it authority. The authority is now external to the text with its locus in the community. If the community is the locus of authority, why use a text? A sort of guideline? Sure, but what criteria do you use to determine which parts stay in and which parts go? Since it's a matter of community preference anyway, why use a book? My point is that it is functionally worthless in telling Christians who they are, Trevor. There is no comprehensive hermeneutic that can lay out clearly who is in and who is out of the tribe. That's a huge problem if you're offering salvation and damnation. Doctrine is critical to determining who is in and out. Again, even the "I'm a Jesus follower" crowd believes something about Jesus. If you ask about resurrection, they have to take a doctrinal position. To deny it, as many do, just simply shows a charmin naivete about religion. There is no comprehensive rubric under which praxis can be understood? Is it feeding the hungry or making a burn offering of my daughter? Both happen in the same book. Is it to stone witches and kill homosexuals, or is it to love the enemy? Again, both happen in the same book. Any attempt to parse these practices requires a rubric be superimposed from outside, so once again, we're dealing with community and preference. Jesus is a fantastic ethical model to a degree. He never married, though, so we're sorta screwed there. He was a bit temperamental with trees. He gave conflicting information on what to do with swords. His ethic doesn't work in the real world, as his execution shows, unless you buy some version of atonement theory, which outsiders don't. It's a clear failure of an ethical model from outside. Pacifism is a wonderful idea in heaven. Unfortunately, comparing the Bible to any other document is pointless here. It is the one that must be understood in light of what it promises and threatens. The Constitution doesn't suggest an eternity in hell, but it does allow for changes to be made. If you want to follow the analogy, it's past time y'all tossed some of that old language about slavery and sexual ethics. Modern that book up a bit. It would help.


This is a great post. I am curious, though, what you think about the inclusion/exclusion of certain Christian-like traditions under the banner of "Christian." Specifically, I'm curious about how Catholics are allowed to be "Christians" in light of the Apocrypha and implicit polytheism (in the form of prayer to the saints and holy mother) while Mormons aren't considered Christian in light of the Book of Mormon and implicit polytheism (in the form of afterlife appointment to godship).

The division there seems especially arbitrary among an already-arbitrary division of demonimations (as you've described).

That said, if you break down the US's monotheistic religions, you've got Islam, LDS, Jews, and Christians. Muslims don't call Allah "God." Jews don't even say G-D. Mormons are so scarce in the South that it's probably a safe bet that they're not burning gays for God. That leaves Christians, who are the majority of the country, the huge majority in the South, have no problem saying "God," and have no problem with violence against gays. Maybe it was an assumption on a technicality, but, really, what are the other options?


You know the Bible, are highly intelligent, and tear things apart really well. Here's the challenge: tell me the flaws in YOUR hermeneutic. Use the same level of cynicism to deconstruct your own obviously flawed worldview (none of us has access to a perfect worldview). Ready, set... actually, it would be cool to see a whole post about that... about what are you worried you've got it wrong? Is there anything that troubles you about the Biblical narrative (I believe there really is one - that is the "low-lying fruit" btw, I really like Scott McKnight, Dallas Willard, and NT Wright ' s work on the Biblical narrative) that makes you think maybe some of it might be true or reveal a God behind it all? I'd love to see you write in depth on this. Thanks.

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