God's Politics

God's Politics


Campolo’s Letter on CT with Guthrie’s Column (by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

posted by God's Politics

Earlier this week we posted an open letter from Tony Campolo in response to a Christianity Today column by Stan Guthrie, “When Red is Blue,” in their November issue that was critical of the Red Letter Christians concept. CT has now posted Guthrie’s column online, accompanied by an edited version of Campolo’s letter. We said we’d let you know once that was online, so here it is.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 11, 2007 at 2:59 pm


This clause from Guthrie’s letter struck me:
Campolo regularly uses the highly pejorative term Religious Right for politically conservative Christians but declines a comparable label, Religious Left, for his group. His reasoning? “[I]t suggests that we are an arm of the Democratic Party in the same way in which the Religious Right has become an arm of the Republican Party.” Perhaps some on the Right have become so, but this is an oversimplification.
Whom does he think he’s kidding? The “religious right” had been working with GOP operatives — in some cases, directly — since the very beginning; it’s why the majority of conservative white Christians vote that. However, you can’t say the same for the “left,” which never had the same power in the Democratic — or any other political — Party. We need to quit thinking that the two situations are analagous.



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 3:25 pm


Guthrie’s article misses the mark, I think, by failing to properly address the theological weakness of the RLC’s argument. I think there is a strong correlation between poor theology and attaching your own political preferences to scripture.



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Jeff Eyges

posted October 11, 2007 at 3:41 pm


I think there is a strong correlation between poor theology and attaching your own political preferences to scripture.
An attachment of which the Right is never guilty!



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 3:57 pm


“An attachment of which the Right is never guilty!”
I didn’t say they weren’t.



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Payshun

posted October 11, 2007 at 4:36 pm


“I didn’t say they weren’t.”
But you never explain how they are either.
p



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 4:40 pm


“But you never explain how they are either.”
Neither does Wallis.



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wayne

posted October 11, 2007 at 4:56 pm


Your right he did not address the “theological weakness” of the position. Instead he basically accused RLC’s of doing what the Moral Majority, Focus on the family and I have done in the past. To accuse RLC’s of being lackeys for Democratic candidates and not to admit to what conservatives were, and possibly will continue to be for the Republican party, lacks honesty. I do not think his article will impress anyone who does not already agree with him. It will anger those who do not. Wish CT and Mr Guthrie had done a better job. I would think a discussion might be a better approach instead of such a thin argument.
His saying “Setting off Jesus’ sayings this way seems to imply that they are more holy than what is printed in ordinary black ink.” is kind of a sideways slam that fails to actually accuse anyone, yet leaves the impression that RLC’S are lacking when it comes to orthodoxy. It just isn’t true.
I hope we are not seeing the beginning of a Fuller seminary/ Dallas seminary dispute.



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Another nonymous

posted October 11, 2007 at 5:40 pm


Kevin -
As far as I can tell from the previous discussion, a summary of your critique of the weakness of the RLC’s theology is that by uniquely privileging the words of Jesus, they are calling the divinity of Jesus into question. I know there are some intervening links, but please forgive me if I find this hard to swallow.



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 5:56 pm


My point was to say that prioritizing the words of Jesus is untenable, for the reason that doing so calls into question the very basis for prioritizing his words in the first place.



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Another nonymous

posted October 11, 2007 at 6:43 pm


And I think you have this backwards. Christ is not divine because Scripture is divine. The inspiration of Scripture is a reflection of the divinity of Christ, and needs to be understood as such.



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 6:55 pm


“The inspiration of Scripture is a reflection of the divinity of Christ, and needs to be understood as such.”
Either way, prioritizing Christ’s words is untenable.



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Another nonymous

posted October 11, 2007 at 7:01 pm


“Either way, prioritizing Christ’s words is untenable.”
Because you say so? I’m sorry, but I’ll go with Tony Campolo, who is one of the most remarkably spirit-filled people I have ever met.



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canucklehead

posted October 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm


Either way, prioritizing Christ’s words is untenable (to Kevin).



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kevin s.

posted October 11, 2007 at 8:28 pm


“Because you say so? I’m sorry, but I’ll go with Tony Campolo, who is one of the most remarkably spirit-filled people I have ever met.”
Not because I say so, but for the reasons I mentioned. Christ fulfilled the prophecies that are in black letters, and God blinded Paul, whose words are in black letters. To prioritize the words of Christ is to pretend that the other words are less true. If the other words are less true, than how can we rely upon the divinity of Christ? On what basis do we do so?
There are plenty of spirt-filled people who do not think you can prioritize Christ’s words. Campolo is in a very small minority among Bible-believing theologians. Let me ask some questions.
Was Paul a liar?
Was he mistaken?
If he was mistaken, how do we know when he was mistaken and when he was not?
Why would God go through the trouble of blinding someone, only to have him enter mistakes into the scripture?
What, if anything, did Paul say that ran afoul of Christ’s teachings that we would even need to prioritize Christ?
Can one disobey the words of Paul while obeying Christ?
If so, is this disobedience a sin?
If it is, does God try to mislead us into sin, by way of scriptures, or is it an accident?
If it is an accident, can something divinely inspired be an accident?
If so, what does it mean to be divinely inspired?



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Another nonymous

posted October 11, 2007 at 8:42 pm


A quick answer to your questions would be that Paul said nothing that contradicts the words of Christ, nor have I implied any such thing. However, I think you read Paul differently if you read him in light of Christ’s teachings, and I think that’s what he would have expected.
No time for a longer answer right now.



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Kevin

posted October 11, 2007 at 8:57 pm


Kevin
Jesus negated the proscriptions of the law inre, to eating unclean foods, Mark 7:19 (“Thus He declared all foods clean.”). In a vision he says the risen Jesus says to Peter “do not call unclean what I have cleansed”. Even James saw this as the “okay” from God to reverse the ethnic inferiority of the Gentiles contained in the Law. Oddly James seems to be able to stretch his mind around Gentiles being acceptable but still has food restrictions in his letter to the new gentile Christians.
Paul goes even further in I Corinthians 8 and overides James letter, saying there are no restrictions on diet at all, even if the food was sacrificed to idols. These changes are all based on the teaching of Jesus both the incarnate Christ and the Risen Lord and override the OT.
My guess is that if the Lord Jesus thinks he can change the Law of Moses, he obviously takes being God very seriously, perhaps we should too.
Even Mr Guthries reference to not being of Apollos or Paul in Corinthians points later to Jesus being the foundation upon which he and all the others are to build. Paul says that they will be judged for what they build,i.e. teach, preach and disciple, the presupposition being that the foundation is solid and not judged. It is superior in the sense that all else will be judged by it.
There is not only precedent for the stance of Mr Campolo and RLCer’s, it appears to me he is absolutely right.
If, to the mind of a first century Jewish man from a Pharisaical background, the words of Jesus can negate the Law, who are we to argue?



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Wayne

posted October 11, 2007 at 9:05 pm


I am sorry that last post was mine, not Kevin



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Don

posted October 11, 2007 at 9:49 pm


I wrote on another thread that I probably wouldn’t post today, but here goes. Just a few reflections from my own traditon.
Martin Luther famously said that the Scriptures were the cradle that held the Word of God. And by “Word of God” he meant the Christ, in this case.
Luther’s view of scriptural authority was that it had authority because it give us the Gospel. Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten writes, “[Scripture's] authority is not of a juridical kind; it is not a book of legal doctrines, inerrant reports, or devotional material. The Scriptures convey the life-giving word of salvation in Christ…”(Principles of Lutheran Theology, 1983 edition, p. 3). So for Luther, the authority of Scripture rests in and is rooted in the message of salvation it conveys.
If Luther were around today, I can’t say if he would be a RLC or not, but it sure sounds like the kinds of arguments we’ve been having here about the nature of Scriptural authority for Luther would be beside the point. And it also sounds like he would in at least some sense “prioritize Christ’s words,” since they, almost by definition, are the Gospel.
Peace,



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N.M. Rod

posted October 11, 2007 at 10:01 pm


I have noticed in the politically conservative christian media I read, no general argument from them with the term “religious right.” They make no apologies for being either proudly “right” or politically conservative.
They also self-describe themselves as “Values Voters” and conservative Christians. They are unabashedly Republican, only critical of those Republicans they call “RINO,” Republican in name only – that is, those who aren’t always in lockstep with them. Everyone else, it seems, is given special dispensation to sin as long as they vote in their own version of political correctness.
What they do seem to miss is that it isn’t only Republicans – with all their extra-Christian ideological baggage – who believe abortion is wrong and marriage is heterosexual by definition. Some who believe those things also think that both a lot of Republican and Democratic political positions cannot be wholly endorsed in good conscience.
Personally, I think it’s time we sent in missionaries to help transform each one of those parties, as well as any others, as if to heathen foreign lands, and act as conscience to all concerned as we also in turn listen humbly and learn.
But I guess we should get our own troubling act together first and figure just where the priorities of our own hearts lie.



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One non-progressive voice.

posted October 11, 2007 at 11:59 pm


Guthrie is 100% correct. His piece is well written and well thought out. It is just the truth.
Sojouners and Jim Wallis (for example) are pure Democrat operatives, which exposes “The Left” for what it is.
Tony Campolo should not take issue with Guthrie’s article because it is honest and accurate.
“I” have been saying the exact same thing for almost a year now here and on other blogs. I am happy because Guthrie cannot be blocked on this blog like my responses are.
“God’s Politics?” Did Wallis really think he was going to sell that to everyone? I for one am glad the monologue of the religious right is now a dialog taking on the Leftists. When it comes to comparing the fruits of Evangelical Christians and Leftist/Liberal/Progressive/Socialist religionists . . ., there is no hiding the rot within Liberal and Progressive social politics.
“I” have been comparing “Progressive Christianity” and Liberal, Secular and Socialist political positions and seeing nothing different between them at all.
Leftists think Christians are idiots. That is not a sound position, as Guthrie is just another example, of when Christian’s get around to dealing with Leftists of any persuasion, they see them for what they really are. All the same. And of course, that is precisly the socialist ideal.
Donny



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Clark

posted October 12, 2007 at 12:02 am


Most of the posts here ignore the larger point Guthrie was making about the red letter Christians. Campolo and Wallis try to pretend like they are above the political fray and disingenuously talk about finding another way, when really they are just trying to get more Democrats elected to public office. They pretend not to understand why conservative Christians object to framing an issue in the terms of “do the candidates’ budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families?” But I can’t image they would allow it to be framed as “do the candidates’ budget and tax policies support setting a bloated, corrupt and wasteful government bureaucracy to help the poor, or do they believe private organizations are more effective?”



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kevin s.

posted October 12, 2007 at 12:19 am


“My guess is that if the Lord Jesus thinks he can change the Law of Moses, he obviously takes being God very seriously, perhaps we should too.”
And I do. In fact, I am willing to say that he authored all of scripture. How else do we know that gentiles are permitted to receive his grace? If we subordinate the new testament texts, then we are forced to call this into question, to some degree.
No serious theologian think’s Christ came to negate the law. He came to fulfill the law. Do you understand the difference? I do not ask the question to belittle you. The differences are extremely complicated.
“Luther’s view of scriptural authority was that it had authority because it give us the Gospel”
This was my point exactly. If the scripture is not authoritative, then we must, therefore, call the gospel into question.



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Richard

posted October 12, 2007 at 12:32 am


Donny, why is it that you always have to be so smug and arrogant when you post anything? It must be nice to be perfect & to have all the answers.
I know that you think that anyone who doesn’t agree 100% with your theological views is a Godless commie who is going straight to Hell but could you at least be a little humble about it? I’m just sayin’.
As a Christian Leftist I take offense to your comment; “Leftist think that all Christians are idiots.” Get that from Rush Limbaugh did ya? I am on the political Left BECAUSE of my Christian beliefs. Like Jesus, I am against war and believe in helping “the least of these”. I also see no reason to hate homosexuals or Moslems or secular humanists or anyone else who is on the Religious Right’s hit list.
I don’t question your faith in God. I just think that you are misguided. So please get off your soapbox about how all us Leftist are somehow less Christian than you. It is getting old.



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Amazon Creek

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:57 am


I try to follow what all of the New Testament says. Tend to have more reservations about some of the stuff in the Old Testament – because it’s Law, written long before the age of grace.
But Paul, Peter, etc all point to Jesus Christ.
But…once again, this is degenerating into a debate about which is better – Right vs. Left. And those are all worldly philosophies. And I wonder how much time it’s profitable spending on them.
Better just to try to stick with the words in the Scriptures and try to be a follower of Jesus. God has perfect wisdom and thinks ALL the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.
Good night, it’s getting late



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wayne

posted October 12, 2007 at 2:22 am


Kevin
Then explain the Mark 7: 19 passage, “Thus He declared all foods clean.” This is a definite change to the Mosaic Law which is brought about by Jesus. Even though Peter was there when Jesus explained this he didn’t didn’t get it until the vision in Acts and his visit to Cornelius’ house. The reason he didn’t get it was probably because it was too hard. To a Jewish man of his day, Jesus’ words were unbelievable.
Pauline teaching on food and Christian freedom is very opposite to the Law in every regard. Paul seems to treat the dietary law as a Jewish “custom” which we only need adhere to when not doing so would trip up a weaker brother. (A weaker brother being one who still thinks we have to obey the Law.)
As modern Christians we overlook these things as we never have had to deal with the actual Law. We just think of it in a sort of very minimal way and identify it only with the Ten Commandments. The Law is the Law and it is definitely scripture and Jesus changed it. Scripture says he changed it. I really am sorry if that is complicated but if that doesn’t give Him preeminence and His words greater weight, well, all I can say is I do not see any way around it.
In the least it would certainly suggest that a person who reads the whole of scripture through the words of Jesus is on safe ground and that there is no need to get “queasy” like Guthrie says he gets whenever he sees a little red ink.
I have read a little of what “serious theologians” say, I am fairly certain Tony C has read many also. Can you give me something else? Explain the Mark, Acts and Corinthians passages for instance. Are all Christians just forgiven for disobeying the law of Moses or should we all become Adventists? It seems more in line with all of scripture to admit Jesus changed the Law. He didn’t negate it, He changed it. He has the right to do so.
You also said that you are “… willing to say that he(Jesus) authored all of scripture.” I asked you to give me your definition of inspired. Is that it?



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Mick Sheldon

posted October 12, 2007 at 3:20 am


Both were pretty good letters .
Of course the term religious right was and is used to try to de value a persons view family values , religious left , Fundamentalist , all have different meaning s when said to different groups .
I never heard my Pastor welcome us with a smile and say he was glad the religious right made it to church this morning . A vast majority of times people who use the term religious right have a low opinion of the people they are lumping together . Tony admitted that I believe . I have only seen the term used in the mainstream press and liberal sources my self .



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 7:13 am


“Campolo and Wallis try to pretend like they are above the political fray and disingenuously talk about finding another way, when really they are just trying to get more Democrats elected to public office.”
–”Disingenuous” is the word I also like to use that most aptly summarizes this whole enterprise. I would also add that by pretending there is no real debate about political issues, they are only contributing to much of the vitriol and polarization found in our present political climate. Their view of Christianity leaves no place for right-leaning believers at the table.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 9:01 am


Campolo and Wallis try to pretend like they are above the political fray and disingenuously talk about finding another way, when really they are just trying to get more Democrats elected to public office.
That’s pure conjecture on your part.
I never heard my Pastor welcome us with a smile and say he was glad the religious right made it to church this morning. A vast majority of times people who use the term religious right have a low opinion of the people they are lumping together.
Did it ever occur to you that the “religious right” has also always had a low opinion of everyone else — including Wallis and Campolo, who have been on the scene for decades? A friend of mine who was living in Philly at the time noted that the Christian radio station there had a program by Campolo on Sunday morning — at a time when, of course, most Christians are in church.
I would also add that by pretending there is no real debate about political issues, they are only contributing to much of the vitriol and polarization found in our present political climate. Their view of Christianity leaves no place for right-leaning believers at the table.
Well, the truth be told, the right’s view of Christianity has no place for people like me, so whose fault is that? Have you noticed, for example, that few African-American Christians are right-wing? That’s because we come from another — frankly, threatening — perspective. (Campolo at one time served as pastor of a largely African-American church and still might be doing so.)



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Derik

posted October 12, 2007 at 9:13 am


I guess now you guys are debating about colors. Why not debate which book we can govern by. ie. the contitution or “the” god book. Just remember, our fellow humans went with their god book and now they are killing each other with our help driven your god book. As for me, I would go with the constitution since it gives you the right to live by your god book and be governed by the constitution. What a wonderful book it is. Obviously, if the debate winner ends up picking the god book, remember you will have to debate upon which god book is the correct one. After all, you guys can’t seem to agree on that either. Either way, I will live by whatever book the majority picks. After all, democracy is a good thing.



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 9:16 am


When I read God’s Politics I recall that Wallis chastised both democrats and republicans, hence the subtitle. Since then there has been an apparent move on the part of democrats (as seen by presidential contenders) to engage with faith issues more.
But for some reason his chastisement of democrats seems to be ignored here and he is presented as part of the democrat machine, one who is only critical of republicans and the ‘religious right.’
That said, the issue here is not about politics, it’s about biblical authority, so kevin s is right on the money. Of course your theology of scripture may shape your political views, but it’s the theology which is the issue.
Kevin s. position cannot be argued against or reasoned with. This is not a criticism, it is just a statement of fact. His position appears to be one of biblical inerrancy. Biblical inerrancy or infallibility or perfection requires that all of scriptures are inerrant, therefore all parts are of equal worth. This is commonly referred to as fundamentalism (but I’m open to another label). According to this position RLC’s don’t make sense. The great fear of this position, which Kevin alluded to is that if one part of scripture is found to be wanting then all of scripture is wanting and Jesus’ very divinity comes into question (even his existence might).
Campolo holds a liberal view of scripture. This is not a libertine view, but is one which is well researched and has a strong consistent theological basis. It is a position which does not convey the certainty of the fundamentalist position, nor does it have the weaknesses of the fundamentalist position. From a liberal reading of the scripture being a RLC makes a lot of sense.
There are degrees of liberality. But my point is that these different views of biblical authority are what underly this debate. The debate cannot progress until this underlying issue is addressed.
What is the Word of God, God’s Perfect Revelation? Is it Jesus, or is it the Scripture? (or are they one and the same?). Is scripture in some way to be elevated to join the Godhead (father, son, spirit, book)? Did the Bible take our sins to the cross?
As a contrast, my sister lived with a palestinian muslim. She once placed her coke on his Quran. He (not-so) seriously informed her that she should die for this violation. For muslims the Quran is the Word of Allah and it actually has a higher place than Mohammed.
Be Blessed,



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Eric

posted October 12, 2007 at 9:50 am


Ok, here’s a question for all of you…
Does it make a difference whether one group of Christians prioritizes the “red letters” and another group treats all of scripture with equal significance? Is this really what creates different interpretations of scripture or is it our own beliefs that we impose on scripture that create the differences?
I’d agrue that it’s not what we choose to prioritize that creates the difference in how we see political issues. If I chose to prioritize the red letters or if I didn’t, I’d probably come to the same conclusions about most political issues. See if this is the same for you.
Campolo acts as if only all Christians would become RLCs then they’d adopt his political agenda, and some commenters here act as if everyone gave the same priority to the entire Bible then they’d adopt *their* political views. That’s silly.
By the way, I still think Campolo and other RLCs sound very self-rightious when they apply this label to themselves.



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:06 am


Eric,
start it the other way around. Choosing the prioritise red letters does not shape your view of scripture, the shape of your view of scripture is what makes you prioritise (or not) the red letters.
A fundamentalist Christian (still looking for another word) holds all of scripture to be equally correct and valid and therefore has no difficulty finding passages that would support warfare.
A liberal Christian (and I mean theologically and not politically) has to weigh up all of scripture and would probably give greater weight to the NT and perhaps to the red letters. They will end up with a very different position on warfare.
Another area you could arrive at extreme variance on would be wealth (not poverty – both groups would see this as a problem, but is wealth a problem?).
I think if all Christians became RLCs then they would probably all accept that the same basic range of issues are most important, but there’d still be significant disagreement about how (or even if) government should address those issues. Campolo acknowledges this, which is one of the reasons they wanted to avoid association with the political left. It’s about engaging with the same issues, not arriving at the same solutions.
Be Blessed,



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Eric

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:16 am


Trent – Before I can address your point, I think I need a better explanation of what you mean by “the shape of your view of scripture” and what a “theologically liberal Christian” is (as opposed to a politically liberal Christian).



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:30 am


Eric,
One can be theologically liberal and still politically conservative. To be theologically liberal I use to mean that you have a liberal approach to scripture. There are shades of this.
In one of his earlier books Campolo made the comment that most US pastors don’t believe the Bible to be perfect but use it as though it is. That would be a very mild liberal approach.
More common would be the approach that said, ‘let’s assume that God had no direct hand in the creation of scripture.’ Scripture then becomes a nations (Israel’s) and a peoples (early church) recollections of the amazing acts of God amongst them. This also means that scripture is shaped by the views of the day, that it is imperfect but that it still bears witness to truth.
This would then be theologically liberal. It could go with any political persuasion, but would probably favor whoever did the most for the least of these (which is probably why it looks left leaning politically).
Be Blessed,



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:45 am


His position appears to be one of biblical inerrancy. Biblical inerrancy or infallibility or perfection requires that all of scriptures are inerrant, therefore all parts are of equal worth. This is commonly referred to as fundamentalism (but I’m open to another label).
Actually, even though I myself theoretically believe in “biblical inerrancy,” in practice those who promote it often themselves leave stuff out, which is why you have the “red-letter Christian” movement in the first place.
What is the Word of God, God’s Perfect Revelation? Is it Jesus, or is it the Scripture? (or are they one and the same?). Is scripture in some way to be elevated to join the Godhead (father, son, spirit, book)? Did the Bible take our sins to the cross?
Let’s muddy things further. Years ago I did a study on the Westminster Confession, and I noticed that it starts not with God but with the Scriptures. The clear message was the primacy and exclusivity of the Bible when it came to determining Who and What God Is.
If I chose to prioritize the red letters or if I didn’t, I’d probably come to the same conclusions about most political issues. See if this is the same for you.
With all that, you still might not. I’m not a “red-letter Christian” in the strictest sense; however, these days I find myself focusing on the Prophets, and some years ago my pastor preached through the entire book of Isaiah. Because of that, and also that Jesus Himself also quoted the Prophets consistently (look it up), I come to many of the same conclusions that the RLC’s do.
That may be Campolo’s point, and perhaps Wallis’ as well. The prophet is contrarian almost by necessity because he/she deals with a people who have so lost touch with God that they don’t recognize His voice when it’s being delivered. Can anyone deny this was the case with Jesus? I have no doubt that some “Christians” would crucify Him all over again, and I hope and pray that I would not be among them.



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I and I

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:46 am


Cutest line in the thread:
“Their (Wallis’ and Campolo’s) view of Christianity leaves no place for right-leaning believers at the table.”
If so, then they would not have started the God’s Politics blog that allows you to express this opinion, along with the many other right-leaning believers that regularly post here. Worry not, Jesse, you can play in our sandbox any time you want. Do you know of any politically and theologically conservative blogs that would let me post my liberal opinions? I haven’t found any.



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I and I

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:56 am


Hey, everyone, before it’s too late, go to the Christianity Today website and vote in their readers poll on this topic:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/features/poll.html



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:59 am


Rick let me try this on you.
You could believe in the inerrancy of scripture and still come to many of the same conclusions as the RLCs.
But, if you don’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture, then you are almost certain to come to those same conclusions.
Your mention of the Westminster Confession is interesting. But if we go back even further to the Nicene creed for example, there is no statement of belief in the scriptures. The centre of our faith is not the book.
If we make the book the centre, if we make the book that which we rely on and believe in, then I suspect we may be approaching an idolatrous position. My faith is in Christ, who I know through the book.
Be Blessed,



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Will H.

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:06 am


Kevin,
I think you guys have a good good discussion going on here. I think you make a good point in distinguishing the difference between negating and fulfilling the law. You are right he did come to fulfill the law. However I disagree with where you go with that. It seems to me that since Christ fulfilled the law then we should take his words as more authoritative than the OT. Otherwise His divinity is suspect.



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:18 am


One extra before I retire (it’s 1:15 am here in Oz).
Rick, why did you italicise ‘hypothetically,’ when describing your belief in the inerrancy of scripture?
Just curious. Not sure what distinction you were trying to make.
Be Blessed and hope you all ‘avagooweegen.’



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LWM

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:20 am


For those of us who believe the Bible to be breathed and preserved by the triune God – FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT – there is no reason to emphasize any portion. It must be taken in its entirety, else why would it not consist of Christ’s words only?



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:23 am


If we make the book the centre, if we make the book that which we rely on and believe in, then I suspect we may be approaching an idolatrous position. My faith is in Christ, who I know through the book.
Interesting point, and John Eldredge, author of “Wild at Heart,” said something similar in the follow-up, “The Way of the Wild Heart” — while he did study theology, it was his experience in nature that really awakened him to the reality and knowledge of God. For me, it was the Civil Rights Movement. I do know that if I ever return to Atlanta I will visit the King Center, get as close as I can to Martin’s grave and start worshipping the LORD.
Besides, it’s ultimately not how much you know — it’s what you do with what you know. God will not give His truth to people who want only to store knowledge; He expects us to act upon what He gives us.
Something also for consideration: Remember the old E. F. Hutton commercials? I get the impression that, based on the Gospels, whenever Jesus spoke people listened — at least, at first. When He was slamming the Pharisees I can imagine folks saying, “You go, Y’shua!” because I’m sure they recognized their hypocrisy.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:25 am


Rick, why did you italicise ‘hypothetically,’ when describing your belief in the inerrancy of scripture?
The doctrine has been around only since the mid-19th Century — it wasn’t an issue before then.



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Another nonymous

posted October 12, 2007 at 11:55 am


Absolutely Jesus came to fulfill the – well, therein lies the problem. The word “Torah” in the OT actually does not mean “law,” even though it is often translated that way. It means “teaching,” and commonly refers to the entire Mosaic tradition. Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and when he said that he came to fulfill the law (Greek nomos) and the prophets, he was probably using the word in this sense. Paul, OTOH, wrote in Greek and used the word “nomos” to mean a set of legal prescriptions – he also used the word “gramma,” or written code. There’s a big difference.



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I and I

posted October 12, 2007 at 12:17 pm


“If we make the book the centre, if we make the book that which we rely on and believe in, then I suspect we may be approaching an idolatrous position. My faith is in Christ, who I know through the book.”
Trent, I agree. This illustrates more articulately the distinction I tried to make in the other thread between “Christian” and “Biblist.”



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 12:33 pm


Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and when he said that he came to fulfill the law (Greek nomos) and the prophets, he was probably using the word in this sense.
More accurately, when He said that it meant that He was doing, if you’ll pardon me for being sacriligious, “the whole enchilada.” That’s all the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” means.



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wayne

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:02 pm


I am impressed with the results of the CT survey. Wonder what their readers thought of Guthrie’s article?



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Mick Sheldon

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:02 pm


If so, then they would not have started the God’s Politics blog that allows you to express this opinion, along with the many other right-leaning believers that regularly post here.
This is a good one I and I . Faith abd Freedom Network .
It had no moderation for a year or so and had been taken over basically by a few gay activists . Got quit ugly
They have recently put in some rules of conduct , not as strict as these here , but I have noticed the changeand expanded dialogue . .
The subjects here are often more interesting , of course the content mis represnts the right’s views here and the Conservative site I am sure would make you feel mis represented when they use their strawman tactics .
http://www.faithandfreedom.us/index.php



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:05 pm


“Worry not, Jesse, you can play in our sandbox any time you want. Do you know of any politically and theologically conservative blogs that would let me post my liberal opinions? I haven’t found any.”
–I and I, I think you miss my point, which had nothing to do with a blog (very small significance) and everything to do with our faith (of the utmost significance). If you missed the part about Wallis and Sojo saying that conservatives aren’t obedient to Christ (which is the whole reason for the existence of RLC’s), then you haven’t been paying attention.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:28 pm


I think you miss my point, which had nothing to do with a blog (very small significance) and everything to do with our faith (of the utmost significance). If you missed the part about Wallis and Sojo saying that conservatives aren’t obedient to Christ (which is the whole reason for the existence of RLC’s), then you haven’t been paying attention.
Frankly, Jesse, I think you’re a bit touchy about the whole enterprise, any criticism of your ideological agenda equals questioning your commitment to Christ. Many conservatives in fact are not obedient to Christ but — sadly — believe and teach that they are by maintaining that God blesses their ideology, which in practice often replaces the Scriptures. (That’s fair to say even though I haven’t specifically heard them say what you believe they do.) It seems to me that if the conservatives really were “sold out” to Christ they wouldn’t be concerned about any alternative views about how to be a follower of Christ in this rotten world. I think we should be allowed to make the case that conservatives can be absolutely mistaken about the issues of the day.
That said, as someone else said on another thread, one’s works (and, I would add, attitude) represent the outgrowth of said faith — “fruit,” if you will — and if the correct results are not demonstrated you have the right to be skeptical about someone’s faith.



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 1:52 pm


Rick,
We’ve had this discussion many times. I’m very much open to having my political views critiqued. Wallis, Campolo, and Sojo, however, go further than this by saying that true obedience to Christ involves support of liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative ideas of governance I adhere to. Surely you know how this feels and what it looks like because you’ve had the same things done to you by conservatives in the past. In response, you and others claim either that a) Wallis and Sojo are not doing this; or b) the politics they’re supporting aren’t really “liberal”, they’re just Christian. And that’s when I think of the word that sums it up best: disingenuous.



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kevin s.

posted October 12, 2007 at 2:27 pm


“Then explain the Mark 7: 19 passage, “Thus He declared all foods clean.” This is a definite change to the Mosaic Law which is brought about by Jesus.”
It is as you describe it, which does not argue against my point. It is a fact that, in accordance with the law, not all foods were clean. It is also a fact that Christ declared foods to be clean. It was recognized as changed going forward. To pretend that this is not the case would be to prioritize the OT over the teachings of Christ, which is not what I am arguing. Will, I believe this addresses your point as well.
“That’s pure conjecture on your part.”
Wallis, for his part, is a Democratic consultant. So it is not, in fact, conjecture.
“When I read God’s Politics I recall that Wallis chastised both democrats and republicans, hence the subtitle.”
But he admonishes them for different things. Republicans he criticizes for Godless policy. Democrats he criticizes for not talking about God enough.
“Kevin s. position cannot be argued against or reasoned with. This is not a criticism, it is just a statement of fact. ”
This isn’t true at all.
“This is commonly referred to as fundamentalism (but I’m open to another label). ”
I do argue from a viewpoint of Biblical inerrancy, and fundamentalism in not an appropritate term at all. Most protestant faith traditions adhere to some sort of Biblical inerrancy.
I would note that Biblical inerrancy does not indicate that we cannot experience God outside of reading the Bible. That would be an internally inconsistent statement, given that the Bible calls us to prayer, meditation, communion, church attendance et al…



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Don

posted October 12, 2007 at 2:42 pm


“If you missed the part about Wallis and Sojo saying that conservatives aren’t obedient to Christ (which is the whole reason for the existence of RLC’s), then you haven’t been paying attention.”
Jesse, you still have completely failed to demonstrate to us–through quoted passages–that Rev. Wallis, Tony Campolo, et al. indeed believe and teach the things you allege, such as what you wrote here. You merely give us vague “look at the things they write on the Sojo Web site and elsewhere” statements. Sorry, Jesse, that isn’t good enough by a long shot.
I for one don’t buy it. I haven’t read anything here or anywhere else on Sojo literature that even suggests what you assert. You need to show me with specific examples before I’ll even begin to accept and believe your accusations. The things you have been writing here make me wonder who is the one who is being disingenuous.
In other words, Jesse, put up or shut up.
Peace,



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 12, 2007 at 2:49 pm


Wallis, Campolo, and Sojo, however, go further than this by saying that true obedience to Christ involves support of liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative ideas of governance I adhere to.
No, they do not actually say this. Let me say that, in my experience with conservatives, it’s the right that believes — falsely — that rejecting conservatism is on a par with accepting liberalism as if those were only the two options, which is why I don’t accept that any of those guys are being disingenuous. (That’s part of the conflict we see on this blog.) Until the early 1990s I considered myself a pretty pure liberal, but as my views began to shift I realized that it was no longer true — now I don’t have a “home.”
Wallis, for his part, is a Democratic consultant. So it is not, in fact, conjecture.
I don’t believe that for a minute. For openers, he has met with the current president and initially supported his “diaconal” policies and was “disinvited” to the Clinton White House for opposing welfare reform (and you know these). Second, consultants are by definition paid by party apparatuses, but in his case doing so would jeopardize Sojo’s tax-exempt status.



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 3:52 pm


Don,
I already gave you examples (including quotes) from the RLCs (see Campolo’s original column). You can choose to ignore them if you wish. You may also remember when Wallis claimed that the Republicans’ proposals for reforming social security was breaking one of the 10 commandments (to honor your parents). Does that work, too? Honestly, Wallis and Sojo do this so frequently…he also said that those of us who support our military efforts in Iraq right now our guilty of putting our nation above Christ. That’s cute.
Rick,
Of course, they’ll never come right out and SAY “Christians cannot be conservatives”, but it’s certainly implied in their many articles. Besides, haven’t you said again and again that conservativism is idolatry? How is this not saying You’ve been doing the same things, brother.



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 3:54 pm


My comment was just held up. Is this because I mentioned Jam Willis?



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jesse

posted October 12, 2007 at 4:22 pm


Don,
You can check my comments in Tony’s original post, if you like, where I addressed specific quotes and instances. Other instances of Sojo attacking others’ faith: when JW said that I and other commenters who support our current military efforts in Iraq put our country above Christ; saying Republican efforts to reform social security were breaking the commandment to honor father and mother; when JW repeatedly claims that christian conservatives believe in a Jesus who is “pro-war, pro-rich, and pro-America only.” Is there another way to interpret this besides as a nasty attack on our faith? Honestly, they do this so frequently on this site, but you can refuse to acknowledge it, if you wish…
Rick,
Of course, JW, Sojo, et al. will not come out and say “Christians can’t be conservatives,” but it’s an obvious implication of all their writings. You’ve said several times that “conservativism is idolatry,” which of course carries the implication that we’re all idolaters. That’s cool…



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Matt W.

posted October 12, 2007 at 4:25 pm


How else do we know that gentiles are permitted to receive his grace?
This, of course, demonstrates very powerfully the weakness is the biblicist tradition, a tradition which, for the sake of argument, I am placing kevin s. Certainly we can remember from the bible itself how we, as Christ followers, first came to know how Gentiles were permitted to receive Grace. It was through the receiving of the Spirit, e.g., the story of Peter and Cornelius! There was no appeal to a hidden message in the OT–just the presence of the real and active Spirit, working to fulfill Jesus’ mission.
If you found your faith on the bible, you found your faith on something other than the living, active, resurrected Christ. Sorry if that doesn’t provide you with the level of security or proof that your modern mind may require, but I find that founding my faith on Christ requires actual faith in everyday life. To summarize the words of NT Wright, in the Great Commission Jesus says “All authority has been given to ME, go ye…” and not “to the book you chaps are about to write.”
My view is that theology–or thinking about God–has always, historically, preceded the text. In turn, God, God’s-self, has always preceded theology (John 1:1). Authority rests at that ground level, with a living, active God. The text, then, can be freed to be what I believe it is best for: a primary witness to the activity of God. But a witness only it should remain.
Also, there’s no such thing as “some sort of inerrancy”, kevin s. Its either inerrant or not–that’s the point, no black and white. [Infallible rule for faith and practice is nowhere near inerrancy, for example. Fuller Seminary had this argument years ago and took much beef from biblicists at the time for it.]
Wallis is a Democratic consultant? Really? Is he paid as such and can you prove so? If not, you must be referring to his, you know, talking with politicians about policy issues. Like he did with GWB. Like he does with anyone who wants to talk with him.



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Eric

posted October 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm


Trent – Thanks for your explanation of a theological liberal. I think I understand what you’re saying and it’s a good point.
If it’s not our political leanings, but our theological leanings that inform our prioritization, my question is then why does it seem like RLCs all come to the same conclusion about what should be done about the particular issues Jesus makes a priority? I’d think there would be a little more diversity of opinion among RLCs about solutions if it wasn’t their political liberalism informing their “red letterness”, but their theological liberalism.
My overall point is, if there is a desire to bring Christians together and agree on basic issues on which we should all agree are important, why start by dividing ourselves with labels like “red letter”? Wouldn’t it be much better for Tony to say “We’re all Christians, let’s agree on some basic issues” rather than saying “I’m a RLC, I prioritize Jesus. You don’t. Now let’s agree on some issues.”



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kevin s.

posted October 12, 2007 at 5:24 pm


“I don’t believe that for a minute.”
It is literally true. He doesn’t deny it. I have no problem with it.
“Second, consultants are by definition paid by party apparatuses, but in his case doing so would jeopardize Sojo’s tax-exempt status.”
No it wouldn’t. If they paid Sojo, then it would.
“This, of course, demonstrates very powerfully the weakness is the biblicist tradition, a tradition which, for the sake of argument, I am placing kevin s.”
I don’t see how this argues against my position. Christ revealed that gentiles could receive his grace, and the Bible reports this fact. My entire point is that the remainder of the Bible is inspired by God, so that we can believe what is written when it says the gentiles may repent and receive the love of Christ.
“If you found your faith on the bible, you found your faith on something other than the living, active, resurrected Christ. Sorry if that doesn’t provide you with the level of security or proof that your modern mind may require, but I find that founding my faith on Christ requires actual faith in everyday life”
I do not dispute this. How does this argue against the notion that all of the Bible is equally divinely inspired?
I have yet to hear an argument that there are different levels of divine inspiration. Would anyone care to profer a defense of this idea?
“Also, there’s no such thing as “some sort of inerrancy”, kevin s. Its either inerrant or not–that’s the point, no black and white.”
I was trying to convey that the concept of Biblical inerrancy is more complicated than simply believing everything is correct. Some here are less familiar with the term (hence the comparison to fundamentalism).



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 12, 2007 at 5:48 pm


*knock* *knock* *knock* Yooo-hooo…
Hello everyone? Once again I bring up the point of Martin Luther’s having prioritized what he thought was most important right in (what came to be) the Protestant Cannon (most famously James, but actually I think all the books that are at the end of our Bible are there due to Luther’s influence in what he thought mattered most.)
And yet, no one seems to have done any research on it? Gee whiz you think there’s be a few takers! Of course Sojouners ~*AGAIN*~ held up one of my posts- the one that had a link to Luther’s intro to James. But Google it up.
The position taken by Campolo and others – is that there’s such a thing as a Canon within the Canon. Google that phrase up. It’s a perfectly legimtate position. Take the time you waste arguing with Kevin S. over whether the postion is untenable or not and do a little homework. He doesn’t really want to dialougue, and is just into making sweeping statements to try and draw attentuion to himself. Don’t fall into the trap.
I was going to add more, but I think Trent is doing the best job of guiding the discussion to a good place so far.



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kevin s.

posted October 12, 2007 at 5:58 pm


“Take the time you waste arguing with Kevin S. over whether the postion is untenable or not and do a little homework. He doesn’t really want to dialougue, and is just into making sweeping statements to try and draw attentuion to himself. ”
All I’ve done is tried to defend my viewpoint here, which is also legitimate and deeply held by a plurality (if not a majority) of Christians. What is wrong with doing that? Have I cast aspersions on your reasons for posting?



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Trent

posted October 12, 2007 at 6:49 pm


kevin s.
my recollection of the chastisement of republicans in God’s Politics was not at all to do with them being ‘godless,’ but rather to do with them having a narrow agenda.
An inerrant view of scripture (is there a label other than fundamentalist) is unassailable and indefensible. It has a circular logic all of it’s own which makes it impervious to external defence or criticism. A liberal view of scripture is constantly open to attack and defence. I also doubt that the inerrant view is the majority view but I can prove that one way or another. I do know that inerrancy is not the position of any of the largest protesnt denominations in this country (Australia) and I suspect the same would be true in the US.
Consider what could be said or done or shown to you that would cause you to revise your position. From a liberal theological perspective every belief is open to challenge (and I suspect such challenges strengthen faith).
I’m going to accept your challenge of different levels of inspiration. I’m stepping out on a limb here, so don’t attribute my thoughts to others. I’m going to suggest five levels. At the highest level of inspiration is the person of Jesus, the Word of God. At the second level I’d place burning bush type experiences, a direct personal breaking in of God. At the third level I’d place ‘ALL’ of scripture – not as God written or dictated or inerrant, but as a very human witness to the first two levels. At a fourth level you could place other things written or created under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, hymns, songs, letters, sermons (even possibly political speeches). At the lowest level I’d place everyday inspiration – I saw this thing about modern slavery and it inspired me to write a letter or to say a prayer. There might be more but this is just rough thinking.
Be Blessed



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Anonymous

posted October 12, 2007 at 7:59 pm


“I have yet to hear an argument that there are different levels of divine inspiration. Would anyone care to profer a defense of this idea?” Kevin s
Kevin the reason you haven’t heard an argument is that I do not think anyone here agrees with how you have phrased it. Your phrasing is similar to that of Guthrie’s, though he is a little more diplomatic about it.
All that RLC’s have said is that they view the scriptures through the words of Jesus. You then interpret that statement to mean RLC’s believe in “differing levels of inspiration.” To my knowledge they do not and would refute that statement as a false characterization of their views.
The fact that the Apostles viewed scripture through the words of Jesus and in fact believed that Jesus’ words changed the scriptures, gives RLC’s more than enough precedent for this stance. Your stand on inspiration may be logical and I am sure you can support it from scripture but if the only way you can argue against RLC’s is to misstate it, you are the one who needs to do a better job. Personally I consider your stand to be based in an ideal of scripture that is not a necessary requirement for Christian Orthodoxy and was not believed by any Christian until after the renaissance. Kevin w’s information on Luther is just one proof of that. You are certainly entitled to your view of inspiration but please stop misrepresenting others.



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kevin s.

posted October 12, 2007 at 10:15 pm


“my recollection of the chastisement of republicans in God’s Politics was not at all to do with them being ‘godless,’ but rather to do with them having a narrow agenda.”
Correct, he essentially describes their agenda as Godless.
“An inerrant view of scripture (is there a label other than fundamentalist) is unassailable and indefensible. It has a circular logic all of it’s own which makes it impervious to external defence or criticism.”
To a certain extent, you are correct. If one dismisses the Bible in its entirety, an appeal to Biblical inerrancy is worthless. However, if we are to accept that the scripture is divinely inspired, then my interpretation is internally consistent.
If we are to believe Christ’s words, we do so because we believe that he has fulfilled the law. If he has fulfilled the law, then we can ascertain that the scripture’s rendering of the law is accurate. We can also determine that the new testament, based on his divine inspiration, is also true, insofar as they document the early church the embraced his teachings.
This view is certainly open to challenge, but the strongest challenge I have seen here is that, because Jesus is divine, we should prioritize his teachings. That is essentially restating the argument, not challenging my viewpoint.
“At the highest level of inspiration is the person of Jesus, the Word of God. At the second level I’d place burning bush type experiences”
Can I ask why you make a distinction here? God spoke through the burning bush. Why are God’s words less inspired here than in the person of Jesus? If you do not want to discuss the scriptures, perhaps you have another source from which to make this claim?
“At the third level I’d place ‘ALL’ of scripture – not as God written or dictated or inerrant, but as a very human witness to the first two levels.”
This is where I have my biggest problem. Are not the gospels, by your definition, a very human witness (or, frankly, non-witness?) If we are to accept the scriptures based on their humanity, then how do we prioritize any of the Bible?
“At a fourth level you could place other things written or created under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, hymns, songs, letters, sermons (even possibly political speeches).”
This is fair, though I am not sure why you prioritize them above the lowest level of everyday inspiration.
I’m glad you are doing the “rough thinking” here, but on what basis do you delineate “levels of inspiration?” If you use the scriptures, your argument is no less circular than mine. If you appeal to human reason, then you are left with mere opinion.



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Trent

posted October 13, 2007 at 7:03 am


Hi Kevin, hope you come back to check this as I don’t fancy wasting my time. Thought you deserved a fair response though.
We’ll have to disagree on whether or not Wallis portrayed republican agendas as godless in God’s Politics. I will stick with narrow and I’ll hold that he desribed democrats as consistently more ‘godless.’ But that’s not the most interesting part of our dialogue.
Do you think there an option between accepting the bible as inerrant and dismissing it entirely? It sounds as though you don’t. I believe that the bible is inspired (but not dictated) by God and that every book contains human elements and reflections of it’s authors. But I believe that they were bearing witness to acts of God.
One of the defences of an inerrant view is that if it contains an error (other than due to translation etc) that it means you have to throw everything away. Effectively this is an idolatrous position in that it makes Christ dependent upon scripture and therefore less than scripture. Liberal theologians live in that gray space between the extremes you mentioned. If inerrancy were disproved (say by pointing out direct contradictions in scripture) would that shake your faith, or is your faith in Jesus?
Circular logic is internally consistent, so you’re being internally consistent is not surprising.
From a liberal view of scripture Christ’s words are no more inspired than anything in the old testament or elsewhere. Our faith is in Christ and we believe his teachings (not necessarily word perfect) because we believe in him.
So you validly ask why attribute more weight to the words of Jesus. Well if we are Christians because we have surrendered our lives to his Lordship, saved by grace through faith, then we should follow and obey our Lord. Therefore his words are more pertinent (even if not perfectly recorded they reveal what was most important to the earliest christians).
Regarding my levels of inspiration, it is a tricky question. I’ve read your comments and I’m going to hold to my levels at this point.
I’ll keep Jesus as number one, because God’s word made flesh, living, breathing and walking amongst us is more potent than God’s word to Moses through the bush, heard and then gone. We could argue that Jesus was the word spoken to Moses, but I think that levelling Jesus to make him merely the word of God does him a disservice.
The third level, all of scripture together, is as you’ve said your sticking point. I’m not sure how you make the jump from the scriptures being a human witness to their being a non-witness, unless you’re commenting on the possibility that they are not even first hand accounts.
The basic liberal position is that all of scripture is flawed but all of it pays testament to the work of God in history. We do not value load different books against each other, except in rudimentary ways (i.e. Mark was most probably written before John so may contain more first hand accounts). But if we are Christians then we follow Christ and adhere to his teachings. If there is ever conflict on an issue in Scripture the liberal most probably will hold to what is most probably Christ’s message as revealed in scripture.
Let’s play this out in a few examples. A liberal when faced with the question, ‘is it ok to be extremely wealthy while others do without?’ could look in the old testament and find many examples of faithful people doing just that. However, no such examples exist in the new testament and there’s a lot of evidence that Jesus and the early church held a view that was about levelling of wealth, so the liberal Christian would take that approach. The same on the question of war. Jesus was a pacifist and the early church appear to be pacifists so this guides liberal theologians to a pacifist position (usually) even though contrary examples can be found elsewhere.
I have the fourth level there because I believe in the Holy Spirit and I believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks in and through Christians. Don’t you?
You end with another common defence of inerrancy, the view that if it’s not inerrant then you’re just left with opinion and if just opinion then you’re opinion is no better than mine.
Instead if it’s not inerrant then you’re left with a collection of writings that are analysed and studied in far greater depth than any others ever. Writings whose ever possible nuance is teased out and which are subjected to the most rigorous standards for evaluating the authenticity and reliability of any texts anywhere. Writings which over all of Christian history have been considered and reflected upon. And yes there are opinions on these writings, but we’re not just talking my opinion or yours, we’re talking collected wisdom over hundreds and hundreds of years. But yes, you could just say that they’re all just opinions.
Be Blessed,



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Rita Eason

posted October 13, 2007 at 9:00 pm


The dialogue above was most interesting and revealed much about current politics. I am a child of the Great Depression. Raised in the Holiness churches of Texas in poverty. Now that I am 77 years old I look back to my childhood as a blessing. I still believe the song we sang so often, Jesus Loves the Little Children all the children of the world.
But now I am a stranger to the same evangelical churches who focus too much on the political issues of the Right as opposed to the Left, instead of the teachings of Jesus about loving each other and all God”s children in the whole world.
This tiff over red letters seems pretty trivial.
A prized Bible in my childhood was one with Jesus’s words in red print Didn’t Jesus say if we would be His deciple we must obey his commandments? Political beliefs based on His teachings would honor Jesus. There is nothing profound in what I believe. Do we really need more than these simple truths as a foundation for our political values?
old rita



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Anonymous

posted October 13, 2007 at 11:08 pm


Of course, they’ll never come right out and SAY “Christians cannot be conservatives”, but it’s certainly implied in their many articles. Besides, haven’t you said again and again that conservativism is idolatry? How is this not saying You’ve been doing the same things, brother.
You then sabotaged your first point — you said they actually said it when they didn’t. I do believe that modern conservatism is in practice idolatry because it is by definition self-focused, not other-focused — who is the beneficiary under a conservative regime? Certainly not the poor and powerless.



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Payshun

posted October 13, 2007 at 11:54 pm


Ah biblical innerancy, the myth that keeps on giving. Please read this post. It sums up my liberal theological background. I tend to prioritize The Gospels and the Prophets as one. The rest are matters of theology.
But check this out.
http://weblog.xanga.com/freethinker777/439803640/item.html
p



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kevin s.

posted October 14, 2007 at 2:30 am


First of all, I do not think scriptural inerrancy is necessary to make the case that all of the Bible is God’s word, and that God does not prioritize one passage over the other (because he does not need to do so.) Infallibility would also certainly suffice.
Second, inerrancy denies that typographical or other errors introduce falsehood into the scriptures, but does not maintain that we must understand such errors to be accurate, which is untenable. The blog you cite is a woefully inadequate counterpoint on this note, and certainly insufficient to render inerrancy as myth.
Trent,
“Do you think there an option between accepting the bible as inerrant and dismissing it entirely?”
This is a tricky question. I would say that one would be inconsistent to strike such a balance, but they may do so and still be a Christian.
“But I believe that they were bearing witness to acts of God.”
And this is where we disagree. I believe the Bible is the divine revelation of God.
“One of the defences of an inerrant view is that if it contains an error (other than due to translation etc) that it means you have to throw everything away.”
To a certain extent, yes.
“Effectively this is an idolatrous position in that it makes Christ dependent upon scripture and therefore less than scripture.”
Not if you believe that the Bible is God’s revelation. If you don’t, then you are left with the quandary that you describe, and in fact must explain to me why we ought to believe the Christ was the son of God in the first place. If you explain it by way of election, then this is valid, but the concept of election requires adherence to, at minimum, Biblical infallibility.
“Liberal theologians live in that gray space between the extremes you mentioned. If inerrancy were disproved (say by pointing out direct contradictions in scripture) would that shake your faith, or is your faith in Jesus?”
What if the contradiction was that Jesus wasn’t the son of God? Would that shake your faith?
“Circular logic is internally consistent, so you’re being internally consistent is not surprising.”
I disagree that I am employing circular logic, save for the fact that I am operating under the assumption that we both believe that the Bible is divinely inspired.
“So you validly ask why attribute more weight to the words of Jesus. Well if we are Christians because we have surrendered our lives to his Lordship, saved by grace through faith, then we should follow and obey our Lord.”
This is the same Lord who divinely inspired all of scripture, right? We obey Christ not only because he said he was the Son of God, but because he proved it by performing miracles, and fulfilling the law and prophecy. He then told the disciples to go out and make disciples. In their obedience, they did so, and so he inspired the new Testament to tell that story.
So, if the words that follow are less pertinent, why did he inspire them, and why did he inspire them to be less pertinent? Why are they less the words of our God than the words that came directly from Jesus?
If you argue that it is because Paul (and others) inaccurately interpreted the life of Jesus, then you are calling into question the idea of inspiration. If you do this, then you can just as easily call into question the account of Jesus’ life.
If you argue that God intended the new testament to be somehow simply less important, but equally true, then you have to contend with the implication that God inspired things that mattered, well, only as much as we decide they matter, I guess. I see no scriptural basis for this.
“I’ll keep Jesus as number one, because God’s word made flesh,”
If he is God’s word made flesh, then how on earth can we describe any component of God’s word as less important, or imperfect, or less-prioritizable?
“living, breathing and walking amongst us is more potent than God’s word to Moses through the bush, heard and then gone.”
Now you are arguing on the basis of potency. That is a different question. God’s gift of sacrificing his son is certainly more potent than his burning a bush, but he did both for a perfect reason. Agreed?
“We could argue that Jesus was the word spoken to Moses, but I think that levelling Jesus to make him merely the word of God does him a disservice.”
You made the reference. I did not. Jesus was not just words, but that is a curious reason for prioritizing his, erm, words, don’t you think? We can agree that Christ’s words were Christ’s words, right?
“I’m not sure how you make the jump from the scriptures being a human witness to their being a non-witness, unless you’re commenting on the possibility that they are not even first hand accounts.”
If they are a human witness, then how are they divinely inspired? That was my point.
“The basic liberal position is that all of scripture is flawed but all of it pays testament to the work of God in history.”
How does the liberal position suggest that scripture is flawed? I ask because I think you are presenting me a false choice. Either I must concede my argument, or be accused of worshipping scripture. Let’s go back to the burning bush, come and gone as it is. I do not believe that God’s burning of the bush was flawed. Does that mean that I worship or idoloize the act of bush-burning?
(The answer is no, btw…)
“But if we are Christians then we follow Christ and adhere to his teachings. If there is ever conflict on an issue in Scripture the liberal most probably will hold to what is most probably Christ’s message as revealed in scripture.”
Correct. And I am of the opinion that there is no issue-based conflict. Here, you are saying that the difference is one of accuracy, and that you prioritize based on the level of inaccuracy. You prioritize Christ because what he said was more accurate because he is your savior. This view is vulnerable to the suggestion that we can call the very divinity of Christ into question.
“Let’s play this out in a few examples. A liberal when faced with the question, ‘is it ok to be extremely wealthy while others do without?’ could look in the old testament and find many examples of faithful people doing just that.”
It’s tough to argue that the centurion was not wealthy. But then, we have Christ telling another man to sell all of his possessions. So how do we answer your question? I might look to Paul’s letter to Philemon to gain some perspective. The answer would seem to be, yes, but you must not oppress the poor.
I can do so comfortably, (exegetical understandings of the book of Philemon aside) knowing that it is all God’s word. You, it would seem, are left guessing, or looking to the New Testament as a holy tie-breaker.
“The same on the question of war. Jesus was a pacifist and the early church appear to be pacifists so this guides liberal theologians to a pacifist position (usually) even though contrary examples can be found elsewhere.”
Which is the problem. Jesus doesn’t speak to the role of government in executing war, anywhere. He does speak of not returning an eye for an eye and etc… But there is nothing about the role of government (or us, for that matter).
So again, I look elsewhere. Elsewhere is obviously pretty ugly territory for those who are inclined to pacifism. Voila, “Red Letter Christians” is born. So I can discern a motive for the arbitrary emphasis on Christ’s teachings, but I cannot discern a reason, scriptural or otherwise, for it.
For me, Christ’s words co-exist with the new testament texts to give me a more complete answer to the question of whether governments may conduct war. I am forced to confront a paradox and explain it.
“I have the fourth level there because I believe in the Holy Spirit and I believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks in and through Christians. Don’t you?”
Yes.
“You end with another common defence of inerrancy, the view that if it’s not inerrant then you’re just left with opinion and if just opinion then you’re opinion is no better than mine.”
Well, this defense transfers to divine inspiration as well. You go on to say that the scriptures have been studied extensibly, and subjected to rigorous standards of reliability and et al… This is correct. So why do you find different levels of truth?
Your answers seems to be that, because we believe that Christ died for our sins, and that his death (and subsequent rebirth) are central to our faith, that the words of Christ carry weight that the words of Paul do not. You have failed to establish any reason why this should be so.
Christ’s life and death constitutes a central event, but that doesn’t make it any more or less true than the story of the burning bush. Have the words of Christ been studied more thoroughly, and are you giving them more weight for this reason? I can’t imagine that this is your criterion.



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Trent

posted October 14, 2007 at 6:18 am


Kevin,
I’ll try to be briefer this time as I see we need wider columns.
How is it inconsistent to hold the Bible as flawed, but still witness to the truth? My newspaper is very flawed, but occasionally even it contains truth. What is there to fear from exposing the Bible to the same open scrutiny as is applied to any other historical text?
I thought Jesus was the divine revelation of God. I mean Jesus is the Word of God. So is the Bible equal to Jesus or is the Bible a lesser revelation? In terms of ‘status’ how do Jesus and the Bible compare? It sounds like you’re making them equal, which would constitute idolatry for me (but not necessarily for you).
It is true that liberal theologians are often not certain of anything. But that is where faith comes in. We are people of faith. However my faith is in Jesus, while yours is in the Bible (again it sounds idolatrous). I don’t believe in Jesus because of the Bible, I believe in Jesus because I’ve met him. Haven’t you? I would believe even if the Bible was not available (as have many Christians without access to Bibles throughout the centuries).
Further let me ask, how do people come to faith? Do people need to have read the bible to be convicted of sin and to place their lives into the hands of a loving God? Does scripture have any necessary role in this process? Does a new Christian commit themselves to an inerrant or infallible view of scripture before they are accepted into the family of God? Do you see all these conundrums your position is throwing up?
You write: What if the contradiction was that Jesus wasn’t the son of God? Would that shake your faith?
and the answer from an honest liberal is no. My faith as I’ve said is in Jesus. As I said before I have faith, so of course I am open to the possibility that my faith is wrong. That’s the difference between having faith and having knowledge. Your position seems to imply that you have knowledge of Jesus (through the Bible) and that you have faith in the Bible. This sounds like you’re putting the cart before the horse (and is again possibly idolatrous). We are saved by faith in Christ, not by faith in Scripture.
Edward De Bono wrote a great piece of circular logic as it applies to faith. It’s not a major issue, but let me ask, what, if anything, could prove you were wrong? If you can think of no answer to that, then your argument is circular (in that it will rely upon itself for it’s own defence).
I think we’ve already established that we disagree loudly on what inspiration means. Your arguments about Paul vs gospels vs Old Testament are meaningless from my expressed view of inspiration. The examples you’ve given are only inconsistent if I try to make my argument using your reasoning. So I hold that Paul wrote his letters (or that he at least wrote some of them) and that he wrote them under the influence (not detailed direction – I don’t believe God operates against our free will) of the Holy Spirit. As such there is some of God and some of Paul (and some of later editors) contained within them.
Jesus as number one because Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God (not scripture). In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead.
So I’ll go for a mix of potency (as you suggested) and fullness to describe why Jesus is greater than the otherwheres spoken word of God (aka the burning bush).
I do agree that both are for a perfect reason, but one is for a fuller and greater and complete reason and one was for a season. Jesus is for ever, but the words to Moses were for Moses. Jesus is the complete word of God, there is nothing of God that is not in him, where elsewhere is only parts.
I’m going to add a new thought here. I suspect that if you asked a RLC as to whether they’d consider Jesus’ actions as of equal worth to his words then they’d say yes. But the actions can’t be described by any catchy label.
Unless you hold that the Holy Spirit actually wrote the scriptures then they are a human witness. An inerrant, infallible view requires the Holy Spirit to either physically write or to totally control and dictate every word that was written, even when Paul writes ‘this is of me.’ Would you even consider the possibility that the Holy Spirit at work in the authors is reponsible for maybe 90% of the end product and that some of their humanity gets in? Other than in the writing of Scripture can you think of any other instances where God uses people in that way as effectively empty vessels or puppets?
From a liberal position scripture is flawed because it was written and edited and compiled by people (who we’d both agree are flawed). These people were acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (but not under the control of the Holy Spirit), but inevitably their stories impart some of themselves.
I never actually said that you prioritise on the level of inaccuracy. Both levels one and two I describe would be perfect, one is just more complete. I do not believe that any parts of Scripture are less flawed than others (all scripture was on level three remember).
I’m not going to argue on your wealth and war examples. For the record I agree with you on the basic position that Jesus doesn’t specify if or how we are to interact with government or if or how governments should exercise themselves. The role of Christians in a democracy where they are in some small part responsible for the government is tricky yes?
Please remember that I am not arguing that the words of Christ in scripture are any more accurate than the words of Paul or Moses. I fully accept and understand based on your view of scripture than they must all be equal because all are inerrant and infallible.
What I am trying to establish for you is that from a liberal perspective it makes sense to prioritise the words (and actions) of Christ, not because they are more accurate, but because he is our Lord, while Moses and Paul, while both inspired (not directed) are not.
Without agreeing with me can you agree that from the liberal position I’ve described that this makes sense (even though I know it’s not your position)?
Which, to bring this back to the point of the Blog, makes the difference between Campolo (who is liberal theologically) and Guthrie (who is not), not a political but a theological difference.
Be Blessed,



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kevin s.

posted October 14, 2007 at 1:08 pm


“How is it inconsistent to hold the Bible as flawed, but still witness to the truth?”
I don’t know. It depends on what you consider its flaws to be.
“What is there to fear from exposing the Bible to the same open scrutiny as is applied to any other historical text?”
I have no problem with this. I do, however, have a problem with the presupposition that certain texts ought to be prioritized.
“I thought Jesus was the divine revelation of God. I mean Jesus is the Word of God. So is the Bible equal to Jesus or is the Bible a lesser revelation?”
Jesus is God, and is not a revelation in the sense that we could compare the revelation that is scripture and say that scripture is a lesser revelation. Either way, when we talk about prioritizing the WORDS of Jesus, we are talking about the words as we understand them from scripture anyway, unless you were around 2,000 years ago. I don’t see how applying equal value to different pieces of scipture constitutes idolizing scripture.
“It is true that liberal theologians are often not certain of anything. But that is where faith comes in.”
Is faith uncertain?
“However my faith is in Jesus, while yours is in the Bible (again it sounds idolatrous).”
I believe the Bible is accurate. I have faith in what the Bible reveals. Apply your newspaper analogy here.
“I don’t believe in Jesus because of the Bible, I believe in Jesus because I’ve met him. Haven’t you?”
Yes, but by your reasoning, we can meet him without learning any of his teachings. This is correct, by the way, but I fail to see how it speaks to the need to prioritize the teachings that you had never read.
“Further let me ask, how do people come to faith?”
By having their sin revealed to them, repenting, and becoming new in Christ by asking for his grace.
“Do people need to have read the bible to be convicted of sin and to place their lives into the hands of a loving God?”
No.
“Does scripture have any necessary role in this process?”
Yes. Someone needs to have read it. I have yet to come across someone who, totally ignorant of even the existence of Christ, had come to him by way of special revelation.
“Does a new Christian commit themselves to an inerrant or infallible view of scripture before they are accepted into the family of God?”
No.
“Do you see all these conundrums your position is throwing up?”
What conundrums? You have asserted that I worship the Bible, but I do not. None of my answers are incompatible with inerrancy.
“You write: What if the contradiction was that Jesus wasn’t the son of God? Would that shake your faith? and the answer from an honest liberal is no.”
Really? Then in whom do you have faith?
“That’s the difference between having faith and having knowledge. Your position seems to imply that you have knowledge of Jesus (through the Bible) and that you have faith in the Bible.”
It doesn’t imply this at all. Jesus’ life was as it is described. My faith in him is not independent of the reality of his existence. The reality of his existence was conveyed by the scriptures which, as you noted previously, have been studied and verified extensively. I have both knowledge of, and faith in, Jesus Christ. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Going back to the gospels, the people witnessed Christ’s miracles and many believed, right? Did this knowledge attenuate their faith?
“I think we’ve already established that we disagree loudly on what inspiration means.”
I have no idea what you think inspiration means. You hold to levels of inspiration, but I don’t know why.
“(not detailed direction – I don’t believe God operates against our free will)”
This is a rather explosive statement for a paranthetical. I’ll begin with an aside… You seem earlier to make the statement that we can come to Christ without ever having known of him, or anything about him. Unwittingly, you spoke to the view of unconditional election. However, unconditional election precludes free will. You might want to do some study in this area.
However, since I do believe in free will, it would be disingenuous not to take your question at face value. If God does not operate against our free will, how to explain Saul’s blinding on the road to Damascus? Even if you do not believe it to be literally true, certainly he was speaking, at least symbolically, to a subjogation of his own free will.
If we believe, as you apparently do, that we have “some of Paul” and “some of God” in Paul’s writings, how we discern which is Paul and which is God? And why does this same standard apply to the writers of the gospel texts? If it is true of the gospel texts, why do we prioritize the gospel texts, and how can we believe that Christ was who the Bible says he was?
What if he was, as Crossan or Funk have proposed, simply a philosopher, who performed no miracles and simply agitated against empire? If that is the empirical truth, how can we any longer afford to have faith in the son of God who came to redeem us? And why on earth should he have any special authority to speak to our government’s foreign policy?
“So I’ll go for a mix of potency (as you suggested) and fullness to describe why Jesus is greater than the otherwheres spoken word of God (aka the burning bush).”
So we have established that Christ is greater than a Bush. Sounds like the title to a post on this blog.
“I’m going to add a new thought here. I suspect that if you asked a RLC as to whether they’d consider Jesus’ actions as of equal worth to his words then they’d say yes. But the actions can’t be described by any catchy label.”
WWJD?
“Would you even consider the possibility that the Holy Spirit at work in the authors is reponsible for maybe 90% of the end product and that some of their humanity gets in?”
Some of their humanity absolutely gets in. God chose the writers. But in doing so, he chose the nature of the content, and I cannot fathom a reason why he would have chosen for it to be in error, or tainted by mere human opinion.
“Other than in the writing of Scripture can you think of any other instances where God uses people in that way as effectively empty vessels or puppets?”
There are a number of occassions when the scriptures discuss God giving people over to sin, or deadening their hearts, or compelling them to do this or that. Christ cast out demons, who were effectively using bodies as empty vessels. If demons can do it, why can’t God, especially when his revelation is at stake?
But again, you are left applying the same standard to the Gospel texts. Even if you lay claim to a special faith in Christ that hold true regardless of whether or not the gospels happen to be accurate, we are still left with the question of why Christ’s words, as presented by those same gospels, must be given special weight. What if their “humanity” takes the shape of an inclination to favor the poor, which wouldn’t be such a reach by your reasoning.
“I never actually said that you prioritise on the level of inaccuracy. Both levels one and two I describe would be perfect, one is just more complete”
You certainly seem to do so. I don’t know what you mean by “perfect” or “complete”, here.
Ultimately, if we submit that all scripture is perfect, and that we cannot prioritize based on accuracy, then Campolo’s statement is essentially without meaning. If all are perfect and accurate, then they will never come in conflict. As such, I fail to see the need to prioritize in the first place.
That Campolo sees the need is, I believe, a function of his politics. Guthrie’s own politics may inform his theology. I have no idea. But when I hear someone say that they prioritize “red letters” over black letters, I wonder what they mean.
Do they simply apply the red letters first, hoping to apply the black letters if they have time? Do they find error in the black letters (your previous statements suggest that you do?)
The only applications you provided certainly had political implications, so I do not think the political can be disengaged from the theological here.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 14, 2007 at 5:27 pm


Do they simply apply the red letters first, hoping to apply the black letters if they have time? Do they find error in the black letters (your previous statements suggest that you do?)
Well, it seems to me that the black should be interpreted in light of the red. When Jesus preached the “Sermon on the Mount,” He didn’t simply reiterate the Law; He added context to it that had formerly been missed.



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wayne

posted October 14, 2007 at 6:47 pm


Welcome to theology. All that and you still won’t answer why the apostles seemed to think the words of Jesus override the words of Moses.



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Trent

posted October 14, 2007 at 8:26 pm


kevin,
From a liberal theological perspective all of scripture is imperfect and none of it is inerrant or fully complete. So all scripture is on the same level, and that level is flawed. It is not the perfect complete word of God, that would be Jesus.
So we agree that all scripture is at one level. If we assume your presupposition of inerrancy then RLCs do not make sense. If we asume my presupposition of scripture that bears witness to the work of God, but is neither perfect nor inerrant, then we must carefully discern which aspects of scripture speak to truth and which aspects speak to the authors/editors culture and personality.
From that second perspective starting with the words and actions of Jesus makes sense as he is our Lord. This makes sense even though it is not a perfect or complete record.
Faith is by nature uncertain. That is why it is different to knowledge. Angels and demons have knowledge of God, we can only have faith. Faith allows us freedom to choose what to beleive and to make wrong choices (repleat with consequences).
It sounds like we are agreed that you can meet Jesus without learning his teachings. One can come to faith without knowledge of scripture. I’ll suggest that there is a gap in your reasoning still with regard to the role and necessity of scripture in the process of conversion. Is there a position between ‘special revelation’ and ‘through scripture?’ I’ll suggest that there is and it’s through the continuity of the saints. Faith is something people share and pass around, even independently of Scripture (this also avoids your ‘unconditional election’ issue).
Do contradictions challenge faith? I have faith in Jesus, so if a liberal study of the scripture suggesting that the virgin birth didn’t really happen would that shake my faith, no. If a study of scripture suggested that Paul was a sexist would that shake my faith in Jesus, no. Those are easy examples though.
Let’s go to an extreme, what if Spong’s analysis of scriptue suggested that Jesus was not the son of God, but was just a charismatic teacher, would that shake my faith? Answer is still no. Why? Because my faith is in Jesus, not in the scriptures no matter how they are interpreted.
I did say that the scriptures have been studied extensively, but such study has gone down two lines. A small percentage of scholars have assumed an inerrant position and have studied scripture from that position and (circular logic) found it to be inerrant. The vast majority of biblical scholars have studied the scriptures using the same tools as would be applied to any secular historical document and have found that like all historical documents it contains fallacies and reflections of it’s authors, editors and contexts, but that underlying these is a witness to the work of God
Given that you’ve disagreed with me on what inspiration means, why don’t you have a go at describing what you think it means and the procss whereby the bible was inspired. Given that we’ve failed to address this after I responded to your honest question, then maybe we should try from the other end.
You assume I spoke to unconditional election, because you assumed that this was the only option left for coming to faith once Scripture was removed from the equation. Both assumptions were mistaken.
However with regard to free will I did recall a few occasions in scripture where God acts against free will (some o the ame ones you pointed out). I thought of occasions in the OT here God made the enemies of his people at to their own detriment. I couldn’t think of any examples where God subjugated the free will of his followers. Your example of Paul interestingly doesn’t fit the bill either. Paul is on the road, God acts and then … Paul is still free. Does the fact that God acted subjugate free will? No, when God spoke to Moses, Moses was still free to flee the scene. When Jesus appeared to Paul, Paul was still free to reject Jesus and to persecute his church. I’m glad they both submitted their will to God’s will, but they still maintained their free will. When my employer gives me an order, I (usually) submit, but I maintain my own free will at all times.
In Paul’s letter some of Paul some of God, in the gospels some of the authors/editors, some of God, in the Pentateuch, some of the authors, some of God. How do we establish what is of God (the underlying acts of God they bear witness to) and what is not? Well we apply processes for scriptural analysis that have been appied on all other historial texts to try to discern what comes from where. Is this a perfect process and does it give perfect information, no. Does this stop us from believing in Christ, no, because our faith is in Christ, so it’s ok for the book to be flawed. Does that mean that Christ was probably different to how he’s described and remembered and that our images are imperfect and flawed as well, yes (hence all the intrest in the ‘historical Jesus’).
It’s probably important to make clear that the view I’m espousing does not provide any empirical truth. It is a position based on faith and conjecture. Some like Spong and Thiering and Crossan and Funk (I don’t actually know the last two) will take it to a different place to where most biblical scholars will. I’m free to disagree with them because my faith is not on scripture it is on Jesus.
If you agree with me that some of the authors humanity gets in, then how do you maintain an inerrant position? I do agee with you however that I don’t know why God would choose to allow errors or human taints to get in. I don’t know the mind of God. I don’t know why there are cancers or why kids are born with deformities. What I suspect is that we are given free will and that God always acts to preserve that. Why doesn’t God act in a miraculous public world-wide way now, so that he can prove his existence to all people? I would suggest that he’d rather we have faith in him rather than knowledge of him. Faith only exists because of free will. I suspect that an imperfect bible allows more faith than a perfect version would (but as I said I don’t know the mind of God on this, do you?)
I’ll give you an example of a liberal reading of the gospels. One of the tools of analysis is to look for any components that are radical (that don’t conform to any other known teachings of the time). One of the aspects of the gospels this could lead to rejecting, would be the virgin birth, because miraculous births are common in stories of the time. One of the aspects of the gospels that this highlights is Jesus teaching on poverty. So it is most probably (never certainly) true that Jesus did introduce radical new teaching regarding wealth and poverty.
Again I will agree with you that if the Bible is perfect that emphasising the red letters does not make sense. Will you concede that if the bible is not perfect (throughout) that emphasising the words and actions of Jesus might (just might) make sense?
Be Blessed



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s.g.

posted October 14, 2007 at 9:22 pm


I am excited about the efforts of the Red Letter Christians, such as Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis.The writings of Gregory Boyd are also refreshing.The reason they must draw our attention back to the red letter teachings of Jesus, is because American Christianity has so conveniently stepped over and ignored them.This has always baffled and saddened me. The words of Jesus are piercingly clear and profoundly true. His teachings are hard, and leave no room for compromise.Sadly, this is not what is preached in our pulpits.What a powerful witness for Christ we would be if we truly lived out the self-sacrificial, radical compassion to which he has called us, instead of settling for the watered down, theology of “cheap grace”, which is so prevalent today. In my opinion, the words of Jesus have been discounted, disregarded and devalued by American Christianity. I have long hungered for our generation to find Jesus again, and am grateful for the prophetic voices he has raised up to call us back to his teachings. Jesus taught that some aspects of scripture are weightier than others, “justice, mercy and sacrifice”. He is the son of God, and I for one, believe him.



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Trent

posted October 14, 2007 at 10:48 pm


Kevin,
just out of curiosity which protestant faith traditions adhere to an inerrant position. You made the statement earlier that most do.
I know for instance that Baptists do (or did, I’m a bit out of touch) but that Lutherans, Anglicans (Episcopalian?), Methodists, Congregationalists, Prebyterians (and of course Catholics) don’t.
Be Blessed,



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canucklehead

posted October 15, 2007 at 1:05 am


Trent – most people who hold to the inerrancy position are careful to add the very important (conventient?) caveat that they are referring to the original autographs or documents when they make this claim. Such, of course, are no longer available, which tends to make the discussion somewhat of a non-argument since everything modern readers have are dependent on that which even the inerrantists’ agree are non-inerrant transmissions.



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kevin s.

posted October 15, 2007 at 5:06 am


“Well, it seems to me that the black should be interpreted in light of the red”
But also vice versa, yes?
“From that second perspective starting with the words and actions of Jesus makes sense as he is our Lord. This makes sense even though it is not a perfect or complete record.”
But they are recorded by human beings. You are right back where you started. If we don’t know that the scriptures are inerrant, then we don’t know what Christ said. If we agree that all of scripture is at the same level with regard to accuracy, then you face this conundrum whether you subscribe to inerrancy or not.
“Is there a position between ‘special revelation’ and ‘through scripture?’”
Yes, and that would be espousing the same truth that is contained in the scriptures, which is kind of the point.
“Faith is by nature uncertain.”
I disagree.
“Faith allows us freedom to choose what to beleive and to make wrong choices (repleat with consequences).”
Huh?
“Let’s go to an extreme, what if Spong’s analysis of scriptue suggested that Jesus was not the son of God, but was just a charismatic teacher, would that shake my faith? Answer is still no. Why? Because my faith is in Jesus, not in the scriptures no matter how they are interpreted.”
Right, and Spong can suggest whatever he likes because he is easily discredited. My original question was as to whether the presentation of conclusive evidence that Christ is not the son of God would shake your faith. You said it would not, which confuses me.
“A small percentage of scholars have assumed an inerrant position and have studied scripture from that position and (circular logic) found it to be inerrant.”
You might delve a little more deeply into the history of this subject. Again, I disagree with your assertion that inerrancy is an example of circular logic.
“Given that you’ve disagreed with me on what inspiration means, why don’t you have a go at describing what you think it means and the procss whereby the bible was inspired.”
Divine inspiration denotes that the divine (which we agree is God) has exerted his influence on something. So, if the Bible is divinely inspired, then it is influenced by God. Personally, I think that the scripture is God’s personal revelation, and that God revealed himself through the writers of the Bible. However, we both agree, I think, the God influenced scripture.
” Does the fact that God acted subjugate free will?”
The will to see? Yes.
” Does that mean that Christ was probably different to how he’s described and remembered and that our images are imperfect and flawed as well, yes (hence all the intrest in the ‘historical Jesus’).”
So, do you believe in a Christ that didn’t exist? Crossan and Funk rule (or ruled, since Funk is no longer with us) out Christ’s divinity. You simply cannot hold that their depiction is accurate and believe the Christ is the Son of God. That would render you effectively Jewish, believing that such a figure will come, but has yet to do so.
“If you agree with me that some of the authors humanity gets in, then how do you maintain an inerrant position?”
Did Christ’s evince humanity? Yes. Was he inerrant? Yes.
“I suspect that an imperfect bible allows more faith than a perfect version would”
No. Jesus raised men from the dead, and the pharisees were upset that he did it on a Sunday. God could conclusively prove his existence every day (and, in fact, does so) and people will reject him. We do not need an inaccurate text to trick us into deception in order to have faith in God. We simply need to submit and obey.
“Again I will agree with you that if the Bible is perfect that emphasising the red letters does not make sense.”
I am confused, because you earlier said that your first to levels of inspiration are, in fact, perfect. Are they or aren’t they?
“Will you concede that if the bible is not perfect (throughout) that emphasising the words and actions of Jesus might (just might) make sense?”
Depends on what you mean by perfect. It would make sense if you could discern that the gospel texts were substanitally more accurate than other texts.
However, the only reason you have provided me is that you believe in Jesus very, very much. I’m glad that you do, don’t get me wrong, but this does not engage my argument.
Even if you believe in Jesus resolutely, in the face on any and all evidence, you cannot know what he said about (for example) the poor without looking to the scriptures. In doing so, you render yourself vulnerable to the same charge of idolizing the scriptures. It’s just that you idolize differnt scriptures.



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Trent

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:27 am


kevin,
out of curiosity you stated that ‘fundamentalist’ was the wrong phrase to use for those ascribing to an inerrant position. What is a better term and how would you define fundamentalism?
We agree that if we don’t know the scriptures are inerrant that we don’t know what Christ said. We disagree as to whether or not this is a problem for faith. You are absolutely correct that from a liberal reading of scripture we have no idea what words Jesus actually used.
I work in schools. Say I interview a dozen kids who were witness to an event but I can’t see them until the day after the event. All dozen given me different versions of what Doug said to Amy. Most of the kids tell me that it involved Amy’s mother. Without knowing the actual words I can surmise (imperfectly) the original act, it’s intent and possibly some of it’s language. The same is true for a liberal theologian in reading and interpreting scripture.
Ok we disagree that faith is by nature uncertain. Do you distinguish between faith and knowledge? I do, which is why I can be presented any ‘evidence’ that Jesus is not the son of God without it shaking my faith, which is not solely dependent upon evidence. (and I readily acknowledge that you can do likewise with your faith in scripture).
I agree generally with your definition of divine inspiration, but I’d suggest that it is more than God ‘influencing’ something (one could say he influenced the red sea to part but I wouldn’t call that inspiration). Can’t think of a better word right now. We do both agree that God influenced scripture (I expect we even both agree that all scripture is useful for teaching etc). Not sure how you make the leap from ‘influenced’ to ‘inerrant.’
I’m going to hold to my position that God did not overcome Paul’s will when he made him blind. By will alone I cannot make myself taller or handsomer or less hairy. We don’t ‘will to see.’ Made me chuckle though.
Why would you suggest that I believe in a Christ who doesn’t exist? It’s like you’re still hung up on the all or nothing picture. It’s all inerrant or it’s all false. The reality is probably not that simple. Consider again the newspaper example or the schoolyard example above. It can be imperfect and flawed and still bear witness to truth. When we meet Jesus face to face I’m quite confident he will not be exactly like either of us expected.
You earlier offered the concession that the authors allowed some of their humanity to get in. Which I agreed with and asked how could you then assume inerrancy. Your response was that Jesus was human and inerrant. Are you suggesting that Jesus wrote the bible? That Jesus somehow ‘possessed’ the authors and later editors and compilers to make sure that every part was perfect?
I had trouble making sense of your last few remarks. Here is my best effort at responding to them.
I do hold that Jesus is perfect and that he is the full and complete word of God. (this was my level one)
I do hold that God can speak directly to people (aka burning bush); that this is also perfect, but is incomplete (being only part of God and for a time/purpose).
I believe that the Bible was written, edited and compiled by people who bore witness to the acts of God, the person of Jesus and the experiences of the early church. I believe that God ‘influenced’ this process. I do not believe that any part of the Bible is inerrant.
I want to also clarify my concern regarding idolatry. I believe that if you elevate scripture to the same level as Jesus then this may be idolatrous. I believe that if you have faith in scripture to the same level as in Jesus that this may be idolatrous. I believe that if your faith is dependent on Scripture to the same level as it is dependent on Jesus this may be idolatrous.
So one is able to look to the scriptures to learn more of Jesus without being idolatrous, but one’s faith and dependence must remain in Jesus. Your final charge that by reading what Jesus says about the poor I am being idolatrous is therefore somewhat ludicrous.
I’m going to compromise on my last ending in an attempt to present an alternative viewpoint to your own that you can understand even if it will never be your viewpoint.
If (and only if) the bible is not perfect but it still is inspired (influenced) by God, then it still contains truth. If it still contains truth, then the Christian theologian must carefully analyse the scriptures for elements that are most probably true. In such a situation, where they are not automatically tied to accepting all of scripture equally, they may find that the New Testament speaks more clearly to what the Early Church believed and how they though Christians should act. And they may find that out of the New Testament that the gospels spoke most truly to what mattered to the early church. Can you, in theory only, agree with this?
I am not trying to get you to change your mind. I really just want you to try to perceive the other perspective, even though it is foreign to you, as I can perceive yours (imperfectly, but in a general sense).
Be Blessed,



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wayne

posted October 15, 2007 at 9:56 am


“It’s just that you idolize differnt scriptures.” Kevin
It isn’t that easy Kevin. To say that I interpret scripture through the red letters is not the same as saying I believe in the Black letters less or the Red letters more. Both you and Guthrie constantly go there. It appears you are trying to set up a “straw man”.
To give Jesus the last word on a difficult passage is just a method of interpretation and as such says nothing about the veracity of the scriptures, only the truth of the interpretation.
If it is the words that are important we had all better start learning the languages of scripture as the Holy Spirit does not speak German or English. Further the whole of the Reformation is out the door and Martin Luther, Wycliff etc should have all been burned at the stake, but of course the Catholics wouldn’t have been right to do so as they were using a Latin version.
What good would an inerrant “first edition” provide us that an errant version couldn’t, given that both would be translated and interpreted by very error prone individuals? Even Christians who lived at a time when they could read the originals seemed to have a lot of arguments over what they meant and how they were to be applied.
Why did the Author of the scripture reverse it? What does the fact that he did so say about using his words to view the whole?
Nothing that you have argued has in the least shot down the RLC”s stance on this, nor have you given a logical defense of Guthrie’s article.
As an interpretational method, using the words of Christ to view the rest of scripture is a perfectly defensible, rational and scriptural methodology. Your’s may be also and I probably agree theologically more with you than I do Trent. Trent I will say that if something were presented to me that would shake my faith, like the bones of Jesus,(not that they would actually be sufficient), I would probably still believe in the words or sayings Jesus as I know of nothing else to exceed them. They are the only teachings I find worth believing in. Where else would we go? He has the words of Life. Kevin, the man who originally made that statement already had the words of Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. yet he seems to have agreed with Tony C.



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Trent

posted October 15, 2007 at 10:21 am


Wayne,
My initial intent in starting this conversation was to point out that Campolo’s position is shaped by his theology more than by his politics. Campolo does adhere to a liberal view of scripture though I can’t say for sure how similar or not it would be to mine (mine’s quite moderate though, so I doubt there’d be much difference).
The differences between Campolo and Guthrie can then be seen on the basis of differing theology and not on differing politics. They will never be able to agree, or even to really communicate while they cannot perceive that they each have different starting points.
I don’t know what view of scripture Wallis adheres to, or the other RLCs for that matter, but I suspect that few if any would subscribe to an inerrant position. Would be interesting to find out.
Be Blessed,



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Payshun

posted October 15, 2007 at 10:40 am


K:
Second, inerrancy denies that typographical or other errors introduce falsehood into the scriptures, but does not maintain that we must understand such errors to be accurate, which is untenable. The blog you cite is a woefully inadequate counterpoint on this note, and certainly insufficient to render inerrancy as myth.
Me:
“Think about this: If the Bible’s authority depends on its inerrancy but only the original manuscripts were inerrant , then only the original manuscripts were authoritative. The logic is impeccable and irresistible. And if “inerrancy” is compatible with flawed approximations, faulty chronologies, and use of incorrect sources by the biblical authors, it is a meaningless concept.”
Then you are not being intellectually honest. Having typographical errors in the text means man inspired by the Holy Spirit made errors w/n the text that do not reveal the perfect message of the scriptures. Trent and I are making the point that the scriptures are not perfect because God saw fit to reveal himself to humanity. Humanity being flawed did the best they could through the Holy Spirit to reveal God thru the bible. That revelation was not perfect. Jesus used our imperfections and revealed his perfection. I agree w/ Trent. It sounds like there is a little bit of bible worship going on.
p



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kevin s.

posted October 15, 2007 at 12:12 pm


“Having typographical errors in the text means man inspired by the Holy Spirit made errors w/n the text that do not reveal the perfect message of the scriptures.”
Why? If Christ were to, for example, stutter or pause while speaking, would his message be imperfect?
“I agree w/ Trent. It sounds like there is a little bit of bible worship going on.”
This charge is untrue and makes no sense. If I read biographies of Ronald Reagan, defend their accuracy, and respect Reagan as a result, this does not make me a biography worshipper.
“What is a better term and how would you define fundamentalism?”
What is wrong with the term “inerrancy”? The term fundamentalist (pejorative connotations aside) generally refers to a Christian group defined by its opposition to modernity. One could argue that inerrancy is part and parcel of that opposition, but the reverse does not hold true.
“You are absolutely correct that from a liberal reading of scripture we have no idea what words Jesus actually used.”
So again, how and why do you prioritize them?
“Do you distinguish between faith and knowledge?”
They are two different things, but not necessarily mutually exclusive.
“I do, which is why I can be presented any ‘evidence’ that Jesus is not the son of God without it shaking my faith, which is not solely dependent upon evidence. ”
I think you can say this with the full assurance that no such evidence will come to light. If my hypothetical regarding absolute proof that Jesus was not the son of God came to pass, I am asking how you would respond.
“I agree generally with your definition of divine inspiration, but I’d suggest that it is more than God ‘influencing’ something ”
Fine. I was trying to find the least offensive definition for the purpose of mutual agreement.
” We don’t ‘will to see.”
Yes we do, unless we have no eyelids. God imposed his will by blinding Paul. It is absurd to argue otherwise, unless you believe the event to have had no spiritual significance whatsoever, which is not a problem for liberal theologians.
“Why would you suggest that I believe in a Christ who doesn’t exist? It’s like you’re still hung up on the all or nothing picture. It’s all inerrant or it’s all false. ”
Well, yeah, that’s the point I’m making. You stated originally (but have sinced shied away) that you would believe in Christ in spite of conclusive empirical evidence that he is not the son of God. If this is the case, then my suggestion that you believe in a Christ does not exist is valid.
“Your response was that Jesus was human and inerrant.”
I assume that you agree.
“Are you suggesting that Jesus wrote the bible?”
Not in the sense that you mean. My point was that humanity does not preclude inerrancy.
“Your final charge that by reading what Jesus says about the poor I am being idolatrous is therefore somewhat ludicrous.”
I agree, as is your charge that I am idolatrous for holding to inerrancy. I am no more idolatrous than you, by the very same logic you employ.
“I am not trying to get you to change your mind. I really just want you to try to perceive the other perspective, even though it is foreign to you, as I can perceive yours (imperfectly, but in a general sense).”
It is not at all foreign. I understand it completely, and if theologians can find compelling evidence that certain scriptures are more probably true, then we can prioritize them. In light of divine inspiration, I find such claims spurious, and have yet to see evidence that the gospel texts are more probably true.



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kevin s.

posted October 15, 2007 at 12:47 pm


“It isn’t that easy Kevin. To say that I interpret scripture through the red letters is not the same as saying I believe in the Black letters less or the Red letters more. ”
But that is the only tangible reason Trent offered to prioritize the red letters. I agree with Trent that Campolo and Guthrie come from different starting points, and that their debate ought to be held at that level.



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 15, 2007 at 1:28 pm


All I’ve done is tried to defend my viewpoint here, which is also legitimate and deeply held by a plurality (if not a majority) of Christians. What is wrong with doing that? Have I cast aspersions on your reasons for posting?
Posted by: kevin s. | aOctober 12, 2007 5:58 PM
I think my issue here is sort of the dismissive tone with which you approached the topic.
Wrong way:
“My point was to say that prioritizing the words of Jesus is untenable, for the reason that doing so calls into question the very basis for prioritizing his words in the first place.”
Right way:
“Hey guys, I don’t know about this prioritizing the red stuff. Doesn’t that call into question the authority of scripture elsewhere? How do you reconcile this with an Inerrant Bible?”
That’s my opinion on how it should be approached, fwiw.



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 15, 2007 at 1:58 pm


Couple of points as to the issue with RLC’s and the issue of prioritizing scripture:
Already in Evangelicalism there exists various forms of Dispensationalism, or ways in which the Bible is interpreted. You read Luther and he’ll do what he can to steer you towards Paul. Many believe that we interpret the OT through the lens of the NT. And then there’s the position that I hold to – although I don’t use the term “Red-Letter,” is that the Bible is best interpreted through the Gospels. It’s nothing new. And no different from what any other Christian does in prioritizing the NT.
The other point – is a specific example of how Campolo explained how the RLC idea works in practical life: Jesus didn’t specifically highlight homosexuality, so they don’t either. I don’t think he disagreed with what the OT teaches regarding that, but I don’t see him running everything through and “anti-gay” lens either. I’m sorry, but I’ve run into too many Christians who will not want to talk about a particular candidate’s staace on other issues, but they will harp on homosexuality and abortion as a signpost of a particular individual’s worthiness as a public servant.
So in this way, I think we have a good rule of thumb, one that keeps us from being of a one-track mind and keeps us addressing things as God would have us spend time in them.
And one last thing: Notice I just addressed a SPECIFIC hermanuetical issue that Campolo mentioned. Not a generalized accusation that he might be “mythologizing” other parts of the Bible, or rendering it with less due authority. That’s why I don’t like this discussion, If you can show specific examples of where I’ve rendered any part of the Bible to an undue place, we’ll talk.



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Payshun

posted October 15, 2007 at 3:45 pm


“Why? If Christ were to, for example, stutter or pause while speaking, would his message be imperfect?”
You pose an interesting question that doesn’t apply to the bible. Christ did not write it so the question is a mute one.
Could you claim the bible was innerant when there are different accounts of different historical events like in Kings and Chronicles? I will post more later. but let’s just say the bible is far from a perfect document.
p



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Trent

posted October 15, 2007 at 7:40 pm


This from an interview on CT with Rabbi David Rosen:
“Rosen: I think that Jesus would have understood—as all Jews would have understood—that it is not possible to understand all of the biblical text totally literally. Interpretation is necessary.”
Not sure if he’s right, but Jesus definately did interpret.
Be Blessed,



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Trent

posted October 15, 2007 at 7:58 pm


kevin,
now that you’ve finally conceded that you understand the liberal interpretation of scripture, even though you don’t adhere to it, let’s explore what that might mean in practice.
We won’t pick war or poverty or anything that is possibly ‘political’ because I’m trying to stress that this is not a political difference, but a theological one.
Say we pick ‘women’ or ‘slavery’. Slavery still has political connotations, but I suspect that liberals and conservatives would generally agree on the issue and it’s probably the easiest to explore.
Let’s look at OT, Paul and Gospels. Slavery was common in the Old Testament and it could be argued from an inerrant position that because it’s in the Bible it was God’s will. It has been argued in the past that the enslavement of African’s was God’s punishment on one of Noah’s sons. A liberal would read accounts of Old Testament slavery and would argue that this was a reflection of the culture and practice of the time and not the perfect will of God.
In the NT letters slavery is again generally discussed and Paul makes the point that slaves should remain slaves even if they and their masters are Christians and that even if they’ve fled their masters they should return. He’s being consistent with the OT. A liberal will read this (as they read Paul writing about the place of women) as being a reflection of Paul and his culture and time; and not the perfect will of God.
Jesus doesn’t talk much about slavery (I can’t off hand recall him talking about it at all). But he does make radical (and therefore most probably genuine) comments about how we are to treat other people, about how we are to treat others as our selves and how we are to treat the ‘least of these.’ How would you say that Jesus wanted slaves to be treated?
Do you see how it might be, from a liberal perspective, that the words of Jesus (in just this one instance) ought to be prioritised? Could you engage with a similar process in exploring the role of women or even of exploring poverty and war? You might not arrive at all the same conclusions as RLCs but you would gain their perspective.
And sometimes, it must be pointed out, you will arrive at a point that says, “on this issue the words of Jesus do not take priority.” Read all the current posts on concern for the environment and you’ll see what I mean (not much quoting of Jesus there).



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 15, 2007 at 8:02 pm


Payshun wrote:
Could you claim the bible was innerant when there are different accounts of different historical events like in Kings and Chronicles?
I’m not big on the term “Innerrancy” anymore, but I do support a lot of the same contentions. To answer your question- yes. Both accounts are true from 2 differing perspectives. One is a Northern Kigndom view, the other a Southern Kingdom angle.
Here’s a presepctive from a Mennonite seminary on the issue:
http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?430



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wayne

posted October 15, 2007 at 8:54 pm


Kevin w
I would like to know where you go that Tony C quote. I must confess I never thought it out to that point. Stress what Jesus stressed and deemphasize what Jesus did not.
One problem is that according to John’s Gospel Jesus did and said so much it would fill the earth with books to record it all. (I did not look that up so it might not be exact, only the way I remember it). Then I guess you could say the HS only wanted recorded what He wanted us to focus on. But whether it is a good rule to follow or not I think it is interesting. It would change my view of the beliefs of RLC’s though, and do so in a troubling way. Paul obviously didn’t follow suit as he did teach on Homosexuality and took a rather dim view. It would also lend Kevin s’ argument definite credibility as it would seem that Tony C does in fact reduce the rest of scripture to some extent. I am not prepared to go there. That said I do not think Paul would have agreed with the incessant focus on the subject we have today in the conservative church.
If homosexuality is a sin it can be no less and no more against God than greed, sloth, or bigotry. Bigotry could be what the conservative church is guilty of with regards to homosexuals, even if you allow for the life style being wrong. So even if Homosexuality is wrong, a stance that is focused against it can not be right. Pot calling the kettle sort of thing, or to use Jesus’ words, a mote and beam sort of thing.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 15, 2007 at 10:53 pm


In the NT letters slavery is again generally discussed and Paul makes the point that slaves should remain slaves even if they and their masters are Christians and that even if they’ve fled their masters they should return. He’s being consistent with the OT. A liberal will read this (as they read Paul writing about the place of women) as being a reflection of Paul and his culture and time; and not the perfect will of God.
The Scripture ought to be interpreted according to the time in which is was written. The type of slavery that was prevalent at that time was “indentured servitude,” not the “chattel slavery” Europe and America perpetrated among Africans based solely on racial/ethnic background. (Notice that God led Israel out of chattel slavery in Egypt, and that inspired the
American slaves.) And as for the status of women, it’s important to note that under Roman law women were literally the property of their husbands. When Paul told husbands to “love [their] wives as Christ loved the church,” that was a radical command at that time.
One problem is that according to John’s Gospel Jesus did and said so much it would fill the earth with books to record it all. (I did not look that up so it might not be exact, only the way I remember it).
That’s pretty much correct — it’s actually the very last verse in the entire book.
That said I do not think Paul would have agreed with the incessant focus on the subject we have today in the conservative church.
If homosexuality is a sin it can be no less and no more against God than greed, sloth, or bigotry. Bigotry could be what the conservative church is guilty of with regards to homosexuals, even if you allow for the life style being wrong.

I think we as Christian miss an important context in the Scriptures — God calls us to be different than the rest of the world. I would suggest that God frowned upon non-marital sex because all the surrounding nations were involved in it and He wanted to separate a people for Himself to show how life should be lived. Indeed, that’s the true meaning of “holiness.”



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Trent

posted October 15, 2007 at 11:21 pm


Rick,
Thanks for your examples. From a liberal perspective the ‘radical’ comment from Paul that you quote is more likely to be accepted as ‘truth’, whereas Paul’s teachings about Women’s place in the church are more likely to be culturally biased and therefore not a reflection of God’s perfect will.
A statement doesn’t need to be radical though to be authentic, it’s just more likely to be seen as authentic if it is radical.
Be Blessed,



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kevin s.

posted October 16, 2007 at 1:26 am


“That’s my opinion on how it should be approached, fwiw.”
Opinion writing presumes that one is speaking from a viewpoint, and it is therefore not necessary to add quuestion marks or phrases such as “I think” or “in my view”, except for emphasis. I don’t see where my tone is dismissive.
“Slavery was common in the Old Testament and it could be argued from an inerrant position that because it’s in the Bible it was God’s will.”
Why would an inerrant position argue this? There is no component of inerrancy that suggests everything that transpires in the Bible is in accordance with God’s will, unless you hold to Calvinism.
“A liberal would read accounts of Old Testament slavery and would argue that this was a reflection of the culture and practice of the time and not the perfect will of God.”
So would one who holds to inerrancy.
“How would you say that Jesus wanted slaves to be treated?”
He wanted them to be treated well.
“Do you see how it might be, from a liberal perspective, that the words of Jesus (in just this one instance) ought to be prioritised”
Not at all. Have you made an argument to this effect? I am confused.
“Could you engage with a similar process in exploring the role of women or even of exploring poverty and war? ‘
Not really. I think what you are doing is asking me to assume that Christ opposed slavery, and make similar assumptions about other issues, given that the slavery examples gives us reign to make these assumptions.
This would entail the rote imputation of our own political beliefs on the gospel texts. I will agree that Campolo engages in precisely this, but I do not think this was the point you were trying to make.
“And sometimes, it must be pointed out, you will arrive at a point that says, “on this issue the words of Jesus do not take priority.” Read all the current posts on concern for the environment and you’ll see what I mean (not much quoting of Jesus there). ”
And that point will have quite a bit to do with what you believe about politics in the first place.



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wayne

posted October 16, 2007 at 8:38 am


Kevin
Do you mean to say that if we held the correct political beliefs we would then interpret scripture correctly?



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 8:58 am


I’m not sure what it’s like in the US but in Australia not everything is automatically assumed to be about politics. Maybe for that reason I don’t understand why you persistently attribute a political motive to a theological belief. Occasionally here church leaders take the govt to task over the treatment of refugees or over the handling of the war on terror or over environmental degradation, but they do this to both major parties and are generally not associated with either one or the other.
Haven’t seen your response yet to my question about which major protestant denominations hold fast to an inerrant view of scripture (which was your claim earlier). I do wonder though if maybe it is a particular US belief. I’m also finding it difficult to accept your insistance on an all or nothing stance with regard to the bible, specifically your refusal to acknowledge that there might be an alternative. You’ve basically ignored the proposition scripture could still bear witness to truth wothout needing to be inerrant.
But then you have knowledge and I only have faith.
Tony Campolo holds a liberal view of scripture (it’s mentioned in a few of his books). Like me he does not hold an inerrant view.
I believe that all scripture needs to be weighed and tested. I believe that we do work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. I believe that for Christians this will often result in giving primacy to the New Testament writings, especially to the Gospel accounts, because fundamentally to be Christian is to be a follower of Christ and while the OT and latter NT speak to him, he is best described in the gospel accounts (even though they may not be perfect).
I was interested to read on some of the recent environment blogs, some posters who hold the inerrant view using it to assert that we should dominate and use the environment for our own ends because that’s what God told us to do; or using it to assert that we should continue to be fruitful and multiply even though unchecked population growth is a major threat to the world. I’m sure theirs are not the only inerrant positions, but they are a logical inerrant stand.
I am curious though. Do you believe that Jesus would have been in favor of or opposed to slavery. I know there are no direct quotations for you to rely upon, but there are his general teachings about how we are to relate to others. Actually, don’t bother replying to that. The consistent inerrant approach will be that Jesus held the same view as Paul, being that you shouldn’t seek to change your station.
So you would also I expect believe that Jesus, like Paul, thought that women shouldn’t teach in church and that he thought like Peter that they were the weaker partner in a marriage. And you’d believe that Jesus, like Moses, thought that the life of a slave was worth less than the life of a free man. And that the unborn child of a slave was worth less than the unborn child of the free. You’d believe that we should cancel all debts every seven years unless it was a debt owed by a foreigner and you’d believe in the Jubilee year or the Year of the Lords Favor. I know that last one has become popular with political liberals, but you won’t let that stop you from believing it will you? And you’d believe that Jesus did approve of divorce like Moses, but didn’t approve of marriage, like Paul (except of course for the weak). And you’d believe, like Jesus, that there is an obligation for a brother to provide heirs for his sister-in-law if her husband dies before producing an heir. And you’d believe that Christians shouldn’t charge interest on money loaned to the poor or to other Christians and shouldn’t make a profit on food sold to the poor. And you’d believe that a husband can veto any vow his wife makes. And you’d believe in keeping the Sabbath (the inerrant one, not the liberal interpretive one). And of course Jesus believed, like Moses that a rebellious son, or an adulterous woman, or a woman who was raped but did not scream, should all be stoned to death. These would all be literal inerrant positions wouldn’t they? I could go on, I didn’t even get to the stoning of homosexuals or the goat cooked in it’s mothers milk, or it being ok to rape a virgin as long as you then paid her father and forced her to marry you (presumably against her wishes given that you raped her in the first place).
Those are all just consistency issues. Then I could start on the contradiction issues like, where did Jesus meet his disciples after he rose from the dead? How many times did Jesus turn out the money changers from the temple? How many times did Jesus call Peter before Peter finally agreed to follow him? Liberal answers for the last two are both 1. What are your inerrant answers?
I am sure you have well thought out explanations for all of the above points (and we both know that there are many more). Be sure in considering your answers that you don’t mention context or time or I may have to report you to the inerrancy police.
Be Blessed,



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 10:53 am


kevin,
assuming your inerrant point of view,
assuming that all parts of the bible are equally revelatory
assuming that Christians are followers of Jesus
assuming that the the OT and Paul both speak to Jesus
where in the bible is it easiest to find this Jesus whom we are following? I know you can find him everywhere, he is after all the word of God, but where is it easiest and where does it require least interpretation?
Be Blessed,



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kevin s.

posted October 16, 2007 at 12:53 pm


Now you are asking me to abide by your assumptions while pretending to grant mine. If I want to know what Jesus said before he was crucified, I go to the gospels. And, don’t get me wrong, what he said was the word of God. But so, too, is the rest of the Bible.
I find proverbs to be the easiest way to find the word of God with the least interpretation, if I am simply looking for rote simplicity.
“Do you mean to say that if we held the correct political beliefs we would then interpret scripture correctly?”
No. I am saying that, if you require the Bible to accommodate your politics, you cannot interpret scripture correctly. Trent set up a situation where we are left to assume Jesus opposed slavery in all forms. Why? Because we find slavery to be wrong. Trent asked what implications this would have for gender roles and etc… The implication is that you are simply imputing your political beliefs into the Bible.
“I’m not sure what it’s like in the US but in Australia not everything is automatically assumed to be about politics.”
Or worldview, or opinions. You are correct that gender roles would not come under the purview of politics. And yes, the United States is far, far more political than Australia. But my point above stands, nonetheless.
“Haven’t seen your response yet to my question about which major protestant denominations hold fast to an inerrant view of scripture”
Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists (though they do not use the term) and Assembly of God churches hold to inerrance. Further many of the larger non-denominational churches in the U.S. subscribe to inerrancy.
Presbytarians are utterly incoherent on the issue right now, and that is causing some strife within their ranks, as inerrancy is part and parcel of Calvinism.
The latter is the only major protestant denomination not so subscribe to inerrancy, so I am more correct than I thought. No, it isn’t just a United States thing.
“You’ve basically ignored the proposition scripture could still bear witness to truth wothout needing to be inerrant.”
I conceded this early on.
“But then you have knowledge and I only have faith.”
Apparently so.
” I believe that for Christians this will often result in giving primacy to the New Testament writings,”
Primacy is an entirely different issue, btw.
“or using it to assert that we should continue to be fruitful and multiply even though unchecked population growth is a major threat to the world.”
God calls his followers to be fruitful and multiply, not everyone. There is no glory in a multiplicity of heathens.
“I am curious though. Do you believe that Jesus would have been in favor of or opposed to slavery. ”
As we practiced it? Unilaterally opposed. In every single situation throughout time? I don’t think he said either way. His lack of action on this issue seems to agree with Paul’s stance.
“So you would also I expect believe that Jesus, like Paul, thought that women shouldn’t teach in church and that he thought like Peter that they were the weaker partner in a marriage”
Yes to the first notion. I disagree with the premise of the second. I belive both genders distinctly reflect God, and that God had no weaker component.
You go on to list a litany of old testament practices, and I thought we were having a more sophisticated discussion than “the Old testament says x… so you have to believe x…” The way I see the Old Testament law is that God literally gave it to the Israelites, in fact codifying many of their own customs. If you are going to do it, do it God’s way, in other words.
When Christ died on the cross, he fulfilled the law, which is not to say that sin was no longer sin. God still abhors the worship of false Gods, and that is an OT principle.
Can you point me to the scripture regarding Moses’ view of the unborn and slaves?
I think the liberals evocation of scripture dealing with Jubilee is disingenuous, since none are proposing that we literally do what the Bible commands. They simply see it as a vague reinforcement of their socialist tendencies, which it is only if you want it to be.
“And you’d believe that Jesus did approve of divorce like Moses, but didn’t approve of marriage, like Paul (except of course for the weak).”
Jesus made his distinction from Moses’ viewpoint very clear. It is not correct to say that Paul did not approve of marriage. That is a poor interpretation of his statements regarding sexual sin and singleness.
“And you’d believe in keeping the Sabbath (the inerrant one, not the liberal interpretive one).”
Have you read the gospels?
“Those are all just consistency issues.”
No, they are theological issues. But for those who do not wish to take the time to study the scripture and discern what God is actually saying, they become stumbling blocks.
With the liberal interpretation, we may simply dispense with these passages, thereby dispensing with the problem. We may also dispense with any passages we find troublesome to our own opinions. That stuff about hell? Meh, I don’t buy it. It’s probably a conflict.
But it still doesn’t give you any reason to priotize the red letters. In fact, some of what you just decried as absurd is contained in the red letters.
“Then I could start on the contradiction issues like, where did Jesus meet his disciples after he rose from the dead?”
What is the contradiction?
“How many times did Jesus turn out the money changers from the temple?”
1 or 2.
“How many times did Jesus call Peter before Peter finally agreed to follow him?”
Are we referring to the “feed my lambs” portion of scripture? One, and the reason he said it three times is extremely obvious.
I don’t see what any of that has to do with inerrancy.
“Be sure in considering your answers that you don’t mention context or time or I may have to report you to the inerrancy police.”
Is it your assertion that the inerrant view of scripture does not recognize the passage of time?
I think you would do well to study inerrancy a bit, and what it really means, and what various theologians have to say about it. Don’t just take Campolo or McLaren’s word for it.



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm


Kevin S wrote:
I don’t see where my tone is dismissive.
Anyone care to enlighten him? :)



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Kevin Wayne

posted October 16, 2007 at 3:14 pm


Kevin S wrote:
I don’t see where my tone is dismissive.
Anyone care to enlighten him? :)



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Trent

posted October 16, 2007 at 6:05 pm


Kevin,
You threw me about half way through when you conceded that Christians could give primacy to new testament writings. Could they then not also give primacy within the new testament to the gospels?
I do find it peculiar that you find it easier to discern your Lords will be reading the proverbs than by reading what he instructed his followers to do. Not to say it’s not true for you. I suspect that regardless of view of scripture that most Christians would find it easier to learn what their Lord Jesus wanted them to do by reading what he is believed to have said.
I admire, honestly, your consistency with regard to the women teaching (Brethren?). I am curious though how you then don’t accept Peter’s assertion that women are the weaker partner in a marriage. Presumably you believe that Jesus is speaking through Peter as well.
Neither Lutherans nor Methodists ascribe to inerrancy (my limited theological training was through Methodists). There were earlier postings about this from the Lutheran perspective. And the Anglican’s of course don’t. So the only major ones which do are the baptists and the pentecostal groups. Perhaps it is more of an even split than I’d initially given you credit for.
The contradiction parts. According to the Gospel accounts where did Jesus first reveal himself to his disciples after his resurrection, was it Galilee or Jerusalem?
How could Jesus turn out the temple once or twice? Has to be one or the other doesn’t it? My understanding of an inerrant view is that it had to occur twice, once at the beginning of his ministry and once at the end, otherwise the two accounts of the event would contradict each other. A liberal however would have no difficulty with the contradiction.
Should have been clearer with the call of Peter. I meant the first call to follow Jesus at the start of his ministry. I heard a Vineyard pastor teach on this that Peter had in fact been called three times before starting to follow Jesus, because if he wasn’t called three times then the accounts of his call would be in conflict.
It’s always possible to construct or to reconstruct the scriptures to make sense of these contradictions. But what you end up doing is adding to each account. And your additions are not inerrant. I saw a book once that explained away every suspected contradiction in all of Scripture, but the book itself needed to be about as big as a full Bible to do so. Lots of added, suspect words.
As a final comment, if you’re now maintaining that inerrancy only means inerrant for the time it was written (in some instances even) then how do you determine which portions are still perfect now? I’m not sure you can have it both ways on this (unless you’re a closet liberal). And if some portions while still inerrant are now dated and no longer apply, then does that automatically lend itself to placing a greater weight on the least dated scriptures?
Be Blessed,



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