August 22, 2003
Hermeneutics ... was that a jazz band?
Allen Brill responds to my last post on The Gutless Pacifist.
Posted by Camassia at August 22, 2003 07:43 PM
I think you know what is "of God" by the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Newman wrote: "It is antecedently unreasonable to suppose that a book so complex, so unsystematic, in parts so obscure, the outcome of so many minds, times, and places, should be given us from above without the safeguard of some authority; as if it could possibly, from the nature of the case, interpret itself...." Once the teaching authority of the Church was set aside, the Reformers began to argue about immediately about key Scriptural passages like what Christ meant by the words, "This is my Body."
St. Augustine said "But for the authority of the Church, I would not believe the Gospel."
We tend to be horrified today when, in places like Nigeria, punishments are carried out by Muslims that are identical to punishments decreed by Yahweh in the Hebrew scriptures. A Christian today has to spin the OT like a Dixiecrat on the campaign trail to intrepret away all the horrors described therein as "Yahweh's will" or "the Law".
I began my relationship with this blog by asking how it could be possible to reconcile the teachings of Jesus about the nature of God, with the Yahweh of Deuteronomy. Nobody has really answered that question for me yet.
Most of the OT must be rejected as barbaric today. If all the objectionable material were removed, you might be left with half of it. The half that remained would be superfluous to Christianity, since Jesus Christ taught us everything that we need to know in order to enter his Kingdom: I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And, Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
I repeat that it is OT scripture that has served as justification for the many crimes against humanity perpetrated by Christians with the sanction of the "Church".
Maybe it is time to put the OT on the literature shelf next to The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad. Maybe we should concentrate our efforts on understanding the message of Jesus, rather than trying to justify the violence and cruelty of the stone age god of the OT.
St. Augustine notwithstanding, I find it impossible to belong to any church that regards Leviticus, Deuteronomy, et al. as "holy scripture."
Rob - I agree. In my mind, being a Christian IS FOLLOWING THE WORD OF CHRIST! It is NOT blindly and selectively following that which came before (doing the latter makes you, what, a fundamentalist?).
Christ came to change the "path" to heaven. It frustrates me tremendously to hear from some of my Christian friends things like : "The death penalty is acceptable to God... the bible says An Eye For An Eye...." To which I usually reply with a request for the person to show me where CHRIST says that...
Camassia - since becoming an atheist myself, I have seldom given much thought to religion. I must say however, that your blogging does get me thinking. You and your commentors are a credit to the blogworld.
Thanks. It's always nice to be agreed with. But more importantly, I echo your appreciation of Camassia for providing a site for these interesting and important strings of discourse.
I was an atheist myself, deeply influenced by the French existentialists, and remained that way for many years. However, something kept me going back to an intellectual--not a spiritual--interest in religion. Ultimately, I--who had previously believed that one had to be just a little backward to be a believer--discovered that there were people a whole lot more intelligent than I ever hoped to be who believed in Jesus Christ. The one who put me completely back over the line into belief was the French philosopher and activist, Simone Weil. I promote her where I can.
Simone Weil is one person who made an honest, often courageous, attempt to live everything that she believed and proclaimed--she walked the talk, to put it in the vernacular. It is therefore valuable to read one of her biographers, as well as her own writings.
To my mind, although she was never baptized, she was a Christian saint. She is one of the few 20th century figures whom I wholeheartedly admire.
Just a word of caution about ways of handling offensive Hebrew Bible texts. Marcion was offended by a lot in the HB. He selected the Pauline writings and Luke (the other Gospels were too "Jewish") as his canon. It's hard for me to see how that could work since all the writings of the Greek Bible presuppose an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, to excise the HB wholesale from the canon is to deny Jesus' Jewishness. I think it will take an approach that is both more complicated and less certain.
Well, Allen, that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? My emerging (long emergent) feeling today is that the OT does more harm than good. You have to go there, for instance, to find justification for gay bashing. I could go through a whole litany of similar examples, but doubt that it is necessary to do so.
Jesus was Jewish. I'm not sure how that helps me be a better Christian. What does "Jewish" mean in this context? I have a hard time thinking of the resurrected Christ as "a Jew". Is God a Jew? Is Jesus not a member of the Trinity, but instead just an itinerate rabbi? If Jesus had been born a Greek would his message for 21st Century men and women have been different? Is Jesus' alleged descent from the house of King David important to my Christian identity? Is the Yahweh of Deuteronomy, who threatens to inflict cannibalistic infanticide on apostate mothers really the loving father to whom Jesus taught us to pray? I don't claim to have the ultimate answer to any of these questions, but I sure would like to hear some better answers to them than I've heard so far.
For those inclined to research, the reference to Deuteronomy in my last post above is to Chapter 28: 56-57. If you enjoy those lines, you'll just love the whole context in which they are set.
Call me a prig, but you only get to act like that around my kids one time...
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