Bi­b­li­cal teach­ings can­not be seen merely in sim­plis­tic terms

Belfast Telegraph - - LIFE - Allen Sleith: Hills­bor­ough Pres­by­te­rian Church

Other than those of an ex­treme sep­a­ratist men­tal­ity, the vast ma­jor­ity of church tra­di­tions or de­nom­i­na­tions assent to the creedal def­i­ni­tion that the Church (the ex­act mem­ber­ship of which God alone de­ter­mines) is one, holy, catholic and apos­tolic.

Nu­mer­ous ten­den­cies and ten­sions ex­ist be­tween these var­i­ous fac­tions of the One Church, have done so in the past, and pre­sum­ably will con­tinue in the fu­ture, though the spe­cific na­ture of such dif­fer­ences varies ac­cord­ing to con­text.

When de­bat­ing of­ten dif­fi­cult is­sues, some peo­ple ar­gue their case by quot­ing Bi­b­li­cal texts which, so it is con­tended, end the argument in de­fin­i­tive fash­ion — is­sue dealt with, clear- cut, black and white, enough said. Oth­ers though, won­der if it’s as sim­ple as this method of ‘Bi­b­li­cism’ would claim or de­mand.

The many gen­res of scrip­ture (nar­ra­tive, po­etry, proverb, anal­ogy, metaphor, para­ble, im­per­a­tive and prayer, etc) can’t be eas­ily re­duced, if at all, to the pre­sumed sim­plic­i­ties of a flat, lit­eral atom­istic read­ing, thus mak­ing the con­tin­u­ing in­ter­pre­tive task of­ten com­plex and del­i­cate.

Here’s a brief cri­tique of Bi­b­li­cism, us­ing a few pointed ex­am­ples to punc­ture a hole in its paper-thin pre­ten­sions.

In Deuteron­omy 21:18-21 the par­ents of a dis­obe­di­ent and re­bel­lious son are to take him to the el­ders so that all the men of the town shall stone him to death.

The in­ter­nal logic of Bi­b­li­cism would de­mand that com­mand still be car­ried out but thank­fully it isn’t en­forced.

For­rest Gump (right ), Tom Hanks’ fa­mous char­ac­ter’s wry quote comes to mind: “Some- times I guess there just aren’t enough stones!”

Leviti­cus 19:19 states that peo­ple should not wear cloth­ing of two kinds of ma­te­rial and in

19:28 pro­hibits any­one hav­ing tat­toos on their bod­ies.

Try imag­in­ing the scene on Sun­day morn­ings when count­less peo­ple turn up for wor­ship at church and face the rigours of em­bar­rass­ing, not to say in­tru­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion of their cloth­ing la­bels and ex­posed flesh, and then ask yourself — what’s the greater vi­o­la­tion: the scrip­tural disobedience, the in­ti­mate search or the im­plied qual­i­fi­ca­tions for be­long­ing?

And rarely, if ever, are you likely to have seen the ex­hor­ta­tion of the apos­tles, Paul and Peter, widely prac­tised in lo­cal con­gre­ga­tions to “greet one an­other with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthi­ans 16:20) which, with un­in­tended irony, given con­tem­po­rary con­tro­ver­sies, some bible ver­sions trans­late as a “broth­erly kiss”.

Bi­b­li­cism: in­con­sis­tent, se­lec­tive, un­sus­tain­able?

Enough said.

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