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The authority of Scripture



>I would really like some help from those who see themselves as
>literalists or plain readers of scripture. Here's the question:
>
>How do you decide which parts of scripture (Hebrew and Christian)  to
>follow and which no longer need to be followed?

That's a tough question for all of us who take the bible seriously, 
not just literalists.  I seek to be a plain reader of scripture, but 
not a glib one, and I often have difficulty determining what 
authority to give to particular parts of Scripture.

Jesus faced the same question in many variations.  Several times he 
says, "You have been told... but I say to you."  He takes on Moses 
and the prophets, and at one point he said that all the law and all 
the prophets hang on just two commandments:  Love God with all your 
soul, heart, mind (the part easiest to forget), and strength.  Love 
your neighbor as you love yourself.

So when we encounter a biblical command to kill our disobedient 
children, Jesus' short list is easy to apply.   It is also easy to 
reject the part of the psalm that has us invoke God to dash to the 
stones the heads of the children of our enemies.  In neither action 
would we be loving others as we love ourselves.

When asked to consent to the election of a bishop who is in a second 
or third marriage, what does it mean to love that neighbor as we 
love ourselves?

Leviticus 20:13 clearly demands that we put to death any males 
having sex with males.  How much authority do we give to that text 
when we encounter someone living opening in a lesbian or gay 
"marriage"?  And even if we give it complete authority, are we 
prepared for the sentence the state will exact on us after we have 
put such people to death?

When we are asked to consent to the consecration of a bishop who has 
pledged to take her or his flock out of our church, what does it 
mean to love that neighbor as we love ourselves?

What does it mean to love as ourselves if a friend wants to steal
money from us?  Would our love necessarily prevent our intervening to stop
the theft?

1 Corinthians 13 sets a very high standard for love.  It says that 
love does not seek to have its own way.  In our judgments of others 
we often seek to have our own way.

It's easy to assume that we understand our neighbor only later to 
discover that we made our neighbor into our image and judged 
unfairly because of that idolatry.

Other short lists in the bible help as tests for discernment, such 
as Micah's in 6:8.  I have known lots of people who 'do mercy' but 
few who could be said to 'love mercy.' That is, I know many who 
can squeeze mercy out of themselves on certain occasions, but I know almost
no one for whom being merciful is so fundamental as to derive from  
being in love with mercy. How would our discernment change if we 
actually love mercy or walk hummbly?  How would our acceptance or 
rejection of some passages of scripture change if we actually love 
mercy?

Galations 5 lists fruits of the spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, 
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  I find 
it helpful to ask of a troublesome decision, what decision will best 
manifest these fruits?  I find it helpful to test a troublesome text 
of scripture asking, "Does this text manifest the fruits of the 
spirit?"  Does Leviticus 20:13?

I find it often helpful to critique Scripture as rigorously as I would any
other texts.  For example, in Psalm 51 David, repenting of his sin with
Bathsheba, says, "Against you, God, and you alone have I sinned."  Really?
What would Uriah's family say about that?  What would Bathsheba's family
say about that?  Is David letting himself off the hook far too easily in
the way he shapes his confession?  How many others have used this Psalm to
gloss over their offenses rather than face them directly?

Anglicans emphasize that we should depend not just on scripture, but 
on tradition, and reason as well.  Others throw in 'experience' as a 
fourth leg to the stool. These leave out the most important leg of 
the stool for me, namely, prayer.  Many of my prayers return a holy 
silence instead of answers when I ask questions of how to apply 
scripture.

Louie
Newark deputy







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