26 November 2005

Identity vs. Authority pars duo

It's the "day after" in many ways today. And I'm in recovery mode. The house is clean from the Thanksgiving Extravangza and we've got loads of leftovers so I can relax! So I am sewing and relaxing. It's heavenly. I've been following a conversation on another blog during the day today. It's been fascinating to me; it might not be to you. It's about how we (that would be the collective "we") look at the Bible. So if this is interesting to you, read on. If it's not, you should just click through to another blog, or go get a drink of water, or something because the rest of this post will be boring for you, unless you're my mother (or generally just like me) and like reading what I write, but in that case we should make a phone call and get you a "special" white jacket with extra long sleeves.

In any case, you should read that post and the comments on that blog first before you go on ... or not. It will give you some context for what I'm talking about here. Mostly I'm writing this post because I'm a big chicken. I had a lot of thoughts that I **almost** posted over on his blog. But every time I wrote them down, they sounded really small and not erudite enough to play in those waters. So I'll just play in my little pond and stay out of that big ocean.

So the mysterious "other" blog belongs to Scot McKnight, a somewhat famous, published author, theologian and teacher. He is smart. He is trained. And the people who comment on his blog are also smart and trained, or at least they write as tho they are. I am not. But I kept having some thoughts that I wanted to write down and share and I was too chicken to share them on his blog. But I can share them here, on my tiny little blog, in my itty-bitty little corner of the blogosphere.

Mr. McKnight offered up a new paradigm for the Holy Scriptures. His new paradigm is that we might look to them for identity rather than (or perhaps in addition to) authority. This has caused a great deal of comment. You really need to read his words on the matter. He speaks very well on the issue. Some of the comments on this issue have been blistering. Some of the people reading his blog have been terribly offended that he might assault the "authority" of Scripture. Which leads me to want to say to them, "well, my experience has been that the people who are most concerned about the authority of Scripture are usually the people who are most threatened by the questions that these discussions raise." And thus far, that has indeed been the case.

I clicked through to an article on the right for one of Mr. McKnight's "Recommended Reading" about the emergent church and Orthodoxy and found myself reading an article about the Eastern Orthodox Church. Here is a quote from that article:

First, without a Pelagian controversy, the conviction that every individual is morally and spiritually helpless never took hold of the Eastern Christian imagination. Further, without an Augustine who wrote graphically about hell, or an Anselm who sharpened the west's understanding of sin as a capital crime (a far more punitive view than Augustine ever imagined), fear of divine wrath and the consequent need to soothe the terrified consciences of those who despaired of their eternal future did not become a driving force behind either theology or piety. Salvation remained participation in God's restoration of the world, as it had been in the patristic age, rather than becoming individual rescue from hell, as it did in the second millennium in the west. God and "man" were not at odds with one another quite the way they became in the medieval west.

Now from what I know, (and I went to college with the daughter of an Eastern Orthodox priest who gave me a Bible so that I could do well in my Old Testament survey class) they use the same Bible that we use. The Bible Lydia gave me, that came from her father, was your basic King James version. There was nothing special and Eastern Orthodox-y about it, I don't remember that there were any extra books or anything.

So, if they are using the same Bible, but coming to some different conclusions about how sin and salvation operate, then isn't it just possible that those are culturally conditioned? And if they are culturally conditioned, then what indeed is the "authority" of Scripture to which we constantly refer?

You see I don't have any problem with the Bible being the inspired Word of God. But I do have a problem when it comes down to it being a book of rules and regulations because it was written a very long time ago in a culture that was very different from ours and becomes much like a phone conversation that we can only hear one half of. If we're not also hearing from God in this conversation and making His activity in our life actually transcendent to scripture then I think we've sort of declared that He's dead and made ourselves gods in His place. I think that's what people do when they get so locked into the "authority" of Scripture. But maybe that's just me ...


Blogger Mike said...

half of those knuckleheads over there might be smart, but they are certainly not trained. This is a fact obvious to those who are truly smart and/or well-trained.

Comment away, sonja. You've obviously got a lot to say. And remember that, in the Kingdom, (and at jesuscreed.org) grace always trumps judgement.

11/26/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger kate said...

Yeah, I just wanted to say, I'm glad you're saying your piece, here or wherever. Speak, lady! And sign me up for one of those white jackets, because I love to hear what you have to say, and how you say it, too. ;)

11/28/2005 10:51:00 AM  

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