Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like today to write on something that Justin Brierley presented on the Unbelievable Facebook page. It’s an article on a site called “Temple of the Future” concerning morality and biblical truth. It can be found here.
Temple starts off with discussing recent programs of Unbelievable. To be fair, I have not got to listen to the most recent one yet on women in ministry. However, does the first one mentioned of a look at Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” really have much to do with morality? It’s quite likely that most evangelicals would agree with Bell on several moral issues. My opinion on “Love Wins” is coming sometime soon, but regardless of whether Bell is right or wrong, the question is not about whether an action is right or wrong. Bell could be a universalist or not be a universalist and still believe murder is wrong.
What of the program on the true face of Islam? It’s a wonder that this is being seen as something on the Bible when this is really something on the Koran if anything. An atheist could have been a guest on the show and could have stated that Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam. If he knew what the teachings were in the Koran or Hadith, then he could have presented what he believed to be an accurate argument for whatever position he held. Again, whether Bin Laden was or wasn’t the true face of Islam doesn’t matter to me at this point.
The last one is the closest one we have to a moral issue, but is it really so much a moral issue? Does anyone really believe someone would go to Hell, for instance, for having a female minister? Augustine dealt with a question similar to this back with the Donatist teaching. What if someone was baptized by someone who was a heretic? Does that mean their salvation is null and void? Augustine said no.
Temple says it is foolish to let the questions of morality become exercises in literary criticism.
However, what is actually meant by literary criticism? Here are the main issues that we can raise.
Is the text that we have what we had then? This would be textual criticism. Whether what the text says is true or not does not really matter. Even if all that say, Paul wrote in Romans, is wrong, does that mean we don’t have what he originally wrote? All we want to know is if we have what he wrote.
What style is the writing in? Are we going to take Revelation in a literal sense? When Jesus says “Pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” is he to be taken literally? At the same time, when he says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is that to be taken literally, and how do we know when to take the text literally and when not? This is part of hermeneutics, that is, the art of interpretation of a text.
Finally, we come to the questions of “What does the text mean?” and then for our personal application “What does it mean to us personally today?” The first question is the most important one although we usually skip to the second. What does the text mean? This can also be a difficult one, but it’s not just with the biblical text. It’s with any text. We wonder what the text means in Plato, the Upanishads, the Koran, Nietzsche, government laws, or just ordinary conversation. ALL texts must be interpreted and some interpretations are right and some are wrong.
Turning to the program on church leaders, Temple simply says this is a dumb question to be asking. Why? Because it’s not the way most people in the 21st century think. So what? If someone wants to remain faithful to a text, it’s an important question to ask if there’s debate on what the text means. Granted, it’s not the most fascinating topic to the secular man, but again, so what? Are Christians forced to have debates and define debates in the way that the secular person prefers?
Temple sees this as discrimination when we don’t allow women to be in ministry. To begin with, it is discrimination, but that assumes all discrimination is wrong. My work place is discriminatory. They only allow men to go into the men’s room and they only allow women to go into the women’s room.
The Boy scouts are discriminatory. You have to be a boy to participate. Places that give senior citizen discounts are discriminatory as you have to be at least 65 to get one. Restaurants that say kids eat free are discriminatory since you have to be a kid in order to eat for free.
The question is “What is the basis for the discrimination.” Does the Bible say women should not be in ministry because they are inferior? It would be good to see such a text. The closest Temple points to is Ephesians 2:22-24. Nowhere mentioned however is that the man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church which is hardly a dominating theme. As a married man, it calls me to constant self-sacrifice for my wife. Now do some people misuse this text? Of course. People can misuse any text, but does Temple want us to think the text has no meaning and is open to any interpretation. If so, then can he really say that the text teaches the inferiority of women? Can I not say “That’s just your interpretation.”?
Temple writes about two scholars of Shakespeare’s works and how they disagree over the meaning of what Shakespeare said and asks if we could ever come to a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant. Temple tells us that of course we couldn’t. Temple tells us that like any complete text, it’s open to interpretation.
Okay. Agreed. It is open to interpretation.
Then he says multiple valid interpretations.
Is this really the case? He would have to demonstrate this. Is he saying that supposing Paul wrote Ephesians that Paul believed in the inferiority of women and didn’t believe in the inferiority of women both? How could this be? If Paul puts the meaning into the text, then the text can only mean one thing. It could be difficult or even impossible for us to find out what he meant, but that does not mean that there is no meaning.
Furthermore, why should I believe that we could never reach a conclusion on what Shakespeare meant? Who knows what the future will hold. I’m certainly open to the possibility that we could someday. Temple just takes it as a foregone conclusion that we won’t. Where does this knowledge of the future come from?
Temple says to build our morality on the Bible is to be build it on sinking sand.
We’ve seen this song and dance before. One would think that Temple would have some familiarity with Natural Law thinking. Does he not read any Christian ethicists who argue not from Scripture but from the basis of Natural Law? Does he read someone like Budziszewski in a work such as “The Line Through The Heart”?
Of course, in the comments, he does present the Euthyphro dilemma as if this is something embarrassing to Christians. Granted, most don’t know how to answer it, but the answer is to ask what goodness is and if it can be defined apart from God. I believe it can just like Aristotle did and when we define goodness, which is that at which all things aim according to Aristotle, we eventually realize that God is that which is goodness in being being itself. Temple could read Aquinas in the Summa Theologica for information on goodness and the goodness of God.
The point is that this is the same idea we’ve seen over and over. So many today arguing against morality believe that Christians use the Bible and only the Bible, not realizing the Bible itself argues against such a claim in passages like Romans 2. Are we to think when the Israelites got the Ten Commandments that they had no idea murder was wrong before that? Of course not. Moses himself made sure, though not doing a good job of it apparently, to make sure no one was watching when he killed an Egyptian.
Hopefully atheists and others will soon stop making this argument and start actually interacting with Christian positions.