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Source: (consider it) Thread: All scripture is given by inspiration of God.
mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Truth sets you free. Loyalty to an idea can imprison you.

In fairness, almost everyone thinks that truth is important and freeing - I don't think anyone here is seriously arguing that they're not, somehow, a seeker after truth.

Almost everyone, equally, feels loyalty to a favourite idea. Very few don't care at all - so usually those who lose faith (for example in Christianity) tend to replace it with some other sticky idea.

It seems to me that some Christian ideas are actually fractal. So whilst it is obviously true that one can be a non-inerrentist Christian, the irrational strong belief in it mirrors the intensity of belief in a first (higher) level idea, which itself is no less explicable or rational.

Is loyalty to inerrancy really more damaging than loyalty to the incarnation? How does one measure the relative damage? Could they not both be wrong, and thus both ideas are holding adherents captive?

quote:

Inerrancy can be such an imprisoning idea. It prevents people looking for answers

I think it is quite an attractive idea.

And to me the whole project of rubbishing it as a system of thought is nonsensical.

Akin to pointing out that someone else's boat is sinking whilst the boat one is standing on is tilting at a sharp angle.

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Martin60
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As a critique of liberalism that does not embrace conservatives that it can never change, I'd agree.

But the incarnation is the most liberating, empowering idea ever.

[ 06. February 2018, 08:59: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:


But the incarnation is the most liberating, empowering idea ever.

That's your belief not an objective fact.

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arse

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Barnabas62
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Clearly inerrancy is attractive to lots of people. It provides a simple, consistent, principle. The Bible cannot err, therefore it must be possible to harmonise its contents.

But it just doesn't wash. It imposes an interpretative principle on scripture which scripture cannot bear. The result is incoherence.

This isn't just a personal opinion. Most of the theology of the past two centuries is a proper reaction to the finding that it doesn't wash. The analysis of the Synoptic problem, the multiple source theories for the Pentateuch, Barthian neo-orthodoxy, the quest for the historical Jesus; none of these arose out of thin air. A common thread was the realisation, as a result of actually looking at the texts, that they could not bear the weight of inerrancy. Whatever scripture might mean, whatever authority and inspiration might be thought to reside there, we simply had to find more honest, less incoherent ways of looking at its actual content and meaning.

I suppose one way of looking at that might be characterised as a view of a sunken ship from other sinking ships. That's not the way it strikes me. Historical critical approaches to the content and meaning of scripture are open ended. The working of others can be checked. The findings are not presented as infallible. I think that is freeing, rather in the same way as application of the scientific method is. At the very least, the historical critical approach does not sit on legitimate questions.

Where will it lead to? Must all the ships sink? Well, they haven't yet!

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Clearly inerrancy is attractive to lots of people. It provides a simple, consistent, principle. The Bible cannot err, therefore it must be possible to harmonise its contents.

But it just doesn't wash. It imposes an interpretative principle on scripture which scripture cannot bear. The result is incoherence.

The one thing it can't be said to be is incoherent. That's the wrong word.

I'm not defending it as an idea - other than pointing out that you are testing it in ways that those who accept it don't agree with. That you find it incoherent doesn't mean that it is, objectively, incapable of being seriously considered to be coherent.

quote:
This isn't just a personal opinion.

It absolutely is.

quote:

Most of the theology of the past two centuries is a proper reaction to the finding that it doesn't wash.

Some thinkers agree with you. What is this supposed to show? Plenty of Orthodox, Roman Catholics etc have systematic forms of theology that have little in common with yours. So what?

quote:
The analysis of the Synoptic problem, the multiple source theories for the Pentateuch, Barthian neo-orthodoxy, the quest for the historical Jesus; none of these arose out of thin air.
Again, so what? Deconstructionalists go further than you do, with some apparent reasons for doing so. That doesn't mean that their ideas must necessarily be accepted just because they've floated them.

quote:

A common thread was the realisation, as a result of actually looking at the texts, that they could not bear the weight of inerrancy. Whatever scripture might mean, whatever authority and inspiration might be thought to reside there, we simply had to find more honest, less incoherent ways of looking at its actual content and meaning.

And there you go again. You say something is or isn't coherent, therefore it is. Who cares about your definitions of coherence? Who made you Pope, capable of infallibly determining what is or isn't coherent?

quote:
I suppose one way of looking at that might be characterised as a view of a sunken ship from other sinking ships. That's not the way it strikes me. Historical critical approaches to the content and meaning of scripture are open ended. The working of others can be checked. The findings are not presented as infallible. I think that is freeing, rather in the same way as application of the scientific method is. At the very least, the historical critical approach does not sit on legitimate questions.

Where will it lead to? Must all the ships sink? Well, they haven't yet!

I think you just have to be careful about the terms you use and not seek to impose unsupportable and unprovable qualities to the ideas that you agree with.

I think inerrancy is batty. But calling it incoherent is a whole other thing.

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Barnabas62
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Let me restate then. However consistent inerrancy may be as a principle, it produces incoherent interpretations of scripture. That is what James Barr said in his classic work "Fundamentalism'. I agree with him, not because he argues well (which he does) but because I have checked his working by reference to numerous examples. That's what I believe. And that is why it is not just a personal opinion. It is a shared opinion.

Can you unpack 'batty' for me? On the face of it, batty is a lot more pejorative than incoherent. Doesn't it mean insane. And isn't incoherence one of the consequences of insanity? The beliefs of the insane are indeed consistent for them, but that doesn't make them coherent by objective test.

[ 06. February 2018, 11:02: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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I think inerrancy is completely wrong, unhelpful nonsense.

But incoherence suggests it is incapable of making any sense to anyone who bothers doing any thinking. Clearly that's not correct.

Similarly I think Mormonism is utter drivel. But clearly it makes sense to a lot of people in ways I don't think I could ever understand.

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arse

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Doesn't it mean insane. And isn't incoherence one of the consequences of insanity? The beliefs of the insane are indeed consistent for them, but that doesn't make them coherent by objective test.

Not at all. I have had one experience of a person close to me experiencing psychosis with delusions.

The delusions were internally consistent. They were inconsistent with reality, but not internally. When they changed, they only changed in response to observations that could not be avoided and which contradicted a detail of the delusion. The underlying delusion was always unchanged.

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Barnabas62
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Delusion is a good word, Karl. A delusion, however stubbornly held, does not cohere with reality. So why is it wrong to call a delusion incoherent by objective test?

I'll give you nonsense if you like, but what makes it nonsense is precisely because it does not cohere with reality. That is why it does not make sense to anyone outside the delusion. Delusions are similar to self-enclosing ideologies. The victim cannot escape the self-entrapment caused by the delusion.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

But incoherence suggests it is incapable of making any sense to anyone who bothers doing any thinking. Clearly that's not correct.

Oh, I've never argued that inerrantists don't think. The various processes of harmonisation found in books which defend the inerrant view of scripture require a lot of thought and ingenuity.

mr cheesy, at its heart this is a methodological argument. The inerrant principle produces an inferior methodology for the examination of scripture because it circumscribes the scope for examination of what is there. The historical critical approach does not do that. It starts with 'what is there', not 'what is there must harmonise somehow'. The inerrant approach pre-judges the material it seeks to examine.

[ 06. February 2018, 11:42: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:


But the incarnation is the most liberating, empowering idea ever.

That's your belief not an objective fact.
Ooh, I dunno. I can't think of a better one can you? God stepping in to creation, identifying with, as creation, revealing Himself and that all will be well, despite the utter unbelievability of transcendence. No other claim comes close by a country parsec.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Delusion is a good word, Karl. A delusion, however stubbornly held, does not cohere with reality. So why is it wrong to call a delusion incoherent by objective test?

I'll give you nonsense if you like, but what makes it nonsense is precisely because it does not cohere with reality. That is why it does not make sense to anyone outside the delusion. Delusions are similar to self-enclosing ideologies. The victim cannot escape the self-entrapment caused by the delusion.

Hold it strongly enough and it must be reality that's wrong; cf. the fossil record, geology, the fact that genocide is actually evil; no, the Bible says otherwise, therefore otherwise.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Ooh, I dunno. I can't think of a better one can you? God stepping in to creation, identifying with, as creation, revealing Himself and that all will be well, despite the utter unbelievability of transcendence. No other claim comes close by a country parsec.

Martin, you know me well enough to know what I think.

But equally, just because you and I generally agree on this does not make it an objective truth.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider Hold it strongly enough and it must be reality that's wrong
[Killing me] Douglas Adams would be proud of you, Karl!

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Eutychus
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Ahem. I'm afraid I put a statute of limitations on that quote just a day or so ago.

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Barnabas62
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Nice one. The difference is that Karl knows.

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Martin60
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mr c, sorry, I'm recalibrated now. Got my mind right. Thought you'd gone squirly on me! I agree, the idea, the story of the incarnation is not the story of an objective fact. But the idea, the story is. Is that specious? No, but too fine a distinction? The idea and it's implications are vaster than anything else, whether it's an objective fact or not. Which it ain't of course. There is no greater claim? It's the ultimate claim way beyond the asylum of absurdities that is
the inerrancy of any text. Just thought it was an inappropriate comparison I suppose.

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Golden Key
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quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Delusion is a good word, Karl. A delusion, however stubbornly held, does not cohere with reality. So why is it wrong to call a delusion incoherent by objective test?

I'll give you nonsense if you like, but what makes it nonsense is precisely because it does not cohere with reality. That is why it does not make sense to anyone outside the delusion. Delusions are similar to self-enclosing ideologies. The victim cannot escape the self-entrapment caused by the delusion.

Hold it strongly enough and it must be reality that's wrong; cf. the fossil record, geology, the fact that genocide is actually evil; no, the Bible says otherwise, therefore otherwise.
There's always "if there's nothing wrong with me, maybe there's something wrong with the universe".

Back story: Episode "Remember Me" of "Star Trek: TNG". Wes, Dr. Crusher's son was working on a high-level physics experiment alone with an alien called "the Traveler". Unbeknownst to any of them, a temporary mini-universe had been created--and Dr. Crusher walked into it. After massive effort to figure out what had happened to her, Dr. Crusher came to the realization above. And she was right. If she hadn't figured it out, and pieced together how to get out, she would've been killed when the universe collapsed in on itself.

Sometimes, there really is something wrong with reality.
[Biased]

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Barnabas62
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An analogous episode featuring Dr Weir in Stargate Atlantis. And several SG1 multiverse episodes. SF does a lot of 'out of the box' story-telling.

For our present reality, I think the genius of Mark Knophler has said it best.

quote:
We have just one world
But we live in different ones

We're fools to make war on our brothers in arms.

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Eutychus
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Several people have been more or less carrying on discussion that started out here on the thread on Daniel in Kerygmania.

I've chosen to return here, as suggested by someone else, because what I have to say in response to Jamat seems to fit much more with where this thread started out. Apologies in advance for the length of what follows.

quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
quote:
poetic reconstructions of literal events.
That the Bible is literally God’s revelation to man is my only non-negotiable. That is because I continually experience its power.
1. Poetic reconstruction and its implications

If you accept that even if Jonah, Job, etc. have some basis in historical fact, they also include poetic reconstruction, that implies conscious action on the part of the human author over and above objective reporting; action that brings with it authorial intention and infuses additional layers of meaning - brought by the author - to make a point.

For books such as Daniel the issue of authorial intention may have a significant effect on how the book is to be best understood.

Even if one believes that process to be divinely inspired, it opens up room for that inspiration to encompass contextualised, human takes on events.

If you don’t accept that, then I think your position is very much like that of a strict interpretation of the Koran which takes it as the very words of God, dictated, that only have their full meaning in their original language.

This seems to me to be utterly foreign to the very nature of Scripture, which contains translations – and thus interpretation and shades of meaning – even within itself, and which (as protestants at least) we believe should be made available to people in a linguistically accessible form, i.e. through further translation, with all that implies.

2. “The Bible is literally God’s revelation to man”

I don’t think this is a proper use of the word “literally”, unless you mean it in the 'Koranic' sense of dictation, which seems impossible if you admit to poetic reconstruction.

And in any case, I wouldn’t say “the Bible is God’s revelation to man”.

At most it is part of revelation (‘special revelation’).

Scripture itself attests that it is not God’s ultimate revelation (Heb 1:1)*:
quote:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.
That was precisely Jesus’ point in John 5:39-40:
quote:
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
What is more, Scriptures are a dead letter unless they are illumined to us by the work of the Spirit.

To quote once again a passage that is central to my understanding of inspiration, 2 Cor 3:6,14,16-17:
quote:
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (…) their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away (…) whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom
To summarise, in my view, the Scriptures testify to God’s ultimate revelation to man, his Son Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, and this testimony from the Scriptures is brought to us only through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.

As John 15:16 says:
quote:
when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
This is a dynamic, relational process ("he will guide you..."), in which interpretation of necessity plays a part.

3. Experiencing power

I believe that the above passages, and much else, make it plain that Scripture itself has no intrinsic power.

Again, this is something that sets us apart from Muslims and their attitude to their physical holy book.

Any power we experience when reading the Scriptures (assuming it’s from God!) is not from the Scriptures themselves but from the Holy Spirit making God real to us through its text.

The text does not contribute anything on a standalone basis. It is an external, material artefact, brought to us through both human agency and divine provision, that serves as an aid to internal reflection as we seek to grow in our knowledge of, and walk with, God.

Thoughts, anyone?

==
* A verse I heard many times in my youth (hence the AV quote above), without at all understanding its implications, thus (somewhat ironically) proving my point here.

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Gamaliel
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I'm not a fundamentalist literalist, but part of me baulks at saying that the scriptures have no intrinsic power ...

In my usual both/and not either/or way, I'd suggest they have both intrinsic and extrinsic power or authority.

I also not so sure these days that it is only Protestants who go in for 'language understanded of the people.'

I'm in Belgium at the moment and wandering around a bookshop / giftshop in a Benedictine convent earlier today was struck by how many Bibles and commentaries they had for sale as well as missals and the usual knick-knacks.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I'm not a fundamentalist literalist, but part of me baulks at saying that the scriptures have no intrinsic power ...

Well according to 2 Corinthians they seem to have the power to kill, I suppose. And Jesus suggests any intrinsic power they might have is nullified by tradition.

They're a bit like a PC. Without power you might as well use them as a doorstop.

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ThunderBunk

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Of course they have no intrinsic power. God speaks to the heart and breathes into his creation. The texts assembled into the Bible are witnesses to that power and records of its action, not a means of its exercise.

[ 08. February 2018, 20:27: Message edited by: ThunderBunk ]

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Jamat
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quote:
... the Scriptures testify to God’s ultimate revelation to man, his Son Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, and this testimony from the Scriptures is brought to us only through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit
Agreed..the question is does that allow for errors.
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mousethief

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Some things make better channels for the Holy Spirit than others. The Scriptures being on the "more useful" side of the spectrum. Surely that's not too Orthodox a thing to say for a Protestant to agree?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
Agreed..the question is does that allow for errors.

The more germane question is what qualifies as an error.

If one accepts poetic reconstruction as legitimate, it is not an "error" if the protagonists' declarations do not correspond to what they may have actually said.

If one accepts a narrative tradition that may make use of some real-life components to tell an allegorical story or parable that may be entirely made up - and which would be recognised by the original hearers as such - then there are no "errors" either.

For instance, the accuracy of the book of Job does not reside in whether it is factually true.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Some things make better channels for the Holy Spirit than others. The Scriptures being on the "more useful" side of the spectrum. Surely that's not too Orthodox a thing to say for a Protestant to agree?

Of course it isn't.

That's why I qualified it above as "special revelation", and quoted Jesus as saying in John that the Scriptures testified about him.

I don't assert Jamat's previous statement that "the Bible is ... God's revelation to man" because a) there are other sources of revelation (classically, creation; "the heavens declare the glory of God", etc.) b) I don't believe this revelation is effectual in the absence of the work of the Spirit; the Spirit is a necessary component of revelation via Scripture c) to assert this and no more is to run the risk of missing the crucial point that God's ultimate revelation is his Son, the Word of God (I never refer to the Scriptures as "the Word of God", either).

As far as I'm concerned, these are really really important distinctions.

Similarly, I beieve it is mistaken to talk, as Jamat did, in terms of "experiencing the power" of the Bible. As the passages I quoted to Gamaliel suggest, any "power" of the Bible apart from the Spirit is not constructive.

Consider the reasons Carnegie wants to get hold of the Bible in The Book of Eli (not normally my kind of film, but it's kind of fascinating, especially when it comes to considering how and why we deem the Bible itself to be important):
quote:
Carnegie: [to his men] Put a crew together, we're going after him.

Redridge: For a fuckin' book?

Carnegie: IT'S NOT A FUCKIN' BOOK! IT'S A WEAPON! A weapon aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. It will give us control of them. If we want to rule more than one small, fuckin' town, we have to have it. People will come from all over, they'll do exactly what I tell 'em if the words are from the book. It's happened before and it'll happen again. All we need is that book.

Unfortunately, not only fictional characters think that way.

[missed a bit]

[ 09. February 2018, 05:36: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Barnabas62
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It's a different kind of box, but these kinds of discussions always remind me of the struggles of Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez in James Blish's SF novel, 'A Case of Conscience'. The book has faults but is notable for its sympathetic portrait of a Jesuit priest wrestling with 'what is there' compared with what Catholic doctrine teaches him about 'what ought to be there'.

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Steve Langton
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by Eutychus;
quote:
to assert this and no more is to run the risk of missing the crucial point that God's ultimate revelation is his Son, the Word of God
True as it is that God's ultimate revelation is Jesus, there is this slight problem in all attempts to set the revelation through Jesus against the revelation in Scripture... which is that basically the only Jesus we know with anything close to certainty is the Jesus we find in the Scripture.

In effect whenever anybody claims to speak for Jesus the only anywhere near objective check we have on such a claim is to check 'their' Jesus against the Scriptural Jesus. And if 'their' Jesus doesn't match the Scriptural Jesus, then basically he doesn't match the real Jesus and those claiming to speak for him are making up a Jesus to suit themselves....

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
there is this slight problem in all attempts to set the revelation through Jesus against the revelation in Scripture... which is that basically the only Jesus we know with anything close to certainty is the Jesus we find in the Scripture.

I didn't say anything about setting one against the other.

(Nor indeed did I say anything about revelation "through" Jesus; Hebrews 1 says "by" (en) his Son, and the context makes clear it is in his person, over and above his "output", that God has spoken).

Scripture is not in competition with Jesus any more than John the Baptist was. The one testifies to the other.

Of course the Church attests that Scripture is our definitive record of the life and teachings of Jesus, and that reasoning could be seen as a bit circular, but what's important to me is that Scripture points beyond itself - not least to God's highest revelation being his Son, a person and not a book.

Amongst other things, the Scriptures record a certain attitude on the part of Jesus with regard to the Scriptures as they were in his day ("but I say to you..."), and how they were abused by some - as illustrated in my previous post.

[ 10. February 2018, 06:37: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Steve Langton
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
there is this slight problem in all attempts to set the revelation through Jesus against the revelation in Scripture... which is that basically the only Jesus we know with anything close to certainty is the Jesus we find in the Scripture.

I didn't say anything about setting one against the other.
No - but my experience suggests that in the end that is where this leads - even to the point of people setting an 'our Jesus' against the historical real Jesus reported by Scripture.


quote:
(Nor indeed did I say anything about revelation "through" Jesus; Hebrews 1 says "by" (en) his Son, and the context makes clear it is in his person, over and above his "output", that God has spoken).
In this case I could potentially have used an "Amplified Version" approach referring to a revelation "through/by/in/etc/etc Jesus". I just used one word and hoped it was strong enough to include the other options.


quote:

Scripture is not in competition with Jesus any more than John the Baptist was. The one testifies to the other.

Of course the Church attests that Scripture is our definitive record of the life and teachings of Jesus, and that reasoning could be seen as a bit circular, but what's important to me is that Scripture points beyond itself - not least to God's highest revelation being his Son, a person and not a book.

But nevertheless, like it or not, a person almost entirely revealed in that very book, which tells us what he did and taught. Including that he rather emphatically puts his own authority in support of that book in its OT form, the prophecies of which authenticate his own mission and (in prophecies of a 'new covenant') the changes made by his coming.

As I said, when people make claims to represent Jesus, it is consistency with the Jesus recorded in that book which enables us to judge (in a good sense) those claims, and exercise discrimination (in a good sense) about those claims. Appeals to a vague sentimental image (idol?) of 'Jesus' must not be allowed to overrule what that book - with Jesus' authority behind it anyway - teaches us.


quote:

Amongst other things, the Scriptures record a certain attitude on the part of Jesus with regard to the Scriptures as they were in his day ("but I say to you..."), and how they were abused by some - as illustrated in my previous post.

Yes exactly - he doesn't challenge the Scriptures but bad (though not always deliberately so) interpretation.

Your previous post - the one including the mention of the "Book of Eli" film? I'll come back to you on that; but a scan of the Wikipedia account of the plot suggests some very muddled ideas there. I'm also checking out the references to Scripture as 'Word of God' because I have a feeling you're being wrongly fussy in only using that description of Jesus himself....

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
but my experience suggests that in the end that is where this leads

What is the "this" here, please?
quote:
like it or not, a person almost entirely revealed in that very book, which tells us what he did and taught. Including that he rather emphatically puts his own authority in support of that book in its OT form, the prophecies of which authenticate his own mission and (in prophecies of a 'new covenant') the changes made by his coming.
Why should I not like it? I can't find much to disagree with there.

quote:
Your previous post - the one including the mention of the "Book of Eli" film? I'll come back to you on that; but a scan of the Wikipedia account of the plot suggests some very muddled ideas there.
There are. That doesn't stop it being thought-provoking; and Carnegie's observation quoted above is all too representative of how some church leaders wield Scripture to my mind.
quote:
I'm also checking out the references to Scripture as 'Word of God' because I have a feeling you're being wrongly fussy in only using that description of Jesus himself....
If you're looking for other uses of the term itself, you need look no further than Mark 7:13 to which I recently referred, but I think my point stands that Jesus is God's last Word, as it were, and furthermore that systematically referring to the Bible as the "Word of God" easily leads to a disastrous misunderstanding of what it is, and isn't.

Certainly nowhere in the NT does it refer to itself as the Word of God, whereas it unequivocally refers to the Son in those terms on more than one occasion. The most one can get from Scripture itself for the NT is Peter's reference to Paul's writings being "with the other Scriptures" in 2 Peter 3:16.

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Gamaliel
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How about, 'My words are spirit and they are life'?

John 6:63

http://biblehub.com/john/6-63.htm

One could certainly argue that if it wasn't for the scriptures we wouldn't have any record of what Jesus said and taught.

Could it not be said that there is intrinsic power within the scriptures themselves as they contain the very words of Christ?

Now, this isn't to get all 'red-letter' on us all, 'The words of Christ in red' as it were, but I am wondering about the link / relationship between Christ as the Incarnate Word and the scriptures as the written word.

I know what you mean, Eutychus, about the scriptures not profiting us a great deal unless the Spirit quickens them, as it were, and applies them to our hearts (and minds and wills).

But surely they aren't simply a doorstop or something to prop up a wonky table. Perhaps I'm sounding a bit too 'Catholic' and sacramental here ... I don't know ...

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
How about, 'My words are spirit and they are life'?

John 6:63

http://biblehub.com/john/6-63.htm

What, John 6:63? "The words I have spoken (lelaleka) to you are spirit and they are life". That is not the same as something written down. It's dynamic.

As the beginning of that very same verse makes clear, those words are life through the mediation, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. The Spirit makes use of the Scriptures, for sure, but without the Spirit, the Scriptures will not bring life.

To me this parallels Paul's argument in Galatians 3:21
quote:
For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law
To misquote the Hitchhiker's Guide again, if the written word had power to save then God would never have bothered with all that tedious mucking around in the incarnation.

quote:
One could certainly argue that if it wasn't for the scriptures we wouldn't have any record of what Jesus said and taught.
I've addressed this above. You are obviously correct so far as you go, but go on from there to assert that this means the written record is The Word of God™ with all that implies is to apply to the Bible a term it never uses to refer to itself as a whole but that it does unequivocally use, more than once, to refer to the Son; and thus is bibliolatry born.

It's precisely the wrong turning the Pharisees took that Jesus called them on in John 5:39-40.

quote:
Could it not be said that there is intrinsic power within the scriptures themselves as they contain the very words of Christ?
Paul says that absent the Spirit, the letter kills; I agree with him.

quote:
I am wondering about the link / relationship between Christ as the Incarnate Word and the scriptures as the written word.
That is not a distinction Scripture itself makes. "Scriptures" are, literally, written words.

Of course we take the Scriptures as authoritative (although we'll start arguing about the canon soon...) - not because they themselves are The Word of God™, but because they testify to the Word. Or at least that's what Jesus says.

quote:
the scriptures not profiting us a great deal unless
"For the letter doth not profit us a great deal, but the Spirit gives life"? I don't think that's how it reads...

quote:
But surely they aren't simply a doorstop or something to prop up a wonky table.
You're right. All too often they get picked up and wielded as a weapon to oppress, enfeeble and enslave.

Believing they have intrinsic power is one step away from believing - as Carnegie does in the Book of Eli - that we can wield any such power as we wish without bothering to come to Jesus to have life.

I think it's significant that we didn't get the original version of the Ten Commandments*, written by the finger of God. We got Moses' copy. That right there should tell us something about the status of the written word compared to God himself.

Moreover, as I said before, I also think it's significant we didn't get them in one holy language. Translation, with all the interpretation that implies, is an intrinsic part of the Scriptures.

==
*Or should that have been 15? [Two face]

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Gamaliel
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Sure, and like you I tend to refer to Jesus as the Word of God rather than the scriptures as the Word of God. I wouldn't baulk at referring them as the word of God (small w) ...

I suppose where I'm heading with this - and I'm not explaining myself very well - is what might be called a more 'sacramental' or even 'eucharistic' approach ...

Can we talk about a 'real presence' in the holy scriptures as we can (if we do) in the Eucharist?

If ordinary bread and wine can somehow become mysteriously infused with the very presence of the Living Christ then perhaps it's not a great jump to see the same as being possible for the written / recorded words of Christ in the Gospels?

I'm treading carefully here, but I think you get my drift.

The action and working of the Holy Spirit is, of course, required in both word and sacrament - or ordinance ...

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
One could certainly argue that if it wasn't for the scriptures we wouldn't have any record of what Jesus said and taught.

This is kind of tautological, and yet not. There are other records of what Jesus said and taught that are not part of what Christians call Scripture, e.g. the Gospel of Thomas.

It was the church that decided the Gospel of Mark is Scripture and the Gospel of Thomas isn't. That is part of big-T Tradition. So pitting the Scriptures against big-T Tradition is somewhat of the nature of a paradox.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Translation, with all the interpretation that implies, is an intrinsic part of the Scriptures.

Quotes file.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Can we talk about a 'real presence' in the holy scriptures as we can (if we do) in the Eucharist?

If ordinary bread and wine can somehow become mysteriously infused with the very presence of the Living Christ then perhaps it's not a great jump to see the same as being possible for the written / recorded words of Christ in the Gospels?

As someone who tends to be more of a Zwinglian than anything else, this argument is not going to get very far with me [Biased]

For communion (hello tangent...) I might talk in terms of a "means of grace"; a divinely ordained means through which one can receive grace.

Approach communion in the right frame of mind and one can expect to be blessed, more blessed than if one doesn't, not least because one should, according to Paul, be examining oneself, remembering the Lord, and discerning the body of Christ (which I take to include his body, the Church). Fail to have the right frame of mind and you get nothing more than a bollocking from Paul (and possibly get weak, sick, or die! [Eek!] ).

In other words, I think the important thing is what happens within me, by the Spirit, as I celebrate communion. I don't believe in any intrinsic properties of the bread or wine.

The same principle applies when it comes to the Scriptures. I don't mean one has to have a mystical, charismatic experience for one's Bible reading to have been worth it (any more than all our experiences of communion are equally powerful) but that any useful insight we gain is, and should be recognised as, the revelatory work of the Spirit and not as an intrinsic property of the words on the page.

And as with communion, we should approach the Scriptures in the right frame of mind: seeing that the Bible, as memoraby summarised by Nick Tamen,
quote:
contains divine revelation, as recognized by the community of faith—the covenant people—over the years.
There are conservatives who seem to see the Scriptures pretty much as the Pharisees mostly saw them - as a weapon to defend entrenched positions, their divine inspiration seen not as a cause for reverence but as a way of nuclear-tipping their arguments, all the better to enslave others.

Then there are liberals who deride the whole thing as a bunch of fairy tales put together by primitives too stupid to recognise, say, Jonah, as a parody when compiling the canon.

Then again there are those, spanning the entire theological spectrum, who bring not only scholarship but also a basic respect for the text, not as a magical, do-not-touch-or-analyse tablet of the original 10 commandments written by the finger of God, but as a testimony to the Living Word by human authors borne along by the Spirit. Those are the people I try and pay attention to.

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Steve Langton
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briefly....

I don't believe in 'magic' - though I'm certainly prepared to exercise 'suspension of disbelief' to enjoy a fantasy work. On communion I am fairly content with the Anglican BCP phrasing "Feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving".

But I'm also savvy enough about books to see that even without actual magic, communication is so important a part of humanity that words do have power, and words inspired by the Holy Spirit surely unusually so.

Carnegie in the Book of Eli film is of course pretty crass - and also appears to be some kind of 'proto-Constantinian'.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Carnegie in the Book of Eli film is of course pretty crass - and also appears to be some kind of 'proto-Constantinian'.

That's about as true (and relevant) as saying that Eli is the archetypal Anabaptist [Roll Eyes]

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Gamaliel
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I wondered how long it would be before the 'C' word came into it ...

Anyhow, I wasn't expecting my eucharistic/sacramental speculations to get very far with you, Eutychus. That's not why I was making them. I'm thinking aloud (thinking allowed?) and making connections and drawing parallels.

These may or may not be accurate.

That said, I'm not so sure that the communion issue is as much of a tangent as all that. If communion can be a 'means of grace' then surely so can the public reading of scripture, so can preaching and teaching.

Otherwise, why bother with them in the first place if we aren't expecting them to impart some kind of grace or benefit to those who receive them?

Sure, frames of mind come into it but what if we aren't in the 'right frame of mind' (whatever that means)?

Should I only ever pray if I'm 'in the right frame of mind'?

How do I know when I am or aren't?

Talking about frames of mind, these days, I find it helps if I consider theological or spiritual issues in what might be termed an 'artistic' way ie in the same way I might approach a work of art, a piece of music, a painting, a novel or a poem. I approach it 'intentionally' (mindfully perhaps?) and aware of - in the right sense - the 'artifice' of it.

I know that a communion service, say, is a piece of religious theatre. I approach it on those terms. That doesn't make it any the less 'real'.

That doesn't mean that it's all 'subjective' of course. We work with the frames of reference, the cues, the conventions and the vocabulary - in the same way that we do, consciously or sub-consciously, with a film or any other construct.

A film may have no intrinsic power within itself to move, thrill or entertain, yet it does so. Why? Because it 'works' on us in a particular way as we engage with it. We know how it operates, what particular types of staging, lighting, music etc convey and what emotions they are meant to stimulate.

So I'm probably not saying anything that is a million miles from what you're saying, simply framing it differently. As I've said, I'm feeling my way forward in all of this.

I think Mousethief's reminder that there are other 'words of our Lord' that are not canonised or enshrined in the canonical scriptures is a salutary one. That's a good point. There was also a lot of what he said and taught, of course, that wasn't written down anywhere.

Your other points, about the way that scriptures can be used to batter people we might disagree with, are well made. The current argy-bargy over on the baptism thread strikes me as a case in point - scriptures being thrown around like artillery shells as if in an attempt to bombard opponents into submission.

It does seem to me, though, that nature abhors a vacuum and where 'sacraments' do not formally exist, there is a tendency to invent new ones. Hence the sacralisation of the 'worship time' in charismatic circles where the repetitive singing of worship choruses or singing in tongues is somehow seen to be the high-point of the meeting.

Hence the sacralisation of the sermon in the Reformed tradition - which I'd see as fair enough, provided it's not done in a bibliolatrous way.

Where one draws the line on that is a moot point, though.

These are just thoughts I'm punting out.

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mousethief

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"Imparting grace" is not an Orthodox idea since for us grace is an uncreated energy of God, and not some kind of liquid one can pour out from some source or other. Which is really how a lot of Protestant verbiage surrounding grace makes it seem.

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Sure, and like you I tend to refer to Jesus as the Word of God rather than the scriptures as the Word of God. I wouldn't baulk at referring them as the word of God (small w) ...

This is the tack taken by the Confession of 1967:
quote:
The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written. The Scriptures are not a witness among others, but the witness without parallel. The church has received the books of the Old and New Testaments as prophetic and apostolic testimony in which it hears the word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated.
Of course, the lower-case w works better when reading than hearing.

quote:
I suppose where I'm heading with this - and I'm not explaining myself very well - is what might be called a more 'sacramental' or even 'eucharistic' approach ...

Can we talk about a 'real presence' in the holy scriptures as we can (if we do) in the Eucharist?

If ordinary bread and wine can somehow become mysteriously infused with the very presence of the Living Christ then perhaps it's not a great jump to see the same as being possible for the written / recorded words of Christ in the Gospels?

I'm treading carefully here, but I think you get my drift.

The action and working of the Holy Spirit is, of course, required in both word and sacrament - or ordinance ...

And I think that last part is key if one is going to talk about Scripture in quasi-sacramental terms, because it makes clear the power is not in the Scripture (or sacraments) themselves, but in the divine working through them.

There is a part of the liturgy that's standard in most Reformed churches (so far as I know) that (again, so far as I know) doesn’t seem to appear in other traditions. It's the Prayer for Illumination, a short prayer immediately before the reading of Scripture that asks for God's presence in the reading and hearing of Scripture. The prayer I tend to use when I’m the reader is "Overwhelm us with your Spirit, O Lord, that the words we hear may speak to us as your Word, made known to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." One thing I like about this prayer is the subtle play on W/word of God as Scripture and Christ.


Eutychus, I get where you’re coming from, and I think it’s a valid point and a valid concern. But to me, there is a bit of throwing the baby out with the bath water if we must always say that Jesus, not Scripture, is the word of God. I think we risk losing some important connections.

I affirm fully that Jesus is the Word, and the complete revelation of God. But Scripture uses "word" and "word of God/word of the Lord" in contexts where Jesus isn’t necessarily meant. There are all the instances of the word of the Lord coming to the prophets. There’s Psalm 119 ("Thy word is a lamp unto my feet"). There's Paul in Ephesians 6:17 ("Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"). There’s Jesus in the parable of the sower, to Satan in the wilderness ("Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God") and in John 10:35 ("Jesus answered, 'Is it not written in your law, "I said, you are gods"? If those to whom the word of God came were called "gods"—and the scripture cannot be annulled. . . .'").

I agree we have to be careful, lest someone get the idea that God dictated the Scripture. But the idea that God speaks through the Scripture, that Scripture is in some sense the word of God (which in the Hebrew sense connotes activity on God's part, not just speaking), is certainly woven itheoughout Scripture, and that idea feeds directly to Christ as the Incarnate a Word, the definitive Word, the Word to which the Scriptural word gives witness.

I’m very willing to exercise care in referring to Scripture as the word of God, but I think one problem is traded for another by avoiding it altogether. That’s my 2 cents, at least.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Eutychus
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Thanks Nick.

I'm being polemic rather than dogmatic in my choice of terminology, really doing so largely due to the pond in which I mostly swim in which people make the "Word of God" shortcut all the time.

(Besides, while the verses you cite don't obviously refer to Jesus, it's not at all obvious to me that they all refer to the Scriptures, either. I know that's how I was brought up to think of the "sword of the Spirit" in Ephesians 6, but wait... what's that about the Spirit again? Isn't he the one who makes, um, Jesus and his words known to us?)

In brief, I think we neglect the dynamic aspect of God's word at our peril. Indeed, I note the confession you quote says this (emphasis mine):

quote:
The church has received the books of the Old and New Testaments as prophetic and apostolic testimony in which it hears the word of God and by which its faith and obedience are nourished and regulated.
Hearing the word of God in the testimony of the OT and NT is, again, not quite the same as saying they are the Word of God.

And you can pray before I preach from the Scriptures* as you do any time [Smile]

==

*Jonah 1 this morning. Thanks Goperryrevs!

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
(Besides, while the verses you cite don't obviously refer to Jesus, it's not at all obvious to me that they all refer to the Scriptures, either. I know that's how I was brought up to think of the "sword of the Spirit" in Ephesians 6, but wait... what's that about the Spirit again? Isn't he the one who makes, um, Jesus and his words known to us?)

Agreed, and frankly I think that ambiguity is a beneficial thing, not a negative.

quote:
Hearing the word of God in the testimony of the OT and NT is, again, not quite the same as saying they are the Word of God.
Agreed again. I think sometimes people confuse the book (books) with what the writings record and convey.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Steve Langton
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Carnegie in the Book of Eli film is of course pretty crass - and also appears to be some kind of 'proto-Constantinian'.

That's about as true (and relevant) as saying that Eli is the archetypal Anabaptist [Roll Eyes]
Which of course I didn't say because Eli's role is one of the more confused aspects as far as I can gather from the Wiki summary, and little if any seems Anabaptist. But yes I stand by the idea that Carnegie's idea of using the Bible for worldly power is decidedly NOT a million miles removed from the ideas which have led to state churches....

by mousethief;
quote:
"Imparting grace" is not an Orthodox idea since for us grace is an uncreated energy of God, and not some kind of liquid one can pour out from some source or other. Which is really how a lot of Protestant verbiage surrounding grace makes it seem.
Oddly, that 'some kind of liquid one can pour out...' is pretty much the Protestant idea of how the RCs and Orthodox see grace. And even 'an uncreated energy of God' seems far too impersonal/magical. Grace is God exercising undeserved favour, especially in the context of forgiveness of sin. It is an aspect of his decidedly personal love. Well at least in early/Reformation Protestantism - it may be different among some modern 'liberal' groups.
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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Oddly, that 'some kind of liquid one can pour out...' is pretty much the Protestant idea of how the RCs and Orthodox see grace.

Surely not all of them are that ignorant.

quote:
And even 'an uncreated energy of God' seems far too impersonal/magical. Grace is God exercising undeserved favour,
You only say that because you don't know what "uncreated energy of God" means. It means God in action in this world.

A lot of people, Protestants especially, would do well to learn a lot more about Orthodoxy before making assumptions and pronunciations about it.

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This is the last sig I'll ever write for you...

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
A lot of people, Protestants especially, would do well to learn a lot more about Orthodoxy before making assumptions and pronunciations about it.

Well where would the fun be in that? [Two face]

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Barnabas62
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From my experience, there is a lot of illumination to be gained that way. Kallistos Ware's short book 'The Orthodox Way' is very helpful. Very well written, easy to read, a real mind-opener.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
But yes I stand by the idea that Carnegie's idea of using the Bible for worldly power is decidedly NOT a million miles removed from the ideas which have led to state churches....

As I said, I think people's basic attitude to Scripture (which is the topic at hand here) is a whole different kettle of fish to whether they are "conservative" or "liberal", and the same applies to whether they are "constantinian" or "anabaptist".

The difference is between people who, regardless of the nitty-gritty of their doctrine, apprehend Scripture as being God-breathed, and something they sit "under" - even if they ascribe more of it to human agency than conservatives - something they are willing to have shape their lives as the Spirit directs, and those who see it as something they can harness to their agenda - the latter including many supposed conservatives.

I am increasingly convinced this yardstick cuts across other theological standpoints. Thinking of John 5 again, there are those who simply study the Scriptures for whatever reason, and there are those whose study is fundamentally motivated, if this doesn't sound too cheesy, by a desire to come to Jesus to have life*.

Blaming the Carnegies of this world for all the theological ills of everyone else apart from your own stable is setting yourself up for self-deception. There are and have been anabaptist tyrants, too.

==
*Of course each of us can have mixed motives at different times, too. To quote more fiction, I've really been enjoying the series Greenleaf, which managed, at least in part, to increase my sympathy for those in prosperity-themed mega-churches, especially black ones.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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