Thoughts on Biblical Interpretation

To demonstrate differences in the presuppositions of readers, consider these following statements about the Bible, inspiration, biblical authority, and biblical interpretation:

Statement 1
The Bible is literally the Word of God. Scripture consists of the writings that were inspired by God, if not actually dictated by God to the biblical writers. The community of faith is to submit to biblical authority. Biblical interpretation is divine, expressing the will of God, not of human beings.

Statement 2
Creating Scripture is a human activity that takes place within communities of faith. Inspiration applies not only “to the origin of the text but to its transmission and interpretation among us.” The Bible is “inherently the live Word of God,” which recognizes that it is divine communication that has been “refracted” through many different authors who spoke from their own circumstances. Biblical authority is exercised in community rather than over it, and the community of faith’s participation is called for rather than its submission. Biblical interpretation is contextual and necessarily influenced by the human beings who do it.

First, “if social location shapes reading, then it is important to be honest and self-conscious about one’s social location in approaching any act of interpretation.”

Second, if multiple interpretations of a passage are possible, then we need to make explicit the reasons we have chosen a particular meaning.

Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies: The Need for Inclusive Biblical Interpretation
Cheryl Anderson

(I thought thes comments made a lot of sense, thoughts?)

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An Example of Why Evangelicalism is Dying

Meanwhile in some dark mouldy corner of Christendom a sad evangelical writes about the brilliant vocal play band Pentatonics
“While at least one member of the band publicly claims to be a Christian, two other members are openly gay.[like these things are mutually exclusive!!] Furthermore the band is active in promoting the LGBTQ agenda [grace? shock horror!]. All this at the same time as taking advantage of the evangelical Christian [evil consumeristic machine – evilgelical?] market which may be their top target in selling albums. [Scott’s comment in brackets]
“But, hey, it’s a free country and anyone can do what they want as long as they do not break the law and/or hurt others, as the old progressive principle holds. Delight in Truth [name of this legalistic blog] does not have a problem with Pentatonix and their rebellion against the moral code of Scripture, as much as with the Evangelical crowd which claims to be under the authority of Scripture and who loves Pentatonix.”
“Dear Christians, if you find the Word of God as inspired and authoritative [oh PLEASE – what does THAT mean?], please stop buying, promoting, liking, posting, and applauding these Pentatonix videos. Would you listen daily to an openly gay pastor who promotes the LGBTQ lifestyle and preaches “really good?” [yes!] If no, then why promote Pentatonix?”
Seriously? I mean seriously? I’m speechless! Next you are telling me to burn my Amy Grant CD’s coz she smoked a bit of pot! Hillsong CD’s with Geoff Bullock because he split from his wife…Oh…you are? Sigh – I give up! And here is an example of why evangelicalism is in its death throws! Bye bye! End of rant 🙂

Standing Alone Then Standing Connected to Everything.

I had a challenging…disturbing…slightly ‘hot’ conversation with an old friend recently. She’s great lady who has a deep faith. We came to heads over a few things but I felt particularly ‘miffed’ when she appealed for me to ‘come back to the old way’ to ‘interpret the bible the right way’ (my interpretation of her words). I felt like I was being called back to a faith I had that was very isolationist and exclusive, excluding ‘sinners’ and people of other religions, people who are not like heterosexual me, not welcoming of difference. I felt a feeling that my faith had shifted in some way. No, I’m no universalist. I just feel we can spend our time and energy as believers highlighting ‘difference, and wrong’ rather than pointing out common ground and places of connection. Then today I read these words by Richard Rohr in a daily reflection that encouraged me. Maybe they will you, or even unsettle you, who knows;

As we’ve explored over the last several weeks—through reflections on the Cosmic Christ, Nature, and the Perennial Tradition—there is no meaningful separation between sacred and secular, physical and psychic, human and divine. They are two sides of one coin. There is within every being an inherent longing for and capacity to experience this union. Everything really does “belong” because all things are finally connected to the same Creator and thus to one another. We bear a family resemblance, as it were!

Why then are humans so prone to excluding and separating? Why do we spend so much time deciding who does not belong in our religious, political, and personal worlds? How can we get everything to belong in our own heads and hearts?

Let’s first understand this: Humans have a deep and legitimate need for an identity inside of this huge cosmos. To develop a healthy ego, we must differentiate and individuate; we must know we’re special and find a place where we are loved and where we belong without needing to prove ourselves. This is our launch pad. [1]

Ken Wilber suggests that religion has two very important and different functions to support human development. First, religion creates meaning for the separate self. [2] It offers myths and rituals that help us make sense of and endure what Shakespeare would call “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” You need to first feel special and chosen to launch beyond yourself. This feels like a paradox, but it really isn’t. It is the nature of all growth.

But if we stop at this level we do not come to higher levels of consciousness, love, or transformation. For that we need the function of mature spirituality (which I’ll discuss tomorrow). Many people stop at this first stage of fortifying the separate self. Being part of a superior group, ethnicity, or class, and having correct religious or moral beliefs often becomes a cover for remaining basically selfish and narcissistic. Such folks end up re-enacting the first half of life over and over again, perpetuating exclusion and violence to protect their small field of self.

Some kind of law, structure, loyalty, and a sense of chosenness (very old fashioned virtues) are usually necessary to create a strong ego “container” and this is the appropriate task of “the first half of life.” We see God, for example, forming special covenants with the people of Israel and giving them many laws, which finally show themselves to be quite arbitrary and sometimes even destructive if taken too seriously.

Good parents do everything they can to validate and affirm their child’s specialness, which ideally gives children the dignity and self-confidence to move beyond the need for outer sources of belonging and identity. Now that is a paradox! A good parent (or any leader) eventually puts himself or herself out of a job.

Unfortunately, many people never move beyond the need for more infilling and never get to the outpouring which should be the natural result of a healthy ego. Basically, they never get to love. As long as they remain in this self-enclosed and self-referential position, all “otherness” is a threat to their specialness. They will need to prove and make sure that others do not belong, so they can hold center stage. They spend their whole life protecting their boundaries, which isn’t much of a life. The container becomes the substitute for the contents.

 

Letting Go. The Practice of Forgiving

I read this is a recent daily devotional from Richard Rohr. I thought it profound and practical enough to re-post it here.

Forgiveness is an act of letting go. When we forgive we do not forget the harm someone caused or say that it does not matter. But we release bitterness and hatred, freeing ourselves to move on and make choices grounded in our strength rather than victimisation. Forgiveness opens our closed hearts to give and receive love fully.

Jack Kornfield offers a wonderful meditative practice of forgiveness:

[Sit] comfortably. Allow your eyes to close and your breath to be natural and easy. Let your body and mind relax. Breathing gently into the area of your heart, let yourself feel all the barriers you have erected and the emotions that you have carried because you have not forgiven—not forgiven yourself, not forgiven others. . . . Let yourself feel the pain of keeping your heart closed. Then, breathing softly, begin asking and extending forgiveness, reciting the following words, letting the images and feelings that come up grow deeper as you repeat them.

Asking Forgiveness of Others
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed others, have betrayed or abandoned them, caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of my pain, fear, anger, and confusion.” Let yourself remember and visualize the ways you have hurt others. See and feel the pain you have caused out of your own fear and confusion. Feel your own sorrow and regret. Sense that finally you can release this burden and ask for forgiveness. Picture each memory that still burdens your heart. And then to each person in your mind repeat: “I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Offering Forgiveness to Yourself
Recite: “There are many ways that I have hurt and harmed myself. I have betrayed or abandoned myself many times through thought, word, or deed, knowingly and unknowingly.” Feel your own precious body and life. Let yourself see the ways you have hurt or harmed yourself. Picture them, remember them. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this and sense that you can release these burdens. Extend forgiveness for each of them, one by one. Repeat to yourself: “For the ways I have hurt myself through action or inaction, out of fear, pain, and confusion, I now extend a full and heartfelt forgiveness. I forgive myself, I forgive myself.”

Offering Forgiveness to Those Who Have Hurt or Harmed You
Recite: “There are many ways that I have been harmed by others, abused or abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word, or deed.” Let yourself picture and remember these many ways. Feel the sorrow you have carried from this past and sense that you can release this burden of pain by extending forgiveness whenever your heart is ready. Now say to yourself: “I now remember the many ways others have hurt or harmed me, wounded me, out of fear, pain, confusion, and anger. I have carried this pain in my heart too long. To the extent that I am ready, I offer them forgiveness. To those who have caused me harm, I offer my forgiveness, I forgive you.”

Let yourself gently repeat these three directions for forgiveness until you feel a release in your heart. For some great pains you may not feel a release but only the burden and the anguish or anger you have held. Touch this softly. Be forgiving of yourself for not being ready to let go and move on. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it cannot be artificial. Simply continue the practice and let the words and images work gradually in their own way. In time you can make the forgiveness meditation a regular part of your life, letting go of the past and opening your heart to each new moment with a wise loving-kindness. [1]

Scape Goating

project-manager-or-scapegoat

Blaming people is as old as history. The poetic stories surrounding the creation account found in Judaeo/Christian writing shows the story of God asking Adam, “who ate the forbidden fruit?”

It was the woman who you put here, it’s her fault!” (Man has blamed God or women for most of their issues since…I’m told ;-))

There is the ancient Hebrew story of sacrificial goats, one is killed and the blood poured on the other which is sent out to die in the wilderness, representing the taking away of blame and guilt of the people. This is where we get the term ‘scapegoat‘.

  • Mobs and individuals have ‘scapegoated’, laid blame on, (not just) innocent people forever.
  • Kids in the playgrounds gang up and bully the ‘looser’.
  • Insecure bosses lay their ‘issues’ on a worker,
  • Workers gang up and lay their blame on a peer.  
  • We often seek to blame and shame/scapegoat through gossip and criticism.

It’s feels easier than owning it, easier than dealing with our ‘shit’ – just lay it on someone else and I feel better…for a while. This happens in mobs from Egypt to Baghdad, it happens in workplaces from New York to Balcatta.

The cross of Christ was all about scapegoating, the Romans and Jews all had something to lay on him, but as it turns out, all of man-kind did. Violence seems to be our default position, this was exposed in the cross of Christ. “No more”…is what the cross says.

When we own our insecurities, when we discover the pointlessness of the ‘blame game’, the pointlessness of repeated violence, when we grow in awareness of our ‘murderous ways’ – then and only then do we really get along and get some serious living done!

The Du Cane Range, Tasmania, July 2016

More photos here.

Video here.

How does an extrovert manage to spend 5 whole days only seeing one other person? Fortunately for me the other person was my much loved brother Clint, but the couple who showed up to Pine Valley Hut on the fifth evening of our 7 days in the Tasmanian wilderness certainly were greeted with my fullest attention, a warm coal fire and lots of stories!

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Five days previously Clint and I had arrived in Hobart at 9.30am on Saturday morning after an all night flight from Perth, a friend collected us from the airport handing over what was to become our “favourite pieces of equipment” – 2 pairs of NEOS Overboots on loan from a mate in Victoria. Our Transport man, Connell, also supplied us with stove fuel and a three hour drive to Lake St Claire Visitors Centre where we just managed to jump on an exiting ferry. It was a bit embarrassing, we looked like amateurs with snow shoes and water bottles falling out all over the place! Just past the jetty drop off point was Narcissus Hut, here took stock of our senses, repacked our bags and donned our water proofs for the 3 hour walk in the heavy rain to our staging post for the adventures of the coming week – Pine Valley Hut.

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A decision was made to head straight up the trail not far from the falls behind our hut on Sunday morning. This trail led us to the The Acropolis (1439m). Once upon the main ridge line the snow was instantly deep enough to require the use of our snow shoes. Even then, as we climbed towards the main massif the snow deepened and the trail markers were lost to snow depth. Cloud was low and visibility down to just a few hundred metres. It was fabulous fun, with steep slopes and what felt like some precarious moments but with no clear trail, our GPS’s were trying to send us up all sorts of dangerous looking chutes!  We were soon out of time and needing to head back to our awaiting coal fired hut…I was sure I could smell the smoke from that fire on more than one occasion as we neared the hut…but we remained alone for many days.

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Day three saw us back up the valley near the intersection of the Acropolis Track and the Cepheus River, the trail we were on the day previous . We were convinced that somewhere near this location was another track, a little used track heading north along the Pine Valley floor to the site of the Geryon Climbers Camp. A ribbon was sighted on a tree not far off the main track…then another…and another and another! A couple of hours later we arrived at the ‘pointy end’ of Pine Valley (formerly known as Moss Valley). Here under the shadow of the giant rock face of Geryon and the impressive Acropolis we felt like we had found some fabled hidden city. Truth be told it was just a clearing and a small hand carved sign telling us we had made it. There were tracks heading out both sides of the camp no doubt up to climbing spots. The journey up the valley showed us two or three more waterfalls that were unmarked on our maps. They were much more impressive than the marked Cepheus falls behind our hut. We ‘trail ran’ back to the trail intersection following the ribbons as best we could…considering the blurring speed we were running at 🙂 We actually made such good time on the return journey we completely over shot the trail intersection without recognising it! Five minutes of discussion and we recognised where we were and headed back along the trail to our Pine Valley Hut to, again, practice our ever growing skills at lighting coal fires with damp wood.

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Tuesday, Day Four. We left a little bit of weight in food and un-wanted gear behind but loaded everything else into our packs and headed up the opposite side of the valley wall to The Labyrinth, The Parthenon, Pool of Memories and a host of other delights. A very steep scramble up a fast flowing stream into a saddle adjacent to the long Parthenon (1229m). We donned the snow shoes and traversed along the west side of this mountain until we came to a drop into a valley filled with small mountain lakes. The weather, again was clear and very pleasant to walk in, with views across the Pine Valley to Acropolis and Geryon. After some ‘puddle hopping’ we came to where the trail around our first big lake (Cyane) disappeared under water. It appeared that the ice from the lake’s surface was stopping a full flow out and down the mountain, thus it was flooding the lakeside trail. We were conscious not to smash through more bushes higher up, this high lakes area is a sensitive area in terms of its bio-diversity. (We were even holding in our ‘number twos’ to avoid having to carry them out!!) From our dead end we looked back over the lake and noted a couple of good flat potential campsites, we cut back around and flattened out some snow and had one of the nicest campsites I’ve ever had the pleasure of sleeping at!

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After some heavy rain, strong wind and a little snow we awoke to a thick blanket of morning cloud, yet a still day and not too cold. The rain had washed a bit of the snow cover away revealing rocks and bushes we hadn’t know existed the day before. The temperature was mild at around 2 – 4 degrees. We decided to leave the tent set and the solar panel plugged into the battery in the hope that the forecast for sunny weather would prove right. The sun did poke through occasionally, enough to put some charge in, but not enough to get through the walls of the 4 season tent (Macpac). While that was all happening back at Lake Cyane we continued on around Lakes Ophion, Elysia and finally on to the Pool of Memories, our ultimate destination. In fact we mistook the pool for another lake as I had marked the Pool of Memories incorrectly on my GPS (Suunto Traverse). We in fact began climbing the nearby ridge toward the higher Lake Selene before we realised our mistake and happily returned to our snack spot at Pool of Memories for a break before moving back to drop our tent and move on back down to the Pine Valley. The patches of blue sky did not fail to impress us as the parting clouds revealed to us magical views of Acropolis and Geryon across the valley. On the return journey Clint tested the thickness of one of the frozen lakes…not wise, but extremely hilarious as he dived for the safety of solid land under his cracking base! I always find down hill journey’s much tougher than uphill ones so by the time we returned to Pine Valley Hut I was jelly legged and ready for a rest…was that the smell of a coal fire we could smell as we neared the hut? No such luck, we were still alone in the valley, at least for another couple of hours. That evening we were joined by a great young couple of Brisbanites currently residing in Newtown, Sydney. Andi instantly became my best friend as we discovered common ground as ‘gear junkies’. Clint and Andi’s partner Aaron sat in stunned silence as we chatted about the qualities of every known brand of outdoor gear known to man.

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Day six required no rush, so after waking to farewell Andi and Aaron (with our snow shoes) as they headed up to Acropolis, we slept another hour, packed up and headed back to Narcissus Hut to await their later arrival. A pleasant three hour wander and a nice afternoon sitting at the edge of Lake St Claire saw us, again, greeting our new mates as they returned from a bigger day than we had experienced. We shared stories of our days, and more gear talk for Andi and I, then of course some sunset viewing from the helipad and Platypus spotting at the jetty…the last pursuit failed, but the first produced success – a stunning afternoon with the last of the sun’s rays kissing all the snow capped mountains around us – Mt Olympus (1472m) being the biggest/closest.

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Friday. We were joined by an organised trekking group on the ferry, which was a big money saver. Winter sees the ferry used less and the lakeside walk covered in fallen trees, so with six or less people on board the boat you share a $240 fee. With thirteen of us we each paid the standard $40 crossing fee. The waves on Lake St Claire that day were, according to the ferry man, “the biggest I’ve ever seen, the wind is gail force, up around 80-90 knots!!” I don’t know about his accuracy, but it WAS wild out there! After 7 hours at the Derwent Bridge Hotel around a beautiful open fire and a 3 hour drive to Hobart,  we waved goodbye to Andi and Aaron, we were ready for a warm shower and comfortable bed in our very nice Montacute Bunkhouse in Battery Point. With heads on pillows it wasn’t long before we were dreaming of the morning markets at Salamanca Place, our flights home and our next adventure…

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More photos here.

Video here.