Monday, October 03, 2016

Universal Negatives in John's Gospel, Part 1

Universal Negatives in John's Gospel, Part 1

Hermeneutics, in a nutshell

  1. Read the bible as it was intended: intelligently. Grant it the full range of figures of speech. It has metaphors, similes, hyperbole, and allegories. And, as an anthology, it contains multiple genres: poetry, history, apocalyptic, etc. It has anachronistic and in-context language. Low-brow internet atheists and some fundamentalists will want to constrain you--it is to their advantage to place restrictions on biblical figures of speech and to demand (when it suits them) you take text literally. (See, for example, Law 21: Atheist Biblical Inerrancy.)
  2. When reading (intelligently) separate what is a universal absolute truth from what is a description of a normative, that is a description that applies to normal circumstances.

Theology Quiz

God's law as revealed in the bible is:

A) A collection of absolute truths
B) A collection of situational ethics
C) A and B

The answer, as always is C. For example, consider this law from God:

When one man's ox butts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share(Ex. 21:35)

Absolute? No. The next verse:

[Unless] the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.  (Ex. 21:36)

Call it what you will: situational ethics, mitigating circumstances, case law, common sense—but the law given in v. 35 is not absolute.

Here is a more striking example:

Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord (Ex 30:10)
This was a law. It was commanded. It was good. Is was moral. What if we obeyed it today? What if your pastor began sacrificing animals for a sin atonement?

Not only is the law for animal sacrifice not absolute—that is we can safely ignore it—but in fact obeying that law that was “most holy” would now be an abomination.

If you think situational ethics have no place in the bible and are merely a synonym for the dreaded moral relativism, then you are mistaken. The bible is chock-full of situational ethics.


Jump to Part 2

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