Sunday, February 21, 2016

ET15. God's ideal is an equal partnership in marriage.

This is the fifteenth post on Christian ethics in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit in this series had to do with God and Creation (book here), and the second unit was on Christology and Atonement.

We are now in the third and final unit: The Holy Spirit and the Church. The first set of posts in this final unit was on the Holy Spirit. The second set was on the Church. The third set was on sacraments. This final section is on Christian ethics.
God's ideal is an equal partnership in a one-to-one marriage.

1. This is a conclusion we reach by following the great principles of Scripture. We know that all people are created in the image of God, both male and female (Gen. 1:27). [1] We know that in Christ there is no "male and female" (Gal. 3:28) and that the Spirit fills equally both men and women (Acts 2:17). So men and women are of equal spirituality and value.

We know from experience that men and women are of equal intelligence. We know from experience that the question of who is the wisest or most capable of leadership between any one man and woman is a matter of that man and woman. Some women are wiser than other men, and some women are better leaders than other men.

The logical conclusion is that leadership should be a case by case question. Which person, man or woman is most equipped and capable to lead in this particular instance?

As obvious as this conclusion is, many Christians believe it is biblical for men always to lead, whether in the church or in the home. This is an understandable interpretation from the letter of Scripture. We would argue that this is a point where must carefully discern the spirit of the Scriptures and take into account the context of some of its specific instruction.

2. We might start with the consequences of the Fall. To the woman God says, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (Gen. 3:16). You might conclude from this punishment that wives must be subject to their husbands.

But there is a theological problem here. Did not Christ die for the sins of Eve as well as the sins of Adam? It may have taken the earliest church a few years to realize that Jesus died for all the sins of all history. Acts 21:24 indicates that some Christians were still participating in the temple almost thirty years after Jesus died on the cross!

In the New Testament, only the book of Hebrews is explicit with a full understanding of atonement. Only Hebrews says that Christ died for all sins, past and present. Only Hebrews indicates that none of the sacrifices of the Old Testament were actually effectual. They were like rainchecks that waited for the solely effective sacrifice of all history--the death of Christ. Not even Paul explicitly makes a statement of this sort. [2]

The bottom line is that Christ's sacrificial death has forever undone the punishment of Eve. Childbearing may continue, because it is physical. But when we can play out the redemption of Eve in relation to subjection to husbands, why wouldn't we? [3] That is the clear trajectory of the kingdom. In the kingdom, women are not "given" in marriage (Mark 12:25). Women and men stand side by side as full equals in the kingdom of God.

3. So why is this issue even a question? It is a question because 1) we are prone to read individual verses more than see the broader principles of Scripture, 2) because we are not aware of the way in which the books of the Bible were incarnated revelation, and 3) we are unaware of our own cultural influences.

For example, polygamy is fully accepted as an option in the Old Testament. Like the full assumption of divorce, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 assumes the practice of polygamy when it insists that the firstborn son of the first wife is the one that must inherit first. Because polygamy is not a live option today, we find it easy to dismiss. I believe we should similarly recognize the notion of husband-headship as a cultural element in some New Testament instruction.

God's ideal in marriage is monogamy rather than polygamy. The ideal is one man and one woman, not one man and multiple wives. Nevertheless, God allowed polygamy in the Old Testament. Even the New Testament does not prohibit it, as it does unbridled divorce.

However, polygamy is a result of the Fall. It certainly made sense in ancient cultures with a large death rate and where the assignment of several women to one man helped those women survive. The move away from polygamy to monogamy is a movement toward the empowerment and equality of women. We complete that trajectory when we consider wives to be full and equal partners in marriage. [4]

4. Several of the letters in the New Testament also assume husband headship. 1 Corinthians, Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 Peter all do. We are arguing that these instructions play out the principle of submitting to authority in a cultural environment where the man was considered the authority in the marriage. The underlying principle is to submit to those who are in authority over you, not the specifics of that authority itself. If the structure itself were part of the principle, we would expect it to play itself out in the kingdom as well.

But it doesn't. Husband-headship is a structure of earth, not of heaven. In the kingdom, wives will not be given to men. The pains of childbirth and our current bodies will be far behind.

There was nothing unique in Paul's world about saying the husband was the head of the house. Aristotle suggested as much in his Politics, some four hundred years before Paul. Aristotle wrote, "The head of the household rules over both wife and children, and rules over both as free members of the household… His rule over his wife is like that of a statesman over fellow citizens… The male is naturally fitter to command than the female, except where there is a departure from nature" (Politics, 1.1259a-b).

So it is at the points where the New Testament modifies the norm that it is being distinctively Christian. For example, when Paul says, "the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife," he was saying something quite striking indeed for his world (1 Cor. 7:4). Ephesians says, "husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies" (5:28), and "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (5:25). These are quite striking in Paul's world.

The trajectory of this teaching is thus toward the equal worth and value of wives, not toward husband-headship.

5. In 1 Peter especially, the structures of that age were assumed as a given--slaves under unjust masters, wives with unbelieving masters, nobodies in an evil empire. Peter tells them to conform and not to make waves. Scot McKnight has called this a "defensive strategy." [5]

Paul's letters also increasingly accommodate these structures over time. Although Acts portrays a Pauline mission that knows no distinction between the roles of men and women, a problem first arises at Corinth with wives in close quarters around men who aren't their husbands. 1 Corinthians 11 sets down rules to cope with this situation of the new age. If the wives will wear a veil, their men will not be shamed by the spiritual activity of their wives in a mixed group.

In Colossians and Ephesians, we see that household codes have developed. Again, they assume the household structures of Aristotle. 1 Timothy suggests that the tension created by the new power women were experiencing in the church had grown so strong that Paul needed to make his strongest statement anywhere on the husband-wife relationship. [6] In other words, this structure is not part of God's timeless plan but was first brought on by Adam's sin and continued in the late New Testament as an accommodation to first century culture.

The earthly structure of husband-headship was thus a practical solution to the tensions of a Christianity that had empowered women and wives beyond what many people in the church of that day could bear.

6. If we have the power to make our current world more like the kingdom, why wouldn't we? When we know what the kingdom is going to be like, why wouldn't we? When Christianity is playing out in a patriarchal context, it makes sense for it to operate in those categories. But when the surrounding culture already agrees that men and women are of equal worth, would it not be perverse to continue with the "weak and beggarly" elements of a passing age (Gal. 4:9)? When the broader culture agrees that women are just as wise as men, why would we artificially continue structures that were a consequence of the Fall?

It is sometimes said that someone has to be in charge in the family. If both wife and husband are submitting to one another (Eph. 5:21), it's hard to see why. And even if this dictum were true, would it not make sense for it to be whichever of the two is the wiser or the better leader? Or to make even more sense, shouldn't it be the person that has greater experience or wisdom in the specific area of the decision?

In Christ there is not "male and female" (Gal. 3:28). The way this verse is worded suggests that it is actually echoing Genesis 1:27: "male and female created he them." But in Christ, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not, 'male and female.'" The new creation thus undoes stereotypical distinctions between male and female.

The ideal of eternity is an equal partnership between men and women. If we can put it into effect now, why not? That is the trajectory of the kingdom. The only reason for anything less is hardness of hearts.

Next Sunday: ET16. Sex should be kept within a marriage relationship.

[1] Occasionally someone who does not know Hebrew will suggest that only the male is said to be in the image of God in Genesis 1:27. But the Hebrew word 'adam is here generic: "mankind" or "humankind."

[2] 1 Timothy 2:14-15 thus cannot be used to say that women still lack something in relation to salvation because of Eve's transgression. Either these statements mean something else (e.g., that Mary's childbearing redeemed women from the curse of Eve) or 1 Timothy does not yet have the full understanding of Hebrews. These verses are clearly not the center point for a biblical theology of wives or women in general.

[3] It will not do to make the word "helper" in Genesis 2:18 into a subordinate role before the Fall. The majority of instances of this word in the Old Testament refer to God as a helper. For example, "You are my help and deliverer, O LORD" (Ps. 70:5).

[4] There is a tendency to read modern assumptions into biblical texts. Yes, a man becomes one flesh with a wife, but this has nothing to do with how many wives a man has. A man can become one flesh with each of multiple women.

[5] Scot McKnight, 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), **.

[6] It seems fairly obvious to me that 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is not about men and women in general but about husbands and wives specifically. When the Greek words aner and gyne are used in close proximity, it is all the more likely that husbands and wives are in view. Similarly, the arguments of 1 Timothy 2:13-14 have to do with Adam and Eve, a husband-wife couple.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Seminary PM4: There are certain classic spiritual disciplines for individuals.

The featured resource of the day is Richard Foster's classic, Celebration of Discipline. The Seminary in a Nutshell series so far:

Chapter 1: The Calling of a Minister

Chapter 2: The Person of a Minister
Ministers have different personalities and strengths
We each experience God best in different ways.

1. Every believer is a child of God. God is abba, Father, for every Christian. Spiritual disciplines are not only for ministers. They are gifts for every child of God. They are "means of grace." They are instruments that God uses to deepen our walk with him and our strength to love our neighbor as ourselves. Some of them are inward. Some of them are outward. Some of them are corporate.

2. One of John Wesley's sermons was on "The Means of Grace." He defines means of grace as "outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace." Grace is God's undeserved favor, his goodness dispensed to us even though we do not merit it.

In this particular sermon, Wesley especially singles out prayer, searching the Scriptures, receiving the Lord's Supper. Certainly he also considered baptism (normally infant baptism) a means of grace as well. Other means of grace include Christian fellowship, fasting, visiting the sick, helping others, and many more ways by which God communicates grace to his people. For Wesley, communion was a particularly important means of grace, one that he believed should be experienced as often as possible. [1]

3. In his classic work, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster classifies spiritual disciplines into three categories: inward disciplines, outward disciplines, and corporate disciplines. He does not of course include communion and baptism, the two means of grace that Protestants in particular consider to be sacraments, or means of grace God has especially ordained for the church to administer.

Foster mentions four inward disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. Wesley might have called these "works of vital piety."

The primary object of the Christian's meditation is the Scriptures, although God has also provided wisdom through countless others as well. When we read the Bible as Scripture, they become a means for God to change us, not an object of knowledge for us to master. Meditation, though, for Foster, involves filling the mind with thoughts about God.

Fasting is a way of focusing our attention on God, of freeing us from distraction and purifying our spirits. Prayer is both a way for God to meet and change us, as well as an opportunity God gives us to participate in his mission in the world. Study is a matter of worshiping God with our minds.

4. The four outward disciplines Foster mentions are simplicity, solitude, submission, and service. Wesley might have classified these as "works of mercy."

Living simply reminds us that material possessions are a distraction at best, destructive to our relationship with God at worst. Simplicity teaches us to rely on God. Solitude is easy for some of us, hard for others. Those of us who find solitude difficult need it all the more. Busy-ness is sometimes an excuse for us not to stop and listen to God's still, small voice.

Submission is also easy for some, difficult for others. Some of us like to take charge. But submission to those who are in authority is an earthly reminder of the fact that we are all under a heavenly authority. To confess Jesus as Lord is to confess him as the one who has absolute authority over us. Finally, God graces us with his presence as we serve others.

5. These spiritual disciplines are for all Christians, but God's ministers should be models of their practice. Ministers should model prayer and meditation on Scripture. Ministers should fast regularly and study. Ministers should take time for regular solitude, and should actively do acts of service.

"Personal devotions" are a time-honored way of accomplishing these disciplines. Each person finds a rhythm of time set aside to pray and search the Scriptures. Wesley himself fasted every week from the time after a Thursday evening meal until mid-afternoon on Friday. If ministers do not carve out a regular space for spiritual "feeding," they may find themselves turning into starving bakers--individuals who feed others the bread of life, but are starving from lack of spiritual nourishment themselves.

Next Week: Seminary Person of the Minister 5: There are classical spiritual disciplines for communities of faith.

[1] "The Duty of Constant Communion."

[2] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Notes on Marshall's NT Theology

I'm trying to sum up my notes on the first 200 pages of I. Howard Marshall's New Testament Theology. Here we go:

1. How do we do NT Theology?
  • Heikki Räisänen - We don't. It all falls apart. (17-18)
  • Approach 1 - Lump the books together as a quarry for the stones. (24)
  • Approach 2 - Impose systematic theology on the books. 
  • Approach 3 - Just look at the individual authors. (25)
  • Approach 4 - Trace development of ideas.
  • Marshall's hope - Find inherent principles for organizing the mass of teaching. (28)
  • He finds a missionary character to all the documents that can serve as an organizing principle. (35-36)
  • Jesus is not just a presupposition for NT theology to him (contra Bultmann).
2. Preparatory remarks before launching into Gospels
  • Matthew and Luke used Mark.
  • In general he sides with the idea of Q as a source.
  • "There are goo grounds for assuming that the handing down of tradition in the early church was 'controlled'" (53).
  • "We have in the Synoptic Gospels a faithful representation of how Jesus appeared to his earliest followers" (54).
  • "The traditions behind the Gospels were contemporary with the period of letter writing" (56).
3. The Gospel of Mark
  • "The kingdom of God is the main theological theme in the teaching of Jesus" (78).
  • "For Mark the Gospel is more about the messenger than the message" (81).
  • "Christ," "Son of God," and "Son of Man" dominate as titles for Jesus, the last of which could refer both to Jesus as one who suffers and as one who will come in judgment from the skies.
  • "Only after the cross and resurrection does full understanding become possible" (89).
  • Looks to the immanent consummation of God's rule (93).
  • My additions: 1) focus on Jesus' death and suffering at the center of him being the Messiah, 2) the repeated sense that only those who have ears to hear will hear, 3) the ethic of loving God and neighbor, and 4) this is a Gentile Christian theology (all foods clean).
4. The Gospel of Matthew
  • "Matthew is more Jewish in outlook" (95). "A strongly Jewish-Christian audience" (125).
  • "The law remains in force for his Jewish audience, but in the light of the antithetical teaching that follows it is the law as reinterpreted by Jesus that is now to be kept" (99).
  • "Jesus never speaks of God as Father except to his disciples" (99).
  • "The historical Jesus did focus his mission on the Jews" (101)... "but the mission of Jesus is not ultimately confined to the Jewish people" (103).
  • "The church is in effect the new Israel" (106). [careful]
  • Particularly characteristic of Matthew is that Jesus is the Son of David (112). "Lord" is also more frequent, as is the use of "worship" (proskyneo).
  • Marshall mentions that some think Matthew equates Jesus with Wisdom. I think so myself.
  • Also Jesus is Moses 2.0 - Jesus the teacher in Matthew
  • "The law is both internalized and radicalized" (119).
  • Importance of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy. Importance of righteousness in Matthew (119).
5. Luke-Acts
  • Salvation language is prevalent, understood in some places as the rescue of Israel. Most of Israel has fallen away but not all (142). Jesus the Savior is fairly unique to Luke. (146) Strong Elijah-Elisha typology
  • "Jesus' concern was for the outcasts of Jewish society" (136).
  • "The task of Jesus is defined in prophetic terms" (147).
  • "The character of the career of Jesus is best summed up as mission" (149). The mission is primarily to Israel.
6. Luke-Acts
  • "The main theme is that God has raised and exalted the crucified Jesus to be the Messiah and Lord through whom forgiveness an the Holy Spirit are offered to all who call on the Lord" (180).
  • "Of all the books in the New Testament it is Acts that most clearly exemplifies the relationship of the theology of the early church to its mission" (157). 
  • "The work of the apostles is a continuation of the work of Jesus whereby the signs of the kingdom of God are manifested and salvation is made effective in people's lives through the preaching of his followers" (160).
  • Gentiles do not have to become Jewish proselytes, yet it is not necessary for Jewish Christians to give up their way of life either. (164)
  • "Paul's beliefs cannot be regarded as a criminal offense under Roman law" (170).
  • Acts has a strong sense of divine necessity, that things happen under God's direction. However, this is not always the case (not completely pre-determined). (171)
  • "The establishment of the church and its mission is the object of prophecy" (172).
  • Three major events: the Christ event, the coming of the Spirit, and the mission of the church. (174)
  • "The fundamental theological question in Acts concerns the relationship of the church to Israel and the Gentiles" (178).
  • "Little is said about the function of the death of Jesus in achieving salvation" (181).

Biblical Theology in Orlando

Late notice, but I am teaching biblical theology for two days next week at Asbury Orlando (Friday-Saturday). Then I'll be back April 8-9. Surrounding these two, two day intensives are 10 weeks of reading online. If you want 3 hours of seminary credit (which will transfer into Wesley or any other seminary), I think you could just squeeze in if you jumped on it.

Here's the tentative schedule right now (I may shift some):
Friday, February 26
  • history of biblical theology
  • attributes of God
  • creation and consummation
  • angels and demons
  • Satan and the Fall
Saturday, February 27
  • sin and atonement
  • God's covenant with Israel
  • parting of the ways?
Reading/Discussion in between
Friday, April 8
  • nature of revelation
  • WWJD and Jesus is Lord
  • Trinity and pre-existent Christ
  • predestination, election, conditions
Saturday, April 9
  • Spirit and the Church
  • baptism and communion
  • Love God with all your heart
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
Anyone interested?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Candidates for Jewish Worship

I am working through a section of a chapter that first presents various proposals for entities the Jews might have worshiped in some way in addition to or subordinate to God. My earlier delineation of categories is here.

Category 1: Were other beings worshiped alongside YHWH?
  • Two powers in heaven (Segal)
  • Elohim, the Great Angel (Barker)
  • Divine consort, etc (Hayman)
Category 2: A subordinate entity worshiped in harmony with the worship of YHWH
  • Yahoel (Capes, Apocalypse of Abraham)
  • Metatron/Enoch (3 Enoch)
  • Son of Man (Bauckham - "exception that proves the rule," 1 Enoch)
  • Moses in Ezekiel the Tragedian (Schenck, in a derivative way)
  • Adam (Fletcher-Louis, Life of Adam and Eve)
Category 3: How early did Christians begin to worship Jesus?
  • Very early (Hurtado, Bauckham, current majority)
  • Late first century (Dunn, Casey)
Category 4: Degree of continuity with Judaism
  • High continuity (Bauckham)
  • Early, distinct innovation (Hurtado)
  • Significant discontinuity that developed over time (Dunn, Casey)
  • Blasphemy (Segal)

ET14: Divorce is usually hostile to God's fundamental values.

This is the fourteenth post on Christian ethics in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. The first unit in this series had to do with God and Creation (book here), and the second unit was on Christology and Atonement.

We are now in the third and final unit: The Holy Spirit and the Church. The first set of posts in this final unit was on the Holy Spirit. The second set was on the Church. The third set was on sacraments. This final section is on Christian ethics.
Divorce is usually hostile to God's fundamental values.

1. Marriage is a gift of God's love to humanity. Marriage provides a context of security not only in which children can be nurtured and raised in love and security, but where men and women can live lives surrounded by love and security as well. Good marriages thus ideally result in generations of children whose fundamental psyche is healthy. It helps those in the marriage to live longer, healthier lives. And good marriages can help produce a society that is stable, optimistic, and generous toward others.

By contrast, divorce in general undermines this security. Divorce potentially hurts the mental and physical health of all involved. Marriages involving affairs can hurt the health, both mental and physical, of everyone involved. Divorces often result from adultery, which is an act quite the opposite of God's command to love our neighbor.

2. There were no prohibitions whatsoever on a man divorcing his wife in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 24:1-5 assumes the possibility of divorce, rather than arguing or allowing for it. It simply says that a man who does officially divorce his wife can never remarry her again. Christians today generally consider this prohibition to be a part of the Old Testament law that does not remain in force today. The reasons for the prohibition are connected to the world of the Ancient Near East.

The mention of a "certificate of divorce" is significant, for a wife without such an official divorce might be left without any means of support whatsoever. She would still be attached to a man who had nothing more to do with her. She would be unable to remarry and unable to support herself, left in a limbo similar to that of a widow who had no family to support her. In that sense, a certificate of divorce was more loving than marital limbo.

In Ezra 10, many Israelites repent of marrying foreign wives in the time of the exile and up until the times of Israel's reform. They "send away" their foreign wives and their children (Ezra 10:44). The implied perspective of Ezra 10 seems to approve of this move. If it was truly what God wanted, then we must see it as an unrepeatable, unique event in Israel's history.

By contrast, Malachi 2:13-16, written about the same time, gives the Christian center point of the Old Testament on this topic: "I hate divorce, says the LORD" (2:16). The divorce YHWH has in view is men throwing away the wife of their youth in faithlessness. Indeed, faithfulness is the bottom line of this passage. Marriage is a covenant one makes with a spouse, and one makes that covenant before God. Therefore, to break covenant with one's spouse is to break covenant with God.

The male orientation of ancient Israelite society is overwhelmingly clear, in keeping with the overwhelmingly male orientation of the ancient world. It was only the man who was able to initiate a divorce, and the woman was generally powerless. In such a context, God reminds the men that God made the woman too. All flesh and spirit is his. A man who throws away is wife is thus throwing away something that belongs to God, and God is a witness for the wife against him. This is an important point--it is at those places where God pushed against the norms of the culture that we are most likely to hear his moving, his trajectory.

3. Jesus continues this theme of compassion toward the wife. There is a tendency among some to read Jesus' words on divorce legalistically, which is ironic given that Jesus' entire way of interacting with the Law put people over rules, especially the fine details of the rules. In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus gives the fundamental basis of marriage: "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

So divorce is the breaking of this fundamental unit of human society. To break a marriage is to undermine this fundamental building block. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus implicitly connects divorce to the desire to commit adultery. Jesus says that it is not only adultery to commit the act but even to covet someone sexually who is not your spouse (Matt. 5:28). He then goes on to speak against divorce, implicitly connecting it with the desire to have someone who is not your spouse, using divorce as a way to commit adultery legally, as it were.

In Palestine at the time when Jesus was speaking, it does not seem that a woman could divorce her husband by law. She could only physically separate herself. Although Mark has broadened the principle for its audience in the broader Roman world (Mark 10:10-11), Jesus original teaching in Palestine would have told the men of Galilee not to divorce their wives. We thus see in Jesus' teaching his characteristic compassion.

4. One of the most striking comments on divorce is in Matthew 5:32: "Anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." This is a puzzling statement, at first glance. How can a woman commit adultery when she is the victim of a divorce?

It seems that there can be only one answer. This situation must force her to remarry someone else. [1] So Jesus assumes the remarriage of the divorced woman. Like a football, her divorce forces her to be passed around. So the man who divorces her causes her to shame himself by marrying someone else (the original connotation of adultery). And he causes the man who will inevitably marry his ex-wife to shame him.

5. Matthew does give one major exception to the rule: sexual immorality. We should recognize that the default of biblical instruction is to give the universal principles more than to give philosophical absolutes. That is to say, we should expect that most biblical instruction assumes that there will be exceptional situations. Jesus' message overwhelmingly had this character. There are situations where people trump rules, and exceptions must be made on the basis of compassion.

The exception that Matthew mentions repeatedly is sexual immorality. Porneia probably refers to any of the sexual violations of Leviticus 18. Even in these cases, however, Jesus does not command divorce. Indeed, would it not be most fitting with the heart of the gospel if a couple could find healing and forgiveness even for such extreme betrayal?

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 mentions a situation in which an unbelieving spouse departs (1 Cor. 7:15). The specificity of Paul's instruction here makes us wonder if he had a specific situation in the Corinthian church in mind. Indeed, some have suggested that he was thinking of his own wife departing after he came to believe. "Let them depart" may suggest cooperation with a divorce, perhaps even the man initiating in a situation where the wife could not legally do so.

6. The Bible never claims to address every possible scenario. Indeed, it would be impossible for any book to do so. We must therefore take the basic principles and do our best in communities of faith to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Some will try to "get away with sin," no doubt, but God is not fooled.

For example, would Jesus really tell an abused spouse to stay in a marriage of unending abuse? It is hard to believe he would, especially when you consider that the children of an abusive marriage are far more likely to grow up to become abusers themselves. Will there be others who will claim abuse when there is none? Certainly. But God is not fooled.

Perhaps we could say that divorce always involves sin, but God does not force people to do the right thing. If one of the partners in a marriage is bent on sin or perversity, then there is a point where it is time to "let the unbeliever depart." God does so with humanity as well, as Romans speaks of God repeatedly "abandoning" humanity to their sin (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). Will some abuse this allowance? Absolutely. But God is not fooled.

5. The final piece of this puzzle is the question of remarriage. Certainly there is forgiveness for any sin of which we truly repent. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin. There may be cultural contexts where remarriage is difficult. We have seen above that Jesus more or less assumed that a divorced wife would be forced to remarry in order to survive.

Paul speaks to a context at Corinth where a woman might divorce her husband and suggests that she should at worst separate and remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7:11). As in the case of lawsuits (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:5), it seems likely that he has specific individuals at Corinth in mind. [2] Paul does not give his instructions in a vacuum. Each letter shapes the form of the message to meet the needs of each church or churches.

Nevertheless, we should not mistake the exception for the rule. Paul gives us what should be the prevailing principle. When two couples separate because of significant marital difficulty, their bias should be to reconcile. Before they separate, they should seek counsel in hope of repairing their relationship.

The power of God can overcome any obstacle. No marriage would ever end if both believers were completely surrendered to God. But God does not force us to forgive each other. God does not force us to seek his healing. There is a time when God gives up on us.

So divorce is not part of God's plan. All divorce involves sin. [3] But God allows us to sin, and God often allows a marriage partner to sin against another. There are situations where the spouse who has been sinned against should make an exception to the rule.

The exception rule is as follows. When there is no reasonable likelihood that the sinning party will ever stop sinning and the sin is of a great enough magnitude, then the marriage cannot fulfill God's purpose for marriage. It is not only murderous to the wounded spouse; it potentially fosters a life of sin in the children. The spouse should be "given up." Will there be individuals who will abuse this allowance for exception? Certainly. But God is not fooled.

In such cases, when the marriage is ended, it is ended. Presumably it was not ended until such a height of wrong was reached that there was no more hope. The offended party can remarry without sinning. The offender is lost already.

6. Marriage is God's plan for the nurturing and security of human life. It should not be entered lightly. The greatest of care should be part of the decision to become one flesh. Once entered, one must not render asunder what God has put together. All divorce involves sin, although there are exceptions. Some will no doubt abuse the possibility of exception, but God is not fooled.

Next week: ET15. God's ideal is an equal partnership in marriage.

[1] So also Bruce Malina, Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, ***

[2] For one thing, Paul's focus on the woman in this passage is striking when Jesus' own teaching would have focused perhaps exclusively on the man. It makes us think he has specific women at Corinth in mind, quite possibly women of some means. In terms of lawsuits, the mention of a lack of wisdom is surely a slam at those Corinthians who claim to be wise (1:20; 2:6; 4:10) and have knowledge (8:1).

[3] In some cases, the sin of the divorce may have taken place at the beginning, if the conditions of entering the marriage involved heinous deception.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Seminary PM3: We each experience God best in different ways.

The Seminary in a Nutshell series so far:

Chapter 1: The Calling of a Minister

Chapter 2: The Person of a Minister
Ministers have different personalities and strengths

1. Just as we have different personalities with different strengths and weaknesses, so also we encounter God most easily in different ways. This is a great insight both in relation to yourself and others.

There is a tendency sometimes to assume that spirituality looks the same no matter who you are. If you are spiritual, you have devotions every day early in the morning. Spiritual people like to go on retreats, or spiritual people find it easy to invite others to church. But just as we have different personalities with different strengths and weakness, we more naturally encounter God and express our devotion to God in different ways.

2. A great resource in this regard is Gary Thomas' Sacred Pathways. He identifies nine different "pathways" through which different personalities primarily experience God. Some of them, of course, look familiar. For example, the "contemplative is the person who likes to retreat, fast, meditate, and pray. Because they look so familiar, we might mistakenly think that they love God more than the naturalist, the person who most easily experiences God in nature. They might seem more spiritual than the activists who show their love for God by working for the cause of good and right.

But if the love of God is the fundamental criterion of spirituality, then the same amount of love will express itself in varying ways. The traditionalist might express that love by participating in time-honored liturgies, while intellectuals might express it by pursuing truth about God. The "sensate" might experience God through art, creation, and the senses, while the caregiver shows his or her love for God by helping others.

Thomas' eight pathways are as follows:
  • naturalist - experiences God outside in the creation
  • sensate - experiences God through sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell
  • traditionalist - experiences God through liturgy and symbol
  • ascetic - experiences God in simplicity and solitude
  • activist - experiences God by working for good causes and justice
  • caregiver - experiences God by helping others
  • enthusiast - experiences God through signs and wonders
  • contemplative - experiences God through reflection and contemplation
  • intellectual - experiences God in the pursuit of truth
3. It is important to recognize that having a dominant path of spirituality does not excuse us from the core elements of Christian faith. Just because we experience God more easily outdoors does not excuse us from gathering together for corporate worship. Just because we experience God best with our senses does not mean we are excused from reflection, and just because we are predisposed to dramatic encounters with God does not mean that we need never be silent.

If God lurks in all these pathways, then we should visit them all over time. We must love our neighbor outwardly and be witnesses to the good news even if we would be delighted to spend the rest of our lives at a monastery. Recognizing the different pathways should not excuse us from a well-rounded life of worship.

What it does, however, is help us to appreciate others who are different from us. Satan would so easily get us to condescend over others who are not like us. "They do not spend as much time in prayer retreat as I do, so they must not be as spiritual as I am." Perhaps in fact their service to others is a prayer to God more potent than your time alone.

4. Thomas would also have us know that there are predominant weaknesses that go along with these strengths. Those strengths that focus on us as individuals might push us away from others when the Christian life is a life we live together. We are ever prone to self-deception. Those with more demonstrable activities or experiences may be prone to think themselves superior to those who favor quietness or solitude.

Those who experience God and nature can come almost to worship nature rather than God. All the paths can lead us to idolize the instrument rather than the God the instrument is meant to bring us toward. The liturgy can take precedence over the One we are worshiping. We can use the Bible to try to master God rather than let ourselves by mastered by God through the text.

5. But the fundamental insights remain. Christians should probably take walks on all the sacred pathways, especially those that have historically stood at the center of Christian spirituality. But we are all different, and we should not be proud. We should not judge. We should not boast because we have a different spiritual personality than others. Finally, we should be careful not to let our spiritual personality deteriorate into idolatry or excess.

Next Week: Person of the Minister 4: There are certain classic spiritual disciplines for individuals.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"All Sin is Sin."


As unified as our theology and Bible professors are against this popular idea, our culture assumes it. Yesterday in my biblical theology class, we were trying to tease out the true from the false in this popular sentiment.

What is true?
  • Before we come to Christ, you might say that all sins put us in need of Christ's atonement. "All sin is sin" in the sense that "all have sinned and lack the glory of God."
  • James 2:10: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." This verse might be the closest biblical statement to the popular sentiment. James' point is that "not killing" doesn't excuse you from "committing adultery." God expects us to keep the whole (moral) law, not just part of it. And yes, James thinks it is possible to do so.
  • We are not to judge others or to think ourselves more spiritual than others. We can't pump ourselves up by saying, "My sins aren't as bad as yours."
  • It's true that Matthew 5 makes the intention to kill a sin, not only the act of killing.
What is not true?
  • I can understand how someone with a weak sense of eternal security might apply the first idea above to the time after coming to Christ. If I am eternally secure no matter what I do, then you might say, "All sin is sin." But of course the Bible doesn't teach this, and those with a deep sense of eternal security would question your salvation if you became a serial killer.
  • The NT certainly distinguishes between the seriousness of sins. Paul chastises the Corinthians for many sins, but he only delivers one of them over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5. 
  • 1 John 5 even distinguishes between sins that lead to death and sins that don't lead to death.
  • If you understand sin in terms of intentionality, which the NT does, then the intensity of the sin relates to the intentionality of the sin. If I forget Valentines Day, I have sinned against my wife. But I can think of much worse ways to sin against my wife than that. In the same way, apostasy to where you burn Christians at the stake is surely a more serious sin than forgetting to pray one day.
  • Historically, Christians have always distinguished intensity of sins. This recent, "All sin is sin" fad is in fact a recent fad.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hebrews and Works

1.For several years, I've been puttering around on a book trying to think through how "new perspectives" might impact the study of Hebrews. The last chapter is titled, "Hebrews and God's Covenant with Israel." It seems to me that one thing this chapter should address is Hebrews' sense that there are limits to how much sin the sacrifice of Christ will cover. There is a point where there "remains no more sacrifice for sins" (10:26) or where covering one's sins in effect would crucify Christ again (6:6).

Hebrews of course was not one of Luther's favorites (although it fared better than James), and we can see why. It seems to require works if one expects to reach final salvation. Since I am from the Methodist tradition, I'm hardly bothered. Much of the opposition to the "new perspective" came from Lutheran and Reformed scholars for whom it was a thorn in their theological side. Hebrews is also troubling to those who believe in eternal security.

(The D. A. Carson, Peter O'Brien, and Mark Siefrid led project, Justification and Variegated Nomism (JVN), in part tried to distance Jewish thinking from the New Testament by portraying Jewish thinking in a way that is not entirely dissimilar to Methodist theology and then trying to maintain that the New Testament doesn't teach that theology.)

2. These are points of continuity with Judaism. E. P. Sanders famously suggested that while Jews did not believe that keeping the Law was about "getting in," they believed it was essential for "staying in." Hebrews seems to have this same position somewhat straightforwardly. Faithfulness, obedience, and active faith are essential in order to enter into God's rest, understood primarily as making it to final salvation. So this chapter should address the "rest of God" in Hebrews 4.

Again, JVN tried to distance the NT from Judaism by pointing out that Jewish literature expected works as an essential response to God's covenant. But Hebrews (and the NT) are in continuity on this point, unlike this project's authors. Hebrews starkly indicates that faithfulness is essential for final salvation and holds out the stark possibility of future destruction even after tasting of the Holy Spirit.

3. There are a few verses that the new perspective immediately held the mirror up to.
  • The most obvious is 9:14 - "cleanse your conscience from dead works." In the light of the Reformation, we might think that this verse was about some anachronistic faith versus works. The NIV2011 helps us not think that--"from acts that lead to death."
  • Similarly 6:1 - "repentance from dead works" is best understood as, "acts that lead to death." I believe it was this verse that even William Lane mistook to be about some Lutheran faith versus works.
  • More difficult for me is 4:9 - "anyone who enters his rest has ceased from his own works just as God rested from his." Given the later references to works, I first thought today that this also referred to works that lead to death--sins against the living God, in other words. Michael Teller in class pointed out the comparison to God resting. Since God didn't rest from "acts that lead to death" I'm back to the eschaton interpretation. Matthew Morley pointed out the continued striving in 4:10, which points to a time beyond the present (i.e., the eschaton).
That's it for today on this Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Elephants Rule (3)

I laughed repeatedly as I read the third chapter of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, titled, "Elephant's Rule." Here are summaries of previous chapters:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails

1. Of course the laugh is on me, because I too am subject to the principles of this chapter. But Haidt showed repeatedly, largely on the basis of experiments conducted, that people immensely follow their immediate intuitions rather than coming to conclusions on the basis of reason. Intuition is like an elephant that turns the rider (reasoning) in a certain direction, and then reasoning strategizes in that direction. Bottom line: "Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second."

Our intuitions are like an elephant, and we have them in a fraction of a second. One study in the chapter compared the results of past elections with the flash intuitions of contemporary individuals looking at the pictures of the candidates. The question asked was, "Who looks more competent?" The results of the election highly correlated to those immediate intuitions of people who had no idea who these candidates were, what party they belonged to, or what their actual competency was.

2. One of the funnier examples in the chapter involved "fart spray." So a psychologist on a street corner asked about controversial issues near a cleaned out trash can. However, for some of those surveyed, he sprayed the can with a light "fart spray." The result was that individuals with the fart spray made harsher judgments than those without it.

In a contrary study, people asked moral questions after washing their hands or near cleaning products are more likely to become more moralistic and self-righteous in their answers.

3. Let me apply. I was at a large church recently and I noticed that the pastor had started holding a Bible at multiple points during the sermon. I smiled. There's a certain kind of complainer who always says, "That sermon didn't have enough Bible in it." Ironically, those who make these complaints are often those who understand the Bible the least.

Now, mind you, the Bible is only as helpful as it is applied, so quoting Scripture in itself is only as effective as its application. That means that a sermon that applies the principles of Scripture well is, from a logical standpoint, just as scriptural as one that quotes the Bible all over the place but is unclear in how to apply it.

But people aren't logical. I thought to myself, this pastor might not have changed the amount of Scripture in his sermon at all. But because he holds the Bible, the intuitions of this congregation are going to feel like they are getting more Bible. He's helping them getting over their faulty intuitions, thought I, by showing them a Bible. "Bible spray" makes people feel better about the sermon.

4. This chapter is a smack down to all those who think we are primarily, "thinking things," as Jamie Smith has also argued. It defies those who think our worldviews or ideologies are primary or that our actions somehow flow from what we believe with our reason. Au contraire. We overwhelmingly direct our ideologies, our theologies, our moralities, on the basis of our basic disgusts and attractions, our gut feelings.

There is actually a prejudice test that times how quickly you respond to pictures of differing social groups. If you have a basic negativity toward a certain social group, it will take you 250 milliseconds longer to respond toward the picture of a certain group because you have to undo your intuitive lean toward negativity. Again, it is the emotional processing centers of the brain that fire up when being asked to make a moral decision.

5. Psychopaths reinforce this line of thinking. They can reason just fine. "The rider is perfectly normal" (73). The problem is with the elephant, the moral intuitions. They don't have them.

Even babies already come with the capacity to evaluate individuals on the basis of their social interactions. They are attracted to helper puppets, not hinderer puppets. They have an innate preference for people who are nice rather than people who are mean. Moral intuitions develop very early.

As far as philosophy, "deontology" (duty based approaches) are not rationally driven at all, but driven by our fundamental moral intuitions. Cold utilitarianism must be learned (greater good reasoning). So deontology is our primary mode of operation, but it has little to do with logic.

6. Perhaps to keep people like me reading, he throws us a bone at the end of the chapter. Who are people like me? We are people who want to think that we are not as un-self-aware as all the other moral animals among the masses whose reasoning is a servant of their blind intuitions.

So I want to think that I am more reflective than the throngs going to hear Donald Trump. I want to think I am a better scholar than the popular scholarly books that pretend to go through a logical interpretive process only to end up telling us the orthodox theology we wanted to hear in the first place. I'm thinking of two scholarly books on Hebrews that I would consider popular because they use scholarship to say what people want to conclude anyway.

So he ends the chapter by saying that elephants are sometimes open to reason. In some cases, the rider can convince the elephant to change directions. Usually, he says, it is in social interaction, where someone else's elephant can convince my rider to steer my elephant in a different direction. "The elephant my not often change its direction in response to objections from its own rider, but it is easily steered by the mere presence of friendly elephants... or by good arguments given to it by the riders of those friendly elephants" (80).

He allows the possibility that in some rare cases, people may reason their way to a different moral conclusion that contradicts their initial intuitive judgment. He ends the chapter with an experiment where, after being told not to make a moral decision for 2 minutes, the subjects did change their mind from an "initial disgust" position to a more reasoned one.

This week emphasized, "intuitions first." The next chapter will emphasize, "strategic reasoning second."

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Myth of "Getting Back"

1. It is intrinsic to humanity that we tell stories about who we are and where we came from. We don't realize it, but over time we subtly change the emphasis, the way we tell the stories, and even the details. We do this because, even though we don't even realize it most of the time, the purpose of telling these stories has everything to do with now, with the present.

You and I do not live in the past, and we do not live in the future either. We live in the present. We do not understand meaning two thousand years ago. We understand it now. All meaning is now because I am always now.

I cannot go back to the past. I can only try to see it from now. I encounter it only as it meets me now.

So this is a game we play. It seems important for humanity to find meaning in the present on the basis of the past. Yet the purpose of finding that past and the function of telling that past is all about the present. More often than not, we use the past as a mirror. We go to the past in order to see what we already want to do in the present.

2. In few areas of life is this dynamic more in play than in the area of religion. Few Christians have any real understanding of the Bible. Indeed, the experts often disagree widely over its historical meaning. (To be fair, they often all agree that certain more popular understandings are wrong.)

Yet the Bible is claimed to be at the heart of a million points of great contemporary debate. We speak of a biblical worldview or being biblical Christians, but this language often has very little to do with the real Bible. It more often has to do with contemporary issues where we are wanting to defend positions we already have by slapping some verse on them. Thus we don't have to argue for our opinions by using evidence or reasoning. We can pretend that our gut opinion has already been endorsed by God.

3. So how do we ground our positions and values? For religion especially, some continuity with the past seems essential. God can't just start to exist today for Christianity to be valid. He has to have been around for some time. In the same way, if Jesus did not really rise from the dead, then Christianity as we know it unravels. We would have to fall back to some broader theism or Judaism.

The past does matter. The past matters in areas of the broadest foundation. At least a few people should know as much about history as we can know at this point in time. If for no other reason, their expertise can be used to call into question mirror readings that are potentially harmful, to burst the bubble of over-zealous use of the story.

4. But here is a crucial point. The function of these "reminders of the past" is as a reference tool. They are not authorities on where to go or what decisions to make. They are not final authorities or the obvious leaders. The goal is not to go back--we can't. We inevitably live in the present.

When our "reminders" are serving us best, they help us find the elements of the past that most resonate with where we need to go in the present. They help us reframe the story to move forward. They have always done this. We only have thought that we were going back. We have never truly gone back. We have only always been retelling the same story in a way that resonates with the present.

5. I wish I had the words to capture this dynamic. It is true even if we cannot bring ourselves to see it:
  • God speaks to us (and to the NT authors) through the version of the Bible we have in front of us, not the original manuscripts we don't have.
  • God speaks to us through Matthew as we have it, not Q or its original sources. God speaks to us through the Pentateuch as we have it, not through J or E or D or P.
  • God speaks to us through Jesus as we see him in the biblical text, not from the videotape of him in Galilee that we don't have.
  • God speaks to us through the English Bible we can read, not through the original Greek or Hebrew we can't read.
  • God speaks to us through the understanding of the Bible we have inherited from the Christian traditions we are a part of, not through the understanding we don't have.
  • God speaks to us in terms of how we need to live today, not in terms of the bubble above the apostle Paul's head.
I am not against learning, by any means. There is all sort of lunacy going on out there in the name of God and the Bible. Education is a key antidote, to clear out the million obvious misunderstandings of the way things are.

6. But even if you know Greek, even if you know as much we can know about the original meaning, even if you can make a good case for a reconstruction of J or Q, God will still only be meeting you in the present. God will still only be meeting you in your current understanding. God still only meets you with the Jesus you know, not the Jesus of a videotape.

So by all means, study. Learn. Improve your understanding as best you can.

But don't do so because you think the answers are back there. Don't think that if you can just "get back" you will have finally arrived. Don't think you will finally be the appropriate leader because you have uncovered ancient knowledge.

God is the God of the living, not the dead.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Who are the Heirs of the Apostles?

1. Every once and a while, I'll see something one of my step-daughters does and say to myself, "She is so like her mom!" Then a little bit later, my other step-daughter might do something and I'll think, "She is so like her mom!" The funny thing is, these two daughters are strikingly different from each other!

And so it seems to be with the "deposit" that God has left to us in the Church through the apostles. You hear two different groups of people in the church pointing to quite different aspects of the church today as the modern equivalent of the apostles. As usual, I think they're both right!

2. So the traditional view is this. The apostles were foundational to the church (Eph. 2:20). Who were these apostles? They were, first of all, the twelve, the disciples. These twelve had been with Jesus from the time of John's baptism up through the time of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Then there was another layer of apostles, people like Paul, Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:5-6), Junias, and Andronicus (Rom. 16:7). The risen Jesus had appeared to them and commissioned them to go as witnesses to the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1).

As the apostles began to die off, they were understood to have left a "deposit" to the next generation (2 Tim. 1:14). This is the way I understand Ephesians 2:20--the apostles and prophets in question were foundational ones. I believe that prophecy remains a gift in the church. But the prophets of Ephesians 2, I believe, were some of the unspoken heroes behind what we now see in Scripture. God used them to guide the earliest church to passages in the Old Testament about Jesus, for example. We may even hear some words in the Gospels from the risen Jesus through them (although that's a sticky wicket I don't want to go into!)

Bottom line, the apostles left us the New Testament as the deposit of their foundational understandings and practices. Thus Scripture is probably the most important heir of the apostles!

3. But the apostles also appointed elders and deacons in the churches. In other words, the apostles left church structures in place so that, after they were gone, there would be authority in the church. Indeed, this is one of the primary ways they functioned in the early church. When the Corinthian church was going up in flames, the apostle came in as authority to settle questions and bring discipline.

It is thus no surprise that bishops and official institutional church structure has traditionally been understood as heir to the apostles. Again, there is certainly some truth to this idea. When the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church or the General Board or the District Superintendent or the District Board steps into a thorny situation to try to speak God's authority into it, they are functioning in an apostolic kind of way.

4. But there are a number of voices in the church today who see another function of the apostles, especially the apostle Paul, that sometimes seems gravely missing from the church today. They especially take Ephesians 4:11 as a set of functions for the church for all time and not just for that time. For this group, apostles are outside the box, entrepreneur types who are always on the move and who have a heightened power to their ministry. These apostles have a charisma, an anointing on them that has a power other people immediately see in them.

Paul did not see his ministry as one that stayed still. He did not feel called to minister where ministries were already started (Rom. 15:20). He was always pushing the gospel to places it had never been and bringing in people who had not known it. In Acts 10, God uses Peter to bring the gospel for the first time to Gentiles.

Several corners of the church today are speaking of "apostolic ministry" as something the church today is lacking. Once again, they are seeing a dimension of the apostles and wanting to consolidate the church's recognition of the calling of these types of individuals. They are also heirs of characteristics that we see apostles demonstrating in the New Testament.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails (2)

The second chapter of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind is titled, "The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail." Last week I gave a quick review of the first chapter that the old Monday reading group is going through. Yesterday we met to traverse chapter 2.

1. The bottom line of this chapter is that people's "moral" sensibilities (including their sense of politics and religion) are primarily intuitive. People just know what is right or wrong and then they find reasons after the fact to justify their sensibilities.

So, most of the time, our intuitions (the dog) lead to moral judgments which lead to reasoning (the tail). We then influence other people's intuitions with our reasonings. This is the social dimension of the moral/political/religious process.

In another part of the chapter, he likens our situation to a rider on an elephant. The elephant is our intuition, and the rider is our reasoning about our intuitions. Really, Haidt claims, the elephant is in control, and the rider is merely serving the elephant.

2. He begins with the story of the debate among moral psychologists. Plato thought that reason ruled the person (or at least should). Hume thought that our passions ruled our reason. Jefferson thought it was a both/and, that we sometimes relied on reason and sometimes relied on our emotions.

As it turns out, our emotions are not separate from our cognition. "Emotions" are intrinsic to human decision making and those whose brains are "disconnected" here have trouble making any decisions. "Emotions" are intrinsic to cognition--they are part of our reasoning, not something different as Jefferson pictured.

These are apparently fighting words, although to look at American politics and religion, it seems pretty obvious to me. People know what they believe, then they go find reasons to justify it. As a Bible teacher, I have often found that if I can find another way to get people to the theological or practical conclusion they want to believe, then I can get them to be more objective about the original meaning of biblical passages or about some item of theology.

3. Haidt does not deny that a person can change his or her moral intuitions by way of private reflection or reasoned judgment together. He simply claims that those instances are much rarer (especially the private reflection one) than the knee-jerk intuition. Contrary to stalwart names like Lawrence Kohlberg and John Rawls, Haidt and others have suggested that most people use reason to generate clever justifications for moral intuitions they already have.

It was fun to see Haidt reference Dale Carnegie, who was so influential on my Dad. You influence people, Carnegie suggested, not by confronting them with the truth and reason but by understanding the other person's point of view. Empathy is the best way to help change someone else who is taking a "righteous" point of view, not confrontation. My Dad used to quote, "A man convinced against his will is of the same mind still."

4. So Haidt calls this model a "social intuitionist" model. He has done a good job of reeling us in and as much as admits that he is plying his trade on people like me as readers. No doubt at some point he will cross a line and I will start to disagree. He jokingly suggests at the end of this chapter that if he hasn't managed to appeal to the reader's intuitions, perhaps that reader should stop reading. But of course, he is simply manipulating the rationally oriented reader to want then to read more so as to prove him wrong rationally.

There are hints already that I will not completely buy him. I did not think well of E. O. Wilson twenty years ago, but Haidt has appealed to my intuitions in such a way that I barely caught that I was feeling sorry for someone that I mocked in ethics class in the late 90s. We readers are being played or shall I say that my intuitions are being played. :-)

5. Keith Drury isn't back in town, but let me suggest some ways he might mock the field of biblical studies if he were at lunch with us. A great deal of biblical studies is simply scholars playing out their moral intuitions on the playing field of the biblical texts. N. T. Wright is a great case in point to me. He has these interpretive intuitions that he then applies his considerable reasoning skills to justify post hoc, IMO.

The whole theological interpretation enterprise strikes me as little else but a high falutin' way of reading our already existing theology into the biblical text while going through the motions of historical exegesis. In my opinion, half of the Hebrews scholarship of the last ten years is little more than sentimental manipulation of texts and history to say things we want to think.

There are exceptions, IMO. There are people who truly are willing to come to any interpretive conclusion. They are the scientist types who approach interpretation from a less predetermined direction. They are not popular right now. Postmodernism opened up the door to a theological Mardi Gras that has yet to simmer down.

But Haidt would tell me it has always been this way. I'm simply pointing out the current dominant intuition.