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Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 | 0 comments

Biblical Authority and the Primacy of Gift

Biblical Authority and the Primacy of Gift

What I believe has been missing in the discussion on the authority of scripture is the notion of gift. Because scripture is living and breathing, because scripture is the revelation of God’s self to us, its very role in the lives of Christians is complicated. The three previous posts have pointed to this. What is needed is a discussion on the way scripture deconstructs us by presenting itself as gift. Because of scripture’s radical alterity, because it reveals the otherness of God, when we read scripture it confronts us with numerous questions about our being and how we relate to God and others. The primary question that scripture asks: “who do you say I Am?” resonates from creation to the eschaton, from Genesis to the Revelation of John. Scripture is first and foremost the gift of the revelation of God to us. Yet this revelation is seeped with the radical alterity of God’s self. The otherness of God opens up a gap between us and God, and it is...

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Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 | 0 comments

Can Promises Be Trusted?

Can Promises Be Trusted?

In the recent past or near future over half the contributors to this blog will have made some of the most important promises of their lives in the form of wedding vows. Wedding vows promise some big things. Not only are you promising to be on your best behavior, but you are committing your whole self to this fallible person across from you, as well as taking their self to be your own. You are making promises about things you cannot foresee or even, likely, fathom. You are also making these promises with the awareness that many before have reneged on these identical vows. To be honest, as I prepare to utter these vows myself, I wonder what the hell I’m getting myself into. Can promises and those making them be trusted? Can I mean what I say when I have no idea what the future holds? J.L. Austin, in his essay “Other Minds,” addresses my questions quite directly. In his discussion of human certitude and claims of knowledge,...

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Posted by on Jul 25, 2013 | 2 comments

Why do we trust the Bible?

Why do we trust the Bible?

Rachel recently wrote a great post on how we give authority to the Bible. Here I want to examine some of the issues around  why we do so. Traditionally, Evangelicals have made the Bible the basis of all their theological beliefs. The final call, the ultimate standard for whether to believe something is whether “the Bible says so.” Even when something seems nonsensical, absurd, or just enormously unlikely — if the Bible says it, we are committed to believing it. This enormous weight of authority placed on the text of Scripture can only be forgotten in a context in which everyone takes it for granted. But if we regularly encounter people who do not share this attitude, we cannot ignore or avoid the question: why do we trust what the Bible says? Nobody is born “believing the Bible.” Something or someone has led us to this belief, which begins by its appeal to something innate to who we are. Was I swept away by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit...

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Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 | 2 comments

You’re wrong! Do you know why?

You’re wrong! Do you know why?

I am the kind of person who tends to think I’m right about everything. I have great confidence in my own correctness, remarkably unfettered by past experience. I may have been wrong before, but NOW at last I’ve figured it all out! Of course, on some level we all tend to think our opinions are the correct ones, otherwise we wouldn’t have them. But – as Kathryn Schultz notes in her insightful TED talk, ‘On Being Wrong’ – this belief that we’re right leaves us with an intellectual problem: how do we explain all of the people who disagree with us? Schultz goes on to define three assumptions we usually make when someone disagrees with our beliefs. 1. They’re ignorant: “They don’t have access to the same information we do,” Schultz says, “and when we generously share that information with them, they’ll see the light and join our team.” However, when that doesn’t work, says Schultz, “when it turns out they have all the same facts we do and...

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Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 | 4 comments

Rats, Words, and the Human World

Rats, Words, and the Human World

In 2010 Radiolab ran a story on words, the first act of which was titled “Words that Change the World” (if you don’t know what Radiolab is, you should check it out—it’s awesome). During the story they related an experiment (of course involving rats) that revealed some interesting things about the role language plays in our lives. In the experiment, a rat was placed in a rectangular white box, and food was hidden in one corner. The rat was shown the food, then spun about so it no longer knew where the food was. It was then supposed to go to the corner in which the food had been placed. However, given that the walls were all white, the rat had no way to orient itself and it only headed to the correct side of the room about fifty percent of the time. The experimenters then painted one wall blue, and you’d expect that this would have solved the rat’s orientation problem. It didn’t. Rats can do color, and...

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