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Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 | 8 comments

Are there really “different ways” of interpreting the Bible?

Are there really “different ways” of interpreting the Bible?

I want to make an observation about many (not all) of the contemporary controversies surrounding biblical interpretation. I don’t mean historical debates (such as when Paul wrote Galatians or whether John the Baptist was Essene), I mean the application end: what to conclude from the Bible about how Christians should live their lives. When we say “there are different ways of interpreting the Bible” we often imagine that these alternatives sit alongside one another, like flavours of ice-cream or paths at a fork in the road. We frame the debate in terms of “whether the Bible says X or Y” about a certain topic. But this way of picturing different interpretations of the Bible doesn’t capture what goes on for the majority of hot topics in today’s Christian world. Consider this list: Should women be silent in church? Did creation take six literal days? Is there such a place as hell? Is Jesus really God? Is church leadership only for men? Is homosexual marriage sinful? Should women wear head...

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 | 11 comments

Vicky Beeching, Evangelical Identity, and the Clarity of Scripture

Vicky Beeching, Evangelical Identity, and the Clarity of Scripture

Evangelical identity, which has always relied on the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, is being threatened by the growing rift in opinions about same-sex marriage. This may force evangelicals to discover something about hermeneutics which their brothers and sisters in other denominations have known for quite some time: that what seems ‘clear’ in the Bible is dependent on the perspective we have absorbed from our culture. Vicky Beeching’s recent decision to come out has provoked a storm of opinion in the evangelical scene. The violence of the rhetoric is troubling from the point of view of Christian witness, as Ryan Cook has aptly observed. But such reactions are not surprising when we realise that, for many evangelicals, their very identity is being challenged. Traditionally, evangelicalism has defined itself exclusively by means of the Bible. You can identify an evangelical as someone who believes what the Bible says, plain and simple. This kind of boundary-drawing relies heavily on the doctrine of the “perspicuity” of Scripture, the belief that the...

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 | 6 comments

What to Do With the Old Testament?

What to Do With the Old Testament?

One of the longest standing problems in Christian history is the question of how to understand/use the Old Testament. Is it nothing more than an interesting, but irrelevant, account of how God used to relate to his people? Or is it so inspired that the New Testament makes no difference to its message? How do we find a ‘middle ground’ between these two extremes? Is a middle ground even what we want? What we are looking for is a way in which Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought something new to Christians without falsifying what came before or making it irrelevant. And that is not easy to find. There have been many models throughout history that seek to explain the relationship between the testaments. I shall analyse a few key ones here: The OT is about law, the NT is about grace. Here, the sole purpose of the Hebrew Scriptures is to show us that salvation by works is impossible, using the example of poor Israel who laboured under...

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Posted by on May 29, 2014 | 4 comments

I’m a White A** Cracker: A Case Study in Privilege

I’m a White A** Cracker: A Case Study in Privilege

(Please note that this post originally contained explicit reference to racist language which I have censored after a friend raised concerns about it. )  “So, what’s the deal with ‘cracker’ as an insult anyway? It just seems kind of silly.” My roommate asked me this question as he was driving me to the airport. I can’t remember how the subject came up. I couldn’t answer him as to the etymology of the word (here’s an NPR article if you’re curious), but it struck me that he was right – “cracker” just seemed sort of limp. It’s a racial slur directed against white people, but it didn’t really have any sting for me, or for my roommate, it just seemed goofy. It’s a striking contrast if you compare it to the force of the word “n*****” if I were black. This contrast is a painful illustration of the realities of racial privilege. Discussion of privilege, many of you will be aware, is common amongst minority pundits and quite frequently ignored, or...

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