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March 17, 2005



Good stuff, thanks! Keep it up.


Denying tradition seems as inane as denying the noses on our faces. I find it amazing that there are those who would deny this influence. Amazing.

Joe Thorn

I agree that culture, tradition, reason and emotion all play a role in our interpretation of Scripture, which warrents a "hermeneutical circle" (spiral?).

For clarity, when you said "I find this hard to swollow," you were refering to the belief that culture plays no role in interpretation, and not that some evangelicals believe that - correct?


Right...sorry that wasn't clear. I do think Evangelicals at least tend to think that way. I find it hard to swallow that someone could not admit that tradition has had some kind of impact on what they believe about scripture.

However, I think very conservative reformers might reply that the only tradition they appeal to is the early church fathers. What they need to reckon with is that when people like Calvin and Luther were "getting back" to the original, they were looking through their own cultural and historical lens.


>>> I think very conservative reformers might reply that the only tradition they appeal to is the early church fathers.

This too is also something we must avoid. When we talk about ancient tradition, I found that often there is a pericope for tradition. We are tempted to take the first five hundred years of Christian tradition, while neglecting 1500 years of tradition, including modern Christian tradition. We may be lucky to take a tradition from here and there, but if we claim to embrace tradition we must embrace all of tradition in balance rather than selective time periods of traditional practice.

And I would agree tradition is attached to a culture and theological understanding. You see that so much today and is perhaps the reason why we are so picky in our embrace of parts of historical tradition.

What this comment has to do with Biblical authority, I dunno. But just my thoughts on your comment above.


Lots of thoughts on this. It's a fantastic article by Wright, and I'm grateful to Mike for pointing it out. One thing that strikes me immediately is that even when the early church fathers are cited as "tradition", it's a selective citation. Origen and Clement, for example, are not often accepted by those who would cite Tertullian and Irenaeus. There may be reasons for this - I don't know many Christians today who put a high value on Marcion, for example - but still there's an interpretive lens at work even in how one defines tradition and orthodoxy.


interesting discussion. It's important not to take Wright's quote out of context, he is not arguing that we can interpret the bible outwith the 4 things merely that some Evangelicals think they can.

I am interested what you understand by "culture" and how you think this 5th aspect effects our understanding of scripture in some way fifferent than the other 4 'filters'.


"we claim to embrace tradition we must embrace all of tradition in balance rather than selective time periods of traditional practice."

As a person who grew up conservative reformed (and as someone who still hangs somewhat onto that), the frustration isn't that some people only hang onto the first five hundred years (or selectively choose their tradition eg: Calvin is in, Luther is not), but that many people believe that church in the post modern period means to deny or ignore all of that tradition. I find there might be an arrogance among many of us who think we can go at it alone.

Of course the culture and tradition of our day can (for better or worse) shapes our view of biblical authoirty; but to think we may not have much to learn from Calvin, Luther et al, I think that is also a very dangerous road to go down.


I'm sure I'll be talking more about culture in the future. I think we sometimes underestimate how the world around us affects our understanding of scripture (and truth in general). This is related to the other facets (tradition, reason, emotion), but is still a distinct influence, don't you think?

I definitely agree. There is so much we can learn from the Reformers. We can learn something from all of the theologians God has blessed the church with. Granted, we will disagree with many of them, but that doesn't necessarily make them unworthy of our time.


Without wishing to prejudge what is coming later (and I am looking forward to it) I wonder if we don't struggle with this because we tend to think of the bible systematically. In other words we see the bible as telling us things about various areas the atinement, God, Israel, ecclesiology, Christology etc.(just stick an -ology on the end.

The post modern world view rejects systemitisation of anything including the bible. But actually this works for us because the bible is actually better read as narrative, an unfolding of God's story through history asnd yes it will tell us about God, Christ, Church etc, but only as part of a broader story.

What is the relevance of this, well it takes us away from seeing the bible through our culture and allows us to view the whole of the story and appreciate our part in it now in light of all that has gone before. So we can see tradition, scripture, reason and emotion as influencing our lives entirly sepeate from culture. Maybe!


I don't think it's that straightforward, though. Our culture subtly influences the way we read narrative also. Who are the heroes, why they are the heroes, that sort of thing is all influenced by our culture, not to mention deeper elements like what the plot threads are and why they are important. Our culture predisposes us, for example, to read Nehemiah as a fantastic example of organizational leadership when that's about the farthest thing from the point of the story. Same with Joshua. It also predisposes us to read the violent elements of the Old Testament as supporting war, when in fact the story often isn't about that at all - it's more often about God miraculously delivering His people without resorting to their military strength. Of course, my own readings are also conditioned and carry their own baggage.


I was about to say Scott. How do you know that anything you evaluate is accurate in a postmodern worldview? Every evaluation of anything (even your or others worldview and culture) is just an interpretation that can never be known. All of this stuff sounds really exciting until you realize that all of this deconstructionist thinking of the Bible, culture, history simply leads to nihilism of thought. How could you every say that Joshua is falsely viewed like this, but it REALLY teaches this. You can never know what it teaches because your always evaluating it with your bent culture and in the postmodern view of Scripture, the Bible + the Church + the Holy Spirit isn't powerful enough to transcend our natural bondage to culture. I want someone to answer me as to how one can know anything to be true. Or is everything just speculation and theory? And if so, how can anyone know that that statement is true as well. Isn't Sociological-Naturalism's application, which is really all about how culture determines our conclusions and therefore one can never claim that he or she has come to the exclusive truth of an issue via the Bible/Church/HS means I cited above, to interpretation is self-refuting?


By the way, Scott, no one puts an emphasis on Marcion because he was a Gnostic heretic who claimed that the God of the OT was an evil demon/god and the God of the NT was a good one who would save us from him. He rejected the bulk of the Bible as being from the evil god (including most of the NT). Origen was condemned because of his theology of recapitulation which was extending into universalism and his Gnostic tendencies and Clement was always on the virge of it (although never condemned as a heretic). That is why the more orthodox (Irenaeus a disciple of Polycarp a disciple of the Apostle John, Athanasius, Augustine, etc. are quoted instead). Two of the other men aren't considered Church Fathers by the orthodox. The Apostles themselves condemned Gnostics and their theology, so i don't just think it is an interpretive lens in the sense that both traditional orthdoxy and heresy are somehow valid views of Christianity.


tooaugust, you wrote: "How could you every say that Joshua is falsely viewed like this, but it REALLY teaches this. You can never know what it teaches because your always evaluating it with your bent culture and in the postmodern view of Scripture, the Bible + the Church + the Holy Spirit isn't powerful enough to transcend our natural bondage to culture. I want someone to answer me as to how one can know anything to be true. Or is everything just speculation and theory?"

I think the only way you can say true to the authority of the text is to be careful to continue on in the "hermeneutical circle" that Joe mentioned above. I think you're getting a little ahead of the discussion, but the idea is not that we always evaluate things from our own culture. In my opinion, we should resist falling prey to subjectivISM. We have to be able to look at our cultural influences in light of scripture. In turn, we have to check our understanding of scripture in light of what we have learned from tradition, culture, whatever. It is a continuous circle and we will never have absolute certitude. I know that might frighten people, but it's reality and I get the feeling Paul would back me up on this one: "Now I know in part." (1 Cor. 13:12)

It's interesting that you included the church in that equation. So does that mean that you include tradition as normative for theology? Which church are you referring to?


tooaugust, Scott was using Marcion as an example of someone who we obviously wouldn't emphasize. That's why he started off his sentence by saying, "There may be reasons for this..."


Bill beat me to the response, so I'll simply reiterate what he said. If you say that the Bible + the Church + the Holy Spirit provides the framework in which we interpret scripture, I'll have no problems whatsoever. The issue then becomes, as Bill has already mentioned, how do you define "church". If you believe that "heretics" are condemned by the Holy Spirit through the church, as you said previously, then it seems like you have a nice path of circular reasoning here. The correct interpretation comes from the Bible and the Church and the Spirit. But this church doesn't interpret it the same way we do, so therefore we will not call them Church - they are heretics. The thing is, I'm really close to agreeing with you. I just think that church started before Calvin.

And you completely missed the point of my Marcion comment, but Bill mentioned that already as well. And for the record I'm well aware that Origen had some shaky beliefs - I perhaps chose a poor example there.


Bill, I agree with what you said up to the certitude part. I think the certitude is found in the consensus of the Church.

I'm surprised you asked me "what church?" The orthodox Christian Church. I included Church because I don't believe it's just the Bible and me and the Holy Spirit. I believe its the Bible interpreted by the authority of His Church given to it by the gifts of the Spirit. I believe the gift of teaching is the gift of Biblical/theological interpretation. I wonder how that would fit into all of this, since it would be God giving someone an ability to see the Scripture's teaching accurately. Therefore where many might place an emphasis on culture, i would place an emphasis on the teachings of the orthodox church which are recognized in the Bible.


Scott, are you asking me to name every orthodox person in Church History? I really think orthodoxy is in the Fathers, not Calvin. The Reformers pick up from the Fathers their orthodoxy. Tertullian answered the same question when speaking against Marcion (although Tertullian is not a Church Father per se), but he stated the Early Church's belief when he said,

"I say that my Gospel is the true one; Marcion, that his is. I affirm that Marcion's Gospel is adulterated; Marcion, that mine is. Now what is to settle the point for us, except it be that principle of time, which rules that the authority lies with that which shall be found to be more ancient; and assumes as an elemental truth, that corruption (of doctrine) belongs to the side which shall be convicted of comparative lateness in its origin. For, inasmuch as error is falsification of truth, it must needs be that truth therefore precede error" (Tertullian, Marc., 3.349).

He stated this because their is a theological line of succession from the apostles to the Fathers, so orthodoxy are those who keep the line. Arius breaks it. Athanasius keeps it. Athanasius is therefore orthodox. Arius is not. Does that help?


If I'm understanding Tertullian's argument correctly, I have to say that I disagree with him. In my book, orthodoxy isn't determined by who's interpretation is older. Tertullian's appeal to tradition as his authority is unacceptable in my view. I think he is taking a rhetorical "easy way out" of the argument.

I think we need to look to tradition. I think much of the Protestant church has chosen to ignore tradition and that's a bad thing. BUT, we can't OVERestimate the value of tradition. We have to keep it in tension with the other influences listed in Wright's article (with the possible exception of "feelings"). But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Bill, I think your missing Tertullian's point. If Tertullian and the Early Church can trace one theology back to the apostles and someone else rises up and teaches something else, why cannot one appeal to it. How do you know that Marcion's view of teh Gospel and Scripture are wrong then? Personal autonomous Bible study? How does that fit into the Anglican scheme you adopted above? If it's just you from your perspective claiming that Marcion is wrong, then who are you to do so? And if it's you with your Bible claiming he's wrong, from what perspective of the Bible?

I agree that tradition does not trump Scripture, but it does give us the orthodox theological grid so that we do not misinterpret it. Without that grid we see where it has lead the church--into a thousand pieces.


Bill said,
"He's saying there is more than one segment of the church than yours. Perhaps yours is 100% right about everything. I kind of doubt, just by the nature of things. This goes back to a correct understanding of the doctrine of sin and anthropology. We are in a process of sanctification, but we're not there yet, brother. Therefore, none of us is going to have it altogether theologically in this lifetime."

I'm not saying a particular denomination is correct. I am saying orthodoxy is. That has little to do whether we are there yet in our individual walks, but because i believe in the regeration of believers, I believe the Holy Spirit is drawing His people toward orthdoxy, not away from it. So this statement is again begging the question because it is assuming that all who claim to be Christian are segments of Christianity. What about all of the Scripture's statements on the apostate Church, false apostles, another Jesus, etc.? One must discover what orthodoxy is first to then see if a sect is true orthodox Christianity. Some real Christians may simply misunderstand or be spiritually immature or just not be there yet, but that does not mean that those who reject orthodoxy are Christians because the "love Jesus." Arius loved Jesus too. It just wasn't the one that could save him.


I think you CAN appeal to that kind of tradition. I think you have to be careful about what you believe about a persons' appeal to tradition, however. Just because Tertullian SAYS he has the weight of tradition on his side, doesn't mean I take that at face value.

Lots of traditions would like to claim there's is the original story. I think it takes the continual hard work of church historians to uncover the truth on such matters.

Having said all that, I think there's a point at which you can learn from culture how tradition has been missing something. I'll use the easy example of slavery. We consider it to be wrong today and I don't know that the traditional church always has. So we have to go back to the Bible and look again when it comes to certain issues. Was God putting his stamp of approval on slavery through the concessions he made to that practice?

You have to admit that some of the church's theology has developed over time. Some doctrinal views have developed in response to perceived heresy, right? So can you really trace everything back to the apostles? I'm not saying we should contradict the apostles per se, but that we might actually understand some things better than they did.


tooaugust said: "I'm not saying a particular denomination is correct. I am saying orthodoxy is."

I don't understand how you're using the terms "denomination" and "orthodoxy." Who are you claiming has established orthodoxy? Don't just say "the church." Which church?

On the one hand you're saying that no particular denomination is correct. So are you admitting that there is a whole gamut of interpretations on what is orthodox truth? Help me to understand what you mean by the word "orthodoxy."


Hi Bill, I agree that you can't just take someone's word for saying they have the orthodox line. My only point was that Tertullian and the Early Church could back up the claim, and did.

Secondly, understand the theology of the apostles better than the apostles? I think I know what you mean in the sense that the apostles did not apply their theology (at least that we can read now) to everything that confronts the Church, but my point is that our "understanding" should be in development of what the apostles said, not in contradiction to it. And we only know WHAT they said through the Scripture + Church + Holy Spirit. My point about the orthodox Church is that in the first 5 Centuries there is only ONE, not many. There are disagreements on non-doctrinal and non-moral issues, but the Church is unified through the consensus. Those who disagree with them doctrinally are heretics and this is shown by them through Scripture and the line of interpretation that extends from the apostles on. That was my point in quoting Tertullian.

Slavery is probably a good point to ponder on whether that is our cultural error or theirs. The Biblical view of slavery is probably not ours because it wasn't about oppressing a whole race of people and considering them half human in nature. It actually was a good way to solve poverty as well, so why would it be condemned by the apostles? or the Law? Racism is condemned in Scripture, but until our time racism and slavery were not combined. That is a good case for the way we perceive Scripture and how we would look upon its statements of an issue that we now see completely differently. This may lead you to then say that the authors of Scripture don't understand this issue like we now do (which is a little Modernistic of you if that's what you mean). But I think we should rather look at why Scripture does not condemn something we now condemn, and look at the reasons as to why we condemn it. This may also be a part of your here and now theology, which the apostles would be less concerned with. How many passages in the NT are on preserving creation or fighting for social justice? Certainly there are tons dealing with inside the Christian community, but how many for secular social justice? I think our emphasis here is also influenced heavily by our current history in these issues and have little to do with our primary duty in the world. But this is a case where presupps have us misunderstand an issue.


Just because the apostles were inspired to write scripture doesn't make them theological know-it-alls, right? I don't know that they really had a clear understanding of things. I think that through the illumination of the Holy Spirit we can rely on scripture to teach us how to think about the dilemmas we face, but we can't assume the apostles even considered some of the questions we asked. And that doesn't make them bad questions either.

Let me ask you some questions:

1. What is the orthodox position on baptism?
2. What is the orthodox position on the Lord's Supper?
3. What is the orthodox position on eschatology?
4. Who decides which issues are debatable, if any? (I don't mean out of those three, I mean out of any issue, large or small.)

I'm not sure I can agree with your logic about slavery. Yes, it might not have been exactly the same thing. However, the New Testament does not condemn slavery and yet I think that we can see that, even in New Testament times, it was a very nasty business. I've heard people try to whitewash it. They say, "Oh it wasn't as bad back then." But it was. People were treated like property. They had no rights. As such they were abused. Etc. etc. So I don't think the issue is that the biblical view of slavery is different, I think that in that context, in that moment in time, God's will was that slaves not insist on being freed simply because they (or their masters) were now following Christ.

By the way, how would you say racism is condemned by the Bible?


"How many passages in the NT are on preserving creation or fighting for social justice?" - Ok, I have to ask if you're serious on the social justice question. I think you're setting up a false dichotomy between "secular" and "Christian" social justice. It's pretty hard to read the gospels and not get the idea that Jesus is concerned for the marginalized, and that part of proclaiming the Kingdom is in demonstrating justice.

The creation question is also easy but I'm not sure why you're limiting your question to the NT.


Jesus is concerned for the unbelieving marginalized? That's a new one for me. Can you give me a single passage where it is not talking about fellow believers? I know there's a lot of talk about the world passing away and being destroyed, but I don't really see the apostles commanding the church to plant trees. Please provide Biblical passages, Scott, not your social gospel reinterpretation of Christianity. I certainly am not saying that these things shouldn't be practiced, but I am saying they are not primary, and should be reserved as "extra" things we do as individuals in our communities. (I'm sure you'll love that statement.) As for setting up a false dichotomy, that is a ridiculous statement, Scott. You're telling me the Bible doesn't set up a distinction between believer and non-believer? Does the Church have an obligation to take care of Christian widows who have displayed their Christianity by being faithful to the Church, or to widows in general? Once again, please answer Biblically.

Bill, there is no orthodox view of the issues you named above. There are orthodox boundaries provided by the issues that are decided upon, but orthodoxy is theologically centered around views of God, Christ, man and salvation. These provide boundaries for the doctrines above, but do not force a single view upon them.
The debatable topics are simply those where consensus was never reached. Therefore, we are not informed as to God's leading into an area. We have Scripture alone to testify to it, and if Scripture in those areas is unclear, we seem to be free to interpret within the boundaries provided by the other doctrines.

Here's the problem with your view of slavery. 1) I find it interesting that you go back and forth saying that Scripture is your authority and then state how you think the apostles didn't view certain things they spoke about correctly. Isn't that you making yourself the authority? How can you judge what they say is incorrect? According to whom? 2) You're not even justified in saying it because you are confusing what I said with what someone else said. I never said anything like it wasn't as bad (although it wasn't generally speaking). I never said that the practice wasn't abused, but you are condemning the practice because it was abused and then equating the abused practice with 18th-19th Century slavery as though the abused practice of slavery is slavery itself. That's not a logical thing to do. The abuse of slavery is condemned in Scripture, but why should the apostles condemn what was often seen as a good thing in their culture because of its economic importance for both the slave and the master? You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater and all because of a presupposed disposition. What if I used the word servant instead of slave? What if that servant simply worked for food and shelter? Is that evil for someone to provide such an opportunity? Is it better to be liberating like us and let the poor and their families die starving out on the street? Is owning someone inherently evil? Doesn't the Bible state that the man and woman own each other? Doesn't God own us? Doesn't the Bible present things based on the idea that one owns his or her children? Once again, you are letting a 20-21st Century bias cloud your judgement on these issues. I find it fascination that in all of this talk about separating from modernity, that you mention so many tenets of Modern thought, individual rights, individual control of one's life, etc.

The Bible condemns racism in the sense that it only divides men into two races, believers and unbelievers. This is consistent throughout the OT as well as the NT. For instance, Joshua is a good example of those who are of God by faith, not ethnicity and those who are not. All men are from Adam and have the imago Dei and therefore are not different creatures. In the NT every tribe, nation and tongue are represented in heaven. Paul states that any man who is in Christ is a new creature and that he no longer considers anyone according the flesh, etc. I'm sure there are numerous examples to quote. I'm sure some of you wouldn't like the distinction between believer and unbeliever, but that's not my distinction. Those are the races God emphasizes in Scripture.


'What do you mean "in Christ"? What do you mean by "believer" + "unbeliever"? I think I have many "believing" friends (believe God exists) but who aren't "in Christ"--or are they?

A single passage where Christ is an advocate for the unbelieving marginalized? First of all, why the discussion between unbelieving marginalized and believing. You are on the brink (or in the midst) of this huge dualism stating that some of God's creation is secular and sacred. This is where your distinction between "races" of believing and unbelieving breaks down. We are all made in that image, and you seem to be taking the authority to break that down into believer and unbelievers as "race", presuming you have the authority (although you say you don't do that, the Bible does) although I'm looking around for places that use the word "race" in that context? To say one is sacred and one is secular doesn't fly. If God created it, it is good, it is sacred. It is part of his creation. As far as I know, the whole world belongs to God. So did to say Christ didn't advocate for the unbelieving...he advocated for everyone. Woman at the well, Zacheus, healing sick people, but why divide this up into believing and unbelieving, he did it because we are made in his image


tooaugust said: "Can you give me a single passage where it is not talking about fellow believers?

I'm confused by that question. Most of the gospels are talking about what Jesus said and did before his finished work on the cross. How is it that you say he's talking to or about fellow believers. These categories make no sense to me in that context.


As to the subject of slavery:

If Paul sees slavery as such a good thing then why does he have to tell people to remain as slaves in 1 Corinthians 7? Remember that he's also suggesting that people should stay unmarried. Why? Verse 26 says, "Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are."

We could debate what that "crisis" is, but my point is that God, through, Paul is making a concession for the times.

You wrote: "What if I used the word servant instead of slave? What if that servant simply worked for food and shelter? Is that evil for someone to provide such an opportunity?"

I have no problem with people having servants, but that's not what we're talking about because you're leaving the ownership of hbuman beings out the equation. Again, a slave had no rights in Greek society. Remember, the letter I quoted above was written to Corinth.

Honestly, tooaugust, I'm not sure Paul really spent anytime musing about whether or not slavery was a sinful thing or not. These people learned SO MUCH about God's plan for the kingdom in such a short amount of time. That doesn't mean they understood everything, though. Is it necessarily wrong to think that over the cours of hundreds of years we have finally come to the realization that the world would be better without slavery altogether? I'm not just deciding that by myself, as you infer. I'm basing that on a worldview that has been shaped by the Bible--the collection of writings that God inspired so that I could learn to think HIS way.

By the way, I don't think that the Bible teaches that any human being owns another. I think that is a very dangerous way of looking at the way we are meant to relate to one another. We are servants to each other (maybe voluntary slaves is closer to the mark). That doesn't mean we OWN anybody.


tooaugust, how do you interpret the commandment to love our neighbors and Jesus' interpretation of it in the parable of the good Samaritan? I think it's quite difficult to read those passages and see in them "fellow believers". In fact, I'd argue the opposite.


Scott, Neighbor = Friend. That is why Christ asks who was the true friend of the Jewish man. The answer was not merely other ethnic Jews, but rather those who do what's right in the sight of God, those who act "Jewish."

Bill, I'm sure Paul adopted the view of the OT where people are owned by one another (wives by husbands, kids by parents, members of a community by King or government, etc.) Sorry if you don't like that because it flies in the face of secular humanistic ideas of freedom, but Moses and William Wallace aren't the same person. There is no evil in ownership, and your idea that people voluntarily give themselves to others, instead of being owned automatically by God given rights, once again is more from the Declaration of Independence (written by Deistic secular humanists according to their principles) than it is from the Bible which is primarily concerned about the liberation of a person's soul and focusses on the eternal instead of the temporal.

Good point,Matt, so God is going to damn sacred/holy things? Or are you saying that all is secular and he does not have a redeemed people. I am not the one dividing the groups. You must be completely Biblically ignorant to have not read the constant division the Bible makes between those who are believing and those who are not.

Believers have existed from the beginning, Bill. You don't think people had faith in God before and during the time of Christ? I stated the case from the OT to the NT. So are you then saying Christ doesn't say anything to believers since he's talking before the cross? That sounds a little overly dispensational to me. So I guess the command to love one another isn't to believers since it is before the cross. It couldn't be to believers since according to you there weren't any. There was just a big blob of undefined people who neither believed or disbelieved, just neutral I guess. Maybe they go to the middle heaven since they neither believe or disbelieve. The truth is, Bill, the distinction between the two is made from the beginning. That's why a believer is not to marry one who is not a believer (both in the OT and the NT).

I'm taking it that since no one provided me with a verse, that there isn't one. But it's always nice to build your theology on cultural ideas and feel good religion too, so nice job on that one guys.


Actually, I provided you with two. You just didn't agree on the interpretation.


"Bill, I'm sure Paul adopted the view of the OT where people are owned by one another (wives by husbands, kids by parents, members of a community by King or government, etc.)"

Why do you think that's the "view of the OT?"


I suppose what I am struggling to see is that there are parts of this world that don't belong to God. If the whole world belongs to God, (and it groans for what we have done to it) but if God made all, and God is sacred, doesn't that make what he made sacred? Is God going to damn sacred things? That is a great question. When I read verses that say "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord", I do wonder what the "every" means there.

My struggle isn't that you are the one that ends up dividing the groups, it's more that you just seem to enjoy pointing out that it is going to happen. Is God going to damn sacred things? If He does, it seems that it might pain Him a lot more than you.


Actually Scott, you gave me one. The two quotes you cited are from the same passage. It's not I who disagreed with the interpretation. It's the context itself, Scott. Look, the word for "neighbor" is from the commandment in the Law. It means companion, friend, and in the context of Israel co-redeemed people living in community with one another. Jesus himself asks the question, "Who was the man's friend/co-"Jewish" person in the parable?" The answer was not everyone. It was the man who acted "Jewish", the one who did what was of GOd regardless of what ethnicity he was. So the text is not saying that everyone is our neighbor, sacred or secular, but that everyone who shows themselves to be of God is our friend. It was a slap in the face against the Jews who thought they were God's people because they were Jews ethnically regardless of whether they were spiritually.

Bill, if you read the Law code in Exod 20-23 as well as Deut then you will see it functions off of the idea that certain people are owned by others. This doesn't make them less human unless you define humanity in the secular humanistic sense above. If you do that, you will be condemning the Scripture or radically reinterpreting it by denying many statements made within it. If you look at the reasons why a slave is lesser in monetary value than a son or daughter, you'll see its based on the idea of economic ownership and not on the value of both slave and free who are made as the Imago Dei.
Paul states in 1 Cor 7 that the man does not have rights over his own body, but the woman does, likewise his wife does not have the rites over her own body, but her husband does. Isn't that what ownership is Bill? One has the rites over your body, but you do not have the rites over it? Does Paul believe that slaves retain all self rights and their Masters don't have all physical rights over them? Are we not owned by God more than simply from a voluntary ownership? How did you volunteer before you were born? Is not all that is made by God owned by Him? I say this to state then that being human and having human dignity has nothing to do with whether you are owned or not, and therefore, the Bible would not have this problem with slavery. It condemns its abuse and states that it is better for men to be self-sufficient and become free if they can, but does not say it is evil (not because it is ignorant of the issue, but because it is careful to define what is good and evil and does not mesh everything together like we often do.

Matt, I in no way enjoy people being damned. That was no where near my point. My only point was that sacred and secular is constantly distinguished in Scripture as well as believer and unbeliever. And that a Christian is primarily commanded to take care of, or deal with social, issues inside the community of believers. Therefore, Church, not general culture is our primary responsibility. Since that is true, one cannot argue that the point of the Gospel or commands of Christ are to do social work or save the physical world in general. That is an important, but secondary concern which needs to be subjected in time and energy and focus to our spiritually calling to the Church and to the world.


Too august: I know that wasn't your point, I think I was probably a little frustrated and took a cheap shot. Sorry for that. It just seems that many of us find solace in the fact that people are going to hell, like it's something we need to know, and I'm not always sure what the motivation is for knowing that.

I think part of the struggle here may be a language thing. I wonder if there might be a misunderstanding over what the word "sacred" might mean. I see that God created the world and He said it is good. This is God's good creation. In my mind, the fact that it is God's creation is what makes it sacred, but maybe a better word might mean good. Are all people, from the person who has been a disciple of Christ all of his/her life and the struggling Christian to the drug addict, are they all "good", and is that different than sacred? Is it also possible that it is through the social justice etc that we are calling people, and maybe it is through that work that they will only hear that "call" (another word I struggle with).


First of all, I've never heard neighbor defined that way in my entire life. That doesn't make you wrong, of course, it just seems a little odd to me.

Second of all, let me tell you who else disagrees with your understanding of the context. I get the feeling you put a lot of stock in what Calvin thought, am I correct? The following is from Calvin's Institutes, Book 2, section 55:

Now, since Christ has shown in the parable of the Samaritan that the term "neighbor" includes even the remote person, we are not expected to limit the precept of love to those in close relationships...we ought to embrace the whole human race without exception in a single feeling of love...When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors...whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.

That was from Calvin's section on the Decalogue, by the way.

You love to talk about what the so-called orthodox church says. I think this is a no-brainer as far as the church just about anywhere--loving your neighbor means loving anybody and everybody. We are, in fact, told to love even our enemies.


tooaugust, I never meant to imply that God does not "own" us.

I just skimmed over Exodus 21-22 and I really don’t see how this teaches me that people, in general, should think of themselves as owning one another. There is some talk about the selling of servants, etc., which again, I have to assume is a concession God made to fallen man—much as he has with divorce, oath taking, etc. I didn't say anything about ownership making people "less human," did I? I merely said that I don't think the Bible is saying we should think that we own each other. I also think we should be careful about how we apply social mores across cultures. I don't think God intends us to follow all of the same practices that the Jews did, as should be obvious from Acts 15. I think we can and should learn something about God's attitude about things from studying the Law he gave to the Israelites, but I know he doesn't always want us to make direct correlations.

Please notice that in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is talking about sex. There are certain marital duties that should be fulfilled except for in certain instances, he says. I don't think this means I OWN my wife. She is a child of God who will be an essential part of my life--my help-meet, if you will, until the day one of us dies.


Hi Bill, if you never hearing the word used that way and it seeming a bit odd to you doesn't make me wrong in what I said, then why did you say it? Obviously, that is what your running off of when you interpret the passage---what you feel neighbor means. I was simply pointing out that the Hebrew word re'eh means what I stated above. Note that the phrase is not from the Decalogue, but from Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord." In case your not familiar, Bill, this verse is in a contrastive parallelism. Notice that instead of doing vengence against THE SONS OF YOUR PEOPLE, you are to love YOUR RE'EH as yourself. The sons of your people is not speaking about everyone, so we need to gain what the verses mean from the context, lexicography, use of the OT background, etc.

Secondly, I find it interesting that you quoted to me Calvin as though I follow Calvin on every thing he said about a text. He also believes Gen 3's curse that there will be hostility between the woman's seed and the serpent is a fear of literal snakes. This is actually a good case to show you what I mean by orthodox. Notice how i said to you that the orthodox church provides us with a THEOLOGICAL grid, not a hermeneutical one. I don't accept the hermeneutics of the fathers or reformers en toto. But i do accept their consensus of theological issues. For instance, I agree with what Calvin said theologically, we are to love all people. But I don't agree with his interpretation of this particular passage as saying that. I think I have definitely shown through the context that it is clearly not talking about everyone. Was teh Levite his neighbor? Was the priest? No, what was the answer, the Samaritan man was. Unless I'm mistaken, I'm pretty sure the Samaritan man is one man, not all mankind, and certainly not the priest or Levite returning in a Samaritan mask. So the text already says the "friend" of the man is the last man, to the exclusion of the others that did not "act" as his neighbor. Neighbor needs to be defined by the Bible then, not by Mr. Rogers (no offense against Mr. Rogers).

I know that 1 Cor 7 is talking about sex and marital chastity. My point was that the woman owns the man's body and the man owns the woman's body. Otherwise, your just talking semantics because Paul says that the man has 0 rights over his body (if just in regard to sex, it doesn't matter. it still shows that his rights over his own body with regard to sex have been transferred to his wife and vice versa). My only point was that it's not a crime to be owned by someone. You did say it was less human by saying that human dignity was at stake if someone is owned. So God conceded to degrade his creation for awhile? Or is it possible that He never let it be degraded, but instead never had a problem with certain things that were done? The analogy with divorce is false. We only know God conceded to divorce because Jesus told us He did. Does that mean we take everything to be a concession when it doesn't agree with our culture. Oh that's just what God allowed at that time. We're not really bound by those things. And I don't think I ever argued that we should obey the Law in everything it says. I'm deriving theology from the Law, not principles to live by. I don't want any slaves, Bill. I don't care about owning others. But I don't want us to judge the apostles for something that may have never been wrong in the first place because our culture can't distinguish between a practice and the abuse of that practice.

You don't own your wife, Bill? Are you not a picture of Christ and His Church? Does Christ own His Church? Isn't He the Lord of it? Why does Peter remark on the fact that Sarah called Abraham lord? What does lord mean, Bill? What is the word in Hebrew for "husband" Bill? What is the actual meaning of the word? I'll let you look that one up yourself for fun. (Hint: it's not the word ish which is the word for "man" often in contrast to the woman.)

Matt, I think I may be starting to understand what your saying, and no I definitely wouldn't use the word sacred for it. Let me explain,
When you say that God created all things good, that's absolutely true; but it fails to note that creation has been corrupted. The sacred is the part of creation that God has redeemed from corruption. The secular, unholy, outside the land/camp is the corrupted creation which has not been redeemed (or rather is not going to be). The word "sacred" itself means holy, set apart, which obviously implies it is set apart from something else. I definitely would not say all men are good now because they have been corrupted and the Bible now says that no one is good. However, I think that all would agree that man was made good by God, in fact the text of Gen 1 states "very good" in comparison to some of the other creation that just gets a "good."

I think you're right in that we can use social activity as long as it is subjected to our primary goal, which is spiritual. I have just seen too many movements do the social thing and the spiritual is diminished and eventually with many completely dies out. So I do think it may be a good way to do things, but I worry about the message being distorted or lost in it.


You seem to be approaching the passage as though the man who needed aid was the focus, when the point is that the Samaritan was the moral example. The one who was a friend to his enemy. That is the one of whom Jesus said, "Go and do likewise," the one who loved his enemy. The two who had reason to love the man, his countrymen, were not friends to the man. So, yes, the Samaritan was the more Godly, more Jewish as you say, but it was in his actions of loving an enemy. How that then translates into "love only those in the body of Christ" is quite beyond me.

"I think you're right in that we can use social activity as long as it is subjected to our primary goal, which is spiritual. I have just seen too many movements do the social thing and the spiritual is diminished and eventually with many completely dies out." As well too many ministries in which the spiritual is emphasized to the exclusion of the social. I think it's a false dichotomy, to be honest - the number of times when healing the sick is paired with proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom in the gospels is astounding, physical and spiritual needs all met as a demonstration of the Kingdom's coming.


Scott, that explanation of Scripture being "God's revelation of Himself through the medium of personal and communal encounters" sounds a little Neo-Orthodox to me. Do you have leanings in that direction?

Here's an article critiquing Grenz's stuff which is very similar to Wright's. http://faculty.bbc.edu/rdecker/documents/prop_rev.pdf


Sorry I meant to put that on the 3rd Post for Biblical Authority, so I'm sure the comment doesn't make sense here.

Scott, you are missing the point. The message is being communicated to Jews. It is showing that those who are God's people and therefore "neighbors/friends" (which is odd as to why you would then say its a lesson about enemies) are those who act "Jewish." You are reversing the point of the parable both in its context within the Gospel and in the immediate context, which has Jesus distinguish that all are not his neighbors! You are ducking the point. It has nothing to do with the Samaritan taking care of his enemy, but showing that the Samaritan is the neighbor/friend, not the enemy as Jews would have traditionally thought. So once again, it's beyond me that you are trying to read inclusivism into a passage that is exclusive to the individual who does good. You said it yourself, "the countrymen were not friends." That's the point. The ethnic "neighbor" is not necessarily the true neighbor. Instead, in God's Kingdom, the neigbor are those who act according to his kingdom.

Secondly, I don't know where to begin in this use of Christ healing people as social gospel. I think it is clear by the use of the Gospel writers that, as in Leviticus, the physical represents the spiritual. It is not the norm for all communities of God then, but the norm is the spiritual teachings they illuminate and point to as SIGNS. So I'm not sure you can equate Christ's bringing people back to life supernaturally to represent his eternal life that He gives to people to some current social action today. If you got my point before, Scott, I personally wouldn't be critical of the Church for lacking secular social activity since that is not its job in the first place as I have been arguing. I simply conceded above to the fact that it can be a good way to also preach the gospel, but it is not a necessary one, and you have yet to show me in the Bible where it is.


So...."Go and do likewise" in Luke 10:37 then means...what? Help your friends? I'm truly not trying to be dense here, but I'm simply not at all certain what the ethical thrust of the teaching is in your opinion. It's a parable about ethics, not about who's in / out - what does it mean to be a neighbor to others? Who am I required to love? That's the question being answered. In this case, the ethical example is the Samaritan, who loved the one who was not his friend. I'm amazed that you can claim context defends your interpretation when there is absolutely nothing in the context that points the reader in the direction you're heading.

It's late - I'll pick up the second half of your thoughts tomorrow.


This is utterly fascinating. Jesus is teaching the Samaritan IS his friend/co-Jew in action. The man asking the question states that he IS the neighbor. (That is the question being answered. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? Not who should I love?) You are claiming he isn't the neighbor but an enemy. Interesting. You're trying to make it answer one thing and the text has it answering another.
Please note that I don't mean friend in the sense of someone's buddy, but someone who is the spiritual brother of another in God's community. I'm sorry you don't see the force in that. I guess you wouldn't see much ethical force in any command to love or do what is good to a brother in Christ then. Nothing in the context? The law being quoted as a reference to the sons of Israel, not the whole world as background context, the word used as friend/co-Jew in action, the fact that the others are excluded from being the friend (I guess they don't make up the human race, since they would not be in the "all men"), and the fact that both the question asked "Who is my neighbor?" Not "how do I be a neighbor," or "Who should I be a neighbor to" which would reverse it, and the "go and do likewise" which means "go and do likewise to your neighbors/friends/co-believers, not like the priest and the Levite who passed up the man. Unbelievable. That is not context to you eh? Honestly, Scott, you are flipping the parable on its head to fit your preconceived notions. That is the way Biblical studies should not be done. You're not going to come to the meaning of a passage by ignoring half of what it says and then trying to make it answer something you want it to say. If you want to prove to someone that we should love our enemies, then why don't you quote the verses that state it? Why misinterpret this passage? I actually do know why since it would then lead to your social gospel view, but your trying a little to hard to make it fit.


What list is Paul talking about in 1 Tim 5:9-10 "A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, [having been] the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; [and] if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, [and] if she has devoted herself to every good work."

And why is a distinction being made between a faithful widow and one who is not in relation to how they are helped?


tooaugust, what is your application for all this. Are we to only help fellow Christians?

Somehow we've gotten way off topic. It's interesting that we started off by talking about the influence of tradition.

tooaugust, you said: "Notice how i said to you that the orthodox church provides us with a THEOLOGICAL grid, not a hermeneutical one. I don't accept the hermeneutics of the fathers or reformers en toto. But i do accept their consensus of theological issues."

The problem with that statement is in the notion of consensus. I agree with you that we should be looking at what we have perceived to be the consensus, but that is a slippery category. Again, we come back to the sort of question I/we have asked you before: The consensus by whom?

From my humble perspective, you are departing from the consensus of the church on this matter of loving your neighbor and being a neighbor. Can you provide any major sources that agree with your position?


I think this is the problem Bill. You guys think that because I won't warp a passage to say something that it doesn't, that I must then be trying to argue that we're not to love everyone. My point of the passage is that the primary concern of the Church is spiritual and the needs to be met physically go FIRST to the believing community. We can show love to the world through doing good things to them, but somehow making the "good things" we do to others a complete shift to "it's the purpose of the Church to do it all" is absurd. Scott's big point was that the Jesus was concerned with social justice to everyone. So I asked, Where is that? Did Jesus lead a community effort to go help the people who were hurt in the earthquake that occurred? Did Jesus set up a fund for those families who lost their fathers when Herod mingled their blood with their sacrifices? Whatever you do don't appeal to the argument from silence, "we don't know all that Jesus did." I could make up anything then and say that Jesus did it. So I am not departing from the Church at all. I believe we should do good to all people and love all people, but there is a distinction and a prioritized way we do it. And the social gospel wipes that out.


Secondly, all of this has relation to the Scripture and tradition argument to show that you boys are still completely bound (as is the whole postmodern movement) to the modernistic 19th Century traditions that guide your reading of passages. The social gospel, relating to God through relationship instead of propositions, etc. is all old 19th Century stuff that was picked up partially from Medieval mysticism and partially from a Deistic worldview which wanted to keep Christianity for its ethics and then apply them to all men, but didn't believe its theology. This passage as well as teh others we've been discussing are simply to display that your interpretations are still not from the text themselves but almost solely from tradition.


I won't try to argue with you over where our philosophical leaning can be traced to. I wouldn't be capable of it. I would encourage you to read "Beyond Foundationalism," only because I know that Stan Grenz and John Franke strive to show how their path is different from the standard liberal and conservative approaches.

You wrote: "somehow making the 'good things' we do to others a complete shift to 'it's the purpose of the Church to do it all' is absurd."

I think we have a different view of a)doing good and b)the Church, so maybe it won't be so easy to discuss this. It sounds like you are talking about "doing good" as if it were a separate category from the rest of life. I think of Micah 6:8--"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

If God loves all people and wants us to love them, too, then this same "requirement" applies to us as we interact with EVERYONE in the world.

Another passage in Scripture has occured to me...perhaps it conveys where you're coming from. Galatians 6:10 says, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

It seems to me that we can become so zealous about doing good for "society" that we forget our priorities. I think of the example of missionaries and pastors who put their families on the sidelines while they do the "important work of God." That's a terrible thing, wouldn't you agree?

Is this the kind of viewpoint you are trying to convey?


Yes, Bill, I think you got it well. It is not that we do not love everyone. It is that there are priorities of love (God, fellow believer, unbeliever) and of how we go about displaying it (spiritual concerns over physical simply because eternal takes priority over temporal); but they often need not be mutually exclusive.


I'm going to pick this back up over at my site later tonight with a longer response. The only thing I'd say at this point is that I think I agree with your priorities, but that I'd go a bit farther to say that I don't think that loving the unbeliever is an option - I think that it's an ethical imperative. Also, I'd say that physical concerns are also imperatives - not to the exclusion, as you say, of the spiritual, but in concert with them.


I agree, Scott. I also think that we can't use our priorities as an excuse for not doing the work in "society" that is needed. We don't have to be either/or. We should be both/and!

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