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April 13, 2006



At the risk of drawing fire away from you and towards myself...

I think that we too often take the easy way out when it comes to making a decision. For example, the Bible says that Divorce is wrong (under most conditions), so the church takes this as law without room for grace and forgiveness. You can't be a board member if you are divorced. It doesn't matter if it happened before you became saved (so much for forgiveness of sins). It also doesn't matter if your spouse refused to stay even though you wished to work it out (so now you are also responsible for the actions of others). It is sooooooooooooooo much easier to just say that divorce is bad, no matter what. I guess that is the long way of saying that I agree with you (at least generally speaking).

[...and now I will duck and cover while pointing at Bill and yelling: "It was his idea, not mine! He said it first!"]


Good example.


While I agree that the Bible is not a lawbook (not even the Torah, IMHO...scandalous, I know), I do believe it is more than an "important guide" or "witness". I believe it is revelation--the very words of God that must be heard and followed.

I also agree that grace must always accompany justice.

Given this caveat, I wonder, how do you think the church should respond if the man who has had one divorce, has one or two more? Can he be an elder or deacon then? In other words, is there a line and, if so, how do we know where it is?


I am enough of a fundamentalist to think there is a line but I don't know where, and am not positive that I'm the one who should draw it. If we look at the example of Paul/Saul and his life then it is obvious that God forgives a lot. In the area of divorce, the whole context should be examined. God called David (can anyone say Bethsheba?) a man after his own heart, and this was someone who killed a man to get his woman.


I think it comes down to the fact that you can't have a blanket response. Each case is unique and needs to be handled that way. If you have a blanket response, there is less/no room for the grace/forgiveness aspect of our faith. I believe that the Bible sets the example. Look at Jesus. He made a habit of forgiving people's sin and ignoring the Jewish law with regards to punishment. (Disclaimer: he did expect them to go and sin no more, though.) Who are we to be more judgemental than The Son of God?


Hi Bill,

I think that your first point may be well taken.Your second point sounds as if you almost think there is room for us to sin, because we are not under law. I know you do not believe that. It's your third point I find most troubling. We, as Christians, have the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us, not our concience. What about cultures where concience becomes so twisted that to kill some one in a neighboring tribe is morally OK, but you would not be right if you killed some one in your own tribe.

As a side note, I think it is amusing that the illustration picked and used by Ken and followed by others was divorce. It says in instructions for Elders, "husband of one wife". Do you think that only refers to poligamy? How about
"whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord"? You know, like a good days work!!




I think I would want to differentiate between revelation and "the very words of God." I think human beings wrote the Bible and that they were inspired by God in some way. Calling it "the very words of God" sounds like a dictation theory to me, which I don't hold to.

I agree with Ken about not having a blanket response. Why is it that churches don't decide how many times a person can murder before they aren't allowed to be a church leader? Or how many times they can steal? I think the issue is whether or not the person is seeking to follow Christ. In some cases, a divorce would have no bearing on that.



You hit on the point I was trying to make about Jesus. If we are to follow his example we see just how difficult it is to take the responsibility of making moral decisions. That includes the process of judging people, which I think we are within our rights to do. There is a difference between making moral judgments and being judgmental, right?



My second point is just that we are not bound by the specific set of rules found in the Torah.

My point about conscience is that we rely on the Holy Spirit, but there is an interaction between us and God. We are not automatons. I believe that we are able to make moral decisions because we were created in the image of God. Yes, our consciences become twisted. One of the ways we can look at sanctification is that the Holy Spirit is in the process of untwisting it!

The basic point of my post is that we have to take the responsibility to make moral decisions. Simply saying "the Bible says such and such..." does not always settle matters.


I think this example of divorce will be helpful for me to further explain my view so I'm going to write a new post about it.



I do believe humans wrote the bible, but I also believe that when they finished writing exactly what they had in mind it was also exactly what God had in mind. In other words, much like the incarnation, the bible is 100% human and 100% God. Don't ask me to explain that, though; it's up there with Trinity.



I have some difficulties with that view:

1. The theology of the Bible seems to have evolved over time. Was God changing his mind or was he just progressively revealing truth?

2. The Bible is a human, subjective document. We probably see this most clearly in the gospel accounts. We can pull all kinds of linguistic and interpretive tricks to try to harmonize them or we can just admit they are written from a human perspective with various purposes in mind.

3. That view encourages us to think that the book is closed, so to speak, on revelation from God. I don't believe that God stopped inspiring people at some point before the closing of the canon.

4. Why would God choose to write a "perfect" book, but then not preserve it perfectly? We just simply cannot be sure about some things (like the whole end of Mark, for example).

5. I don't think that the way Paul treats the Old Testament warrants that view.

None of these difficulties are insurmountable for that view. Could God have done it that way? It's possible, but I don't think we have to look at it that way. I think that view tends to make the Bible into a paper Pope, as Barth put it. As I said above, it also limits us to thinking that God only spoke through people in the past.

In my view the Bible should be given authority in the Christian community because of its traditional status. I think it should be highly valued, but looking at it as perfect puts us in danger of idolatry. We easily mistake the book for the God who inspired it.

Sorry to write such a long response, just trying to get all my thoughts out! ;-)


Bill, your view seems to work well with 2 Tim 3:16 and that scripture is "useful to feaching, rebuking, correcting and training" - useful rather then being the end all and be all for those purposes.


Maybe I should have written that Paul says useful and that he doesn't say it is the only thing to be used, instead of writing the end all and be all.


I guess that's my main point. We act as if the Bible is the only key to making moral decisions. We also try to make it make our decisions for us. Instead, we need to do the hard work (which includes prayer) of figuring out what is right or wrong in the specific situations that life throws our way. Don't get me wrong, though. I need to reiterate that the Bible is an important factor in all this.


Bill, apparently I keep leaving out crucial information. First, despite the problems with the "incarnatin" view of inspiration, I still think it best explains the data. Second, any perfection of scripture only applies to the original manuscripts. Yes, they are not preserved perfectly--I've done my fair share of textual criticism and not that for sure--but they are preserved sufficiently. Frankly, I don't think God's so anal and controlling to lord it over humans in his image by preserving a human-divine document to the degree that we deem necessary. Third, by my reading of scripture--and I have read the whole thing, and am doing do again this year--the message has not changed. It has always been about God's gracious redemption. Yes, there were different means to communicate that (some of which make it hard for us to see the grace...Joshua's wars, for example), but I believe this remains the case.

I may wax long on my blog about this tonight, not sure.

Thanks for raising such good points, though. Stretching is good!


Forgot something. This may get me in trouble with my fellow Baptists, but, in regards to the Bible as the answer to our moral/ethical questions, I do not believe that the Bible is "the only rule for faith and practice." I believe it is God's communication about himself and his ways. There are some moral/ethical guidelines, but most of those issues are left to our wisdom and reliance upon the Spirit. Wisdom, though, is where Scripture comes in. The Bible seems to say the we get wisdom by meditating on Scripture.

I've blathered enough...


lol...thanks for the comments, Laura. I wonder...if God isn't anal or controlling to the extent that he preserved the text perfectly, then why do we have to assume that he was controlling enough to dictate the words in the first place?

I guess it's obvious, but I agree with you that the Bible is not our "only rule of faith and practice."

N.T. Wright has said that we have more of God's future in our past than the early Christians did. They had an advantage in that they were closer in history to the incarnation and formation of the church. We, however, have 2,000 years of experience and writings that they didn't have.

Thanks again for the discussion.


By the way, I'm curious...what kind of degree are you getting and what do you plan to do with it?


Bill, I graduated in Dec '05 with a Master of Divinity and am currently working on a Master of Theology. I plan to teach theology at the graduate level...but, as with all things, this is held with open hands. God may not be anal or controlling, but he is in control. :-)


I can agree to that!

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