Pick and Mix

Kiss2If the Bible is the Word of God™ why, Christians, are you so selective in your use of it? I’ve previously considered how you dismiss much of what Jesus said as well as how you ignore the brutality of the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament isn’t immune from your selectivity. You disregard, for example, verses like these:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. (1 Corinthians 14.34)

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. (1 Timothy 2.12)

For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. (1 Corinthians 11.6)

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Colossians 3.18)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (Romans 13:1)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. (1 Peter 3.3)

Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16)

Why don’t you obey these commands? You should if the Bible really is the Word of God, like you say it is. I’d suggest you don’t because like the rest of us, you derive your morals and values from the culture around you. As these change so too do your Christian beliefs; always much more slowly than the rest of society and with much resistance and tantruming, but eventually your views evolve and catch up with the rest of society. Provided you’re not part of the lunatic fringe (in which case I doubt you’d be reading this), you now generally accept values and practices that were unthinkable in the relatively recent past:

You don’t support the idea women should keep silent in church;
You accept them as preachers, ministers and bishops;
You don’t insist they keep their hair covered;
You don’t promote the idea they should be subservient to men.

You don’t see a man’s hair style as having anything to do with his faith or place among you.

You don’t endorse slavery.

You do oppose governments and authorities when you think they’re denying you your rights.

As for holy kisses… not so much.

You excuse yourself from adhering to the Biblical position on these matters by saying that here (and here alone) its teaching is culturally bound. These stipulations, and these only, you say, stem from views of women, conduct and practices at the time Paul and others were writing. As such, you claim, they are not binding today. You’re right of course, but then you insist that other of the Bible’s pronouncements, many of which, like its invective against gay people, are equally insupportable, are absolutes and binding for all time. How, I wonder, do you know which is which?

I’m confident that you don’t research the Graeco-Roman culture of the first and second centuries to determine where the New Testament’s writers are reflecting the mores of their day and where they’re providing eternal truths. No, what you do is decide arbitrarily, occasionally with the help of ‘experts’ who know no more about it than you do, which of the teaching you will accept and which you won’t.

It all comes down to a matter of taste, personal biases and what is compatible with your particular culture’s values. This is why you will, before long, come round to accepting gay people – unless you live in a part of the world that still reviles homosexuality, in which case your views will continue to reflect that of your culture. You can then go on claiming, for a little while longer, that your prejudice is derived from the scripture.

But let’s have no more insistence that the Bible is the Word of God offering eternal values and absolute standards. You don’t believe it yourself; if you did, you would apply all New Testament values and standards consistently and completely in your own life and within your church. You don’t. To paraphrase Paul Simon, you believe what you want to believe and disregard the rest.

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10 thoughts on “Pick and Mix

  1. You’re pulling verses out of context (both historical and literary contexts). The Bible was written to specific audiences in a specific situation. So while some of the content is eternal and meant for all people of all time, some of it is specific instruction for the original audience. It may teach themes and principles, but is not designed to be eternally binding.

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    • But this is one of several points I make in the post – I’m unclear why you offer it back as criticism.

      A further point I make is about how Christians can tell which parts of the Bible are ‘specific (to) the original audience’ and which are ‘eternal and meant for all people (for) all time’. Maybe, being a pastor and all, you can tell us a) how you know which is which and b) how any part of the Bible can seriously be thought of as ‘eternal’.

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      • It is a criticism because it’s cheap journalism, the same as when Fox News pulls bits and pieces from the president’s speeches and uses them to make “the sky is falling” sensationalism.

        The entire Bible is eternal in that it is for all Christians of all time. There will be principles that we can get from every part. It’s the particular commandments that are not always eternally binding (for example, the Old Testament laws for Israel are not part of the new covenant for Christian believers).

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      • I see. So only Christians can pull bits from the Bible to quote at others. I’ll bet you’ve done it yourself in sermons. How much context is needed before you’d be happy that a quotation is ‘in context’? The surrounding verses? The chapter? The entire book? You want more context than I provide, then look it up and when you do you’ll find the verses say exactly what I say they do, whether in context or out of it.

        I suggest, though, that your fussing about context is nothing more than a smoke-screen to avoid the question I’ve now asked twice, in the post and in my first response to you: how do you know what is culturally bound and what isn’t? Similarly, how do you know which commands are ‘eternal’ and which can be ignored? Isn’t the very nature of a command, whether in the Bible or the Navy, that it must be obeyed? Can the Navy personnel you work with decide whether they’ll comply with commands they’ve been given or instead just try to extract some sort of ‘principle’ from them? Of course they can’t, yet that’s what you’re proposing can be done with commands issued, so you believe, by your God.

        Sorry, Chris, but you still haven’t convinced me, or anyone else, that your cherry-picking of Biblical commands is done on anything other than an arbitrary basis, as I suggested in my original post.

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      • I don’t want ANYONE to pull bits from the Bible out of context. I say it to Christians as much as I do to atheists. And yes, context is determined by the surrounding verses, the chapter the verse is in, the book/letter it’s in, and the historical setting of the writing. Determining all of that is part of hermeneutics.

        As for the nature of commands, you don’t demonstrate a clear understanding of how commands work within the military. Old orders can be superseded by new ones. In a similar way, Old Testament commands are not commands for Christians but for Jews in the Ancient Near East. Old Testament orders are not binding on Christians unless the command is reiterated in the New Testament. It’s not cherry-picking commands, it’s understanding that the Old Testament was for Ancient Israel and not followers of Christ.

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      • My post had absolutely nothing to do with the New Testament superseding the Old. You brought that up yourself. My point was and is that Christians decide on an entirely arbitrary basis which parts of the NEW Testament they will follow and which they won’t – hence all the NEW Testament verses you say I quoted out of context. I can only conclude that, even though I’ve reiterated it several times now, you don’t actually understand this.

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      • I understand – but maybe you forgot that your opening criticizes Christians for ignoring the brutality of the OT. It’s a cheap shot to throw that in there and then claim you’re not talking about the OT.

        As for the NT, it’s not arbitrary. It’s a hermeneutic process. And I’m not trying to convince you of anything (as you mentioned in a previous comment). I’m merely pointing out that your methodology of criticizing Bible verses is lacking…

        Since we’re not getting anywhere productive I’ll bow out of the conversation. Thanks for the thoughts.

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      • I didn’t forget; the point, which was a reference to an earlier post, still had nothing to do with the New Testament superseding the Old.

        You say my methodology is lacking and you’re probably right – I don’t hide behind hermeneutics, you see; I look to see if those who profess to being Christians do as their Lord and Saviour appears to tell them and whether they follow other instructions from the New Testament. Evidently they don’t, preferring to reduce their Lord’s commands to an exercise in textual criticism. Thank you for your contribution.

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  2. So do we as Christians really “Pick and Mix’ what we choose to say about our Bible? Apparently blogger Neil Robinson of http://www.rejectingjesus.com feels that we do. In short, the author picked this title as means of assuming we, as Christians, choose which scriptures work for us and which one’s do not. Quite frankly, it’s quite absurd to see someone like him contest the bible when he is missing the one main ingredient: Jesus
    Now the main point he makes in this argument is culture. He presumes that we as Christians take scripture, tweak it to fit our needs and change it according to our culture. Inasmuch as he also claims we then judge the world according to our “lunatic fringe” fanatics. So clarify one important thing, unless you are a Christian, the Bible makes no sense. Even the whole concept of love and submission goes over the heads of non-believers. So, it is unfair that he would assume that all Christians are lumped together.
    The bible says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (NIV Philippians 2:12). With that said, there are no perfect Christians. We strive to adhere closely to what the Bible says and with good exegesis and hermeneutics, one can assimilate the Bible is not far off base in any culture. The Word of God does not change, we do. That change comes not just in fashion, material worth but most importantly truth. Truth changes because people allude what is right and seek what meets their needs. But I do want to give the author credit for one thing he spoke of towards us as Christians: “…You don’t believe the Bible yourself; if you did you would apply all the New Testament values and standards consistently and completely in your own life and within your church.”
    True point sir and as Christians, we should live out the Christian walk biblically. And we should, as Christians, walk in the word and in love. But you see Neil, its in love that sometimes you have to present the truth: we are not perfect, we are not subhuman, we are mere men and women of many cultures, cleaving to the Savior for eternal life. In that, we strive to present ourselves as Christians, one day at a time, proclaiming the name of Christ to all the ends of the earth.

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    • I’ve approved this ‘comment’ only once even though it’s appeared here twice from two different (though related?) people.

      You’re right; the Bible only makes sense when viewed through the magic glasses of faith – let’s call them ‘Jesus blinkers’ – that obscure its contradictions, discrepancies, empty promises, failed prophecies and downright nastiness.

      Interesting to hear you’re not perfect when Jesus commands you to be just that. He even tells you how to achieve perfection, right here in this life (Matthew 5.38-48). I guess this must be of those parts of the Bible it’s okay to disregard – sorry, ‘apply some exegesis and hermeneutics to’ – just as I suggest in my post.

      And that eternal life (in heaven)? – Not gonna happen.

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