Shuck and Jive

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Still Hung Up on Word of God

The Conversation with Bob continues!

Thanks Bob!

Very thoughtful. I think we are in agreement on many points. The prophecy question is a bit of a stickler. I think the best analogy to prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures is the Ghost of Christmas Future showing Scrooge his fate in Dickens'
A Christmas Carol. Scrooge asks the silent spirit whether these shadows will happen or might happen. He receives no answer. Yet, he got the message.

The Hebrew prophets wanted to change behavior in the hearer. I think the prophets were sensitive to the times and were able to say, "Hey, this is what is going to happen!" Sometimes, I think the prophets were so despairing of the people's recalcitrance that they, like Jeremiah, simply predicted doom. The time for change had past. I hope we have not found ourselves in that position regarding the ecocide the human race seems intent on performing.

We have further discussion on the point of our responsibility regarding interpretation. You wrote:

I just mean to say that I am very nervous about saying that some texts reflect what God intended and others do not. How are we to make such a decision?

If you are asking that rhetorically, then my answer is, "We must make that decision and make it every time we open the page." Just because it is hard does not mean it is not our responsibility. God did not write the book. Humans wrote it. To call it word of God or not is also a human decision. It is also a human decision to evaluate the individual texts and the text as a whole and decide which texts speak of divine mystery, revelation, and sacredness, and which texts echo ideological concerns. It is not easy! We have our own ideologies, and I would say our own sacredness that we bring to the text and to each other. It is a never ending process. In fact what I might think of as a bad text through conversation with others, further study, and personal growth, I may find to be a revelatory text, and vice versa.

Now, if you are asking that question seriously, as in
how are we to make these decisions, then we can talk about methodologies for interpretation.

I think what we find throughout the Bible in both Testaments is the tension between...
...shalom and the powers,
...peace through justice and peace through violence,
...authentic freedom and oppression,
...human dignity and all the forces of domination that divide us into category and deny our divine image,
...stewardship of Earth and the illusion of ownership,
...the kingdom of God and Empire (whether that Empire be Pharaoh's, Nebuchadnezzar's, or Caesar's).

The bad texts are those that conform to the ways of the powers and legitimate them.

Even before I worry about interpretation of texts, I am concerned with the approach we take to the Bible. If for us the whole of the Bible is word of God and our posture toward it is one of submission to its authority, then, we may well be submitting not to God, but to the ideologies of the authors as they were compromised by the values of Empire.

This is why I question the validity of the term Word of God, except in a highly nuanced sense. What makes it so? How does calling it or thinking of it as Word of God make a beautiful text better? More problematically, how does calling it or thinking of it as Word of God make a bad text holy?

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