HOW PRAXIS CONTINUES TO INFORM DOCTRINE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE
Over at T.C. Robinson’s New Leaven on the conversation on the Trinity, I argued that PRAXIS comes prior to official church teaching, epistemologically speaking. Today, I set forth a few practical examples from a couple of professed inerrantists. In my post on INERRANCY AS WHITE EVANGELICAL FOLKLORE, I argued that evangelicals that affirm the standard definition of inerrancy set themselves up in a myriad of quandries (that poor young fellow at the Bible study on Colossians is a case in point). That not only that inerrancy in the sense that we have some magical undiscovered manuscripts is both leaving the debate in the abstract, and that abstraction leads to having discussions that are unnecessarily divisive, revealing the real politik behind doctrinaire Chicago-style infalliblists.
First, I present exhibit A, a pastor in the Calvinist tradition who has decided what is and what is not an original manuscript. The debated passage of John 7:53 through 8:11 are contested by scholars of all stripes, do they belong or do they not belong in the canon? Does it matter that Jesus saves a woman from stoning, and should we include this story in our story, even if it is a late addition? I think that it of no little coincidence for this preacher on one hand, decide to exclude John 7:53-8:11, claim to be an inerrantist and respect the church fathers like Athanasius, but at the same time, advise that a wife accept domestic abuse in another instance. These stances are all connected. If one considers it natural for a MAN to practice violence as part of the order of things, then it stands that in that persons’ interpretation of Scripture, a passage such as John 7:53-8:11 needs to be excluded from the canon. At this point, can this preacher really claim to be objective and an inerrantist, trusting God’s word? To suffice to say, no. If this person really did believe in inerrancy, then accepting the final form of the canon would be part of this, yes, as canonical theists say? Indeed, it is the presuppositions, and post-suppositions (thanks Mitchell) from his interpretation of certain texts that the pastor sees as inerrant, rather than scripture itself.
In a more recent example, there are inerrantists who deride higher criticism constantly on one hand, particularly historical criticism (in favor of “lower” or theological interpretation) but when it comes to arriving at conclusions in which they agree (in order to support a vision of the violent male as inherent), they are all for it. For example, yesterday, James McGrath referred to an article that suggested the historical Jesus did not really give the golden rule. Like the preacher mentioned above, the inerrantists have already determined what exactly counts as “an original manuscript,” golden rule and women who commit adultery excluded.
The question becomes, who exactly determines what is authentic? And also, what does it matter, in the end? What matters is that the inerrantists have their infallible hermeneutic, as well as their views of masculinity affirmed by God HIMself. I find it no coincidence that the same writers who would write off “the Golden Rule,” condemn early Christians as “sinners” for allowing women and children to become martyrs, while dismissing cases for nonviolent Christianity time and again on appeals to emotion. It is a political, subjective reading of the Bible. Praise MMA Jesus!
McGrath is right to find John P. Meier’s views as lacking, from both an unconvincing view of history, as well as theological. Matthew 7:12/Luke 6:31 (NRSV):
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” as well as “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” are not inconsistent with Jesus’ teachings. In fact, the writer of James did not consider these words to be the nice liberal sounding “golden rule” but “You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” It was the ROYAL LAW, in the fulfilling of Scripture. This is how Jesus fulfills the law. The apostle Paul recognizes how the law is fulfilled (perfected, made complete), that the law was summed up with these words, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “(Galatians 5:14) Again, the apostle Paul remains consistent, in his letter to the Romans, (13:10, NRSV): “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” So, contrary to the subjective opinions of inerrantists, there is an objective morality, and it is called “The Royal Law.” It is royal since it came down first from YHWH, king of Israel and Judah, and shared to us Gentiles in the life, death, resurrection, and reign of Christ. As Joel said via phone conversation, the King of Israel in Deuteronomy had to know the law and follow the law; what would make Christ Jesus any different?
So, I ask you, who does more violence to the text and to the tradition? Inerrantists in their subjectivity [read: violent male dominant], or non-inerrantists who trust God’s word, and the saints who came before them?