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Irregular Verbs and Hermeneutics

In a few minutes I’m leaving to teach Sunday School and we’re talking about the inspiration and authority of scriptures and/or of people who claim to speak for God.

But first, I thought I’d write a quick note on the recent discussion of violence in the Old Testament hosted by Allan Bevere. (To follow this discussion from the start, follow the links here.) This may sound terribly disrespectful, but first let me note that I largely agree with what Dr. L. Daniel Hawk said in his three part series. I like the canonical approach. I agree that we need to struggle with all the difficult passages. I would find some time to quibble about the criticism of the biblical theology school and it’s demise. I find that announcements of the death of schools of thought are often a mite exaggerated and tend to dismiss more than they should. So while I teach using a canonical approach to scripture, I think I should be subject a question analogous to the one I asked when reading material from earlier biblical criticism and the biblical theology school: Why? Why is it that you somehow think that when you get back to the earliest stream you are somehow dealing with something better? For me, there are two questions that arise from the same idea: 1) Why is the canonical form of scripture normative (and for what purpose)? and 2) What is the canonical form? (Canonical form is a bit easier to determine in the New Testament, I think.) I, for example, make use of the OT Apocrypha (a personal choice, since my denomination doesn’t recognize it as authoritative [why?]) and also consider the LXX versions of OT books to have similar authority to Hebrew texts in Christian contexts.

Having thus raised more questions than I answer (a normal situation for me), let me get to my title.

I’m a fan of the BBC shows Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. In those Bernard Wooley, private secretary to the minister and then Prime Minister Hacker, produces on occasion what he calls “irregular verbs.” I couldn’t find a good clip on YouTube, but I’m going to provide one for this discussion:

I discern the message, you pick and choose, he discards Scripture wholesale.

Please don’t hear this as an accusation of either Adam Hamilton or L. Daniel Hawk. While I tend to agree much more with Dr. Hawk, my intention is not to throw accusations around. This irregular verb points at me as well. I think, perhaps, that we need to spend more time discerning and discussing the ways in which we pick and choose.

Hopefully I’ll find the time over the next week or so to discuss a few chapters. In the meantime might I direct you at some earlier efforts: The God-Talk Club and the She Bears (a short story/dialog) and Real Guy Interpretation – A Homily.

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One Comment

  1. I find more traction in the original posts by Adam Hamilton myself. I don’t think Dr. Hawk’s approach gives much more than “there’s a problem, and we have to accept it”; Hamilton at least gives rather more of a potential solution, and I think the argument from Hawk that this sets up two Gods à la Marcion is to trivialise Hamilton’s position while dropping in an “avoid at all costs” reference.

    Where Hawk is completely correct, though, is in saying that there are more ways of dealing with the position than just two (and some others don’t fall neatly into a position on a spectrum between them). One such might be to approach the situation as does Jack Miles in “God, an autobiography”, seeing a character development in what is in fact the same God – though this will be anathema to most people other than possibly process thinkers, and probably anathema to a vast majority of them too. Granted, Hawk may think of this as just reflecting two Gods, the younger and the grown up versions, but I think the argument is more difficult there. Marcion, of course, had another, and this resonates through a lot of gnostic emanationists who equate the OT God with the demiurge.

    That is not equivalent to thinking that there was a development in the way in which humanity thought of a God who was always the same God as is described in much of the NT (as is has been suggested “at least as nice as Jesus”). There, what interests me is how the presumably fairly constant inspiration was taken to approve (or even perpetrate) acts which seem wholly out of character with the omnibenevolent God – and I think there are potential mechanisms.

    Using Hawk’s approach in the past led me to thinking of the image presented as somewhere between bipolar and MPD, which I am confident is not a direction we want to go in!

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