George Fox: Gerstenberger Lecture Q & A

One student asked:
"This way of looking at the Bible is beautiful, but it's different from the way I have been raised to look at it.  My fear is that when we make it so open and so broad, what about the groups that take a piece and run - using it against people?"

Gerstenberger: 
My experience is that we are inclined to take God as a captive - you know, for our own, little, limited interests.  That's the very great danger of theology.  And I think the only way to get out of this is to read the Bible really open minded.  And there are some very exclusive passages in the Bible.  In Deuteronomy 20, speaking about the conquest of Palestine by Israel: If you come to a city, what do you do?  The olive trees have to be saved.  That's very nice.  But if you come to a city on the list of enemies, which have no right to be there, then you have to annihilate this group.  And that's awful.  Uh,  can explain it only as an ideology of its time.  A mentality that tries to defend only its own interests.  Probably during a very dangerous time when Israel was threatened: "We will make them perish, rather than us."  Still, it's a very harsh and very difficult passage in the Bible.  Just like Phyllis Trible's Texts of Terror, which shows the Old Testament preaches violence agianst women.  We have to recognize that this is ancient mentality and it is wrong.  But we also have to recognize that there are so many outreaching passages in the Bible, not only in the New Testament...

Another student:
"Is there a significance that women are left out?"


>> More After the Break...




Gerstenberger:
Of course there's a significance: we should do otherwise!  We are living in a different time.  Much has happened in the meantime.  We have to recognize that there have been shifts.  I'm not saying that all our ideologies are perfect, of course we have our deficiencies.  The Declaration of Independence speaks of the rights of individuals, but women and non-whites weren't individuals.  So we have to be careful about these documents.  It's slowly donning on us that these things are worth being defended.  The cornerstone of our current value system is "equal rights for everyone"... but we are still struggling.

But this declaration of individual rights has its drawback: ultimately, is everyone in isolation?

Nothing in this world is perfect.  Our desperate endeavors to make this world for six billion people a livable world, under humane perspectives, I am sometimes despairing that we will ever achieve that.  If you look around this world at what is wrong.  It's so absolutely stunning.  I think, my goodness, what is humanity doing?  Millions starving.  Millions getting lost in wars.  You know the deficiencies.

So, the significance of excluding anybody: it should not be that way.

Student question:
Should the texts of terror even remain in the canon?  Are they inspired?

Gerstenberger:
Yes, because our sacred documents reflect real humans.  We are not in heaven yet.  But we have to distinguish between what is good and right today, and what we can promote.  Don't ask for a clean cannon of only niceties.  They don't happen.


5 comments:

Ted said...

Pete -- along these lines, you might have Thom Stark's book The Human Faces of God. It deals with many such "texts of terror" and argues that the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy leads us to misread these texts and misconstrue God.

Ted said...

And here's me remembering to click for email updates...

Peter J Walker said...

I'm not familiar with that book. Is this a friend of yours?

Ted said...

Yeah, Thom's a friend of mine. He's one of the contributors (and webmaster) over at Religion at the Margins.

Ted said...

Pete -- thanks! Actually, I only mention vodka because it's in the song... :)

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