Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Complementarian Hermeneutics: Warning Nuts May Have Been Involved in Manufacture

Complementarian Hermeneutics is the approach to understanding the Bible in respect of church, society, marriage, and family in which male headship and female submission is always the conclusion reached. At the head of the effort is The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A commenter on Anglican Down Under has drawn my attention to an article by Mark Walton, Relationships and Roles in the New Creation. You should not read this if you have been abused and downtrodden as a woman since it is totally depressing, arguing as it does that male headship is not for this life only but continues in eternity.

Nuts though the idea of eternal male headship and female submission is, it is the stuff of hermeneutics to tackle issues as they arise from all quarters. Here is a key excerpt, some notes below by me (the numbers in the text of the excerpt refer to footnotes that can be followed up by linking to the article:

"Given, then, that relationships between those married on earth will in some sense remain in the new creation, it remains for us to inquire regarding the nature of those relationships. To put it more directly, will husbandly headship and wifely submission still obtain in the new creation? The egalitarian response, of course, is that all traces of headship and submission will have been removed. The evidence, however, argues to the contrary.

First, consider the argument concerning man and woman as originally created. There is virtually universal agreement that man and woman are ontologically equal, equal in essence and worth, because both were created in the image of God. In the ordering of his creation, however, God formed the man first and gave him responsibility and authority as the head of the human race.41 This headship, far from being a result of the fall-feminist and egalitarian claims notwithstanding-is a central feature of the divine created order.42 Because the new creation is, fundamentally, a return to the divine order that prevailed before the fall, it follows that male headship will remain in the new creation.

Second, consider that subsequent to the fall (and not as a consequence of it), the principle of headship and submission in male-female relations is clearly affirmed in the New Testament. Furthermore, nowhere in Scripture is this principle replaced or rescinded.43 Surely within the context of biblical teaching on the church there would be an unambiguous repeal of the principle of male headship if, in fact, its end reflected the divine ideal. Such is simply not found. There is every reason to believe, then, that male headship will continue as the divine order for male-female relationships.

Finally, consider that in the new creation, those who were husbands in the former dispensation will, at last, be unencumbered by the flesh. They will be able, as never before, to genuinely love "as Christ also loved the church" (Eph 5:25). They will, as never before, have the capacity to relate to those they love "in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life" (1 Pet 3:7). Consider, moreover, that in the new creation those who were wives in the former dispensation, will have the mind of Christ, "who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and . . . humbled himself" (Phil 2:6-8). They will see in the example of Christ, as never before, the beauty and glory that inheres in gracious, selfless submission. With both man and woman thus perfected and transformed, are we to suppose that the new creation will abandon the order established in God's original creation? I think not. Rather, such relations will bring to each true joy, and to God, more glory than before."

The argument here is so flawed it beggars belief that it has been seriously put forward. But it has. It also beggars belief that any responsible Christian body could be so pastorally insensitive to the abuse of women at the hands of men that it would consider it some part of 'good news' to argue publicly for eternal male headship and female submission. But it has.

To the flaws:
(1) there is simply no evidence of marriage on earth continuing in heaven
(2) there will be no 'weaker sex' in heaven so that part of headship which is about protection and care by the 'stronger sex' will be rendered unnecessary
(3) there is absolutely nothing said in Scripture about gender, or sexual difference for resurrected believers in the new creation and therefore absolutely no basis to propose any scheme of 'order' in respect of our new humanity
(4) it is not established that the new creation will be a restoration of the pre-fall creation
(5) even in the case that the new creation is a simple restoration of the pre-fall creation it is not established that the twofold story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 establishes male headship and female submission as 'the' order for perfect human life on earth, let alone for eternal life
(6) using Philippians 2:6-8 to tell women what their perfect attitude to men might be when that text speaks to the whole church - men and women - about mutual submission
(7) the emphasis in Scripture when speaking about eternal life is on: oneness in Christ (Paul's epistles; Galatians 3:28), being one with the Father and Son (John 17), fellowship with God overflowing with worship to God (Revelation), and, the only talk about marriage in heaven is that between Christ and the church.

Sorry, guys, in that marriage we are all female!

OK - this site does not want to shut down sensible exegetically based arguments for and against how we live our lives on earth - an extraordinary challenge, and one in which various views are held both with sincerity and tenacity, and for which various kinds of evidence can be put forward as to the fruitfulness or otherwise of different ways of ordering church, marriage, family and society. The kinds of arguments, for instance, which underlie the different polities and practices of churches oriented to (say) Rome, Constantinople and Geneva.

But that does not mean putting up with nonsense about the unknown future for which the one thing we can be certain is that 'no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' (1 Cor 2:9)!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bauckham attests to significance of gospel eye-witnesses

Richard Bauckham is one my favourite New Testament scholars. Is that because he once passed me in an important exam? I could not possibly say! He is great because he writes well - a compelling case with all sorts of fascinating insights which draws me through an article or book like a good mystery writer - and because he resurrects old views and makes us think, 'Why did we stop believing that! It's common sense really.' Recently he won a prestigious award for one of his latest books Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Here is part of an interview published in the Church Times (H/T to Anglican Taonga) - read the whole here:

What is the crux of your argument about the import ance of eyewitnesses in the Gospel stories?

Richard Bauckham: The central idea is to put the eyewitnesses back into our thinking about how the Gospels originated. My argument is that they are not just people who started a long process of tradition that eventually took form in the written Gospels. They must have been people who had known Jesus and stayed around, who were well known in the Early Church — people you would go to if you wanted to learn about Jesus’s teach ings or Jesus’s life.

If you think about the eyewitnesses in this way, it helps you to think differently about the process of oral tradition, and it becomes a great deal more likely the Gospel-writers would have been in a direct, or very close relationship, with the eyewitnesses.

You make it sound like a common-sense view. But in fact it’s quite a radical view at the moment, isn’t it?

It is true that when I speak to ordinary people, churchpeople who might know nothing about modern scholarship of the Gospels, they often say: “Isn’t that rather obvious?” And, of course, it was the accepted view for many centuries. But it has really been discredited in modern scholarship. In a sense, I am restoring a traditional view, but I am doing so with a great number of new arguments. I am not just going back to the kind of argu ments that people used to use.

Does it matter who the eye witnesses were, or where the Gospel stories emanated from?

I think it comes down to the question: when we read the Gospels, are we in touch with the real Jesus? In other words, is this how Jesus really was? I think the trend of modern scholarship has been to say: in order to get at the real Jesus, we have to dig behind the Gospels and do a great deal of historical reconstruction of a figure who in many ways may be quite different from the figure the Gospels present.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keeping the hermeneutical pot boiling

No time to write today, but thankfully others are saying things worth reading. One thing about hermeneutics is that it involves skills in reading texts and those skills are kept up to date by (a) reading (keep reading the Bible daily) and (b) continuing reflection on what it means to read the Bible, to understand what is read, and to do the work of theology which flows from that.

Doug Chaplin of Clayboy offers a post on the question of subjective/objective readings and whether or not there are only original meanings to search for. Here is an excerpt:

"The text-in-transmission generates meanings other than the original meaning as people, cultures and texts converse with each other. When the text is canonised and placed alongside others, new conversations open up. The New Testament, whatever else it is, is also the fruit of having a Jesus-shaped conversation with the Law, the prophets and the psalms. In that conversation the text is changed as much as the interpreter, sometimes, as one translation is preferred to another, quite literally.

Within the pages of the Hebrew BIble the pre-exilic texts are reshaped and retold in post-exilic editions, and original meaning and context alike are (hopefully soundly-based) conjectures that are as much about mapping the story of the text as exploring its meaning. What historical criticism can do is elucidate the conversation and help us hear the voices that went into speaking the text. What tradition does, at least in part, I suggest, is help us hear the ways that different people have listened to the text."

Father Daniel Weir, in a comment on The Ugley Vicar (eight comments in), brilliantly argues the case for contextual theological work, including this:

"I think there are two reasons that theology to be contextual. The first is so that theology not become irrelevant and esoteric. Theology, after all, is in service of the Church which is God's instrument for mission in the world. To disconnect theology from the world makes it, to use a term that Walter Wink applied to biblical scholarship, bankrupt, in the very precise sense, not of havng no value, but of being unable to accomplish that for which exists. As is true about the US auto industry which failed to produce the kind of cars that Americans needed,discoonnected theology will not provide what the Church needs.

The second reason is that there is a real danger that attempts to ignore context will fail and that theology will be shaped by the unacknowledged and unexamined contexts of theologians."

Food for thought!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Interpretation rather than instinctive insight

Oliver O' Donovan is a very influential British and Anglican theologian, especially with respect to Christian ethics. He has recently written a book on 'the controversy', A Conversation Waiting to Begin. A must read, I suggest, for all readers of this blog, but I have yet to obtain my own copy.

More than a Via Media reflects on the book. I share a couple of paragraphs but, as usual, take time to read the whole post.

"Reading the book as a supporter of 1.10, however, I found myself challenged. The challenges were 3-fold.

Firstly, O'Donovan reminds us that any view on the part of those of us who are traditionalists/conservatives/anti-revisionists that we instinctively ‘know’ that Scripture condemns same-sex activity – what O'Donovan terms “a confidence in the immediacy of moral judgments” - actually undermines the practice of the Church faithfully attending to Scripture as the Word of God. As O'Donovan puts it:

“The immediacy of the insight tends to make the interpretation of Scripture seem superfluous”.

To authentically wrestle with Scripture and be challenged by Scripture, requires us not to become merely a right-wing image of the revisionist case. In other words, we should not approach Scripture with questions already containing the answer."


"Finally, O'Donovan refers to the “interesting, if teasing analogy” of “the rather careful hermeneutic of scriptural teaching on divorce and remarriage”. A Conversation Waiting to Begin closes with a reference to the diversity of teaching and practice on this issue:

“That disagreement has not gone away; but if today it bulks less threateningly than it once did, that is because we are so much more clear about the extent of the agreed ground all around it – God's intentions for marriage, the pastoral desiderata in dealing with broken marriage and the like. It no longer evokes threatening resonances. It is a problem reduced to its true shape and size”."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Theology of Scripture as the Word of God

I am very pleased to post another paper concerning Scripture. The title of this post is the title of the paper.

This time the writer is Rev Rhys Lewis, Vicar of Matamata in the Diocese of Waikato.

He takes a different line to understanding Scripture as the Word of God compared with the line I take in my paper posted below.

Please read it here.

I like what he says.

What about you?

Monday, June 15, 2009

[Off topic post] What would Paul do?

Read this article from the National Business Review and then think creatively about St Paul, his methods of composing his epistles, the claims of modern scholarship that not all letters in his name were written by him, and what epistle writing might be in the Age of Twitter (Twimothy, Twessolonians, Twephesians ...) :)

"Does Larry King write his own blog? An NBR special investigation.
Chris Keall | Saturday June 13 2009 - 07:30am

CNN’s Larry King has almost half a million followers on Twitter, making him one of the biggest Twits on the planet.

But is the Jurassic talk show host typing his own tweets?

In the June 1 New Yorker, he offers, “I’ve got my own website and I have a Twicker - is that what they call it?”

Close enough, Larry.

Committed to further investigation, NBR read the second half of the sentence, in which Mr King admits:

“I dictate it, and someone else does it for me.”

So there you go.

It’s all his own work.

More or less."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some aspects of truth and text

Howard Pilgrim made this comment recently (on a post below) which is worth unpacking a bit, partly because he offers a challenge for 'conservative' exegesis:

"That's good, but I want to pick you up on this clause - "in the end, the creationist interpretation will constitute valid exegesis to the extent to which creation science is valid." The physical sciences can't determine valid exegesis. Imagine for instance that the creationists' dreams came true and geophysicists began to favour a really really short timespan for the earth's prehistory. Would this make it any more probable that the original meaning of Genesis 1 included an assertion about that prehistory? Surely meaning can only be determined by examining the text within its original literary context.

What I mean is this: if you and I disagree about whether a text asserts proposition X, then an investigation into whether X is in fact true is irrelevant to our argument. We can only be open to the true meaning of a text when we embrace the possibility that it may assert something false/unworthy/or irrelevant to our present concerns.

Question A = What is the text saying?
Question B = Is what it says true/important/worthy etc?

These are two distinct questions, and distinguishing them is the starting point for all literary criticism (Thank you John Barton!).

Or is this distinction invalid within biblical studies? If not within biblical studies per. se., then maybe within the hermeneutics of faith. I think this is a defining issue for conservatives, and needs to be explored at length."

Some brief comments:
(a) creationist interpretation of Genesis 1: this makes a particular claim, through exegesis, that creation occurred in recent history, within one week, and Adam and Eve are direct ancestors of all human beings. These claims, I am suggesting, are theoretically provable by science (however unlikely) and thus the validity of interpretation on this point could be validated by science. (Indeed creationists think it is validated by the science they have done). Creationist interpretation also makes other claims that Jews and Christians make such as 'creation is good' and 'God is the creator' which are not validated by science.

(b) does it matter, if a text asserts a proposition X, whether X is true or not? It may do. I am not sure that a prior position that it does not matter is helpful. More helpful would be taking each such text on a case by case basis. Jonah asserts that a man was swallowed by a fish and ejected alive after three days. Does it matter whether this actually happened or not? I understand many scholars to agree that it does not matter, there is important truth in Jonah whether it is a fable or history. Each gospel asserts that a man was crucified, buried and raised to life again after three days. Does it matter whether this actually happened or not? I recognise that many scholars do not think it matters; but quite a few, along with a large majority of non-scholarly Christians think it does matter!

I need to stop there for today.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The bounds of hermeneutics

Here is a thought re hermeneutics - trying to understand what the Bible is saying, both in general and on particular issues:

We should keep an eye on (what I shall call) the bounds of hermeneutics. By 'bounds' I mean that hermeneutics for Christians is not just about me, the text, and wherever my thinking about the text takes me. Hermeneutics is an intention to read the text responsibly within certain bounds, constraints on what makes for a sensible, if not sensitive reading of Scripture. Breach one of the bounds and it is likely that the interpretative proposal we put forward is unlikely to be received by the church as truth. But the bounds do not themselves tell us what readings are false and which are true.

Four such bounds are Mission, Scripture, Tradition (or History of Interpretation), and Public Truth. That is, on any giving proposal for our understanding of the Bible we should think about the relevance of Mission (how might Mission shape our understanding? Is our proposal going to be good or bad for mission?), consistency with Scripture (if our proposal contradicts another part of Scripture, perhaps we should reconsider), coherency with Tradition (meaning, here, the History of Interpretation: has our proposal been made before? If so, accepted or rejected? Is it completely novel? Does that make a difference?), and plausibility as Public Truth (in the end the Bible is not the secret code of the inner core of the church, it is a document of public truth: is our proposal for its understanding going to make sense to the public? If not, does that matter (e.g. for the communication of the gospel)?)

Sometimes reference to these (and other, see below) bounds may lead to a quick decision about the viability of a proposal. But mostly, I think, it will lead to recognition that some matters will be about holding a view in tension with other views. (I may need to explain that further in another post).

A couple of brief examples:

The creationist reading of Genesis 1 fits within the bounds of Scripture, Tradition, but raises questions about the fit with the bounds of Public Truth and Mission. To contradict the findings of science, for instance, with a reading of an ancient literary document is a pretty big call: it may well be implausible, but, worse, it may impede the preaching of the gospel because it has capacity to lead to perceptions that Christianity is a cuckoo-land philosophy.

The homosexualist reading of the Bible which deems there to be no godly reproof of loving consensual same-sex partnerships raises a number of questions from the perspective of 'bounds': it is not immediately obvious that it is a reading of Scripture consistent with Scripture, nor one that is coherent with Tradition. It could fit with the perspective of Mission (e.g. a useful way to read Scripture when one is seeking to witness to gay and lesbian people) but might also be an impediment to Mission (e.g. if sinful lifestyles can be reevaluated in this way, is there a need for a Saviour?). It is also obviously plausible as a contribution to Public Truth in some parts of the Western world, but also a contentious one, as witness ongoing debate in the United States and a series of decisions being made re 'gay marriage' with some close 50+/50- voting calls.

We could argue that neither of these two readings are universally regarded as breaching any of the bounds (thus we find them supported to one degree or another by Christians within churches). By contrast (say) the Islamic reading of Scripture which deems that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, and which denies that Jesus is the Son of God breaches the bounds of both Scripture and Tradition. With rare exceptions the Islamic reading of the New Testament is not upheld in the churches.

Another set of bounds to think about are those set by the description of the church as the 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic' church. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hermeneutics and Human Disagreement

Of one thing we can be sure about hermeneutics, there will be disagreements among Christians when we read the Bible together. So at this preliminary stage, talking about aims and such like, it is also good to talk about how we might handle disagreement as we go along. After all, the history of hermeneutics and Scripture is the history of the church, and there we find a number of disagreements, as well as a number of strategies for handling them.

Here are three strategies to think about - it's not an exclusive list.

(1) Ongoing disputation, without schism

(2) One side submitting to another

(3) Compromise negotiated

(4) Schism (for whatever reason, noble or ignoble)

Some examples (briefly):

(1) The great and prolonged debates and different ways of reading Scripture between the Alexandrian and Antichene schools of theology in the first centuries of the Christian era; the also long debates which went on among the schoolmen of the middle ages.

(2) Celtic Christianity agreeing to Roman calculation of calendrical matters, and rule of ecclesial matters at the Synod of Whitby.

(3) The outcome of the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15.

(4) The Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of 1054; the Reformation schism of the 1520s between Protestants and Catholics in Western Europe.

Is it the nature of the issues before Anglicanism at the moment, or our poverty of historical knowledge of three other strategies which keeps us thinking that (ultimately) schism will be the end of the great debate we are involved in?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The theological heart of an Anglican hermeneutics project

The following is an excerpt from one of the best posts I have read on Anglican theology, ever ... it's by John Richardson, an English theologian:

"Since the unity of the gospel is ‘unity in the truth’, and since the truth of the gospel is, by Christ’s own devising, entrusted to and imparted by the teaching ministry of the Church, the Church which wishes to prevent internal disunity must look first to the quality of its teaching ministers. In the case of the Church of England, this should mean looking to the bishops, above all, as the ‘gate keepers’ of the ordained ministry.

Unfortunately, the bishops have largely bought into the idea that their role is not to define and defend doctrine, but to ‘referee’ the various doctrinal positions within their dioceses. In others words, they are actually upholding Protestantism’s divisiveness. Far from making things better, they are, in most cases, actively making them worse.

This is not, I must emphasise, because they are bad people. For the most part, they are good people and well-intentioned. But the well-intentioned maintenance of structures which are antithetical to the unity of the gospel is not a Christian action. Nor can it be depicted as the fulfilment of episcopal ministry.

Now this is not to introduce some alien notion into Anglicanism. Rather it is to recall the Church to its founding principles. It is well known that in the Ordinal which forms part of the Church’s formularies, both bishops and priests are required to teach sound doctrine and contradict error. The bishop or the priest who therefore takes a laissez faire attitude at this point is the true ‘alien’ to the Church of England.

Moreover, the parameters of true doctrine are also clearly established within the formularies. The Thirty-nine Articles and the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer include some doctrines and exclude others. And whilst it is undoubtedly true that this is widely disregarded in the Church, that does not make such disregard ‘Anglican’ —rather, it is itself a disregard of Anglicanism."

Please read the whole post!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Some possible aims of a hermeneutics project

One aim of a hermeneutics project can be 'to respond to a question': all kinds of questions about what the Bible teaches arise, some in a kind of innocent manner ("I was reading the Bible this morning and I didn't understand ..."), others less so because they have a clear agenda driving them ("You evangelicals happily remarry divorced persons, how come you will not accept same sex partnerships?").

Another aim can be 'to develop a policy on a matter': a while back a question arose in our Diocese about gambling, its proceeds and whether churches are ethically responsible if they apply for a share in those proceeds (a useful sum of money is often available for community groups from the profits of pokie machines and the like in NZ). What general policy might our Diocese agree to on this matter? ... Incidentally, though we did not get far with the question, we got far enough to realise that it is by no means a straightforward matter to determine the answer to the question!

Yet another aim can be 'to provide background to an ethical decision': though I know very little about the subject of bioethics I know enough to know that the Bible says hardly anything directly to the questions bioethicists raise. Nevertheless a significant background for how such questions might be answered can be provided through hermeneutics.

A fourth possibility is that a hermeneutics project simply aims to uncover all that the Bible says on a matter. I happened to be reading Ezekiel 18 today. One cannot go past this chapter if one seeks to know what God says in the Bible about individual responsibility.

Incidentally, Ezekiel 18 should be standard reading for all who engage in hermeneutics. It offers a fascinating example of God himself reinterpreting Scripture.

Yet there is something else to consider, especially on the sensitive matter of 'human dignity': should there be no hermeneutical projects? Are some matters of human life made more fraught with difficulty if we try to abstractly deal with them via discussion and debate over the printed text of Scripture? Is it more important to respond pastorally rather than theologically to some matters? Could we do more harm than good by seeking a new hermeneutical approach to issue X or Y? (E.g. because we might encourage people, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, to question whether God has actually said what God has said? Or, because every person's life situation is different and an ad hoc pastoral response is more appropriate than trying to develop a new general ethic to apply to issue X or Y?)

What do you think?

The possible aims of a hermeneutical project

Towards the end of the previous post I said,

" But second sight tells us that life is more complex and the Bible turns out to be less than completely clear. A key issue at this point is the high number of divorced persons in the life of the church in the late modern and early post-modern eras: the churches of the West have simply not coped with this issue in the sense of preserving a high quotient of unbroken marriages and resisting the remarriage of divorcees. "

By 'less than completely clear' in relation to divorce and remarriage I mean that for the situation in society in which an extraordinarily high number of people have been divorced, and in which a variety of reasons for breakdown of marriages are recognised beyond 'adultery' and 'division over belief', the manner of the churches' response(s) is not completely clear according to the Bible (e.g. our response to a request to conduct the marriage of a divorced person). Should we respond on a case by case basis? Should we have (what we effectively have in ACANZP at this time) a 'no fault' basis to judging whether to remarry a divorced person? I appreciate that for some the situation is 'clear' as to what the Bible teaches us; but when, for example, I see the numbers of remarried clergy within the worldwide evangelical movement, I assume that for many the situation is not 'clear'. I would hope, of course, that we are all clear that the intention and commitment at the beginning of every marriage is for a faithful, permanent, stable, sacrificially loving relationship solemnly enacted through vows before God.

Nevertheless the above thoughts raise questions about the aims of any hermeneutical project in respect of human dignity. Are these aims to overturn a traditional interpretation of the church? To offer a 'get out' or 'let out' clause to a rule? To support one position as a plausible position amongst a plurality of positions? Any given question we put to the Bible can be a complex matter when viewed against the backdrop of history, to say nothing of the nuances of contemporary life. Let me give an example in respect of military service for Christians.

In the first few centuries, before Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, and then the dominant religion of Europe and the rival religion (with Islam) of the Middle East, Christians were known for their refusal to join the army. Indeed many were martyred for this act of obedience to the Scriptures. Thereafter Christianity found a way not only to permit Christians to serve in armies, but also to provide chaplaincy services, and even, shamefully in hindsight, to raise up armies for the purposes of reclaiming Palestine for Christ. (Already we see a variety of interpretations at work in the church responding to a variety of situations). Fast forward to the twentieth century and the Second World War. This war, perhaps of all wars Christians have ever fought in, even from its beginning, and cemented by the time of its conclusion, was not simply a 'just war' but a fight between the forces of good and of evil (think not only of the Holocaust, but also of the inhumane treatment of POWs by the Japanese).* Yet, fascinatingly, one of the great Christian leaders of the twentieth century, John Stott, on the basis of Scripture (of which he was to become one of the most famous preachers and interpreters through voluminous and popular writings), believed that he could not and should not fight as a soldier in that war.

No doubt some would say John Stott was wrong to draw the conclusion he drew. Others would say that the conclusion he arrived at was a possible conclusion relative to the situation (and perhaps in the same breath give thanks to God that it was not a universal conclusion of Christians in the Allied countries). Some might raise the irony of another influential Christian of the time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arriving at the conclusion that he should support an act of killing, namely the attempt to assassinate Hitler.

In short (and with more to be said in other posts to follow), the very aims of hermeneutics themselves are worth reflecting carefully on, even before a specific hermeneutical question is considered, since there are significant examples from history of the difficulty of knowing what the Bible clearly teaches on certain matters!

In conclusion, two notes:

(1) This particular blog is not necessarily intended to lead to a particular conclusion (so that, for example, these early posts might be interpreted as a 'softening' up for a conclusion I have already reached about a given matter). My hope remains that this blog might be one contribution to a larger set of conversations in our church.

(2) Within Scripture itself we see some interesting occasions in which hermeneutical questions are asked. One is a sober warning to all would be interpreters: the question 'Did God really say?' on the lips of the serpent in Genesis 3 led to ... well, you know the rest of the tragic story of unredeemed humanity.

Another is fresh from yesterday's Pentecost readings: in Acts 2:12 some of the people gathered in Jerusalem who witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and its manifestation in tongues asked 'What does this mean?' They had a spirit of genuine enquiry and exploration, in marked contrast to others, the mockers, in the same verse, who accuse the apostolic congregation of being drunk.

BREAKING NEWS: The question of the 'right to kill' - through abortion, through the imposition of (rough) justice - for Christians is a lively, and here, a question with capacity for tragic answers.
UPDATED: To get a 'larger perspective' on Dr Tiller's role in offering abortion as a Christian, read Alpha Mummy's post which alerts us to the reasons why some women came to Dr. Tiller for help - a reminder that abortion is not as straightforward as some would like to make out.

*Yes, it was not always simple: the conquest of evil by the Allied forces sometimes involved decisions which have been vigorously challenged as to their wisdom, e.g. the fire bombing of Dresden and the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.