Most people do not understand the whole of the Bible literally. A 'creationist' (the world began literally in seven days pace Genesis 1) is likely to baulk at 'Sell everything you have and give to the poor'. Conversely, the person who says something like, 'the Bible is all metaphor; no one understands it literally these days' probably will be found out to take some parts literally. 'Of course "love your enemies" means "love your enemies".' In short: there is a challenge for all readers of the Bible, though only a few will be bothered to take up the challenge, namely, to explain the consistent hermeneutical principle by which one reads one part of the Bible in one way, and another part in another way.
In respect of human sexuality and the Bible, this challenge is very much one to which many are alert. One form of the challenge is 'the church has changed its mind on following the Bible on slavery, remarriage of divorcees, and treatment of women, it now ought to change its mind about homosexuality'. Another form, focusing on Mosaic law, suggests (often in mocking tones, one might add) that if we eat prawns we should not be against (faithful, stable, loving) gay and lesbian partnerships. A tough challenge Down Under where shellfish and the like are plentiful and delicious!
But this challenge is also one to which some may not be alert. Go back, for instance, to 'Sell everything you have and give to the poor'. It can seem so obvious that this does not apply to most of us most of the time that we may scarcely be aware that if we do not sell everything we have and give to the poor, we really really ought to use our time profitably to develop a consistent hermeneutic!
Markus Barth Conference at Princeton
1 day ago