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Biblical teachings cannot be seen merely in simplistic terms

Thought for the weekend

By Allen Sleith

Other than those of an extreme separatist mentality, the vast majority of church traditions or denominations assent to the creedal definition that the Church (the exact membership of which God alone determines) is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

Numerous tendencies and tensions exist between these various factions of the One Church, have done so in the past, and presumably will continue in the future, though the specific nature of such differences varies according to context.

When debating often difficult issues, some people argue their case by quoting biblical texts which, so it is contended, end the argument in definitive fashion - issue dealt with, clear-cut, black and white, enough said. Others though, wonder if it's as simple as this method of 'Biblicism' would claim or demand.

The many genres of scripture (narrative, poetry, proverb, analogy, metaphor, parable, imperative and prayer, etc) can't be easily reduced, if at all, to the presumed simplicities of a flat, literal atomistic reading, thus making the continuing interpretive task often complex and delicate.

Here's a brief critique of Biblicism, using a few pointed examples to puncture a hole in its paper-thin pretensions.

In Deuteronomy 21:18-21 the parents of a disobedient and rebellious son are to take him to the elders so that all the men of the town shall stone him to death.

The internal logic of Biblicism would demand that command still be carried out but thankfully it isn't enforced.

Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks' famous character's wry quote comes to mind: "Sometimes I guess there just aren't enough stones!"

Leviticus 19:19 states that people should not wear clothing of two kinds of material and in 19:28 prohibits anyone having tattoos on their bodies.

Try imagining the scene on Sunday mornings when countless people turn up for worship at church and face the rigours of embarrassing, not to say intrusive investigation of their clothing labels and exposed flesh, and then ask yourself - what's the greater violation: the scriptural disobedience, the intimate search or the implied qualifications for belonging?

And rarely, if ever, are you likely to have seen the exhortation of the apostles, Paul and Peter, widely practised in local congregations to "greet one another with a holy kiss" (1 Corinthians 16:20) which, with unintended irony, given contemporary controversies, some bible versions translate as a "brotherly kiss".

Biblicism: inconsistent, selective, unsustainable?

Enough said.

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