Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Literalists

I am often bemused by the discussions that break out on the HoBD listserv where those on the "right" argue for adherence to "the plain meaning of Scripture," but then draw a thousand exceptions and exemptions. You know the arguments. Like how they agree with the literal reading of Leviticus that it is an "abomination" for a "man to lie with a man as with a woman," but then weenie-out on doing what God commanded to the offenders: namely, stoning them to death. And how they declare Paul's statements on same-sex sex in Romans is part of "God's unchanging word," but Jesus' own words on divorce are timebound and subject to change as part of a pastoral provision.

Several members of the HoBD list have often begged the "reasserters" for a definitive guide as to how they decide what's to be interpreted literally and what they can "fudge." Of course, they still haven't provided any such key for us struggling Episcopalians. It seems to be locked up in the Chamber of Secrets.

So I was amused recently when I noticed this quotation used in the "sig line" by Father Nigel Taber-Hamilton, one of the Deputies:
A literalist interpretation of Scripture tells us that God is a rock that sent a bird to cause a virgin to give birth to a loaf of bread. And this is supposed to be an improvement on obtaining a chiseled code of conduct from a flaming shrubbery in a cloud. If a literal understanding is all that is required for faith, then I'm a yellow ducky.
-- Rabbi Ben Sylva
So much for the literalists and fundamentalists.


Blogger Cranmer49 said...

Their chamber of secrets, eh? I like that, Lisa. Those who know the rules about which verses or parts thereof that we have to follow thrive on secrets and on closed meetings and on being so very quick to judge the faith of others based on their own narrow understanding of pieces of the Bible. They come from a base of sin rather than a base of love.

May they and the dark little places in their lives someday experience the light of Christ. Until then, though, how very sad for them.

7/12/2008 10:32 PM  
Blogger Paul (A.) said...

"God's unchanging word": Gee, I wonder who you picked up that one from?

7/13/2008 3:29 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

LOL, Paul! You read the HoBD. You know where it came from. ;-)

7/13/2008 3:40 PM  
Blogger Paul (A.) said...

On a more serious note, however, one of the posters there was congratulated for quoting a translation of Leviticus 18 that avoided using the term "abomination" (the translation was reprehensible for other reasons). But the problem with the word is that it is a poor translation into English of the Hebrew term involved. The English word has the sense of something "which is exceptionally loathsome, hateful, wicked, or vile" (quoting from Wikipedia). The same source suggests that a better translation would be "taboo" (which is Polynesian). Or (I would submit) just stick to the untranslated "toeba", just to remind English-speaking persons that the word does not mean what they think it does. We'd all be better off.

7/13/2008 3:41 PM  
Blogger Paul (A.) said...

"you know where it came from": Yes, one of my jousting-companions.

7/13/2008 3:42 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Yes, Paul, I know ... on both counts. I read every post that appears on the HoBD list.

But, alas, I despair of arguing with people (like Don) who believe that God actually dictated the Bible in the KJV.

Woe is me ...

7/13/2008 4:56 PM  

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