Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Savi Hensman on False Certainty About the Bible

Over at Ekklesia is a new article by Savi Hensman, "The Burden of False Certainty about the Bible." Recent statements on Biblical Teaching and human families opine that:

‘In both Old and New Testaments the generational family of father, mother and children is understood as the matrix in which healthy human relationships are formed (Genesis 2:24). Full humanity has consisted of two genders from the very beginning-male and female. The created order comprises sexual differentiation as God-given and good. Together, both man and woman were given the commission to pass on new life in fruitfulness and to rule over and care for the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). This is why only both genders together can mould the world in a humane way. The good society, according to Scripture, is ordered to help families flourish economically, socially, and spiritually (Leviticus 25; Isaiah 61:1-3). Although the family may be distorted by the brokenness of sin or become a false priority in the life of discipleship, it derives its graceful potential from the Father, from whom all families in heaven and on earth are named (Ephesians 3: 14-15). The Church as the new family of God must be the place that supports families and those who lead the single life so that each believer may be fully equipped to serve God in his or her particular calling, so that families in turn contribute to the strengthening and healing of society at large.’

The author comments: I do not regard myself as ‘anti-family’, and indeed family relationships are important in my own life. But I was baffled. How could the church leaders who came up with the Statement think that?

Of course, there are some positive scriptural references to families, and to fertility, especially in the Old Testament. It is important that humankind includes males and females – indeed some might say that this reflects something of the diversity of creation. And the Bible is largely about responding to and reflecting God’s generous and creative love, in families and communities and beyond.

But where in Genesis are the generational families which set an example of how healthy human relationships are formed? Presumably Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel do not fit the bill? Indeed, how many such family units are there? Is not care of the widow, orphan and stranger – those outside the protection of the usual family structures – repeatedly emphasised?

While men and women both contribute to society, does this imply that everyone should be in a heterosexual relationship, and if so why? Does this apply to Jesus? What of those who are ‘eunuchs’ for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19.10-12)?

Indeed, I would have thought the Gospels would be shocking to anyone who puts too much value on advancing the interests of their family (nuclear or extended). Might it not seem irresponsible to abandon home, family and fields (Mark 10.28-31)? Does not following Christ involve ‘hating’ one’s family and taking up the cross (Luke 14.25-27)? Presumably Jesus’ own crucifixion did not exactly advance his nieces’ and nephews’ prospects of socially and economically advantageous marriage!

She concludes that while it may be difficult to live with ambiguous and even contradictory statements from the Bible, it is better than false certainty.

I couldn't agree more.

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