The End of Biblical Studies – Introduction

An Enchanted Atheist (Sabio Lantz) & and Unorthodox Christian (SocietyVs) do a Simul-blog on Hector Avalos’s book “The End of Biblical Studies”. 

Part 1: The Introduction 

Hector defines his thesis for the book in 2 points:

1. Modern biblical scholarship has demonstrated that the Bible is the product of cultures whose values and beliefs about the origin, nature, and purpose of our world are no longer held to be relevant, even by most Christians and Jews.

2. Paradoxically, despite the recognition of such irrelevance, the profession of academic biblical studies still centers on maintaining the illusion of relevance by:

   (a) A variety of scholarly disciplines whose methods and conclusions are often philosophically flawed (e.g., translation, textual criticism, archaeology, history, and biblical theology).

   (b) An infrastructure that supports biblical studies (e.g., universities, a media-publishing complex, churches, and professional organizations).” (Avalos, ‘The End of Biblical Studies’, pg 16)

Hector defines irrelevance:

’Irrelevant’ here refers to a biblical concept or practice that is no longer viewed as valuable, applicable, and/or ethical” (Avalos, ‘The End of Biblical Studies’, pg 17)

Hector states a few examples of this concept in the revelations of modern science, certain biblical figures not being as ‘historical’ as once believed (Abraham, Moses, and David), lack of independence of evidence about Jesus’ life, and the idea biblical authors believed women to be subordinate to men. 

A good point about the ‘cultural capital’ (based on Marxist theory) of the scripture:

Instead, (John) Guillory and the like-minded critics argue the relevant knowledge must be grounded in an awareness of how knowledge is used to create class distinctions and power differentials” (Avalos quoting John Guillory in ‘Cultural Capital’, ‘The End of Biblical Studies’, pg 23)

A final summarized piece from Avalos:

Biblical studies should be geared toward helping humanity wean itself off the Bible and toward terminating its authority completely in the modern world” (Avalos, ‘The End of Biblical Studies’, pg 29)

It is clear to me Avalo’s does not want to end biblical studies, just change the direction it’s taking. I think he does not like the point/focus of current biblical studies – apologetics. I guess he wants it to become like all other ancient literature available out there, plain reading material that does not direct one’s life.

Obviously I do not agree with Avalo’s in his personal direction with regards to biblical studies, studying theology and all. I do get where he is going with pieces of his honesty about approaching these texts; in some ways I can sympathize.

However, I see more to the bible’s teachings and a normal modernization of the ideals being taught; from thence to now. Maybe Avalos as an atheist cannot really see the reason for such modernization, but such is faith/religion.

What do you think?

The ‘Just War’…Is It Christ-like?

yet the doctrine of sin states the need for war if all nonviolent means fail. “turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean hit me again.” (Luke)

Sin pretty much entails there will be problems…but at what point is violence okay and not okay…this is the problem with allowing even the thought of violent retribution a chance (a little leaven can ruin the whole lump of dough).

I was thinking about non-violence last night – and what Jesus may or may not have taught on this issue. I think Jesus falls solidly on the side of non-violence – peace by any means. It’s not just that ‘turn the other cheek scripture’ that makes the case. His core ideas are about the treatment of others – as you would like to be treated…I think we all hate being ‘hit’? Jesus also allows the rule of law of the land to take place…and not become a violent aggressor, even though he was falsely tried and put to ‘death’.

In ommission, Jesus never teaches about how to use one’s violence as a means for the kingdom of God. Jesus never hits anyone (the healer likely shouldnt). In the case of the ‘turn the other cheek’ teaching – there is nothing stating any violent means at all (if pushed too far). Jesus never backed war – even if there were factions amongst his own group that did (zealots and in one incidence James and John wanted to call fire down on people – killing them).

I find it hard to use this man, Jesus, to back anything ‘war like’ or ‘violent’. Sin or no sin.

Luke on April 28, 2010

Jesus was nonviolent, but was NOT peace by any means. He was about humanitarianism; a recognition of the shared humanity, not dehumanizing and “othering” the opponent.

while Jesus wasn’t a zealot, he did have their sympathies as he was engaged in a creative, nonviolent resistance movement. he was not about war physically, but spiritually yes. he was fighting, we can’t mistake that. his means however, are what we should focus on. however, there is always the Temple scene, the Legion and pigs incident, and the withering of the fig tree.

Just War is not about using violence as a means of the kingdom. war goes away once the kingdom arrives. however, when faced with an aggressor that will not back down and will not negotiate and will not recognize your humanity, that is where the tradition (save for the Brethren and Quakers) goes defensive. Reinhold Neihbur is my man here. i really enjoy his writing. Moral Man and Immoral Society is a great read and really covers it. this has morphed into the “Just Peace” movement found in my denom. here is a link to the website.

What do you think, Can Christians be ‘violent’?

Role of the Church in Society?

So then, who is the laggard and who is the leader? The answer is obvious. The church is living in the past and is repressing the inherent rights of the citizen” (Johnny)

I couldn’t agree more. The wonderful church that holds itself as ‘good news’ and an ‘ethical leader’ is becoming neither. It makes me wonder what is the actual role of the church in society when it is lagging in morality compared to societies it exists in? It’s no wonder why churches are becoming more and more empty – they play no role in society anymore…something needs to change.

What is the role of the church in society? I have been wondering this for some time now…how important is the institution of the church in a society? Has it become self-serving like any other business out there?

I think the church has a serious PR problem right now. What exact issues of our time is the church actually addressing and seeking progressive change in? Climate change? No. Gay rights? No. The food industry? No. War? No. Corporate greed? No. I am actually struggling to figure out an area they actually have something relevant to weigh in on (outside of poverty – and even then they do less than Red Cross for example).

There is a church in every single neighborhood in the West…what is it they are doing exactly? Of course they address spirituality – but even then it’s pretty self-serving. In fact, if you check the record for the last 20 to 30 years – the Conservative side of Christianity has come up ‘thumbs down’ on most issues on the planet. And in some ways the Christian faith has become the opposite of it’s goal – it’s actually harbored more problems than help to their communities.

One just needs to pick up a paper to read about a horrific scandal in the Catholic church concerning children. Evangelicals stand opposed to climate change and the science thereof. Catholics refuse people in Africa condoms…in an AIDS epidemic. Evangelicals oppose gay rights. This list could go on and on.

Is the role of the church self-serving – seeking to keep some status quo for the sake of the institution? Or is actually a progressive institution that seeks ethical change for the ‘good’ in society? I mean, I think of Jesus and at least the story reads good news of him…he was healing people, helping the poor, etc. Is the church truly on par with it’s inspiration? 

Access to God?

Do Christians feel good about approaching a God they have full access to without any conditions while a gay person has to struggle his way to that throne time in and time out?

I have been wondering that for some time. If meeting God is anything like meeting other Conservative Christians (for gay people) then I think access to God must also be severely strained. Gays cannot hold any real office in a Christian church, lead a ministry, or even get baptized or married.

There is basically nothing legitimate about being gay in Conservative Christian eyes. If this is so, and they represent ‘god-li-ness’ (or god-like-ness)…what chance do gay people really have in a church…or heaven for that matter?

The Treatment of Gays in Christianity

*Comment originally aired on Stand to Reasons ‘The Bible on Homosexuality’ blog

You create a line of reasoning, then accuse every Christian who follows it of being in a gray area. Can you not see the fantastic, implausible nature of your assertion here?” (Hawkins)

The line of reason is created by reality – an observable phenomenon we can see on blogs, at churches, in rallies, etc. The line of reasoning is not really an assumption, but a fact. I am asserting clearly Christians are in a ‘gray area’ as to conduct towards gay people. That’s not really that implausible is it?

Christians (in general) are indeed struggling with how to treat a gay person in their community. How accepted should they be? How rejected should they be? This in turn creates the ‘gray area’ of conduct towards these individuals – depending on what side of the measuring stick you fall on – more accepting or more rejecting.

For example, can a gay person struggle with this ‘sin’ their whole life and still be an accepted and even authoritative member of their Christian community? Now I mean, can they come in at the age of 21, being gay, and still struggle with this sin their whole life (ie: 70 years old) and be accepted as just another member of the Christian family?

“I am concerned this is may not even be a consideration. We are in (and have been for some time) the midst of a cultural phenomenon where “sin” is considered an outdated, obsolete way of describing human behavior of any kind” (Hawkins)

I am all for sin being described as sin, the semantics of this gay idea is not the problem.

I have a question though about defining ‘sin’. Can someone commit a ‘sin’ if they do not have to ability to choose?

God is a Concept…

“God is a concept…” (John Lennon)

I want to make theology relateable to atheist leaning individuals…

Psychology, Philosophy, and Political Science are all concepts/ideas. What did Freud exactly have except ideas? The great philsophers had ideas. Most political regimes from the past are based on concepts someone thought would work. These are ideas that conceptualized the intangible (thoughts/ideas) into the tangible.

Theology is in the same stratasphere. Its the movement from concepts/ideas to the tangible. If it were not so, this would be a waste of a blog and faith would be a waste of time.

My argument is God is a concept/idea/thought that plays out in real time, in the real word, in real lives. Now although my concept of God is one that see’s an actual entity – people are free to disagree with me. Just as I disagree with certain ideas from Psychoanalysis, aspects of philosophy, or political strands of thought.

One must remember, what is now an actual area of study started in someone’s mind somewhere. I can see the outcomes of psychology, philosophy, and political science all around me…and no doubt we haven’t seen it all from these strands of concepts/ideas/thoughts…new things will come – revisions of older visions.

Consider God as a concept of human experience.

Defining Good/Evil?

Comment stated in response to Deacon Blue on his blog ‘G vs. E’

The question of goodness? We need to define evil in this case then we can arrive at some sort of judgement.

What is good? Not breaking the law (by this I mean the laws of the land you live in)? In that sense, most of us are pretty good (on the side of the law that does not need jail time to rehabiltate us).

Just what is the standard we are using for ‘good’ exactly and to what end? If we are using to express we cannot be ‘good enough’ – I guess I’d have to agree (always more we can do better). However, if we are using this just to prove all people are ‘bad’ – I think that might be a tad much.

I see humans dependant on their own choices – to help define themselves. I think we do things that are good and bad – choices have made this possible. I think the bad we do sucks but does it outweigh the good we do…so much so that we are not to be labelled as ‘good’ at all? I beg to differ…so we must be defining good quite differently.

Are we as good as God? No. Will we ever be? No. But does that comparison make us ‘evil’? Maybe in comparison to God, but not in comparison to Ted Bundy or Hitler.

It similar to that idea where Jesus (in Luke) tells us to hate our family in comparison to our devotion to following him (or his teachings). Does this mean we actually hate people? Not really, it just shows, by comparison, that our committment to God is so great not even our family could tear us away from it. In essence, it does not make us hateful, just makes us realize the priorities are to be set by the teachings – which oddly enough safeguard us so we never hate our family one iota.

Point is, Jesus uses this same comparison when someone calls him ‘good teacher’. In comparison to God – no one would say they are good…Jesus does exactly this…gives his gratitude to God. But does this mean Jesus is ‘evil’? No.

In the beginning God created humanity – and it was good. It wasn’t God – add an ‘o’ – and it was good/okay/meaningful/worthwhile/average. Should we be reaching for ‘great’ or just ‘content’?