A Response to Adam Hamiliton’s 3 Buckets Approach to Scripture

[The following is a response to Adam Hamilton's recent blog post and forthcoming book on the issue of how to approach Scripture, by my colleague and friend Bill Arnold. I am entirely in agreement with Bill on the flaws in Hamiliton's approach and argument and am happy to post this response here, now. BW3]
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Adam Hamilton’s Buckets Don’t Hold Water
By guest blogger Bill T. Arnold

Things just got even more interesting for United Methodists. A bishop in New York has called for a cessation of church trials for pastors who celebrate same-gender wedding ceremonies even though such ceremonies violate the church’s Book of Discipline (here [hypertext: http://www.nyac.com/newsdetail/96157]). In response, one of the church’s leading pastors, Rev. Adam Hamilton, suggested here [hypertext: http://www.adamhamilton.org/blog/view/151/homosexuality-the-bible-and-the-united-methodist-church#.UyL1_L-2MmU] we should think of Scripture as falling into three “buckets.”

1. Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.
2. Scriptures that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding.
3. Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.

Adam asserts that the third bucket is disconcerting for some, but insists that either way, we have to put the hard-to-read bits into at least one of the first two buckets. He then asks this question. “Whether you believe in two buckets or three, the question remains, Which bucket do the five passages of scripture that reference same-sex intimacy fall into?”

My response is simple. These buckets don’t hold water! None of us should take up this call to divide Scripture into three buckets. Please, let us not consider dividing Scripture into separate texts that belong in any of these buckets. I reject the idea that certain portions of Scripture about sexual ethics fit into one bucket while others fit into a different bucket.

Why is this a bad idea? For several reasons, beginning with the fact that Adam’s categories – the “buckets” – are extraneously imposed upon the canon of Scripture. The Bible’s self-claims rule it out of order (beginning with 2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is a foreign concept, imposed upon the flow of the canon and the whole tenor of Scripture.

Beyond this simple reminder that “all scripture is inspired by God,” we need also to remind ourselves that we United Methodists view the Bible “as sacred canon for Christian people,” specifically the “thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament” (2012 Book of Discipline, ¶105, page 82). When we join a local UM congregation, we proclaim that we “receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.” At ordination, we proclaim publicly that we are persuaded the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus, and that those Scriptures “are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life.”

As sacred canon (or authoritative standard) for the church, we believe the Bible is not primarily inspired for us to know things (epistemology). We learn quite a lot from the Bible, of course. But this is not its primary function in and for the church. Instead, the Bible is inspired and given by God to the church in order for Christians to know God through personal and corporate salvation (soteriology). Even my use of the word “know” in the previous sentences has different meanings. By “know” when referring to things, I’m essentially referring to the use of our brains to accumulate facts. But by “know” when referring to God, I mean encountering God and relating to God in a way made possible by the atonement of Christ on the cross. We believe the whole canon is a gift from God, inspired to lead us to an intimate relationship with God individually and corporately, and to transform us into God’s image.

We simply cannot decide which portions fail to express God’s will. That’s not our job. And that’s good, because we’re not capable of deciding which bits aren’t reflecting God. In a word, the Scriptures are God’s word for us, not God’s command to us. As Bishop Scott Jones has said, a Methodist way of reading Scripture seeks “the whole message of the Bible, listening carefully to its individual parts but also seeking to understand the entire book as concerning the saving activity of God, reconciling humanity to himself and restoring them to the image in which they were created” (Scott J. Jones, John Wesley’s Conception and Use of Scripture [Nashville, Tenn.: Kingswood Books, 1995], 223).

In our interpretive tradition as Wesleyans, we do not elevate one portion or sub-portion of the Bible as more authoritative than others. There is a definite progression or gradual revealing of God and God’s message in the Bible. But we do not believe that later stages of revelation necessarily replace, dismiss, or nullify earlier stages of revelation (known as supersessionism). When we dismiss any portion of Scripture as outside the character, will, or heart of God for any reason, we have essentially turned Scripture into a historical witness about God, not a revelation from God. What is perceived as today’s superior wisdom trumps or supersedes the wisdom of the church’s Scriptures. The Bible becomes nothing more than a witness to God, not a revelation of God.

Rather than simply dismissing the hard passages we cannot understand or cannot agree with, it is our task as Christians to keep reading them for deeper understanding, praying along the way that the texts transform us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Deciding that certain ones don’t express “the heart, character or will of God” turns everything around backwards. We’re creating a Bible in our own image.

Besides, what are we supposed to do with those texts we’ve decided don’t express the will of God? Should we cut them out of the canon of Scripture? It’s not that I think the third bucket is “disconcerting,” I find all three troubling as a serious proposal for reading Scripture.

So, what is the nature of divine Revelation? What is the nature of the church’s Scripture? When we embrace the entire canon, both Old and New Testaments in their entirety, we acknowledge that God has revealed and is revealing Himself through these writings. And that includes the hard bits we may not like or completely understand. The task as Christians is to pour ourselves into the difficult job of understanding them better, and praying the Holy Spirit will use them to transform our lives. Anything less is a sub-Christian way of reading the Bible.

For more on reading Scripture as Methodists, see pages 70-89 in Bill T. Arnold, Seeing Black and White in a Gray World: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate over Sexuality (Franklin, Tenn.: Seedbed Publisher, 2014).

Bill T. Arnold, Ph.D.
Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation

Asbury Theological Seminary
204 North Lexington Avenue, Wilmore, KY 40390-1199, USA

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  • David

    This article would have been more helpful if the writer gave some examples on how to deal with those difficult parts of scriptures . Didn’t Jesus said that some scriptures were simply given “because of the hardness of their hearts” ( and are therefore no longer applicable for Christians today? Does not alone therefore tell us that there are at least two scriptural buckets? Did Paul also not tell us in Romans 4 that there is a place for personal choice? ( one man keeps one day, another keeps a different day etc.) Here we have two Christians using scripture and coming to different conclusions – a third bucket? Rather than mere general concepts I would wish the writer to give some concrete examples of how we can work through these types of scriptures located in the various proposed buckets so that they can fit harmoniously into the one single I Tim 3: 16 bucket .

  • Bill Arnold

    Thanks, David. Let’s be careful about making category mistakes. It’s one thing to talk about “application” of individual texts, but another to say a text doesn’t express the character, will, or heart of God. One assertion has to do with application or appropriation of Scripture; the other has to do with inspiration and Revelation itself.

    So, while this article is pretty general in tone, that’s because Ben would only give me 1100 words. :)

    For further examples and discussion, see fuller discussion in the following: http://store.seedbed.com/collections/featured/products/seeing-black-and-white-in-a-gray-world-by-bill-arnold

    Bill T. Arnold, Seeing Black and White in a Gray World: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate over Sexuality (Franklin, Tenn.: Seedbed Publishers, 2014).

  • Jim Barge

    David , where does Jesus say that the scriptures given b/c of the “hardness of their hearts” don’t apply to Christians today? And how would you make that distinction anyway?..Is every Christian today free of a hardened heart? What about non-Christians? Were they only applicable to those with hardened hearts that were alive when he said it? Why would he exclude those of us in the future?

  • 40bobdylan61

    what about the command of scripture for women to keep silent. Is that not a scriptural command that was meant for a particular time or situation and not a universal command? That would fall under the second bucket.

  • Bill Arnold

    While 1 Corinthians 14 says women should be silent in the churches, the key is that women were allowed to be present in the churches. And by allowing women a presence, the Apostle Paul was following a biblical trajectory across and through the canon, gradually affording women more and more roles. The Bible cuts against the grain of both ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman culture to elevate the roles of women. And that biblical trajectory has made possible the egalitarian society we strive to achieve today.

    By contrast, all biblical authors are consistently opposed to same-sex practices. The Bible has no such trajectory with regard to sexual ethics, but has universal agreement across all portions of the canon. While aNE and Greco-Roman cultures viewed same-sex behavior as simply an oddity, the Old and New Testaments consistently name it as wrong.

    So again, every text of the Bible is God-breathed (that is, inspired), and we need careful interpretive strategies, especially for hard texts. Trajectories and/or flat-line consistencies are legitimate interpretive strategies. But simply giving up, and putting hard texts in a category (or “bucket”) that we have decided is irrelevant is not an option.

    By the way, Ben Witherington is a leading expert on women in the early church, so he may want to jump in here.

  • David B. Doty

    I am curious how we might render an approach to realities in Scripture such as Norman Habel points out in “The Land is Mine: Six Biblical Land Ideologies” where six different “theories” are put forth by the distinct group membership of the biblical authors. While I appreciate how the whole Bible is to be taken as just that, a singular, consistent whole, could this not be a case where God is allowing the Bible to serve as a means of revealing our fallen condition (by contrasting our self-serving agendas to the universal shalom of God’s heart and intention) in contrast to the holiness of God?

    I guess I did not take Hamilton’s buckets so seriously as an exegetical means to consider it justification for parsing the Bible for application vs. disregarding but as a means to help contextualize what might be more appropriately gleaned from various parts of it (such as the example of Paul’s commanding the silence of women, or the prohibition of eating pork in the OT), over against a straight-through literal reading – which could suggest that all Scripture is of equal importance (which I do not believe to be necessarily true).

  • David B. Doty

    Mark 10:5.

  • David Dollins

    Very good article. Adam Hamilton is way off base. Glad to know these types of things now so as to avoid purchasing any of his books that are tainted by ‘buckets’.

  • Bill Arnold

    David – thanks for your excellent questions. I agree that there are many topics in the Bible for which we have diverse voices that sometimes present dissonant messages. Christian biblical theology takes all the dissonant voices and traces progressive messages and themes across the canon, but always including every text. A truly “biblical” theology does not set out deciding which texts fail to express the mind of God. The very presence of a verse in the Bible is witness to its lasting value. These texts are Israel’s witness (Brueggemann’s “testimony”) to the mind of God, and the early church’s witness to God’s continued work through the Messiah.

    But this occasional dissonance makes all the more striking those topics upon which the biblical authors agree – both testaments across many different genres. On these topics, we have no dissonance, and no trajectories directing us to progressive revelation. Upon those topics, we have canonical unanimity.

    I agree completely that every text and genre needs contextualization, which is critical. Your last paragraph, however, makes a distinction between application and literal readings that tend to flatten the text. And you raise the possibility that Adam’s “buckets” approach is simply avoiding literalism as a means of appropriating various parts of the Bible. Do I have this right?

    My objection to the “bucket” approach is the language that certain texts “expressed [note the past tense] God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding” or others that “never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.” Such language compartmentalizes passages (whichever texts the reader has deemed outmoded or offensive to God) and considers them irrelevant in developing Christian ethics. So while I agree this is not about literalism (and with Adam, I reject literalism), I maintain that such an approach is indeed an exegetical reading strategy, and I maintain that it’s flawed. Our exegetical method always ends in application, and we must do this for every text. In other words, interpretation of the Bible includes an “end-game” we often call “evaluation” or sometimes “appropriation” that takes the result of our exegesis of the ancient text, and asks what meaning it has for today. Or to use the old 3-step questions of the Protestant Reformation, we must ask (a) what the text said, grammatically, (b) what the text meant, historically, and (c) what the text means (the grammatico-historical method). And we do this for every verse in the Bible. The results of our exegesis (including appropriation) then become the foundation for biblical theology.

    The “bucket” approach has decided (for whatever reason) that certain texts are excluded (bucket #3) or limited in value for today (bucket #2). I object because I think this approach is simplistically assuming that any grammatical imperative command in Old Testament law must be weighed as whether or not it should be obeyed by modern believers. That’s not really true of any OT law. Instead, these “laws” are to be read for the principles for holiness they are intended to reflect in their immediate literary contexts. This is also a fundamental misunderstanding of OT law, which is really “instruction [for holy living]” more than “law” as we usually think of it. We have no evidence that either Israel or Babylonia really ever enacted the hyperbolic laws, such as stoning the rebellious son. I believe they were “holy instructions” for our edification to indicate how truly serious such principles are.

    Anyway, I believe the “bucket” approach is not only a reading strategy but reflects also one’s view of inspiration. What do we mean by taking the Bible as the “word of God”? Is the whole revelatory, or not? And if not, how are we to know which parts express the “heart, character or will of God,” and which do not? Who gets to say? My article was trying to recapture the canonical approach, taking the whole Bible for the whole world.

  • Bill Fitzgerrel

    Marcion decided which parts of Scripture revealed the God that he liked. He did not like the Old Testament God and rejected that Scripture. Paul said all Scripture is useful (II Tim. 3:16)–and he was referring to the OT. He also stated that the (Mosaic) Law was “made… for lawbreakers [such as myself]… [who do things] contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel…” (I Tim. 1:8-11). Paul was not using the Law to beat people over the head, but to urge them to live up to the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus. If we just leave people (“live and let live”) in the prisons of their behavior, we have sold the gospel short. The whole gay debate has rocked the church back on its heels and forced it into a defensive mode that is not worthy of the power of the gospel to set people free. These Scriptures people find so objectionable are proclaiming “you don’t have to live that way.”

  • Rich

    If there were any “buckets” at all, the buckets we seem to be missing are the buckets of “Follower of Christ (and thereby His teachings sans, John 8:31, Mark 8:34)” and the bucket of “Non-follower of Christ”. Scripture clearly speaks that we are to be accountable as Christians to each other and Scripture, however, we can’t put “Christian” standards on non-Christians (1 Corinthians 5:12). Non-believing homosexuals should be content with a Civil Union, but CHRISTIAN Marriage should not be an option. Christians should submit to Biblical teaching. As a heterosexual male, I am constrained by the Bible to remain celibate. The same should apply to believing homosexuals.

  • 40BobDylan61

    what about the Bible’s teaching about slavery. The Bible consistently defends the institution of slaveholding as long as masters treat their slaves well. Never does the Bible advocate the freeing of all slaves. and if you want to talk about trajectories? Well then its every man for himself. See my article below comparing the contradiction in how we ban homosexual relations taking a literal view but do not take the Bible literally concerning slavery. And after you reply to this I will point out the Bibles command for Christians to divorce only for infidelity and the command for divorced Christians to never remarry. No exceptions.

    Slavery Homosexual
    Comparison, comparison of how we interpret the
    Bible literally on the issue of
    homosexuality but loosely on the issue of slavery.

    Slavery is the premier example of how scripture can
    literally teach one thing while the Holy Spirit gives insight to pick up on the
    intangible impressions of scripture that teach the opposite. For when
    it comes to the institution of slaveholding the bible only speaks for and never
    against in both the Old and New testament yet slavery is abhorred by orthodox
    Christianity and has been since the beginning of the faith. so here is the
    argument: if Christianity forbids the
    institution of slaveholding when the Bible consistently supports the
    institution why can’t Christianity declare acceptance of the LGBT community
    when the bible consistently bans LGBT practices. The Bible consistently affirms the
    institution of slaveholding and affirms the rights of slaveholders. Not one single time does the Bible speak
    against slaveholding. Yet today Christians as a whole believe that God abhors slavery. Conservative and liberal Christians uniformly
    believe the spirit of the Bible condemns Slavery and that the Holy Spirit has
    spoken to the hearts of Christians everywhere telling the church that slavery
    is a great evil. In fact we must ignore
    what the Bible literally says at every point when it speaks concerning slavery in
    order conclude that the spirit of the Bible is against slavery.

    Therefore without any
    clear word in scripture that forbids slave holding we support the belief that human slavery is a sin.

    Conservative Bible teachers will say that Bible nowhere
    advocates slavery but since slavery existed it lays down humanitarian laws
    protecting slaves. They never express
    any concern that the Bible never does declares emancipation.

    Contrary to what sugar coating conservative evangelicals
    give to the Bibles teaching on
    slavery the Bible does affirm slavery
    and sometimes celebrates it. Conservatives
    claim there are humanitarian laws in scripture protecting slaves. But even the
    laws of protection are
    inhumane. For example, If a man struck
    his slave and the slave died on the spot the master was to be put to
    death. But if the slave lived for 2 or 3
    days and then died no crime was committed.

    The best argument that we can come up with to conclude that
    the Bible is against slavery is this:

    Even though Paul sent
    the slave Onesimus back to his master/slaveholder (Philemon) the “spirit” of what Paul says to Philemon
    if followed to its logical conclusion would bring slavery to an end. But even in this argument we must conclude
    that the spirit of scripture and the literal word of scripture are in
    conflict. The argument is summarized
    thusly, “Paul literally commanded Onesumus
    to remain a slave but his intention was for Onesimus to be free.” Even with this argument we are saying the Bible
    says one thing but it means something else.
    This argument is weak for another reason. Paul does not declare emancipation for the
    slave but made his possible psuedo freedom
    subject to the voluntary consent of the master He
    sent onesimus back to Philemon and his intention was not for Onesimus to become
    a free man but for him to live out his days as the slave and the property of Philemon
    but to be treated well. furthermore Paul issued a general command to Christian
    slaves to be obedient to their masters. he did not issue any command for Christian
    slaveholders to release their slaves.

    3 times Paul in the
    new testament commanded slaves to be obedient to their masters. only once does:

    Eph 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your
    earthly masters,

    Col 3:22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your
    earthly masters

    Tit 2:9 Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters

    there is only one way to conclude that the
    letter to Philemon contains an anti slavery message. first we must conclude that what the letter of
    the word says is not true to God’s will and that is a great contradiction. secondly we must conclude that even Paul’s
    kind intentions still condone slavery.
    then we must lift the spirit of what Paul says out of the literal
    statement and even his hearts intentions.
    we must take the next step that
    goes against the literal teaching of the bible. Paul at the conclusion of his
    life and writing condoned slavery as a
    viable practice for the Christian but
    Paul’s writing were evolving in a
    direction that if they would have continued would have banned slavery. this same reasoning can be employed to
    conclude that same sex relationships can be allowed not by the literal word of
    scripture but by the spirit of
    scripture.

    This is a case more
    than any other where we must look at the whole of scripture, read into
    scripture and look not only at what the scripture says at various points but
    somehow “grok” the direction in which scripture is progressing at the
    conclusion of its formation.. Here we
    are confronted with the idea of continued revelation. Not as the Mormons believe that further
    written scripture must appear but that the holy spirit continues to guide the
    church and society see the “yes behind the no” (Barth) on this subject.

    There are really only one scripture that insinuates the abhorrence of the slave
    trade. in the Book Of Revelation an
    obscure is tremendously powerful and states a powerful truth that contradicts
    many other passages in the bible such as.
    “slaves be obedient to your master”
    and “God enlarge Japheth and let … Canaan be his slave”. We must believe
    that this passage overrides the many passages that speak to the contrary.

    if conservatives ignore multiple scriptures that
    condone slavery can’t they ignore the meager 12 literal statements in the bible
    condemning same sex orientation and see
    the big picture. if we draw the
    conclusion that though the Bible consistently upholds the institution of
    slavery the spirit of scripture condemns it,
    why can’t liberals draw the conclusion that though the Bible
    consistently bans homosexual practice the spirit of scripture accepts
    homosexuals and allows for monogamous same sex unions.

  • BenW3

    Actually this is not quite true. The institution existed as part of the household, and in the context of the Christian household there is a three step process by which the existing damage it did was limited, attenuated, and then over turned in Philemon. In Philemon, Philemon is told that he must treat Onesimus ‘no longer as a slave, but as much more than a slave, a brother in Christ’. He also insists that Philemon set the man free. See my commentary on Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Ben Witherington

  • Bill Arnold

    Right, Ben’s comment below is helpful.

    I would only add that using terms like “conservative Bible teachers will say…” and “conservative evangelicals…” is not helpful in these discussions. You will find me and Ben moderate to conservative, most likely, but among some of our colleagues in certain US seminaries, we’re suspect as too liberal. Honestly, this is not about being conservative or liberal (on this point) but about how to read. So allow me to suggest that my trajectories-versus-flat line consistencies way of understanding these things is really just a simple hermeneutical principle.

    On this point, I recommend the following, as one of the best articles to read on this topic:
    Thompson, David L. “Women, Men, Slaves and the Bible: Hermeneutical Inquiries.” Christian Scholar’s Review 25, no. 3 (1996): 326-349.

    Thompson’s article has been summarized as follows:
    An egalitarian relationship between men and women, not a complementary or hierarchical view, best appropriates the will of God revealed in Scripture. (1) Attempts to support or deny egalitarian relationships between men and women solely on the basis of interpreting individual biblical texts in their contexts lead inevitability to eisegesis–to reading the interpreter’s agenda into the text. (2) One can establish biblical support for egalitarian relationships between men and women by discerning the direction of the canonical dialogue on these issues and reaching a conclusion to which that dialogue did not come but to which it clearly points. (3) The church’s experience in discerning God’s will regarding slavery provides a hermeneutical paradigm sufficiently parallel to instruct its processing of the biblical material on the relationship between men and women.

    To this, I would add that the trajectory is somewhat less discernible for the role of slaves than for that of women in society. By contrast, both Old and New Testaments leave no room for any such trajectory on the question of Christian sexual ethics.

  • 40BobDylan61

    First of all I do not agree that Christian slaveholding in the
    first century was a gentler kinder institution.

    I do agree that what Paul says to Philemon if followed to
    its logical conclusion declares absolute emancipation for all men, women and children from the bonds of slavery. But that command for slaveholders to set all slaves free
    is not found in the text of the letter to Philemon, or in the New Testament. My point is: Trajectory must be employed to conclude that the scriptures eradicate the institution of slaveholding and human trafficking. And furthermore Why can’t’ trajectory and logical conclusion be employed concerning same sex relationships?

    Paul falls short of issuing such a “command” to set
    Onesimus free. And in general Paul commands slaves to be obedient to their masters several times in the New
    Testament. Paul DOES NOT insist that Philemon set Onesimus free. Paul affirms Philemon’s rights as a slaveholder. If Onesimus is to be set free that is up to Philemon. Paul infers that only Philemon has the
    right to free Onesimus. And Scripture does not tell us the results of the situation i.e. whether or not Onesimus
    was set free. Look at the wording carefully. Here is what Rev. Marvin R.Vincent says in the International Critical Commentary:

    16. ουκετι ως δουλον: ‘ no longer as a slave.’ ws denotes the subjective conception of Onesimus’ relation to his master, without reference to the external relation ; i.e. Paul does not say that Philemon is to receive Onesimus freed, and no longer a slave, which would be δουλον simply, but that, whether he shall remain a slave or not, he will no longer be regarded as a slave, but as a brother beloved. The relation between the master and the slave is transformed. The slave, even without ceasing to be a slave, is on a different and higher footing with his master.

  • 40BobDylan61

    What about divorce and remarriage for the Christian. Why are we so willing to offer grace in these situations that go against the long standing teaching of the church and the scriptures.

    Divorce Homosexual
    Comparison. Comparison of how we
    interpret the Bible literally on the issue of homosexuality but loosely
    on the issue of Divorce.

    Why isn’t the conservative church as concerned about taking
    the Bible literally concerning divorce and remarriage as it is concerning same sex unions? And why isn’t the church concerned about the
    ordination of clergy who have gone through unscriptural divorce and entered
    into unbiblical remarriage? Many anti gay marriage proponents tout their allegiance to the Word of God no matter how the winds of the culture blow. But they certainly have sailed the winds of change when it comes to the contradiction
    between the Bible’s teaching concerning divorce and remarriage and what is
    practiced and accepted in the Christian Church. As much weak exegesis and human reasoning have been employed by conservatives to allow for divorce and remarriage as the liberals employ for their defense of the gay lifestyle.
    Ironically many conservative Christians accept many things concerning
    divorce and remarriage that Jesus clearly taught against. Jesus taught that there is only one viable reason for divorce i.e. sexual unfaithfulness. In addition Jesus taught that anyone who divorces (even scripturally) and remarries commits adultery.

    I say to you whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery. -Matt 19:8,9

    “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. -Mk
    10:11-12

    Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits
    adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits
    adultery. Lk 16:18

    Also, Paul added that if the wife or husband departs of their own volition a divorce is allowed but remarriage is not. Therefore remarriage is not allowed even in cases of scriptural divorce (when the
    charge is adultery) much less unscriptural divorce. Many in the same conservative school of thought allow for clergy persons and Christians in general to divorce for many unscriptural reasons which have been rationalized as viable. For example if the spouse becomes a substance abuser or becomes mental ill, or perhaps just because a couple has begun to argue all the time. Many will quote C S
    Lewis and say “sometimes staying in a bad marriage is worse than the pain of
    divorce.” And after divorce these conservative Christians are very gracious in allowing clergy persons and Christians to remarry. But a complete
    ban on remarriage after divorce has been the longstanding teaching of the Church and is the teaching of the Bible.

    I should point out there is a single verse that seems to allows for remarriage after
    divorce but this argument brings with it a focus on apparent contradictions in
    scripture.

    I COR. 7:27

    It seems that Paul allows for one who has been divorced to
    remarry under certain circumstances that are not quite clear. At least the remarriage of the innocent party is allowed and possibly a guilty party who has repented. Some renderings of this verse would lead us to believe that Paul is referring to a person who has never been married to
    marry. such as the NIV;

    Are you married? Do not seek a divorce (Lusin). Are you unmarried (laylousai)? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry you have not sinned.

    but the word translated here ‘unmarried’ literally means ‘loosed from’both lusin and laylousai are forms of the verb Luso which means “loosed” the NASB
    translation is more true to the original text:

    NASB

    Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released (Lusin)… Are you released (laylousai) from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you should marry you have not sinned.

    It is clear from context that the phrase “loosed from a wife” refers to divorce. So Paul here advises the divorced person not to remarry but affirms that if the divorcee remarries is not a sin. In fact if Paul were referring to a state of singleness why would he feel the need to expound that marriage was not a sin for a singleperson?

    But just before this Paul gives only two options to those who have been separated from a spouse, they can remain single or reconcile to their spouse.

    To the married I give charge, Not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his wife. -I Cor. 7:10

    Paul contradicts himself unless the later command is not a general command to the church but to a specific situation. much like the command for women to be silent in church I Cor. 7:10 to Paul’s statement “women should keep silent in the church.” Many conservative scholars tell us that this verse only applied to an immediate situation in Corinth. I agree. I agree both that Paul’s command for women to keep silent was only for a unique situation and that Paul’s command for the divorced to remain single was for a particular situation. But why
    can’t conservative scholars admit the possibility that Paul’s 3 bans on
    homosexuality in the same way may have applied to immediate situations and werenot meant to be general commands to the whole church for all time. and if conservatives want to read and write between the lines that emotional and physical abuse are a form of unfaithfulness like sexual adultery (and I agree with them) why can’t Christians who accept same sex relationships write between the lines and say that when Paul bans homosexual practice he is referring only to licentious practices of the cult of Aphrodite where men and women engage in homosexuality with multiple partners as a public display calling it an act of worship before the goddess.

  • BenW3

    Clearly you do not know how to read the rhetoric of Philemon. It is one of the most manipulative of all of Paul’s letters, and indeed he says clearly enough that he knows Philemon will do even more than what he is asking. Indeed he pressures Philemon in four ways: 1) by calling him out in front of his house church; 2) by telling him he’s coming to make sure he does the right thing— so prepare the guest room; 3) by flattering him and appealing to Paul’s incapacitated state– hence the sympathy plea for the old man; 4) by making personally clear that Philemon must accept Onesimus back ‘no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave a brother in Christ’. Clearly, he sees treating Onesimus as incompatible with treating him as a slave. Paul’s whole strategy in regard to slavery is to deconstruct it within the context of the Christian household, and Philemon shows where all this leads. As Bill says, there is absolutely no trajectory of change of any sort when it comes to the issues of sexual immorality, whether we are talking about heterosexual or homosexual sexual immorality. To the contrary as Rom. 1.18-26 makes clear, Paul sees such behavior as clear evidence of human fallenness, of exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and the ethics of God for immorality. To get to the bottom of such complex issues as slavery one has to read the text in light of its original contexts, which includes: 1) reading it in light of the original Greek, and in light of the way ancient rhetoric works. BW3

  • Guest

    Friend, I do know how to read Philemon with all the
    rhetoric. And I can read the greek text. Do you know how to read the ICC? I studied under Ervin, Horner, Hewitt, Lyon, and Mullholland. You clearly know how to read into the text and into all of the apostle’s manipulations. I just told my waitress in a local dinner here about how amazingly a scholar of your stature responds to posts like this. She said, “I’m sure they have a lot
    to say about everything” Please stick to the debate. Don’t say things like, “you clearly Don’t know how to read …” or ” One has to read the text in light
    of its original contexts, which includes: 1) reading it in light of theoriginal Greek, and in light of the way ancient rhetoric works” Because you will come off to the average salt of the earth lay Christian. Like a Know it All.
    See what I’ saying? You will appear to be saying, “the masses can’t Understand the Bible apart from my
    intellect.”

  • Guest

    Friend, I do know how to read Philemon with all the
    rhetoric. And I can read the greek text. Do you know how to read the ICC? I
    studied under Ervin, Horner, Hewitt, Lyon, and Mullholland. You clearly know how to read into the text and into all of the apostle’s manipulations. I just toldmy waitress in a local dinner here about how amazingly prompt a scholar of your stature responds to posts like this. She said, “I’m sure they have a lotto say about everything” Please stick to the debate. Don’t say things
    like, “you clearly Don’t know how to read …” or ” One has to read the text in light of its original contexts, which includes: 1) reading it in light of the
    original Greek, and in light of the way ancient rhetoric works” Because you will come off to the average salt
    of the earth lay Christian. Like a Know it All.
    See what I’ saying? You will appear to be saying, “the masses can’t. Understand the Bible apart from my
    intellect.”

  • Guest

    Friend, I do know how to read Philemon with all the rhetoric. And I can read the greek text. Do you know how to read the ICC? I studied under Ervin, Horner, Hewitt, Lyon, and Mullholland. You clearly know how to read into the text and into all of the apostle’s manipulations. I just told my waitress in a local diner here about how amazingly prompt a scholar of your stature responds to posts like this. She said, “I’m sure they have a lot to say about everything” Please stick to the debate. Don’t say things like, “you clearly Don’t know how to read…” or ” One has to read the text in light of its original contexts, which includes: 1) reading it in light of the original Greek, and in light of the way ancient rhetoricworks” Because you will come off to the average salt of the earth lay Christian. Like a Know it All. See what I’ saying? You will appear to be saying, “the masses can’t. Understand the Bible apart from my intellect.”

  • BenW3

    The context makes this perfectly clear. They are not to ask questions during the time when there are prophecies. This is not a ban on women speaking in church in general. Indeed, 1 Cor. 11 endorses their praying and prophesying in church. BW3

  • BenW3

    Actually no it doesn’t fall into any such bucket. Paul is saying that one should not interrupt with questions the prophesying or the interpreting of prophesy. If you have questions ask at home. Clearly enough, in 1 Cor. 11 Paul has already told women they are free to pray and prophesy in church. BW3

  • BenW3

    Didn’t mean to come off like you took it. But in fact none of those folks that you mention taught how to read the NT through the lens of Greco-Roman rhetoric, and I knew Bob Lyon and know Bob Mulholland very well. I also knew Hewitt and he didn’t teach that method either. BW3


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