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Thursday 26/02/09 • Over the next three lessons: • What is Scripture? • How do Christians work out what the Bible says on issues of right and wrong? • The problems involved in interpretation What is scripture? • "Morality is a matter of right and wrong, good and bad. So, what could be simpler? • If you are a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim or Jew (or anything else) there is no problem. You do what the prophet, God or whoever tells you. • However even that can be tricky because the evidence isn't always clear, sometimes in the bible God says things like 'smite all your enemies with a big sword' when they annoy you, which we mostly don't accept anymore" Sources of guidance for Christians: • Scripture • Tradition • Reason • Holy Spirit (ongoing revelation) Scripture – it’s all about interpretation… • Biblical hermeneutics refers to methods of interpreting the Bible • Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξηγεῖσθαι 'to lead out') involves an extensive and critical interpretation of an authoritative text ‘Theology’? - what is that? • The study of God and the truthfulness of religion in general; • An organized method of interpreting spiritual works and beliefs into practical form • Someone who ‘does’ theology is called a ‘theologian’ However… • Theologians are social beings (ordinary human beings!). • Human beings belong to various human groups that constantly challenge us to make political and ethical choices. • Therefore there are many different types of Theology: • • • • Liberation Theology Black Theology Feminist Theology ..to name but a few. • Many of these ways of thinking about Scripture have tried to redress that balance where Biblical interpretation has hitherto been done from a very anthropocentric, middle class, white, patriarchal, perspective. • Christians have reached a near consensus on what the Bible says. However, Christian denominations as well as individual Christians -- theologians, clergy and laity -- hold a wide range of assumptions about the nature of the Bible. Different assumptions lead to different methods of interpreting the text. As a result, they reach very diverse conclusions about what a given passage actually means. Biblical Text What are the tricky issues? For example: • “It is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” • 1 Corinthians 14:35 • “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman” • Leviticus 18:22 • “Line dancing is as sinful as any other type of dancing with its sexual gestures and touching! It is an incitement to lust!” • Dr Ian Paisley. Presbyterian minister • “The Christian sexual tradition uses Scripture and theological tradition as supports for a code of behaviour which developed out of prescientific understandings of human anatomy, physiology, and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships” What should take precedence when trying to work out what Scripture says? • Scripture itself? • Reason? • Faith? • Tradition?