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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
Scripture – it’s all about
• 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
• Someone who ‘does’ theology is called a
• 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 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
• 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
What should take precedence when trying
to work out what Scripture says?
• Scripture itself?
• Reason?
• Faith?
• Tradition?