Wednesday, August 2, 2006

SBC Called to the Carpet Again - Prof Questions if Christian Right is Biblical

The problem addressed in this article is a chronic issue within the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) and one of the reason's why I have been doing the "Is the Bible a Ouija Board in Disguise" series.

The Southern Baptist Convention controversy of the 1980s and 1990s was supposed to be over inerrancy--the view that the Bible in its original form (called the "autographs")--is literally true. But a University of Chicago professor says in a recent article the Christian Right isn't defined by any specific theology but instead a selective use of proof-texting to support a predetermined point of view.

The article, by Margaret M. Mitchell, a professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature, is titled "How Biblical is the Christian Right?" It appears on the Religion and Culture Web Forum from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Based on her study of several conservative Christian Web sites, Mitchell concludes "what makes the Christian Right biblical is not a literalistic hermeneutic so much as a mode of argumentation by reference to a deliberately selective set of biblical passages, annexed to the predetermined cause through a variety of exegetical moves, which are usually unexplained because they depend upon prior agreement of the ends of interpretation."

Words like "inerrancy" or "fundamentalist" are rarely used, she said, and it usually takes two or three clicks to find a page that references the Bible at all. Instead of Bible authority, she said, "one finds a new, user-friendly and unifying lexicon: 'family values,' 'traditional values,' 'family-friendly,' 'Judeo-Christian heritage,' and a newfangled product called 'the Christian world-view,'" which she defines as "a code-phrase for 'Christianity in our likeness.'"

Among examples, she breaks down Richard Land's Southern Baptist Convention Web site, "For Faith & Family," with its link to something called the "Ethics Scripture Index," an alphabetical listing of Scripture references for ethical issues from abortion to women.

There is no explanation of what topics are chosen or why. The method "presumes that the whole column speaks with one voice about the issue, which means that there is already a pre-determined decision about the 'biblical view' on the given issue. No hermeneutical rule of thumb or guidance is given on such issues as the relationship between the Old and New Testament in Christian law or regulation, nor about how different biblical genres relate to divine teaching and biblical truth (law, narrative, parable, and proverb are all treated the same)."

"Hunger," for instance, lists only 15 citations and no comments--"obviously not an important issue," Mitchell observed. In contrast, the category "War"--there is none for peace--has 66 citations and 14 comments.

"While it is easy to think of this as a literalistic proof-texting, it is not just that, but a highly creative rearrangement of selective pieces of the biblical record to justify a previously reached conclusion (in this case, apparently, the invasion of Iraq)," she wrote.

Under "Birth Control," Land lists Gen. 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply," commenting it "made sense at this time in history." Mitchell wonders whey he doesn't do the same under "Homemaking/Domestication."

Most surprising, she says, is how little overt biblical interpretation goes on at Land's Web site. Defending the SBC's doctrine of wifely submission to husbands, Land switches Bible translations in midstream, apparently choosing the text that best proves his point.

For full article click here.

HT: Bob Allen

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