Nov 12th, 2008 · Categories: Christianity, PCUSA · No Comments

PCUSA: Obfuscating the Bible

As an academic (Computer Information Systems), I usually appreciate other academics’ creativity. I enjoy novel ways of thinking that lead to interesting and maybe useful results. But not when the academic is trying to make the Bible hard to understand.

The utterings of theologians and Bible scholars must be approached with caution and often taken with pounds – not grains – of salt. A professor doesn’t get tenure by writing “Calvin was right.” No, getting tenure generally requires the production of ever more novel and esoteric ideas. This is especially true when grants are involved. That’s fine in most fields but not when explaining God and his Word.

I am not a theologian or a Bible scholar (just a lay student of the Bible), so I don’t keep up with what is all the rage in this global academic village. But as a Presbyterian, I sometimes read about what Presbyterian scholars are up to. “No good” is often an accurate summary. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the current debate over homosexual practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess I often wish God would lighten up a little. I’ve worked with and been friends with homosexuals most of my adult life. I’ve worked in college, community, and summer stock theater. (Accuse me of stereotypes if you will, but it is what it is.) I lived at a YMCA in New York for a while – not “the” YMCA of Village People fame – but not much different. I team taught an adult Bible study on homosexuality with a friend who was trying to escape “the life”. (He has since quit trying, but I still greet him as a beloved brother whenever I see him.)

It grieves me that as a man married to a woman I can enjoy sexual intimacy within Biblical bounds but these friends and colleagues can’t. God, however, didn’t ask my opinion. He sets his standards and I can’t change them. Neither can I ignore them or urge other Christians to. Theologians and Bible scholars shouldn’t either, but too many do.

The PUP report, for example, contained the astonishing assertion that the Bible’s teaching on same-gender sexuality is too “diverse, subtle, and complex” to make any determination of what it actually says. Had they asked, I would have referred them to the excellent Scripture and Homosexuality by Dr. Marion L. Soards, a professor at the very liberal Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Unlike some of his colleagues he is indeed able to read and understand what the Bible says. (My friend and I used Dr. Soards’ book and How Will I Tell My Mother? as resources for the class.)

But there are plenty of Presbyterian academics who want us to believe that the Bible was written for intellectuals with advanced degrees. To these exalted few, we poor yokels in the pews are unable to grasp what the plain text means without their intervention. Strangely enough, what they present is often an obfuscation* of what the Bible says, not a clarification. (I have written before about the PCUSA’s penchant for word games.)

Such were the speakers at the recent Covenant Network victory celebration. Walter Brueggeman and Stacy Johnson gave attendees what they wanted hear – strained exegesis that they can use to claim that the Bible says what they wish it said. James Berkley (the Berkley Blog, formerly the Institute for Religion and Democracy) has written in the Layman Online about the talks by Breuggeman and Johnson.

Presbyterians who want to know what a faithful academic has to say about the Bible would be better served reading J. Gresham Machen, Francis Schaeffer, or the aforementioned Dr. Soards.

* Obfuscate: To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand: “A great effort was made . . . to obscure or obfuscate the truth” (Robert Conquest).

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 12:47 pm and is filed under Christianity, PCUSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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