Friday, May 17, 2013

Apropos of things American

A bit of a fuss is being made about an interview Rob Bell has given in the UK. The Ugley Vicar calls it a 'train wreck'. Head there to click into the interview. I have not seen the whole interview so am not commenting directly upon it. Could it be turned into a Nooma video on the word Obfuscation?

Noted in comments below is a sermon which Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has preached in Curacao in the Diocese of Venezuela. [Thanks for correction to original wording in a comment below]. This is also being made a bit of a fuss about. It involves the most extraordinary wrongheaded, or just plain wrong interpretation of a passage in Acts. It is "beyond" commenting on! It would be insulting to liberals to call this an example of liberalism. It is beyond that. It is sui generis, in a class of its own as an example of just plain wrong interpretation! (Later: do not just take my word for it. Note the plethora of negative comments about the sermon which the ENS publishes in the link about). A word to the wise preacher: it is not necessarily a smart idea to publish sermons.

PS in proper deference to the Presiding Bishop I will only accept comments about this which either discuss the "exegesis" without naming the preacher or which name her properly e.g. the name with title used above, or ++Jefferts Schori. I think Rob Bell can be called "Rob" or "Bell". As far as I know he is not holding any church office other than "free lance speaker and writer."

PPS It is not the case that wrong exegesis of Scripture is confined to Anglican bishops. A very interesting, unusual and sad-for-Christians everywhere case is unfolding in Singapore. It concerns the misuse of funds donated to a mega church, a misuse which has led to a trial. In following progress on this situation (via my colleague Gerard Jacobs' blog) I noticed this description of wrong exegesis at this church:

"One of his examples is as follows: In the gospel account of the feeding of the 5000, when Jesus asked the disciples to feed the crowds, the disciples responded by saying that it was difficult to get food because of the lateness of the day where most places would be closed. Kong Hee alluded to this response as being an indication that Jesus and the disciples had the money to feed the crowds, but could not do so because of the places to purchase food were closed due to the lateness of the hour. Therefore proving that Jesus was wealthy and had the financial means to feed the multitudes. This interpretation of that scripture is completely out of line with the derived meaning scholars and theologians accept; it’s out of line with the rest of scripture!"

PS For a voice within TEC concerned at "delusional exegesis", read here.

PPS And for another, read here.


Father Ron Smith said...

I have seen the full video, finding it a completely satisfactory defence by Rob Bell. The fact that 'Ugley Vicar' has declared it a 'Train Crash' should not be too surprising. He would rather it helped Rob's prickly opposition to gain more points, but he didn't, and that's why Mr Richardson is disappointed.

Why is it that some conservative evangelicals reserve their greatest vituperation for people on 'their side' (evangelicals) who, on account of a sincerely held opinion of their own, do not toe the 'party line'?

Do look in on the thread indicated by our host. You will see a very masterly exhibition of adroit management of bolshie questions.
I thoroughly enjoyed it! L.o.L.

Bryden Black said...

I'm reminded of those dwarfs towards the end of The Last Battle, who sitting in what appears to be stable muck will not be taken in. Their eyes are simply unable to be opened: they will not to be "taken in" come what may!

Question: but who's the dwarf here? Why so?ng

Anonymous said...

Writing "Schori" no more denotes disrespect than writing "Packer", "Stott", "Williams" etc - it is the normal, objective practice that you will find in newspapers and academic writing. The fact that I have met and talked with all three doesn't compel me to use honorifics about them in writing any more than I would use them about myself, or expect others to. (So no need to call me Reverend Doctor!) Talking in their presence is a different matter.
(plain old) Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm really talking here, Martin, about common human decency and warm Christian charity, when referring to a Christian Leader. Like Mike Greenslade, I have met TEC's Presiding Bishop and have been impressed by her warm humanity, her intellectual nous, and her astute and godly attitude towards a marginalised sector of the community.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Let me iterate that criticism of a person's "intellectual nous" does not spill over to a person's character and personality. I do not in any way deny that the PB is a warm, caring, astute leader who enjoys the confidence (as far as I can tell) of most members of the Episcopalian Church.

Janice said...


I'm really talking here, Martin, about common human decency and warm Christian charity, when referring to a Christian Leader.

But not when referring to any Christian, leader or otherwise, who disagrees with you about the sinlessness and God-givenness of homosexual acts?

No "common human decency and warm Christian charity" need be displayed to those who disagree with you on these matters? These people can automatically, and righteously, be assumed to be "selfish" (May 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM), to offer "so little loving acceptance" (May 14, 2013 at 2:43 PM), to be "afraid of changes to their comfortable enclosed world of set values" (May 14, 2013 at 9:26 PM), to believe that redemption is not for all but for "just the outwardly pious" (May 16, 2013 at 9:00 PM), and to have "[h]atred of other people" and a "talent for condemnation" (May 17, 2013 at 5:44 PM)? Is that the case?

(All quotes from Ron's comments at "Brewing the perfect storm in our church (1)")

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Janice for that research!

Anonymous said...

I am struck by the double standards on display here. At what point has GAFCON, all Christian Leaders in our Church, ever been treated with common decency or warm charity by the commentator now demanding such for the PB?

No leader in our Church is above reasonable critique of public theological statements and sermons.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you Janice for that research. You flatter me that you even look in on my posts. Agape, Fr. Ron

(Amazingly, the cryptic word-code allowing me to log in this time was, believe it or not, 'egosend, SOUTH')

That tells me something!!!

Paul Powers said...

Slight correction, Peter, this "sermon" wasn't preached in Venezuela. It was preached in CuraƧao, which is in the Diocese of Venezuela, but is not a part of Venezuela. Just like Argentina used to be part of the Diocese of the Falkland Islands, but is not actually a part of the Falkland Islands.

Chris Hynde said...

I find it fascinating that none of the critics of this sermon bother to explain why the valid questions surrounding the fate of the slave girl should not be raised, only that the exegesis is terribly "wrong".

What happened to this slave girl, whom Paul exorcised not out of desire to save but out of anger and annoyance? Once her moneymaking ability was lost how was her value to her masters affected? Why was her proclamation of the truth so annoying to Paul? Once relieved of her abilities she disappears.

Then there is the whole belief of demons and spirit possession which seems to be required for the "right" exegesis. Where are these demons and spirits now, in light of modern medicine and psychiatry? Do we still need to believe that, for example, a person who suffers from epilepsy, is possessed as told in the gospels? How often do you critics engage in demon and spirit exorcism in your daily living of faith?

The hue and cry raised over this differing perspective seems to be very instructive about privilege, patriarchy, intolerance, and other perspectives. Clearly some are deeply offended and outraged although I have found ample evidence of similar exegesis through feminist and process theology, just to name two other perspectives.

And I'm not really clear about the American angle here. Is it more of "those crazy, unChristian Americans did it again" kind of judgement or "only in America could a presiding bishop make such a sermon" kind of camaraderie?

And then there's the problematic inclusion of the Singapore scandal as exemplary of what? That the Episcopal Church must be as corrupt and heretical as the Singapore church because of wrong exegesis?

There's a lot of the intolerance, judgementalism, fear of the other, and pretty much everything the sermon speaks of demonstrated in this post, by my personal exegesis. Interesting.

Outrage ignited. Mission accomplished? Certainly no earnest dialog or discussion has emerged. . . .

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris,
The previous post picked up something about Sydney, this post picks up two things about America. It is certainly not an attempt to say how crazy Americans are. Neither Rob Bell nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori strike me as 'crazy'. The Singapore reference is a postscript and is not intended to say that TEC is the same, simply to point out that erroneous exegesis occurs here and there in the world. It even occurs in NZ!

Thankfully I do not deal often in daily ministry with demon possession but it is a real phenomenon in our world. It is because of that reality that the proper understanding of the passage is that Paul dealt to the demon within her. Demons can speak the truth but that is not a reason to tolerate them. My deepest disturbance over the exegesis offered is the implied claim that the exegete knows better than St Paul what was going on in this incident.

Nothing about the gender of the exegete disturbs me. If you are a regular reader here I think you will find that my deepest antagonism towards false teaching bishops is targeted at that well known male bishop, John Spong.

With best wishes

Peter Carrell said...

From Ron Smith (I pushed the delete button by mistake)

"Venite Sancte Spiritua!

"The Singapore reference is a postscript and is not intended to say that TEC is the same, simply to point out that erroneous exegesis occurs here and there in the world. It even occurs in NZ!"
- Dr. Peter Carrell -

This statement, in response to the excellent post by Chris Hynde, does make one wonder whether there is only one viable exegesis of the Scriptures on certain matters - usually moral or expressly sexual.

This mirrors the questioning of the more balanced exegesis of passage concerning the 'sin of Gomorrah' - which, to modern exegetists, could well be attributable to the lack of Jewish hospitality laws.

I suppose this is why the 'stern exegetes' are often accused of what has been called 'fundamentalism'. The exegesis follows the tradition but not necessarily, the reason.

"Venite Sancte Spiritus !" We need Your anointing grace!"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
On some matters there is only one interpretation, on some several, and on all there are wrong interpretations.

You rightly point us in the direction of more than one sin going on at Sodom and Gomorrah.

But if I said that the inhabitants of those two cities were also guilty of stealing from the poor in order to build a spaceship ... I hope you would call me out and say that is not in the text ( or tradition or reason)!

Father Ron Smith said...

Another sin at S. & G., which seemingly is never talked about, is that of the Patriarch, offering his own daughter, in lieu of the male (?) visitors, fancied by the villains. Did the incidence of her gender not matter in this odd transaction?

Exegesis sometimes missed things that might be inconvenient to a particular mind-set.

Peter Carrell said...

There is no quarrel from me, Ron, that Sodom and Gomorrah were twin sin cities and rightly stand, to this day, as symbols of the dark heart of humanity.

Bryden Black said...

Arguments from silence, Chris, are usually fraught with imponderables. What remains rather clearer is Luke’s customary editorial techniques on display in Acts 16.

Once the “we” party arrives in Europe/Macedonia, three encounters between the apostolic team and ‘others’ are highlighted to show the powerful spread of the Gospel: Lydia, a businesswoman of means, who typifies that Hellenistic class of the 1st C; the opposite, a slave-girl, who is being exploited; an ex-soldier, who typifies many in that Roman colony. Then we have again a common enough motif in Luke’s two volume work: Paul’s citizenship is on display in such a way as to demonstrate rhetorically there is nothing inherently anti-Roman with regards to the Gospel, when that political power exercises its warrants justly.

I sense all ‘perspectives’ might be able to see such things with a degree of clarity - and without rancour!

As for the non-existence of the demonic in ‘today’s world’: that view might have had some supposed plausibility among the materialism of the 1960s, but absolutely none in the 21st C! Which latter view goes for both those in the Two-Thirds Majority world and those of the so-called First world. As ever, it is only the case that discernment is required: what are the causes of what symptoms, given the rich, complex, multidimensional nature of human being?

hogsters said...

Re +KJS interpretation and presentation of Acts 16.

For me the issue at hand is not so much the deliverance of this woman but the way in which deliverance is found and Paul' desire that there be no fuzzy thinking in regards the way of salvation.

In the NIV for instance the woman is saying "these men are servants of the most high God, who are telling you the way of salvation". No problem there.

In the NRSV the test is as follows "these men are slaves of the most high God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation:.

For Paul and many others including myself, Jesus is not just "a way of salvation". He is "the way of salvation" .

I am not ashamed of the Gospel and I am not so mudddle headed as to think I could take issue for instance over the passage that says "there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved" and still think I am a Christian.

From what I understand of +KJS's understanding and proclamation of the gospels she would disagree with Paul in regards his understanding of salvation through Christ and Christ alone.

Much easier to twist a test to use in the purposes of promoting her agenda.

But then again maybe "easier" is not the right word to use. The imagination involved is somewhat staggering.

The implications are frightening.