I’m borrowing the remarkable GB Caird’s opening sentence in his book The Language & Imagery of the Bible. “This book is written by an amateur for amateurs.” This is certainly true of this series of reflections that might have been a book that I can’t finish. I can’t confess to being an utter novice but I’m no professional theologian.
I meant what follows to be a little book but I can’t complete it so if now and then I speak of the fragments as a “book” you’ll know I didn’t edit well. I may not even get these pieces finished. Get what you can and dismiss the rest.
Why am I writing what follows if I’m not a qualified theologian? For many reasons I suppose and one of them is that my experience in reading a fair amount of theological work has led me to agree with Peter Berger’s trenchant remark” “Theology is too important to be left to the professional theologians.”
So why am I writing these? Because I wish to say something about a major truth that I have said precious little about in my years of fumbling preaching, teaching and writing. I wish to say something about the glory of humankind with special focus on womankind.
So why am I writing these? Because a steady stream of strident (!) feminist voices has expressed harsh and false criticism of the Holy Scriptures, claiming that they degrade and enslave women. I’d like to express my own entirely different view of them. Here are only two typical examples of what I’m talking about though they aren’t strong enough to satisfy the late Mary Daly or the current doyen of ruthless feminists, Elizabeth Sch ssler Fiorenza.
“In Western culture, the Bible has provided the single most important sustaining rationale for the oppression of women.” Pamela Milne, Feminist Approaches to the Bible, p. 47
“Feminist theology cannot be done from the existing base of the Christian Bible. The Old and New Testaments have been shaped in their formation, transmission, and, finally, their canonization to sacralize patriarchy (see below for McKim’s definition of the term)*…in their present form and intention they are designed to erase women as subjects and to mention women only as objects of male definition.” Rosemary Ruether, Woman’s Guide, p, xi
Now we hear professors of reputed ‘Evangelical’ universities publicly proclaiming that the Holy Bible is “wrong!” “wrong!” about slavery, wrong about women and wrong about homosexuality (now covered by a ‘nicer’ politically correct term, ‘sexual orientation’). This of course has far-reaching effects that go beyond the specific topics just mentioned. The Holy Scriptures as expressing the authority of God are subjected to an alternative and ‘greater authority’.
Perhaps the most damaging voices are the men and women in the congregational pulpits and behind the lecterns—these are women and men who don’t mind saying that the God of the Holy Scriptures calls for genocide, infanticide and promotes the enslavement and degrading of women.
GOD they’re okay with but not the God of the Bible. Well, they’re happy with the God of the Bible depending on what parts of the Bible suits them. The text of the Holy Scriptures no longer expresses God’s authority—these congregational speakers replace the Bible as the authoritative voice. With their hermeneutical strategies they become ‘the Bible’ or more pointedly, ‘the voice of God’ to the people who gather week after week to be fed. Makes one wonder why a Bible is needed at all. Makes me wonder if the Bible is such a book why bother with an interpretative strategy?
It seems to me if the Holy Scriptures support and promote genocide, infanticide, enslavement and degradation of women (to say no more) we ought to say more than that they are “wrong.” We ought to say they are demonic, satanic. The word “wrong” is too weak! They in fact are ‘unholy scriptures’. We ought to say what the forthright Muslim leader, Elijah Mohammed, once said: it is “a poisonous book.”