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thursday's reading. - Woe to you, you brood of passive, shallow learners! You bloggers!

Sep. 25th, 2003

09:04 am - thursday's reading.

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from: http://www.livejournal.com/community/christianity/781640.html
the original posting was:

So, my question is, what role, if any, should the church (the collective body of believers - either defined locally or universally) play in determining the beliefs and morals of those who profess membership? How is this to be done? Does the church have the right to set limits for members with penalties for non-compliance, especially in our "progressive" society that emphasizes the right of the individual to do or think as he or she pleases in regards to faith? At what point should an individual be expected to comply with the teachings of the church, and at what point does the church have a divine right, if any, to publicly state that an individual, group, or teaching is outside the Christian faith?

my first posting:
you ask a very good and difficult question.

in the reformed tradition, since calvin, there has been the idea that the marks of a true church were the sacraments rightly done, the word rightly preached and discipline rightly administered.

there is a short, to-the-point essay on this at:

That was a good essay. It leads me to two more questions: First, what is the dividing line between those things that are necessary to be subjected to church discipline and those things that don't really matter? In Calvin's Geneva, it was illegal to abstain from the Eucharist. I'm sure he had good reasons for establishing this rule in his mind, but looking back, does that really matter? Second, why do you think the mainstream churches have quit disciplining members and allowed their theology and practice to drift from orthodoxy?

my answer:
what is the dividing line between:
in essentials--unity
in non essentials--liberty
in all things--charity

that is the motto of our last church/denom, (ev pres, EPC)

so modify your first question into how to distinguish essentials from non-essentials...

i suspect that fundamentally the dividing line is sociological, tempered by Scripture. i think that the institutional church will end up doing something like what 90% agree on is essentials. then allowing the 10% deviant to justify their beliefs on the grounds of scripture. if they are able to persuade the rest that the position is ok then it enters into the acceptable pool. (there actually are two rules 10:90 and 20:80 but this is not the place to explain them, although i think this is an application of the 10:90 rule)

then this pool of essentials moves through time reflecting the changing culture, lagging perhaps by a generation, religion is very conservative. but anchored to the necessity of proving the dividing line via Scripture.

it would be nice to be able to take a body of knowledge and prioritize it, pull out the essentials intellectually, but i dont think it is doable. so we resort to 2nd best which is letting the debates of the day rage outside and sometimes inside the church, then examining individuals. after all is said and do, it is individual church trials that shape the system.

does that make sense?

this continues the discussion i've labelled "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus". i revisited the issue last week or so, got most of the writings on a single lj journal page. now i need to post a link from my webpage there. done.


discipline is hard, and gets much harder as the population intellectually widens and diverges. that 90% pool may not even be definable in the pcusa, where in the pca i am outside the 90%.
the intellectual demand for orthodoxy, for conformance to theological standards is not popular, appears to elitist against the common ideal of democracy and live and let live.

now why did i cut and paste this here?
because it is a BIG issue with me.
i tried last week to get all the blog postings on this issue together, i suspect i missed one, but thus far unable to find it.

essentially the application of church discipline by rejection(postponement) of church membership.

-=research links=-
"Vital Few and Trivial Many Rule."
80:20 rule at: http://www.lemberg.com/80-20.html
Back in the 19th century, an Italian economist quantified the general relationship between a minority of producers and a majority of output. Sound familiar? The simplified version of Vilfredo Pareto's ratio, known as the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle, says that in most cases, 80% of production comes from 20% of producers.
the form i learned it in was: 80% of the work can be done in 20% of the time, the final 20% will take 80% of the time. (its a programming rule i suspect i read in _the Mythical Man-Month_)

http://www.bsu.edu/libraries/ahafner/awh-th-math-pareto.htm (good examples)

another reference to capture:
original posting: http://www.livejournal.com/community/christianity/782278.html
what i what is the reference: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/4610/biblio/interpretation.html

and the

Dana, H.E. Searching the Scriptures; Central Seminary Press: Kansas City, MO; 1946.

Dungan, Professor D.R. Hermeneutics; Gospel Light Publications: Delight, AR; n.d.

Henrichsen, Walter. A Layman's Guide To Interpreting Scripture; Lamplighter Books (Zondervan): Grand Rapids, MI; 1985.

Klein, Dr. William W.; Blomberg, Dr. Craig L.; and Hubbard, Dr. Robert L. Introduction To Biblical Interpretation; Word:Dallas; 1993.

Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation; W.A. Wilde: Boston; 1956.

Virkler, Henry. Hermeneutics; Baker: Grand Rapids, MI; 1981.

only Ramm i am familiar with.

Scripture has only one meaning and should be taken literally

this has two parts, the first one is definitely very wrong.

Scripture has a meaning that transceds time and at the same time is very time and culture bound. If God intended the word to apply for thousands of years, to thousands of peoples, tongues, and cultures. Then it has very different meanings in different times and places.

first, there is a very strong distinction between exegesis, which is what does this passage mean to the people it was addressed to, and application. This author trambles on this distinction, literally bouncing back between the two as if the boundary didnt exist.

But to concentrate on one point here.
Take Genesis 1-3, not because it is so controversial, but because i have been studying it for over a year now, and as a result am somewhat familiar with the history of interpretation of it.

The best interpretors of Gen1 have it to be a direct attack on the polytheism of the people's around the Hebrews at the time. When the sun is referred to, the people who heard this words immediately thought of the sun-god. And Gen1 was designed to put the gods into their places, that is the radical desacralization of the world.

Now did the original Hebrews believe that?
nay, they saw it as defining a line in the sand between us and them. God's people and the not-God's, a defining act of us-vs-them. We believe in this creative God who made all the universe by His spoken Word. them-outside believe in not-gods who create in the same way as people do, work/sex/blood/semen etc etc.

Now this is at the exegetical level. There is a progressive(hopefully) historical analysis of exegesis that adds to and modifies the understanding of previous generations. Scripture has a fixed canon, but the interpretation evolves.

His principle tries to hard to fix exegesis at his time and culture. essentially building a fixed canon of INTERPRETATION rather than a fixed canon of words. but no difference in the long run. God gave us a fixed canon but not a fixed interpretation of it, exegesis will vary from time to time, place to place, language to language, culture to culture. legitimately. for God's word is always new and revolutionary.