Monday, February 21, 2011

Contradictions in the Bible? - Richard R. Crocker

Richard R. Crocker
Rollins Chapel
February 20, 2011
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Because this is an enormous topic and we have very little time, I will begin by making three major assertions, for which I will then offer some support.
First, I believe, as I stated in my ordination vows, that the Bible is God’s word to me.
Second, it is very likely, if not certain, that the Bible contains some contradictions.
Third: the truth of the Bible is not necessarily compromised, and in fact may be enhanced, by any apparent contradictions.

Now, let me support these assertions in a general way. As you all know, the Protestant Bible contains 66 different books, written by many different authors over at least 1000 years. (The Catholic Bible contains more.) Not only are there different books and different authors, but different genres. To maintain that these writings must agree and be consistent in every detail is not, in my judgment, a rational requirement. Indeed, the attitudes toward faith and the various stories contained in these books provide a richness of experience and of expression that defies every attempt at categorization or conformity. I am somewhat bored by the attempts of various skeptics and critics to list all of the contradictions they find in the scriptures. If you want to read them, you can google Bible contradictions and find lists of them. As I said, I am bored, but not the least disturbed, by such lists. However, I am even more bored, and somewhat disturbed, by the machinations and contorted explanations made by those who spend time arguing, as a matter of essential faith, that the Bible, being God’s word, must be absolutely consistent and contain no contradictions. Otherwise, they argue, it is completely discredited. If one contradiction is allowed, they say, then the whole edifice will fall. Find one contradiction, and the whole of Jewish and Christian faith is wholly discredited.

I simply do not agree.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"An Unchanging Text in Changing Times." - Kurt Nelson

Kurt Nelson 
2/13/11  Rollins Chapel 
"An Unchanging Text in Changing Times." 
Philippians 4:4-9 

Our theme for this week is not,
you may have noticed, a question,
It’s a statement.
Times change.
But our scripture, more or less,
does not.

It’s a notion frequently invoked,
when scripture and society seem in conflict.

God is unchanging,
Truth is unchanging,
the bible is unchanging,
Only the times, they are a-changin'.

And so our collective question becomes,
‘What has scripture to say,
about issues of contemporary concern?’
And, ‘How, if at all,
ought our contemporary experiences,
change the way we read scripture?’
Knowing, as we are told,
 that we are to be not conformed to this world.
But knowing also that we live fully in it.

It’s worth noting,
that when someone brings up this idea,
that the bible never changes,
though sinful society does,
they tend to be defending the status quo.
Rarely, in my experience,
is this a reference to the beatitudes,
to blessing the poor and the peacemakers,
or to the call to sell all we have to follow Jesus.
Or various other aspirational biblical ideals.

And especially these days,
unchanging text, and changing society
is brought up regarding questions of sex and sexuality.

A friend and former teacher of mine,
when lecturing on the Bible,
and issues of contemporary concern,
would always start by saying,
“A lot of people ask me what the bible says about sexuality.”
“Well, let’s listen.”
Then he would put his big bible on the lectern,
and cup his hand to his ear, and wait.
It was, and is, a somewhat obnoxious thing to do.
But it makes an important point.
Texts don’t speak,
we read them.
And we have a lot more to do with what we read out of them,
than we might care to admit.
For our unchanging text has,
throughout history,
been argued on many sides of many issues,
including racism, slavery, sexuality, gender, war,
and countless others.

But I'd like to take up briefly,
the particular example,
of Christian treatment and understanding of the Jews.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Loving God - Loving The Other

You're all most welcome, and we'll check back in next week with Reflections...

Loving God - Loving the Other.

A dialogue with Christian Theologian Miroslav Volf
and Muslim Scholar Ingrid Mattson.
Wed. 2/16        4:30pm - 6pm    Rockefeller 3

Leading scholars Miroslav Volf (Yale University) and Ingrid Mattson (Hartford
Seminary) explore how we thoughtfully engage with other religions grounded in
the particulars of our religious commitments.

Free and open to the public. sponsored by The William Jewett Tucker Foundation,
The Waterman Institute, al-Nur Muslim Students Association, and the Dartmouth
Centers Forum's "Speak Out, Listen Up".

Monday, February 7, 2011

Does Inerrancy Require Literalism? - Guest Speaker Ryan Bouton

Rollins Chapel, 2/6
Guest Speaker Ryan Bouton, Christian Impact Team Leader

Text: Luke 24:13-32
Does Inerrancy Require Literalism?

All Christians hold the Scriptures as authoritative and truthful.  However, there is some disagreement as to the nature of that authority and the extent of the truth we find in the Scriptures.  I was asked to speak as an Evangelical Protestant to the issues of authority, inerrancy, and literalism with respect to the Scriptures, and the question before us today is "Does Inerrancy Require Literalism?"  I do not intend to establish or defend the doctrine of inerrancy, which can be defined as the teaching that the writings of the prophets and apostles that we have before us in the Bible are without error in their original manuscripts.  I would be happy to do so at another time.  My aim today is more modest: The answer to our question could be given simply and quickly, but it is most useful as an entry point into how my tradition interacts with the Scriptures.

What is the nature of the authority that Scripture describes itself as having?  In our passage today we see how Jesus employed the Scriptures with two of his followers.  It is instructive for us to see that, having observed what was seemingly the end of Jesus' ministry, his disciples are confounded by what they had experienced.  In fact, they are confounded while they interact with Jesus himself.  Many other people had also seen and interacted with Jesus over the course of his life, but nearly all of them drew the wrong conclusions about who he was and what he was about.  What they needed was a prophetic interpretation, a word from the Lord himself to give them a proper understanding of what happened.  In other words, not only do texts require interpretation, but so do events, and we are dealing with texts that interpret events for us so that we might see them with God's perspective. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On Miracles - Richard R. Crocker

Richard R. Crocker
College Chaplain
Rollins Chapel
January 30, 2011
Exodus 8:16-19

Like many ancient texts, the Bible is full of miracle stories. From the creation story, to the plagues in Egypt, to the miraculous healings wrought by Elijah, to the miracle stories about Jesus (the virgin birth, the healings, walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, and, not least his own resurrection) the Bible is full of miracles. How are we, who live in the age when almost all phenomena are subject to the explanation of natural law, to regard such stories? For those of us who believe that he Bible contains the word of God, it can be difficult. Are we simply to accept the stories literally, as many would have us do? Or do we take another approach?

Any informed study of other ancient texts makes one aware that almost all of them contain miracle stories. Whether we are talking about accounts of the life of the Buddha, Confucius, Greek and Roman Gods, even great conquerors, stories of superhuman, or supernatural, occurrences are common.

But there is the rub. “Supernatural” is a modern term, not an ancient one. With few exceptions, it is only in the sixteenth century that the notion of natural laws emerges – laws governing the movement of objects, including, ultimately, the planets and stars. As natural law developed, there were more explanations for events. And many came to be believe that scientific inquiry and the natural laws discovered thereby could account for almost everything. Miracle stories have come to be regarded as stories of events that contradict natural law; they are therefore things that cannot and could not happen.

Obviously, the word “miracle” did not originally mean an event that contradicts natural law, since there was no concept of natural law. Originally, and still, a miracle is something that causes wonder, something that astounds us. Miracles are important because they stop us in our tracks and cause us to wonder. Maybe they have a natural explanation, and maybe they don’t, but they certainly leave us with an abiding sense of wonder. And given this definition of miracle, it is not surprising that our most valued, sacred stories should contain many moments of astonishment – many astounding moments, many marvels, many miracles.