Re: Genesis & sacramental texts

From: Jonathan Clarke (
Date: Sat May 04 2002 - 19:42:33 EDT

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    Hi George

    I suspect the lack of response is a recognition that the sacraments and baptism
    are great fault lines in the church over which much blood has been shed. What
    progress has been made in Christian unity over the past century has been by
    agreeing to disagree on these matters.

    However I go use your argument with extreme literalists to try and get them to
    think through their hermeutic in choosing to read some passages literally and
    other symbolically. Usually without success.

    It has been on my mind over the last few days that the great fault lines in the
    church are no longer along denominational lines, or at least not
    exclusively. A
    baptist who believes in YEC may find more in common with an Adventist that with
    an OEC. A Charismatic catholic may seek fellowship with a AOG over a fellow
    catholic. Conversations with my rector yesterday suggested that opinions on
    stem cell and cloning research my be the beginning of another yet another
    trans-denominational rift. His words were to the effect that he would question
    the evangelical credentials of any evangelical who defended research into
    embryonic stem cells. he, and other evangelicals of this denomination, seem to
    have more in common with catholics in this area than they do with other

    Like the age of the earth or organic evolution in many places this issue may
    become (and seems to have already done so in my congregation) a litmus test for
    whether one is truly evangelical, rather than a more thoughtful response as to
    the issues involved.


    george murphy wrote:

    > Adrian Teo wrote:
    > I have posed similar questions in the past here about texts dealing
    > with Baptism and the Lord's Supper and have been met with an embarassed
    > reticence to discuss the topic, as if I had committed some kind of childish
    > faux pas. Discussion about sacraments is considered unseemly while it's OK
    > for us to go at it about creation & evolution, creatio ex nihilo vs process
    > theology &c. Frankly I don't get it. There are at least 2 good reasons
    > why the topic is germane, only one of which [tease] I will point out here.
    > Are we to interpret texts "literally" or "figuratively" (to put it
    > rather simplistically)? A large body of Christians (mostly conservative
    > Evangelicals) insists that Gen.1-3 must be understood literally but that
    > "This is my body", "born of water and Spirit" & other sacramental texts
    > must not be understood literally. Another large body of Christians (many
    > Roman Catholics, Lutherans, & Anglicans) says that Gen.1-3 either needn't
    > be or shouldn't be read as literal history but that the sacramental texts
    > should be interpreted in their literal sense. (There are also some who say
    > that neither should be understood literally & some who say that both should
    > be but let's not confuse things right now.)
    > Neither group simply approaches scripture with the assumption that
    > everything in it is to be read literally (whatever they may say). So what
    > criteria are being used to decide the question? & it ought to be
    > emphasized that this is not just a question of historical accuracy. Those
    > in the first group will agree that Jesus did in fact say "this is my body"
    > (or actually the underlying Aramaic) but that what he said is not to be
    > understood in the literal sense.
    > The point is that we all approach biblical texts with fundamental
    > principles of interpretation which may or may not be explicitly
    > recognized. What are those principles? & where do they come from? Are
    > they foreign criteria imposed on scripture or are they themselves
    > scriptural? & are the ways in which we deal with Genesis & the sacramental
    > texts consistent or are we simply influenced far more than we think by
    > denominational traditions & implicit assumptions about what's "reasonable",
    > "fitting" &c?
    > I think that some attention to these questions might shed some
    > light on the different ways in which we deal with Genesis - which seems to
    > be the #1 item of interest on this list.
    > Shalom,
    > George
    > George L. Murphy
    > "The Science-Theology Interface"

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