Re: Genesis & sacramental texts

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun May 05 2002 - 07:03:19 EDT

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    Jon -
             You're quite right that sacramental issues have been divisive
    since the Reformation. Ecumenical dialogues over the past 40 years
    have, however,
    resulted in a great deal of progress. So simply not talking about
    them or agreeing
    to disagree isn't the only way to promote peace.
             OTOH, the creation-evolution issue has been even more divisive over the
    past century, & as you point out, issues about stem cells &c are
    becoming so. &
    the issue of homosexuality is likely to cause major splits in churches over the
    next few years - including, I fear, my own. & in many cases that will be
    especially painful because not only are some people separated from others with
    different views but many of us feel internally divided.
             I think, however, that the sacramental issue is relevant to all these
    matters because (& this is the 2d reason I alluded to below) it gets
    to the heart
    of what Christian faith means for embodied creatures in the physical world.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    Jonathan Clarke wrote:

    > 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
    > evangelicals.
    > 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.
    > Jon
    > 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
    > > texts consistent or are we simply influenced far more than we think by
    > > denominational traditions & implicit assumptions about what's
    > > "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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