Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, September 4, 2020

Index - How To Read The Bible


~ ~  Site is Under Construction  ~ ~

- removing duplicate links
- creating new subheadings
- cleaning up website topical list
- verifying dates and links
- shuffling order
- etcetera

Bible – How to Read the Bible

Reading the Bible from the Eyes of Love

Bible - How to Read the Bible

Bible - Discussions 

Bible - Common Questions of God

How God Came to Be

Brian Zahnd - My Problem with the Bible

Andre Rabe - Questions About the Bible In A Postmodern Era, Parts 1-12

How Are We to Read the Bible? As a Divine Product or Human? Part 2 of 2

How Are We to Read the Bible? As a Divine Product or Human? Part 1 of 2

How Do You Read the Bible? Incarnationally, Inspirationally, Inerrantly, or Inexpertly?

How Narrow or Broad is Your View of Jesus and Scripture?

Bible - Canon of the Bible

Do We Have an Open Bible or a Closed Bible? Or, What Makes an Open Bible Closed?

A Review of the Historic v. Canonical v. Creedal Jesus of the Church

Book Review: The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries

Bible - Interpreting the OT

Bible - Questions of Faith

Bible - The Error of Christian Biblicism

Bible - Interpreting the Bible

Bible - The Importance of Biblical Hermeneutics/Interpretation

Book Review: Merold Westphal's Philosophical Hermeneutics for the Church

Christian Smith: The Bible as Sacrament

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Part 9

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Part 8

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Parts 6 and 7

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Parts 4 and 5

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Part 3

Review: Christian Smith - The Bible Made Impossible, Parts 1 and 2

Christian Smith - Introduction: The Bible Made Impossible

Bible - Historical Criticism

Biblical History is Actually Biblical Story Telling in the Bible

Biblical Interpretation - History v. Theology

Bible - Literary Types

Book Review: The Lost World of Scripture, by Walton and Sandy, Parts 1-3

"Is the Bible True" or "Is The Bible a Collection of Myths?"

Can God speak through myth?

Bible - Reading the Bible Theologically

I. Howared Marshall - Father of Open Theism

Bible - Women of the Bible



Nazarenes Reject Strict Inerrancy in Favor of Soteriological Inerrancy of the Bible

One Bible, Two Testaments

Participatory Revelation in Process of Transformation (Or, Why Inerrancy Isn't All That)

Paul Tillich, The Protestant Principle, and Interpretive Doubt vs. Religious Authoritarianism

Peter Enns - "Five Views of Inerrancy," Part 2b - Peter Enns Responds

Peter Enns - Historical Criticism and Evangelicalism: An Uneasy Relationship

Peter Enns - "How Jesus Read His Bible," by Michael Hardin (Parts 1-4) + Videos: A Non-Violent Atonement

Peter Enns - How the Bible Actually Works

Peter Enns - Inerrancy, Historical Criticism, and the Slippery Slope

Peter Enns - Interview: "The Bible Tells Me So"

Peter Enns, "Scripture as a Polyphonic Text has not One, but Many Voices"

Peter Enns - The Bible as a "Human Book"

Pete Enns - The Evolution of Adam, Parts 1, 2, 3

Peter Enns: "The Problem of Inerrancy for Evangelicalism"

Pete Enns - Why "Original Author" [Theory] is Overrated

Popular False Claims About Biblical Scholarship & Historical Criticism

Reacting to the Virgin Birth of Mary and the Virgin Conception of Jesus

Rebecca Trotter - A New Fundamentalism

Reconciling Contemporary Christian Ethics with Social Justice in the OT

Refusing a Contemporary form of Paleo-Christianity, Part 2

Refusing a Contemporary form of Paleo-Christianity, Part 1

Rethinking Biblical Stories: "Is Jonah (and the Whale) Satire or History?"

Reviews of Konrad Schmid's "A Literary History of the Old Testament" - How the OT was Compiled

Roger Wolsey - 16 Ways Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible

Should Christians Resist the Pressure to Interpret the Bible Culturally?

Social Group Theory and the Question of "Whom Did Cain Marry?"

Something to Think About - "Could Moses Write Hebrew?"

Taste and Parody collide with Art and Music

Teaching the Bible in Public Schools - A Post-Evangelical Perspective of the Pros and Cons

Text & Culture - The Relevancy of God's Word to Contemporary Culture

The Authentic Rigor of the Bible as a Literary Narrative of the Ages

The Bible and Evolution, Inerrancy, and Other Matters

The Bible as a "Memory-Narrative" or "Mnemo-Narrative"

The Christian Challenge to Philosophy

The Doctrine of Inerrancy's Oblique Terminology and Virtual Meaninglessness

The Emerging Church and the New Perspective

The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say About Human Origins

The Experience of the Absence of God in the Christian Life

The God of Brokenness: Etherlyn Q. Naiah - Asking for "A New Day of Worship" (a Liberian Gospel Song)

The Historical Context of the Gospel of Mark's Ending

The Infallibility and Multi-Vocality of Scripture

The Jewishness of the Messianic Scriptures

The New Testament

The Old Testament

The Politics of the Bible Both Then and Now

The Politics of Jesus' Death Both Then and Now

The Presence of God in an Open Bible

The Problem of Faith and Religion in Christianity

The Role of Experience in Theology, Parts 1 & 2

The Seeming Incorrigible Perspective of Christian "Blik"

The Value of Asking Difficult Questions & Disturbing the Comfortable to Wrestle Afresh

Thinking Biblically - Its Misuses and Abuses

Translation and Theology - Jesus and the Early Church's Reading of the Greek OT Bible (the Septuagint)

Trying to Imagine the Age of the Bible in Our Contemporary Present

Walter Brueggemann, "The Practice of Prophetic Imagination"

Was the gospel told first to the serpent?

What do we mean by the word Literal?

What is Biblical or Historical Criticism? Part 1 of 3

What Is the Bible? A Good Question that Biblical Inerrancy Can't Answer

What is Theology?

What or Whom Do We Choose? The Bible or Jesus?

What To Do About Bad Theology

When Reading the Bible Learn to Discern Biblical Genre

Why Inerrancy Doesn't Matter

Why Women May Speak, Lead, and Teach in the Church

Working Towards a Biblical Interpretation that is both Relevant and Accurate

What are the Pros and Cons of William Webb's Redemptive-Movement Hermenutic?

Introduction to Trajectory Hermeneutics

by R.E. Slater

September 4, 2020

I came across this old article from November 2013 which never was published and am including it as part of a new Index of topics I am putting together on "How to Read the Bible." When reading the commentary below it felt like an age ago when observing the caustic reaction Webb's book had placed upon the evangelical church in 2001.

First Observation - God's Love Always Includes

Essentially, Webb was stating a biblical principle I always find admirable:
the arc of Scripture always points towards inclusion of the other, the unwanted, the dismissed, and not exclusion.
Webb was speaking up on the hot buttons of the evangelical church which famously excluded women and gays from church ministries. If they were allowed to participate in the church in some way it was always with nuanced permissions carving out acceptable niches within the church. I spoke to this problem in 2013 in the last article here in this post having experienced more than a few congregational major church policy changes. Some positive. Some negative.

Second Observation - God'ls Love is Always Redemptive

Webb proposed a new "interpretive trajectory" on how to read Scripture. At the time many in the church reacted negatively to this saying that it was forcing Scripture to follow societal trends of progress humanism. It was this kind of church attitude which has prohibited it from participating in positive attitude, employment and industry of all members of society.

For argument's sake let's say the hermeneutic of the bible always speaks of forward redemptive action - otherwise what good is Christ's atonement on the cross? When reading the bible there can always be found a "redemptive hermeneutic" - we see this in its many stories of lost and found, condemned and saved, forgotten and lifted up.

The idea of overlaying unto the bible a progressive humanism caused the church to claim this idea was mistaken leading to the creation of additional church policies excluding societal segments such as women and gays. Here, the mistake was in the understanding of  the phrase progressive humanism mistaking it for secular humanism rather than Christian humanism. Yet the adjective progressive told all. It was a change intended to be right and good whether secular or Christian.

Third Observation - God's Love is Never Deniable

I came across a post by "The Reformation Project," read it twice, and think they got it both right and wrong.

Right in stating some things we read in the bible just aren't there while other things we read from the bible we put there ourselves.

Wrong in the exclusion of LGBTQ people from God's love and blessings:
...There are no LGBTQ-identified people in Scripture. Given the vast cultural distance between understandings of same-sex behavior then and now, it’s misguided to try to “discover” explicit affirmations of same-sex couples or LGBTQ people in the Bible.
...The Bible’s teachings may sound somewhat regressive by modern standards, but they [tend to] move in a [more] liberating direction compared to their surrounding cultures. Hence, by supporting abolitionism and gender equality we are embracing the redemptive spirit of Scripture.
...It’s misleading to say that the Greeks and Romans “accepted homosexuality” while the early Christians “opposed homosexuality.” The Greeks and Romans accepted specific forms of same-sex behavior that even most non-Christians wouldn’t accept today: prostitution, master/slave sex, and pederasty.
By rejecting those forms of same-sex behavior, the early Christians were rejecting promiscuity in favor of monogamy. They were rejecting the use of sex to assert one’s status and power, and instead uplifting sex as the sign and seal of a lifelong covenant of self-giving love.
Given that same-sex behavior in the ancient world was based on the dynamics of power and promiscuity, it’s no surprise that the early Christians rejected it along with extra-marital heterosexual behavior. But same-sex relationships based on mutuality and monogamy are an entirely different question, and one that the early Christians didn’t face.
...Even though same-sex marriage wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen then, many of the countercultural principles the early Christians embraced regarding sexuality are consistent with same-sex marriages today: mutuality, monogamy, and covenantal love.

To sum up, Webb was using available tools to speak up for women but fell short on speaking up as fully as he could of for LGBTQ individuals. I suspect he wanted to but the pressure of the evangelical church to exclude him from its community was high. In the end, Webb upended the church when asking it to reconsider its dogmas.

Twenty years later, one might say Webb was a courageous figure who stepped up and spoke up. He did what he could. To this some churches changed their policies such as mine own which I talk about later and many did not. As a result, societal ethical dynamics in this case have progressed further than the church has. A church which prides itself according to the Reformation statements above in "leading" society to higher moral grounds. In this case it hasn't. It has shown a big fail.

And the present day church's failure is felt everyday by the Trumpian churches of 2016ff declaring themselves as extremely poor societal members by backing political policies of oppression and repression for society and the environment. One can sympathize with their pro-life arguments to end abortion. But one cannot sympathize with all the other forms and stages of life which its standards do not recognize nor attempt to rectify. It reminds one of the "mote in the eye" only seeing what it wants to see while overlooking the harms to the the other.


R.E. Slater
September 4, 2020

* * * * * * * * *

From Wikipedia -

"Trajectory hermeneutics or redemptive-movement hermeneutics is a hermeneutical approach that seeks to locate varying 'voices' in the text, and to view this voice as a progressive trajectory through history (or at least through the Biblical witness), often in a trajectory that progresses through to the present day. The contemporary reader of Scripture is in some way to envisage [or interpret] by [use of] the Biblical text as standing in continuity with a developing theme. The reader, then, is left to discern this trajectory and appropriate it accordingly.

"[Theologican] William J. Webb employed such a hermeneutic, in his [book entitled,] Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. [In it,] Webb shows how the moral commands of the Old and New Testament were a significant improvement over the surrounding [non-biblical] cultural values and practices. Webb identified 18 different ways in how God dealt with his people moving against the current of popular cultural values.

While for Webb the use of this hermeneutic moves to highlight the progressive liberation of women and slaves from oppressive male/bourgeois dominance, the prohibition of homosexual acts consistently moves in a more conservative manner than that of the surrounding Ancient Near East or Graeco-Roman societies.

While Paul does not explicitly state that slavery should be abolished, the trajectory seen in Scripture is a progressive liberation of slaves. When this is extended to modern times, it implies that the Biblical witness supports (i) the abolition of slavery. The (ii) progressive liberation of women from oppressive patriarchalism, traced from Genesis and Exodus through to Paul's own acknowledgement of women as 'co-workers' (Rom. 16:3). Which then sets a [biblical] precedent when applied to modern times that suggests that women ought to have the same rights and roles afforded as men. Historically, the Biblical witness has become progressively more stringent in its views of homosexual practice and the implications of this were not commented upon by Webb."

* * * * * * * * *

Amazon Link

In Slaves, Women & Homosexuals (2001) William J. Webb tackles some of the most complex and controversial issues that have challenged the Christian church--and still do. He leads you through the maze of interpretation that has historically surrounded understanding of slaves, women and homosexuals, and he evaluates various approaches to these and other biblical-ethical teachings. Throughout, Webb attempts to "work out the hermeneutics involved in distinguishing that which is merely cultural in Scripture from that which is timeless" (Craig A. Evans). By the conclusion, Webb has introduced and developed a "redemptive hermeneutic" that can be applied to many issues that cause similar dilemmas. Darrel L. Bock writes in the foreword to Webb's work, "His goal is not only to discuss how these groups are to be seen in light of Scriptures but to make a case for a specific hermeneutical approach to reading these texts. . . . This book not only advances a discussion of the topics, but it also takes a markedly new direction toward establishing common ground where possible, potentially breaking down certain walls of hostility within the evangelical community.

* * * * * * * * *

Persuasive Criteria:

#1. Preliminary movement: a component may be culturally bound if the text modifies by suggests more could be done. The biblical message makes a preliminary (not final, absolute) movement by modifying the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman cultural conditions and laws regulating women.

#2. Seed ideas: a component may be culturally bound if the biblical text is a seed that will develop over time.

#3. Breakouts: a component may be cultural if the biblical text is actually broken out of in another biblical text.

#4. Purpose/Intent statements: a biblical text is culturally bound if in following it one no longer fulfills the text’s original intent.

#5. Basis in Fall or Curse: a biblical text may be transcultural if it is rooted in the Fall — since the Fall continues today.

Moderately Persuasive Criteria:

#6. Basis in original creation: patterns. A component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in original creation.

#7. Basis in original creation: primogeniture (priority granted to the oldest). A component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in created order.

#8. Basis in New Creation: a component of a text may be transcultural if it is rooted in new-creation themes.

#9. Competing options: a component of a text is more likely to be transcultural if presented in a time and setting when other competing options existed in the broader cultures.

#10: Opposition to original culture: a text is more likely to be transcultural if it counters or stands in opposition to the original culture. Dissonance indicates permanence. Thus, a text is more cultural where it goes along with a given cultural norm. [Limited usefulness, but generally useful.]

#11: Closely related issues: if a given issue (say patriarchy) is expressed in specific instances (closely related issues like women as property or polygamy), then it is more likely that the specific instances are cultural and not permanent. [I don’t think Webb’s argument is as clear as it could have been, and I may have misunderstood this one.]

#12: Penal code: the degree of severity of punishment in legal codes is a potential indicator of whether or not a given item is transcultural or cultural. The more severe, the more transcultural.

#13: Specific vs. General: a component may be culturally relative if its specifics are against a general principle of Scripture, and the two major principles here are love and justice. Is the power inequity (in ancient culture) a justice issue?

Inconclusive Criteria:

#14: Basis in theological analogy. A component of a text may be transcultural if its basis is rooted in the character of God or Christ through theological analogy.

#15: Contextual comparisons. A text or a component in a text may be transcultural/cultural if other elements in the context are transcultural/cultural.

#16: Appeal to the Old Testament. A practice in the NT may be transcultural if it appeals to the Old Testament in support. Thus, continuity between the testaments might indicate transcultural. But, his view is that continuity between the two testaments may or may not indicate transcultural, while the putting aside of an OT practice surely indicates a cultural element in the OT.

Persuasive Extrascriptural Criteria:

#17: Pragmatic basis between cultures: a component of a text may be cultural if the pragmatic basis for the instruction cannot be sustained from one culture to another. It becomes more transcultural if the pragmatic basis can be sustained.

#18: Scientific and social-scientific evidence: a component of a text may be culturally confined if it is contrary to present-day scientific evidence. If the two conflict, there is a good indicator the text is culturally confined.

Here is Deuteronomy 22; in its entirety, from the TNIV:

If you see someone else’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner. If the owner does not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then give it back. Do the same if you find someone’s donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it.
If you see someone’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet.

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.

When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.

Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.

Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.

If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekelsa of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekelsb of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

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Redemptive Trend: Response to Grudem

by Scot McKnight
Feb 15, 2007

Last week I posted a basic summary of Grudem’s response to the redemptive trend hermeneutic or the redemptive movement hermeneutic (RMH). This week I want to offer a response to Grudem, and I welcome your comments.

Overall I think Grudem fairly describes Webb’s RMH; I wouldn’t describe him always the same way and at times Grudem uses language that is a bit slanted, but I think Grudem has been fair-minded. But, I have serious concerns about Grudem’s response.

My overall comment is this: instead of saying Webb’s “principles cast all of the NT’s ethical commands into doubt” (65), I would contend that Webb has actually articulated an understanding of how Christians have sought to apply the Bible in changing contexts. Webb’s proposal is a first offer; he’s a pioneer in articulating these things. What we need is folks to walk with him, talk with him, and converse on this very subject so we can refine, support, eliminate, and add to his criteria. I would contend that this is a very good evangelical book and one that the evangelical community needs to engage with serious rigor. I’m not saying I agree with everything. I’m saying Webb has sought to articulate the strategies we all use as we seek to bring the Bible into our world. To accuse this book of sliding down the slippery slope to liberalism is to label it instead of engaging it.

Further observations:

First, it is a well-known fact that Webb and Grudem have gone toe-to-toe about this and Webb, I think, has reasonably argued that his “ultimate ethic” is derived from the Bible and it is not a “not-yet-revealed” ethic that Webb fashions in his own mind. So, when Grudem speaks of Webb’s “better ethic” I think Webb has shown that his “better” is drawn from the Bible. Webb’s RMH, in other words, stops with the Bible in Webb’s own understanding.

Second, Grudem has narrowed the meaning of “evangelical.” I know many evangelicals who do not agree with what Grudem says all evangelicals have believed in this chp. His definition of “evangelical” is part of the current trend to narrow that meaning to something other than the quadrilateral of evangelicalism: Bible, cross, conversion, and activism (see David Bebbington’s book The Dominance of Evangelicalism).

Third, most importantly, Webb is not asking ethical statements in the Bible to go through his 18 criteria system and only those that survive will be practiced by Christians today. This must be understood, and I don’t think Grudem accepts this: Webb’s 18 criteria are an attempt to make explicit what Christians, in one way or another, in some ages more than others, do when they attempt to live the Bible out in our world.

It is unfair to Webb to think everyone has to master the 18 criteria in order to know how to live. Instead, Webb is making explicit what Christians do. Webb’s 18 criteria are the sorts of moves Christians make when they deal with texts like Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and to a lesser extent the NT.

This means Grudem’s scare tactics on pp. 70-71, when he plays out just how many will be qualified to tell us how to live as Christians today — almost no one — is unfair to Webb’s intent. I haven’t talked to William Webb about this, but I suspect he would say that his 18 criteria are actual moves made by lay folks who are untrained. Even if they are not conscious of the moves they are making, they do these things themselves. If Webb wouldn’t say that, I will: in my experience I have heard nearly every one of these moves as the way Christians think when they think about whether or not to follow some of the Bible’s statements.

Open up pp. 14-15 of this book, give it to a Sunday School class, ask folks if they follow these things, ask why and why not, and then start recording answers. If you listen hard enough and to enough folks, you just might get all 18 criteria.

Fourth, Grudem opens the door to each of the 18 criteria on p. 73. On that page, Grudem posits two criteria of his own, and I argue they are too general to be useful and really do open to each of the 18 criteria Webb articulates:

Criteria one:

“Most evangelicals (including me) believe we are under the moral authority of the NT and are obligated to obey its commands when we are in the same situation as that addressed in the NT command (such as a parent, a child, a person contemplating a divorce, a church selecting elders or deacons, a church preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, a husband, a wife, and so forth).”

Criteria two:

“When there is no exact modern equivalent to some aspect of a command (such as ‘honor the emperor’ in 1 Pet 2:17), we are still obligated to obey the command, but we do so by applying it to situations that are essentially similar.”

On criteria one the problem is obvious: what does “same situation” require? There is very little today that is the “same” as the 1st Century Roman or Jewish context. How much the “same” does it have to be? What about “almost the same”? Who is going to tell us what is the “same” and what is not? I think this criteria is open to the same accusations Grudem levels against Webb.

On criteria two the problem is even more obvious: What does “applying” mean? Is not the application process one that requires knowledge of the Bible, its context, its historical contexts for each author and book, and then some awareness of those historical codes and how the Bible works in that historical context? And then some knowledge of our modern world so that we can find something that is the “same” or “essentially similar”? Are we not back to the same problem? And what does “essentially similar” mean? And how do we determine what is “essentially similar”? Is it not by using criteria not unlike those in Webb? I think so.

By not spelling out what “applying” actually involves, what we run the risk of doing is simply continuing on with what we are comfortable with and without ever reflecting seriously on what we are actually doing. Let me give an analogy: Grudem and I both taught syntax at Trinity; we spelled out all the kinds of genitives and aorists. Instead of saying “aorist,” we spelled them out. Webb, instead of saying “applying,” has spelled them all out.

On the matter of slavery and the RMH, Grudem says this: “Most evangelical interpreters say that the Bible does not command or encourage or endorse slavery, but rather tells Christians who were slaves how they should conduct themselves, and also gives principles that would modify and ultimately lead to the abolition of slavery (1 Cor 7:21-22; Gal 3:28; Philem 16, 21…).” The italicized words (my own italics), as I read them, are precisely what Webb means by the RMH. (On slavery, Mark Noll’s book actually shows that the evangelical Christians of the 19th Century did not all agree; but I can’t tell if Grudem means evangelicals today or always. It sure makes a difference on this one.)

In other words, Grudem has in fact opened the door to some kind of redemptive movement hermeneutic with his two criteria, some kind of (refined) skill needed in moving the Bible from that world into our world.

Finally, I register my disagreement on Grudem’s “slippery slope” argument. I have said before on this blog that I think nearly always the slippery slope accusation is dangerous. It is rhetorically effective for many; it often successfully labels someone a liberal (or leaning in that direction); but it is rarely a logical course of action. It works like this for Grudem (p. 28):

1. Abandon inerrancy.
2. Endorse ordaining women.
3. Abandon headship of males.
4. Exclude clergy who are opposed to women’s ordination.
5. Approve homosexuality as morally valid in some cases.
6. Approve homosexual ordination.
7. Ordain homosexuals to high leadership in denominations.

This is a “predictable” sequence (28) though only the Epicopals have done so. (Which means to me it is not all that predicatable, since there are plenty in #1 who aren’t in #7.)

I do not dispute this is the case for the Episcopalian Church in the USA; I don’t know that it is a logical process so much as an entire cluster of commitments, one of which would be a view of the Bible quite different than that of Grudem. I think, however, there is a lack of appreciation for (1) the many Episcopals who do not follow most (even any) of this and (2) for the lack of logical necessity between these steps. In other words, some don’t believe in inerrancy and still don’t endorse women’s ordination; some don’t believe in inerrancy and still believe in male headship. Conversely, some believe in inerrancy and still believe in some of the other numbers. There is no slipperly slope here. Not all those in the Episcopal Church agree with women’s ordination. Some make these moves from step to step; some don’t. That the latter happens proves that this is actually not a slippery slope that once one gets on that person will fall headlong down the path into the pit.

This sort of slope is actually a mental construct that some choose to believe. I don’t. We could easily make one that leads from accepting male headship to male abuse of women — and I am loath to bring this up because I find it obnoxious and illogical. But, the slippery slope mentality needs to be debunked for what it is: at best a sometimes-slope, almost never slippery, never necessary, and always a path taken by people who have chosen to go down that road for any number of reasons.

I go on record here in saying I think Webb’s book is a good one, the kind of book we need more of and not one that deserves to be pushed aside by sticking the “liberal” label or the “slippery-slope-toward-liberalism” label on its cover, preventing those who most need it from a careful read.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Final Thoughts

by R.E. Slater

November 6, 2013
Revised September 4, 2020

I am always pre-disposed to the idea of a redemptive/eschatological movement in the bible. It is not original with William Webb. What is unique is how he couples this idea with an externally derived philosophical theology overlaid onto the bible in addition to using biblical exegesis. I find this helpful as it helps keep the bible current with all the best in societal movement while correlating with what we find as true in the bible concerning God's love.


Christian Humanism would be a subject I would come to examine in 2020 finding it both helpful and descriptive of the more popular term "social justice" in use by society. In fact, Christian humanism was the older church term for social justice used over the last 2000 years of church history. Lately, it has been dropped because of its overtones to "secular humanism" and fell out of usage.

Webb then is interpreting the bible both within itself - by Reformed exegetical standards - and without itself - by progressive societal standards of inclusion, respect, love, and equality. Usually societies are exclusionary so external standards presented by positive societal traits have been rare. Typically external philosophical principles to the biblical witness are applied that are more progressive / redemptive in their helpfulness. But to find a societal movements leaning towards positive biblical principles is surprising.


I do agree we may utilize a phenomenological or anthropological hermeneutic (ala Paul Ricoeur et al) on a culture or society's "biblical interpretation" of that text for today's readings... which removes us as sole interpreters of the biblical text and places our focus on "interpreting the interpreters of the biblical text." This seems much more promising and insightful. And at least a bit more hopeful in its contemporary context of re-apprising our religious agenda, societal planks and platforms, and political jargon.

Historical, textual, source, and redactive criticism has shown to us the great difficulty of trying to get into a biblical passage's "head" when we are so far removed from the event and the ancient society itself. One could almost say (and maybe should say):

"it's a nearly-impossible task." Between trying to account for the text's original meaning, its interpretive movement down through ancient Jewish and NT history, by the people, the prophets, the Temple, its priests and rabbies, by Jesus, and His apostles, and the historical church down through the ages, until finally we, ourselves, come to that text with our own opinions, philosophies, ideas, and experiences... the task seems monumental. And certainly must hold for a wider difference of opinion as we can see by the simple plenitude of denominational creeds and confessions proclaimed down through the historical church traditions. 


My overall wish is to hold to a kind of "faith-doubt" that is less certain than a religious body of dogma may allow. However, if we must espouse certitude, let it be submitted in a spirit of epistemic humility nuanced with a more unified spirit of kindred research and respect for one another. Avoiding the maximized certitudes of any one theological approach be it Reformed, Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical.

The bible is a complex collection of cultural assertions and beliefs over very long periods of time. We read in it of dogmatic borders, public ostracism, faith agendas by forcible fiat, legalism, and unloving deeds and actions. The same can be found from churches to denominational sees as they work to apply positive or negative religious insights into their structures.

An Example

On a small scale, I had witnessed once how not to enact a new church policy. It was a dictum handed down through the pastor, at his insistence, through the church board to the unexpecting congregation without any opportunity given to it to discuss or vote for it. There was Sunday night meeting announced that morning in worship, the preacher told everyone what he wanted, took a few questions which he responded too harshly, and said to any agitators to leave the church. It was a done deal.

Though the new change was admirable for it's interpretation of Scripture and needed to be done, it was enacted heavy-handedly and without regard to the congregation's input - which generally would have been positive and in favor of it. However, it forever left a bad taste in the church's mouth, created an administration which was untouchable, and negatively contributed to the church's overzealous character. Essentially, the back doors were as wide as the front doors, so that people came-and-went only staying long enough to here a sermon but when getting involved found the church's authority was all one way and not in favor of congregational input. It was an instance of doing the right thing in the wrong way.


There are other ways to come to a societal issue when proclaiming its worthiness without resorting to a personally favored contemporary "reading" that was speciously used to accomplish a desired ends of church platform. It was disingenuous and has left me quite jaded to Webb's approach because of its public misuse. Eventually the church would agree with the perceived need to change it's missional platforms and orientation - though it seemed ignorant on its own right to the issues at hand when compared by its guiding, more passionate staff.

From a congregational perspective, the way that the changes were forced upon the church's constitution was very problematic, which shortly began a winnowing campaign that didn't end until its rigorous ends were met. In contrast, a more patient and conciliatory approach might have been used, here, it was not. In its place was the perceived urgency of immediate and public declaration that broached no discussion and replaced all previously existing statutes. Perhaps this was done because Christians generally are a hard-headed Christian lot where using cudgel and hammer are the only pronounced way to bring about the rapidity of change required. Still, I thought then, as I do now, that it left little room for congregational response for those unaware of the issues at hand until the firestorm had begun, and would quickly reach its zenith.

In hindsight, the change of church platform was right and good - allowing for the greater protection of human rights and societal freedom - but the way in which it was implemented was a textbook case worthy of OT prophetic proportion when God came heatedly to His own people to stamp upon the wine presses of their human iniquity. Even so, "Lord, hear our cry, to be merciful to your children who would seek your name and bear testimony to the rightness of your cause, and divine temper of wroth and judgment. Be merciful to us we pray and help us to see with your heart and soul what is right and good in your eyes. Let this be our prayer. Amen."

R.E. Slater
November 6, 2013
revised September 4, 2020