Hope You Are Checking the Comments…

Posted By on December 24, 2008

Just in case. Here is something I just posted as a reply. I think the questions and my response are useful for others to see. The statements in quotation marks (” “) is NOT mine.

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1. You wrote: “If the Bible indeed employs ‘flawed propositions’ in order to produce conclusive Divine Truth. Doesn’t that ultimately bring all arguments of the Bible into question?”

MSH: It could (but I don’t think that’s how to view this). I don’t really like the term “propositions” with respect to, say, Paul’s pre-scientific ideas in 1 Cor. 11. I really don’t see him as giving propositional truth for believers (i.e., laying out an idea we are to believe). Rather, I see him laying out an idea (”women, don’t be provocative; be modest”) on the basis of a flawed idea. The proposition there is the former, not the latter. Think of it this way: a Scripture writer can put out an idea that is an eternal truth, but he himself is not eternal, nor omniscient, nor perfect, etc. He himself is very far from omniscient or right on everything, yet he was used by God to give eternal propositions. I think we’d all agree with that approach. I’m saying it’s in operation in a vivid way in 1 Cor 11. We also have all had the experience of making a true, powerful point and then later realizing that our reasoning behind the point wasn’t that good — and yet the point stands, and can actually be made from other intellectual beachheads (even better). I think we all have to admit that argument trajectories and propositions based on those trajectories are different, and do not NECESSARILY unvalidate each other. That’s all I’m saying in regard to Paul and 1 Cor 11.

2. You wrote: “Even if God condescended, why would he use false propositions to come to true conclusions.”

MSH: He didn’t – if by “use” you mean “give” (and it’s not a proposition anyway – see above). God didn’t “give” Paul his unscientific ideas above women’s hair and fecundity. God knows better. That came from Paul who was a product of his world and education. God was after the proposition about modesty. THAT is what he approved; how Paul got there was incidental. If you mean by “used” that God “put up with” these propositions, I’d agree.

Let’s take a more “normal” example. Does God approve of the idea that women should not normally own property? This is laid out in the OT law. In the Mosaic law, inheritance of property carried through the males of the (extended) family. If there was no male heir left, the property was forfeit. The only exception we see is when the daughters of Zelophehad (who were in just such a pickle) appealed to Moses (cf. Num. 26:33; Numbers 27) . Moses allowed them to keep their land — but that’s the point. The LAW itself made no such provision, and so direct appeal to Moses himself had to be made. There are a bevy of other such PATRIARCHAL cases. The Mosaic law often extends directly from patriarchal culture. So…was God dictating (pardon the pun) that culture and its ideas about women? I don’t believe so. I believe it was what it was. God came to humans in THAT time who had THOSE ideas in THAT place, etc. and used the people at his disposal. We can try and sugarcoat what the OT does with women as chattel, or with slaves, but those patriarchal views are in the text, loud and clear – just like hair and fecundity. My view would say that the idea of having the girl’s father decide to force an unbetrothed virgin woman to marry the guy who just had sex with her isn’t a “divine proposition” (Lev. 22:16-17; cp. Deut. 22:28-29; the woman had ZERO power over her own life there). Rather, I would say that God allowed patriarchal figures like Moses to apply the basic commandments within the prevailing culture (where do we have any verse that says all or even most of these laws were dictated? we don’t). I doubt many of us today would think it “biblical” to prohibit women from owning property; we accept THAT part of the Bible as being “culturally passe” — and so I’d like to know why my application of the same stance is so off-base in 1 Cor 11 when it is so obvious that Paul’s ideas are scientifically passe?

NOTE: My distinctions with respect to inspiration are not borne out of isolated examples. I hold these views because of bigger issues like the above (patriarchalism). We simply can’t ignore what the Bible says and downplay it. If God gave us all these words directly, then he gave us the culture. I don’t think we want to go there, and I don’t see anything in Scripture requiring us to go there.

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13 Responses to “Hope You Are Checking the Comments…”

  1. Jonnathan Molina says:

    MHS says:

    If God gave us all these words directly, then he gave us the culture.

    Wow! I never thought of it like that. Having done all the catch up reading (May-Dec, all pdf/articles and comments) I can see how this poses a huge problem. If every word is inspired out of God’s own mouth then the cultural norms would indeed carry over to our present age as “from God”, wouldn’t it? And if anyone begins to argue otherwise then they’re basically arguing in favor of the way you look at inspiration whether they know it or not (and I know I’m oversimplifying the point). Thank you for such an (exhausting) yet invigorating discussion Dr. Heiser. I look forward to further streamlining of the Bellingham Statement and may be brave enough to suggest some wording of my own (I’m just an arm-chair theologian but I think I can take a whack at it). God Bless!

  2. MSH says:

    @Jonnathan Molina: whack away!

  3. cwmyers007 says:

    RE: Patriarchial Culture

    Mike,

    You said: “If God gave us all these words directly, then he gave us the culture.”

    Mike, this proposition that you have set before us is drawing a conclusion (Q) that is not a proper result of from the given information (P). It does not follow that “If God gave us all these words directly, then he gave us the culture.” Or millions of evangelicals that believe in a verbal plenary inspiration would be living like Moses!

    Yes, God definitely gave the words of Scrupture, so what was he doing when he made laws that held a patriarchial worldview? The answer is simple and one that has been recognized by those who hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. Basically God is the amazing-infinitely-perfect Governor of all things: this includes cultures and people and your breathing and the formation of your children in the womb of your wife. So these laws with patriarchial overtones are just that–they are God governing the prevailing culture of that day…..now, Are these laws useful to us? YES! Because they tell us something about God–that he is concerned with the poor and the weaker vessels and meets people where they are. Why did God make a rapist marry his mate…because the woman would be worthless to that society because she was not a virgin and noone would ever want to marry her no matter how much the dowry. The father’s choice to marry her to her rapist sounds extreme to us, but remember that ideally the father is always to act in the best interest of his children. And the safest action for the woman is that she is married and has a husband that will support her; if that rapist is capable…then YES this is the best thing for her. I encourage you to study out (although I am sure that you are familiar) with the Mosaic culture dealing with marriage/divorce and the protection built into the Law for not only the weaker vessels, but also the lame, sick, and poor. One of the best scholars in this area of scholarship is a man by the name of David Instone-Brewer.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  4. cwmyers007 says:

    Re: Correcting one of your references

    Mike, also for your readers…you said Leviticus 22:16-17, but you meant Exodus 22:16-17.

  5. cwmyers007 says:

    RE: Propositions

    Mike, I do see the distinction that you are making between propositions and ideas. But let me ask you, will you believe a conclusion that I am aiming to explain to you if I base it on false ideas?? I think not and nor should you…and I think this is the main reason why the majority of evangelicals hold to verbal plenary inspiration. Whether you like it or not, you are casting doubt on these conclusions of Scripture by accepting that they are based on false ideas.

    For example, since you see 1 Cor 11 as using false ideas to come to a true conclusion, we must also call into question these other IDEAS, “man is the glory of God,” “woman is the glory of man” “man is not of the woman ; but the woman of the man.”

    We could take each of these, but for the sake of space, let us just take the latter, “man is not of the woman ; but the woman of the man.” With your view of Scripture, it is so easy to attribute this idea to a pre-scientific worldview that Genesis 1-2 actually happened. But now with our advanced knowledge in science we know that actually man came from woman…since the fetus starts with female parts and then produces its male parts later in development. So Paul here again is using a false idea, a pre-scientific worldview. WRONG. Holding to verbal plenary inspiration I must reject this! Gen 1-2 actually happened and this is why Paul, taught by the Holy Spirit, is using it here for a proof for what he is trying to explain.

    Mike, when you start labeling parts of the Bible as false ideas… it will evolve into the entire book as a false idea…as it did for Bart Ehrman and other men that have fallen into condemnation.

    I hope you see that I defend verbal plenary inspiration because of bigger issues like the above where admitting false ideas will force you to admit other false ideas in the text that I do not think you would want to admit are false.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  6. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: My point here seems undeniable. If it was God who gave Moses (or anyone else) the words “women can’t seek divorces” or “women can’t own property” then those words come from his mind and his will — the culture is dictated by him. This is more than God “governing over” a culture — it is God outlining what he wanted in that culture (how he wanted his people to think about women in this case). It matters not if the culture went by the wayside over time. Why? Because God (in this view) gave the words of the text to people within a specific cultural window or time frame. Your argument here doesn’t work.

  7. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: the answer is “yes” — I have the ability and the will to hear a conclusion you make and think “I don’t think part of that argument is sound, but I think the point he’s angling for is right.” I don’t see how this ability is profound or unusual.

  8. cwmyers007 says:

    Your problem here is that the law never says that women cannot divorce, nor does it say that women cannot own property (actually Num. 27 says the opposite). The law is just silent on the issue and only makes laws concerning men and property and divorce because that was the custom of the day….God governed the customs of the day and he did not seek to change them…when in reality it is NOT WRONG to disallow women from owning property. Under the federal headship belief in that day women DID own property through the headship of her husband….what he had was hers, but he was head of it. I wish America was more like that today and we would have less problems…LOL

  9. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: The law makes no provision for women in either category. In view of all the laws that have daughters as property (they can be sold off), this is not surprising. And the Zelophehad passage does NOT say the opposite – the incident arose precisely because there was no precedent in the law of Moses. This is very clear; I can’t see why you are so resistant to stuff like this.

  10. cwmyers007 says:

    The Zelophehad passage was included by God through Moses TO MAKE provision for women in this situation. To make the argument because the law is silent (does not make any provision) is no argument at all. Why would God make laws governing something that the culture would not allow (such as women owning things or women being able to determine the reality of a divorce). I am not being resistant, but I think you impose arguments into the text that are unnecessary.

  11. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: What about the women who lost property or couldn’t own it before this? Don’t they matter? Why not put that into the law to begin with? And WHERE is your evidence that this decision subsequently ALTERED the law WHEN MALES IN THE FAMILY WERE STILL LIVING? Any passages for that? If not, property law still favors one gender, as is normative in patriarchal culture. And since these laws have nothing to do with sacrifice and the temple (I.e., the rationale for these laws “not being for today” is not present), why aren’t you practicing them? Would you allow your daughter or wife to own property while you are living? Why? If God gave the exception, he also gave the rule prior to the exception (and for all we can tell, that lived on long after the exception: when there are men alive, THEY alone inherit the property). In your view, this cultural norm would be God-given.

  12. cwmyers007 says:

    I’m sorry, I know that this post has grown old, but I just wanted to point out that the cultural norm existed before the inspired Scripture was penned, therefore, it is impossible to say that God GAVE this cultural norm (indeed, he did PERMIT it to be, but that is different than giving it). I hope this topic comes up again–this could use some more discussion.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  13. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: If God is giving the words, why not just overturn an uncomfortable (misogynistic) cultural norm? This isn’t much of an answer.

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