Posted By MSH on December 24, 2008
Back to the rest of Chris’s reply. This is good stuff since it prompts discussion and brings other examples to the discussion.
Chris was questioning me based on three items. The first two I replied to, and subsequently posted. I’ve posted my response to some follow-up discussion and his third item here, and let him know in a quick reply directly to his comment.
Chris writes: “how about other propositions that are equally based on the human author’s ‘limited knowledge base,’ such issues as homosexuality, women senior pastors, and abortion (among others). All of which can be argued as unbiblical with the Bible if your view of inspiration/inerrancy is adopted.”
I would say that rejection of homosexuality as a permissible behavior does not depend on the author’s limited scientific knowledge, because homosexuality isn’t all or even mostly about science. Those who want to argue it is genetic are getting their information from TIME and other popular magazines, not the peer-reviewed literature. What I mean here is that if you actually go to the sources TIME and others dilute, you will read that the scientific community does NOT accept genetic determinism. For example, consider this statement:
Biologists have known for a long time that gene expression is complex and DNA does not determine biology, let alone other characteristics of physical and mental health, behavior and intelligence. Nevertheless, over the years, thedeterministic model that genes alone define biology has become enshrined as the prevailing paradigm. This dogma was manifested on a large scale in the pursuit of the Human Genome Project. Why do scientists, with the full knowledge that various aspects of the cellular machinery and the environment work in cohort, continue to apply and propagate the DNA mantra? The motivations may be many, but chief among them is the simplicity of the “DNA is everything” model, and the outside commercial and scientific incentives available for such a focus. The application of DNA ideology has led to a problematic construction of race, sexuality, and intelligence, as seen through a lens of genetic determinism and has fostered the belief that for each of us our physical and mental well-being are pre-programmed and reflect the composition of our individual DNA. This scientific interpretation enhances a sense of inevitability and forecloses efforts at promoting social justice by presenting them as futile.1
Paul did not base his argument against homosexuality on pre-scientific views about sexuality. Rather, he argued that it was against the natural order of things in Romans 1, an idea that would have been based both on general observation (most species reproduce sexually and that requires heterosexuality) and on the Mosaic law – which also does not base its laws on science, NOR are those laws unique to patriarchal culture.
While it is true that Scripture nowhere forbids abortion specifically, I do not consider that an argument for the pro-choice position at all. In fact, I don’t even consider the life of the mother a good argument for abortion (my wife won me over there), since the fetus is not an enemy; it is not trying to kill the mother with intent. It just IS and its specific circumstances are what they are. Now, if I were in the delivery room with my wife, my instructions to the doctor would be “do the best you can to save all the lives in question.” I might tell him to save my wife (against her wishes) for other ethical considerations (such as the effect of her death on my other children), but not out of some reflect that her life is worth more, or that the fetus is an enemy combatant.
Scripture’s argument against abortion is not set forth in proposition (“thou shalt not abort a fetus”); it is set forth in a worldview that views any animate human being a complete being (with respect to humans, flesh + nephesh [animate life] = a complete human being).2 You might say, “well, isn’t that pre-scientific?” I’d say “I’ll agree that it is — when you can show me a modern scientific alternative that has greater explanatory power.” Fact is, you can’t. An abortionist may deny personhood to the living contents of the womb, but he or she can’t deny that it is alive and it’s genetically human. And there is no science that supports the idea that a third (biological) ingredient is what makes a living human fetus a person. Scripture doesn’t go beyond the flesh + nephesh idea to speculate about an “added ingredient” that makes the living human a human person. And since so many scientists today will agree that you don’t need a third ingredient for personhood (that would be the pro-life crowd), we can’t conclude that the pro-choice view is the scientific one. It’s about political agendas and pseudo-scientific ideas on the part of moderns [well, THIS single organ carries personhood with it – and if they really believed that, there would be no abortion beyond brain formation – it’s politics, not science]. So, we can’t say Scripture’s view on what constitutes a human being is pre-scientific or scientifically wrong. We CAN say we know MORE now that is complementary [unlike the hair has something to do with fecundity, which is nonsense]. To the biblical person, flesh + animation = a complete human being. A biblical era woman knew she was “with child” when her body told her so (hormonal changes, activity in the womb. That is certainly correct. Our science pushes back the animation (the definition of life: is it growing, drawing nutrition, drawing oxygen – if so, it’s alive), but IT DOES NOT CONTRADICT the biblical idea – it just goes further.
Regarding the women in ministry issue, methinks you are under-studied on that one. That issue is more about exegesis of certain passages than culture, regardless of the egalitarian rhetoric. Personally, I have questions for the pro-women in ministry view that have never been answered exegetically in all I’ve read [I tend to ask different questions than most]. I can’t think of a single exegetical argument unambiguously in favor of it. That said, I’m not terribly bothered by the idea that someone could come along and produce a profound piece of exegesis in favor of it that answers all my questions (I’m not holding my breath, though). I’ve seen women in pastoral roles practiced in places that are not out to move a feminist agenda forward, so that slippery slope argument isn’t airtight.
Chris’ third item:
(3) There are core doctrinal truths that are not concluded directly in Scripture: such as the Trinity, hypostatic union, and others, which must rely on a systematic treatment of singular propositions found in Scripture and then seek to harmonize them in order to come to Biblical conclusions. However, since you have placed doubt upon the propositions and only total reliability with the conclusive truths; you are in turn casting doubt upon those core doctrines (I know you do not do this intentionally).
I haven’t placed doubt on propositions. It’s perfectly evident from reading the Bible that not everything in the Bible is a propositional truth claim. Some (a lot, actually) of it is descriptive, not prescriptive. Paul isn’t issuing a propositional dogma when he argues FROM a pre-scientific view TOWARD a proposition of truth. His proposition isn’t that a woman’s hair has something to do with having babies; his proposition concerns modesty and not being provocative. Frankly, if you’re right here, then we have the propositional truth that women shouldn’t own property unless an appointed divine authority says otherwise (I guess we’d need the Magisterium for that) and a whole boatload of other “propositions” that I doubt you’d want.
- Council for Responsible Genetics; see http://www.gene-watch.org/programs/determinism.html. ↩
- Note the issue here is completeness / oneness, as in there are no more needed ingredients to have a living human being. Flesh + animation can also mean a complete animal, as in there are no more needed ingredients. Animal and human life are distinguished in other ways, but that’s too much of a digression here. ↩