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Biblical ethics demands good hermeneutics

On Saturday, I had a day long class in Moral Theolgy. One of the things we discussed was the use of biblical imperatives in making ethical decisions. Our prof read a variety of biblical imperative and asked us to, without giving it a lot of thought, raise our hands if we felt the bibilical imperative was one to be maintained universally. Here are some on that list:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:5).

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses (I Tim. 5:23)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet (John 13:14).

Women should remain silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34).

Some of them were very straightford, such as the first one. Others, like the verse in I Corthinthians require a little more context. As we discussed this matter further, many of the lessons I learned in hermeneutics last year came back to me. I was thankful that I'd already taken hermeneutics. I think anyone attending a seminary class ought to begin with hermeneutics. If the basis for our ethics and our doctrine is the Word of God, that we understand hermeneutical principles is crucial.

Hermeneutics is not the same as Bible study. Certainly, attending a Bible study is a good thing. Buying a Bible study book is a good thing. But sitting down and learning principles of interpretation is something else. If I'm going to buy someone's Bible study book, I want the writer to have at least pondered those issues at length. No, not everyone can go to seminary (which is why I would love to see churches offering hermeneutics classes for its congregants) but books are easily accesesible and are not expensive. 

I've already written about my favourite Bible study resources. I will say again here that my favourite introductory book is Journey into God's Word. Yes, it is written by a man, but I do not believe women must learn from women. If they can, that is great. However, I've yet to find a book written by a woman that provides what Journey into God's Word does. This notion that I can only buy books written by women because only women can "understand" my particular needs is, in my opinon, misguided, and possibly self-indulgent. I know a lot of women want to read books by women whom they think they could be friends with in real life. They want some kind of personal connection. I just want the knowledge the author can impart, whether she is a woman or not. 

Every day, we make ethical decisions. As Christians, we want to appeal to biblical imperatives. If we don't know how to interpret those imperatives, we will have bad moral theology. It really does come back to the Bible. If this is our standard, we ought to know it, and know it well. And we are not in a position where that is a difficult thing.


Daily Readings - Matthew 1:18-25

J. C. Ryle, Daily Readings
Matthew 1:18-25 

The name Emmanuel (v.25) is given to our Lord from his nature as God manifest in the flesh. Let us take care that we have clear views of our Lord's nature and person. We should settle it firmly in our minds that our Saviour is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundational truth we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is 'God with us'. He had a nature like ours in all things, sin only excepted. But though Jesus was 'with us' in human flesh and blood, he was at the same time very God.

We shall often find, as we read in the Gospels, that our Saviour could be weary, hungry and thirsty, could weep, groan, and feel pain, like one of ourselvees. In all this we see the man Christ Jesus. We see the nature he took on him when he was born of  the Virgin Mary.

But we shall also find in the same Gospels that our Saviour knew men's hearts and thoughts, that he had power over devils, that he could work the mightitest miracles with a word, that he was ministered to by angles, that he allowed a disciple to call him 'my God', and that he said, 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30) and 'Before Abraham was, I am' (John 8:58). In all this we see the eternal God. We see him 'who is over all, God blessed forever' (Rom. 9:5).

Would you have a stong foundation for your faith and hope? Then keep in constant view your Saviour's divinity. He in whose blood you are taught to trust is the almighty God. All power is his in heaven and on earth. None can pluck you out of his hand. If you are a true believer in Jesus let not your heart be troubled or afraid.

Would you have sweet comfort in suffering and trial? Then keep in constant view your Saviour's humanity. He knows the heart of a man. He can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities, temptations, hunger, tears, and pain. Trust him at all times with your sorrows. He will not despise you. He can sympathize with his people.


When online debate ate up my time

I'm back to school today. On Saturday, I have a class all day. I have a feeling blogging time will go back to being less than more. 

Recently, Frank Turk, who formerly blogged with the Pyromaniacs blog, retired from blogging. At one time, I read the Pyromaniacs regularly, and benefited from it. It was among the first blogs I read. There was always something entertaining there. There were also lively discussions, and occasionally, heated exchanges. There were days when I would check the posts repeatedly to see what shocking thing would be said next. Sometimes, I even participated, although, not as actively as some. It could be an intimidating comments box.

As I thought back to those days, I felt a little guilty, though. It occurred to me that some days, I probably wasted a lot of time. It wasn't reading the blogs, necessarily, which ate up the time, but rather, expending mental energy to follow the controversy. Sometimes, it was almost like being hooked on daytime drama. That is not something I'm particularly proud of. Blogging can bring great benefits. I have made friends, learned a lot, and been introduced to wonderful resources. But getting involved in the drama was not one of the benefits.

Occasionally, I will see that someone I follow on Twitter is engaged in a long and protracted discussion with another person. I want to shout: "Don't do it!" It takes up so much mental energy, and ultimately, it is a poor way to engage with someone. Having to sift through this tweet and that tweet to find a point is not a way I want to use my time anymore.

Kids move away from home, and you don't get that time back. While I was engaged in following the drama, I ought to have been spending more time with the kids and with my husband. I wish I had practiced a little more self-control. I wish I had followed my husband's counsel to just let someone else have the last word. My kids were more important than that last word. It's easy to think that our adolescent and teenage children don't need us anymore because they can fix their own snacks and do their own laundry. They need our time and attention.

It isn't good to dwell on things we can't change, and usually, I don't even think about those bygone days. I have good relationships with my adult children, and what's done is done. But every now and then someone I knew a while ago online pops up and it makes me revaluate myself. That's not always a bad thing. 


Just tellin' it like it is

The day I was married, my father's best friend gave the toast to the bride. The gentleman made a comment that generated everyone's laughter: "Now, we all know that Kim is very direct."

At the time, I didn't know why that was funny. Direct? I was just telling it like it is. I was, at 22 years old, not self-aware. On top of that, I was a young Christian with a lot to learn. Unfortunatelly, it would be a few more years before I would learn that being direct isn't always a good idea.

One of my favourite fictional characters as a teenager was Scarlett O'Hara. She was tough. She was unafraid. She was also narcissistic and vain. Yes, she did everything she could for her family, but she was also self-involved, and uncontrolled in her speech. I suppose I liked her courage. I'm afraid I imitated Scarlett more often than not. It didn't always work well.

We ought not to feel afraid about speaking truth, but there are definitely moments when telling it like it is requires a better command of the English language than we may have at 22 years of age. There is also a time and a place for telling it like it is, but often, less is more. 

I still admire those who speak truth without fear. But as I get older, when I look at who I am and how I relate to people, I would rather be more understated. I love the understated. I want to be the one who is gentle, kind, longsuffering, and merciful. I know women in real life who are like this. I would rather be like them than the one who doesn't know when to be quiet. When I think of the times in my life when I have had struggles and trials, it was those women who ministered to me in the best possible way. When I was struggling with anxiety, there were indeed women who took the opportunity to tell it like it is, and it did not help. What did help was knowing that the people who loved me were willing to struggle along with me with patience. Perhaps they wished they could say more, but they knew the right time to do so.

I'm still working at being more self-aware, and it is my tendency to want to just tell it like it is. But for all my love of telling the truth, I want a softer side to emerge. I know that these days, a woman desiring a softer side is not popular; by uttering that sentiment, I'm undoing all the progress that feminism has achieved over the years. Chalk it up to age, but more and more, I'm drawn to the understated, the subtle, as opposed to the brash, come-at-them-blazing-with-both-guns approach. It takes a lot more work for me to be understated and soft. But sometimes, it's a lot more rewarding doing that which is difficult than that which is easy.

On my wedding day, my father's friend was himself being subtle and understated. He could have said that everyone who knew me knew I had the penchant to talk too much and be too critical, but being an older, more mature man, he was kind. And I appreciate that now.


The Lord's hand on children

From Daily Readings, January 10, Morning. 
Luke 1:57-66

The Lord's hand was with John the Baptist (v.66). This is the blessing that we should desire for all young children. It is the best portion, the happiest portion, the only portion that can never be lost, and will endure beyond the grave. It is good to have over them the 'hand' of teachers and instructors, but it is better still to have the 'hand' of the Lord. We may be thankful if they obtain the patronage of the great and the rich, but we ought to far more care for their obtaining the favour of God. If we would have the hand of the Lord with our children we must diligently seek him for it.