If you dare, complete the sentence: “The Bible makes it abundantly clear that __________.”
Rachel Held Evans’ tweet last night preceded a series of conversations about Reformed megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll’s contention that pacifists misinterpret Exodus 20:13 (I’ll link to the ESV here, since that’s what Driscoll uses in the post; here it is in NRSV, NIV, and King James — one of these is not quite like the others…):
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God’s prohibition against murder in the sixth commandment is not intended to apply to lawful taking of life, such as self-defense, capital punishment, and just war. At the same time, these decisions are complicated and painful, in part because courts, governments, and any system that includes sinners will have flaws. The answer, however, is not to reject a biblical framework of justice in favor of blind pacifism, but to work within the authority God has ordained and the means God has allowed to prayerfully and carefully align our imperfect efforts with the perfect will of God.
Now, on the one hand, I basically agree with Rachel Held Evans: I think we ought to be highly leery of claiming complete clarity when reading the Bible. (“Hermeneutics in a nutshell,” agreed one of my former students, now in seminary.) And I like RHE.
I dislike Mark Driscoll (not least because, in the same post, he felt the need to make abundantly clear that “Jesus is not a pansy”). But while I wouldn’t use the word “abundantly” in this regard, I do think the Bible makes it relatively clear that the commandment here does not pertain to all forms of killing.
Rather, I want to know if my readers think the Bible is “abundantly clear” on any point. Perhaps the oldest hermeneutic principle in the Christian tradition is that you interpret what’s opaque from what’s clear… While there’s much more of the former, there’s some of the latter, no?
So in the Comments section, please complete the sentence:
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that _________________.
And why is the phrase you wrote so abundantly clear, while others aren’t?
- Is sheer number of verses a useful standard — as in Jim Wallis’ frequent argument that “there are more than 2,000 Bible verses that speak to God’s justice for the poor and vulnerable” — or is it possible for Scripture to speak once on a subject and still leave it clear?
- Do you feel like Scripture is occasionally written, as the apostle Paul told the Galatian church, with “such large letters” that it can’t but be clear?
- Like Martin Luther, do you think there’s a canon within a canon? It’s all inspired, authoritative, useful, etc., but some of it more so than others.
- Has Christian tradition given us clarity on certain points? Is there a rule of faith that has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all“?