Sunday, January 11, 2009

continuing with the authority question

recently, i have been following a particularly interesting blog-post (go here) about biblical authority and homosexuality. in it bob cornwall quotes phyllis tickle (The Great Emergence) about the future of the church in regard to this issue. in part here’s the quote:

"To approach any of the arguments and questions surrounding homosexuality in the closing years of the twentieth century and the opening ones of the twenty-first is to approach a battle to the death. When it is all resolved -- and it most surely will be -- the Reformation's understanding of Scripture as it had been taught by Protestantism for almost five centuries will be dead."

so, will biblical authority be dead?

here is my response to the post in part:

if we were to think of sola scriptura as a sociological issue, as well as a theological one, we might be led to think that the authority of scripture brings some sort of security to one’s thought & beliefs (irrespective of whether those beliefs are true or not)... biblical authority is dead...i think it died in the ovens of auschwitz. anyway, what we see now is biblical authority by inertia, and as soon as the next generation comes on the scene all things theological will be changed. that is, sociologically speaking, biblical authority is a sunset value -- the sun is always brightest just before it sets. until then, will there be war? sadly, yes."

this thinking about the future of biblical authority caused me to remember an essay in
harper's magazine entitled, fighting for the supreme court: "how right-wing judges are transforming the constitution." the author is cass sunstein, professor of law at harvard law school.

of course, one can tell even from the title that what is in view here is the u.s. constitution and not the bible. however, what struck me when i first read it -- and what caused me to remember it -- was how if one were to change a few words, one could be talking about the bible and not the u.s. constitution. here’s the first paragraph:

In the current political theater surrounding George W. Bush's judicial nominations, and the anxiety over the nomination of john G. Roberts as swing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's successor, there is surprisingly little discussion of what is actually at stake. For, in truth, the battle over the judiciary is part of a much larger political campaign to determine not only the constitutionality of abortion and the role of religion in public life but also the very character of our Constitution, and thus our national government. Many people assume (no doubt because this is what they are told) that the meaning of the Constitution is set in stone, and that the disputes raging in the Senate and on the Sunday talk shows are between liberal judicial activists and conservative "strict constructionists" who adhere to the letter of the text. In fact, the contest is much more complicated and interesting-and, in most important respects, this conventional view of the subject is badly wrong.”

the question is, if our culture is having the same question about the origin of constitutional authority that the christian faith is having about biblical authority, then is the struggle over biblical authority really sourced beyond theology and hermeneutics? that is, is the struggle for us actually sociological and that is why, therefore, the outcome is inevitable, as helen tickle says.