sheep and headphones

sheep with headphones

What more can be said?

Lots more could be heard. If we would have ears to hear.

The bible can obstruct Truth.

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93 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    It is truer to say our subjective take on the Bible (fears, biases, etc.) obstructs the truth in the Bible. Still think the cartoon is great.

  2. Christian says:

    "my Sheep hear my voice" .... isn't that from the Bible? How then does the Bible obstruct truth?

  3. Gary says:

    Jesus said He was going to send the Spirit of Truth. Not once did He ever promise a completed bible to answer all of our questions...He promised the Spirit of truth.

    In my old fundy circles they often refer to the bible as the "Living, Breathing, Word of God". (You have to say that in your best tv preacher voice) I (and many others) call this biblioletry. Many have replaced the role of the Spirit with a history book.

    Love the the truth even more!!

  4. Nancy T. says:

    EXCELLENT! You capture perfectly in one image what many of here, and on your FB page, talk about, but at times have problems putting it into words.

    As well, it makes it so much easier to discuss it with those that 'don't hear' ... I may just stop trying to explain that concept and refer them to the cartoon. :)

  5. Brent Conrad says:

    Love this cartoon--so true, we can build so many boxes for God to work in simply because it is in the Bible...Thanks again for your insightful images. Blessings

  6. Eddy Hooper says:

    Amazing how when I needed answers for the deep questions of life I had two choices to make them with: Follow (by rote) what the Bible said or remember what is the true spirit of who Jesus is and how he would react to an issue or problem. I went with the latter. It meant I swam opposite the direction of many believer, but I look back thinking how this was the best choice to make by listening to His Spirit.

  7. Gary says:


    Good choice. The problem with those who say to "just go with what the bible says" is that the bible says whatever we want it to say without the Spirit to guide us. It can be used to back up any and all views. Very few biblical answers apply universally outside of the basics like the command to love.

    “my Sheep hear my voice” …. isn’t that from the Bible? How then does the Bible obstruct truth?

    No...actually that's from Jesus and it just happened to have been recorded in the bible so we would know what HE said. He also said He was sending the Spirit of Truth. Without that Spirit to guide us...the bible is foolishness. My old pastor used to say that all the truth in the world was contained in the bible. I find that a ridiculous statement considering the words of Jesus I have already quoted. In fact I believe it to be blasphemous.

  8. David Waters says:

    Just like your previous post,

    We experience the great mystery, outside of ancient writings.

  9. Lou Eamer says:

    Enjoyed so much the comments two cents is every thing He said and did was not recorded in the bible(i love the book) but to keep God contained in those written words is stupid.You can not limit God and it is the Holy Spirit that leads to truth.....the word became flesh....that word lives in us...we have His word in our hearts and we hear His voice.

  10. Jeff Cole says:

    Ooo look the Bible in Stereo. One is listening to the left side and the other the right. And Jesus standing in the middle trying to get their attention. Hmmmmmmm. Interesting.

  11. Gary says:


    "The bible in stereo". I love it.

  12. Steve Martin says:

    The Bible is the Word of God.

    But there is law ...and gospel in that book.

    Those who focus on 'what we do' (law), can miss out on the real focus...that being His grace and mercy for sinners.

    Read it through a 'grace' lens (instead of a law lens)and it reveals a gracious God. Otherwise, all you'll get is a wrathful God.

  13. JaneK says:

    "Scripture" is the Bible + Tradition. If you don't have tradition, all you have is "sola scriptura" (really "sola biblia") which means "whatever I want." Too often people read the Bible and imagine it means whatever they want it to mean.

    Instead, they should use their reason and when in conflict ask a religious authority such as a priest or bishop. Remember: Christ came to establish a Church, and that Church later put down in a book His teachings. Thus, Christ comes first, the Church second, and the Bible last. Too often people think "Bible first, Christ second, what's a Church?"

  14. Brigitte says:

    It's not so hard as we make it out, and we don't disagree so much as people like to make out. If we read the Bible Christ-centered and in law/gospel dialectic, what is really important falls into place.

    I liked Jeff's observation, but see it differently:

    Ooo look the Bible in Stereo. One is listening to the left side and the other the right. And Jesus standing in the middle trying to get their attention. Hmmmmmmm. Interesting.

    If Christ is in the middle, and the law and the gospel on one side and the other, we have it RIGHT! :)

  15. Steve Martin says:

    Tradition is great...if it compliments the gospel.

    Tradition is not too good when it overrides the clear Word of Scripture.

    Such is the case with Purgatory, indulgences, praying to Saints, the infallibity of the Pope, etc..

  16. Christine says:


    Not trying to disagree with you per se, but I want to know how you answer the following. It is understanding your view that I'm curious about in this case.

    "The Bible is the Word of God."

    Why do you believe that?


    Actually, there seems a lot of disagreement. Many would dispute your interpretive lens and many others who would accept it still arrive at different conclusions. As long as your statements are benign and general enough, most people won't go out of their way to disagree with you. But just start to put some more flesh on those bones, and you'll see pretty quite that disagreement abounds.

  17. Christine says:


    Would you also include the abolition of slavery? That's tradition overriding scripture as well.


    We also need to be cautious of the biases of the (predominantly Western, white, male-dominated, traditionally-wealthy) church hierarchy.

  18. Gary says:

    "The Bible is the Word of God."

    Absolutely NOT!! Jesus and Jesus alone is The Word. (capital W) John 1

    Some of the spoken word (little w) has been written down for our benefit. Yes there is law in that book...and it is now dead and nailed to the cross. Praise God the law no longer has any hold over me. Those who continue to give the title of "The Word" to a book, are guilty of blasphemy against the Lord Jesus Christ.

    "Remember: Christ came to establish a Church..."

    Absolutely not!! He did establish a church...but that was NOT why He came.

    Jesus said He came "to seek and to save that which was lost". Luke 19

    And the confusion about His purpose was evident even among His disciples.

    "And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"
    But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."
    Luke 9

    Sigh...The church is not our institution of religion we call Christianity...or any particular division therein. It is the collective body of believers.

  19. Steve Martin says:


    Jesus is the Word of God. Then the Word of God is preaching and teaching... about Jesus...and then, lastly, the Bible is the Word of God.

    The Sacraments are also Word of God.

    Those together, make the Word of God. These are the ways God reveals Himself to us. These are the ways He creates faith.

  20. nakedpastor says:

    Steve: These aren't the only ways God reveals Him/Herself. They are the ways the church controls however.

  21. Steve Martin says:


    Slavery is a cultural issue. The ethical aspect of Christianity informs us that no one ought be held as a slave. Nowhere does the Bible inform us to have slaves.

    It does speak about slavery into a time where it was acceptable and commonplace. Thanks, in large part to Christians who tossed tradition overboard, slavery has been abolished, except for some places in the Islamic world where it is legal.

  22. Steve Martin says:

    The Church doesn't control those ways, David. God does.

    He reveals Himself in Scripture, in Baptism and Holy Communion, and in preaching about Himself.

    No person or entity can "control" these things.

  23. Steve Martin says:

    Anyone can baptize. Anyone can receive the Lord's Supper from another. Anyone can pick up the Bible and read. Anyone can preach about Christ...and anyone can 'hear' that gospel message.

    The church is involved in these things for good order and to preserve the gospel, so it isn't watered down with a bunch of self-focused navel gazing and religious ladder-climbing projects. But God's Word is so powerful that it can even grab a hold of someone who is mired in all that 'religious' stuff.

  24. Gary says:


    The sacraments are not the (W)ord of God. The church is not the (W)ord of God. Preaching and teaching is not the (W)ord of God. Only Jesus is The Word.

    This false teaching is what has replaced the true church established by Christ with this man created human institution we mistakenly refer to as the church, which is controlling, manipulative, abusive, and often times corrupt.

    To elevate any of these to the divine title of the Word is blasphemy.

    Not deliberately trying to offend...but I will continue to correct for the benefit of others.

  25. Rene says:

    How can we absolutely know if the sheep heard the voice of Christ? And if the sheep heard him, did they follow what they heard from Christ?

  26. nakedpastor says:

    Steve: I'm sorry but God does not control the sacraments. Look around.

  27. David, PERFECT! I have six sons. Been there. Most of the TRUTH I know about God, I learned through them. Jesus told adults to learn from children. We can't learn much from them or anyone else when we make them so afraid of us that they don't dare say a word without filtering it through mental labyrinths so that only what's safe can come out.

  28. Steve Martin says:


    Look around? What does that mean?

    Just because many in churches believe that they are in charge of all of this...does that make it true?

    Contrary to what you may think, or have been taught, God is still the One who creates faith in those whim He chooses to do so. And He does it primarily in the ways I have described.

  29. Steve Martin says:


    You are in no place to correct anyone on this stuff. Are you just cooking up your beliefs out of your own head? To me, that is exactly what it sounds like.

    In that case...anything goes! Then why did He even bother coming and dying on a cross? Why bother...if anything that we cook up is just fine?

  30. Gary says:


    Funny...but between the two of us in this discussion...I am the ONLY ONE who has used scripture to support my beliefs.

    This makes your personal attack funny as hell.

  31. Steve Martin says:


    I could use Scripture...but since you don't believe what the Scripture says on the subject, then what good would it do?

  32. Steve Martin says:

    Romans 1:16

    Matthew 28

    There's couple to chew on. And I'll leave it at that.

    There are times when all that is left is to agree to disagree.

    Thanks! 😀

  33. Gary says:

    "I could use Scripture…but since you don’t believe what the Scripture says on the subject, then what good would it do?"

    This is totally uncalled for. I have challenged your views...I have not resorted to personal insults. Is this the way you usually handle having your beliefs challenged?

  34. Shimei says:

    I enjoyed this picture, and had thought for a moment in what was shared by a professor. Two herds of sheep can become confused when walking through each other. They become lost within one great herd. All each shepherd need to do is walk the walk and talk the talk, and the herd will divide following their correct shepherd. Yes His sheep know his voice, and I can imagine the two sheep saying, "Get this impostor out of here!"

  35. Cindy says:

    That is positively brilliant David! Brilliant!!

  36. nakedpastor says:

    thanks Cindy.

  37. Brigitte says:

    Steve: These aren’t the only ways God reveals Him/Herself. They are the ways the church controls however.

    God can do whatever he wants, and certainly knows and does more than we can conceive of. However, what matters to us is what he has said where he is for us and what he has commanded and promised. We have promises in his word, we have promises attached to baptism, we have promises attached to the supper. We should receive them with a certain joy.

    The church controls these things in as much as it is entrusted with the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments. Whenever and where ever this is done, it should be done according to Christ's commands. If there are two or three, or thousands, it does not matter. You can call it organized or not organized. This is not the material matter.

  38. Christine says:


    So, you didn't even bother to explain why you believe that?... Hmm...

    On slavery, the NT does indeed say that slaves are required to obey even harsh masters. Tradition changed - in society and in the church - and so the theology changed. But the bible never says anything against holding slaves - condones it, in fact, as normal - and has clear instructions to slaves about staying slaves. Abolishing slavery is tradition over bible, big time. And the church was on both sides of it.

  39. Christine says:


    Interesting that your unwillingness to equal written text with God incarnate somehow means you don't believe what is written or find any value in it.... Disturbing.

  40. Gary says:


    Disturbing indeed...though not unexpected.

  41. GREAT Cartoon! I'd like to post it on my blog (with credit and link, of course).
    I believe the Bible is divinely "inspired." That does not mean divinely "dictated." People who believe the Bible need to realize what the book says about itself. NOWHERE does the Bible refer to itself as "The Word Of God." It says of itself that it's "Good" for teaching, etc., not "inerrant." It' not a science book, textbook, rule book, and any of those kinds of things people try to make it to be. AND it is certainly NOT GOD! If my God can't speak outside of a book, well, he/she isn't a very big God.
    Again, Great cartoon!

  42. nakedpastor says:

    thanks David. you can use it of course.

  43. Christine says:


    I agree with you, btw, when you say: "The ethical aspect of Christianity informs us that no one ought be held as a slave."

    (Not sure what the "non-ethical" aspect of Christianity is...) But if you just look at the bible, there is no reason why one can't own a slave (not required but permissible - so we can't require others *not* to have slaves) and slaves are sinning against God if they seek their freedom. They are supposed to serve their slave masters as they would serve God.(!)

    I agree that the bible was speaking "into a time where [slavery] was acceptable and commonplace." But this could be said of ANY issue in the bible. All aspects of culture was different. What in the bible couldn't we throw out on that basis?

    "Thanks, in large part to Christians who tossed tradition overboard..."

    They replaced one tradition with another. I agree a better one, but not a strictly bible-based one.

    My point is that there is a real double-standard here. You are only interesting in tradition when you agree with it - then it's good. But when you don't like it, a exact literal following of the bible is essential. can you point to any standard for this picking and choosing other than your own biases?

  44. Brigitte says:

    Christine, you seem determined to pin this slavery thing on the Bible. From reading a book about anti-slavery minister Rev. Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher-Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", (great, great, great grandfather of Sam Scoville), titled: "The Most Famous Man in America", I made some blog posts on the subject.

    One of them shows how the Business Newspapers of the day in New Yord opposed the ministers who were preaching against slavery. Those business people and others would quote the story of Onesimus. But this is a particular travesty of America at that time. Rev. Beecher was a fiery orator who responded to this nonsense.

  45. Susan says:

    It is possible to embrace Christ and His truth without embracing Christians and their 'truth.' It is still all about Christ.

  46. Ryan says:

    ?2 Timothy 3:16 ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    How Do We Hear the Voice of Jesus?

    byJohn Piper|February 29, 2012

    Do you want to hear the voice of Jesus? So do I. The Father certainly wants us to. “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).

    To which we cry, “Yes, Lord. Yes! We want to listen to him.”

    Does he speak today? He does.

    Every word of the Bible is the voice of Jesus.

    How do we know this? By inference. And better, by experience.

    First, by Inference

    We believe that “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). And we know that “whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). When the Father, by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) was guiding the writing of Scripture, the will and heart of the Son was in perfect concert.

    Not only were all things made by the Father, with the Spirit (Genesis 1:2), through the Son (John 1:3), but all things are absolutely through the Son: There is “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The inspiration of the Bible was through the Son. Therefore the Bible is the word of Jesus.

    When the Spirit guides the New Testament writers, he is taking the heart and mind of Jesus and rendering them in scripture as the words of Jesus: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that the Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:15). Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the writer to the Hebrews write the words of Jesus.

    When the Gospel writers say, “Jesus said,” it is Jesus saying, “I said.” When they write “Jesus did,” it is Jesus saying, “I did.” When they write about Jesus, Jesus is speaking about Jesus. When they quote Jesus, Jesus is quoting Jesus. In the Bible we hear the voice of Jesus talking about Jesus.

    Second, by Experience

    When we are born again, we have new ears. They are tuned to the frequency of the voice of Jesus. “The sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, for they do not know the voice of strangers. . . My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me” (John 10: 4–5, 27). We know the Bible is the voice of Jesus because when we hear it we hear his voice.

    Does Jesus speak today? You may listen to him any time you please. On hundreds of topics. The way he means for us to live is to be so familiar with his voice from a thousand pages of precious Scripture that we sense his will where he is silent

  47. Luke says:

    Absolutely love this! Great cartoon and right on!

  48. Gary says:

    I am forced to disagree with much of John Piper's perspective on the bible. Not just me of course...but a very large percentage of the Christian faith.

    I love the bible and believe it to be divinely inspired. I do NOT believe it to be inerrant...mainly because it is not. But also because God never intended it so. If it were we would try to elevate it to a divine status and use it to replace the Spirit of so many fundy's do.

  49. Ryan says:

    A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole, so I can either choose complete acceptance or complete rejection based on reason.

  50. Ryan says:

    Our modern day fallacy: “We have decided not to live by the full council of scripture, just pieces of it, & our human reasoning has dictated what is applicable to us".

  51. Gary says:

    Ryan - "A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole, so I can either choose complete acceptance or complete rejection based on reason."

    Sorry Ryan...but this is pure nonsense IMO. Nothing but fundy rhetoric (a mere man made absolute which is NOT backed up by scripture) and completely worthless for true faith.

  52. Gary says:

    Ryan - "Our modern day fallacy: “We have decided not to live by the full council of scripture, just pieces of it, & our human reasoning has dictated what is applicable to us”."

    Actually Ryan...our "modern day fallacy" is the belief in biblical inerrancy. It is relatively new in the history of the church and represents a tragic diversion from the true faith.

  53. Ryan says:

    Gary - so you embrace a contradictional book as a basis for your Faith? Do you just black out the parts you don’t like? How do you pick and choose…is it based on your feelings/voices in your head? How can you believe any of it some of it is a lie or “kinda true”?

    A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole, so I can either choose complete acceptance or complete rejection based on reason.

    2 Timothy 3:16 ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  54. Gary says:

    Yes Ryan...I have heard all of the rhetoric before. It is all based on a simple logical fallacy. Obviously you did not read anything from the link I provided or you would not ask me such silly questions.

    I have a tremendous respect for the bible and believe it to be divinely inspired by a perfect God who chose to work through imperfect men...then just as He does now. To elevate it to a divine status is pure blasphemy.

    You can put your head in the sand and pretend that contradictions do not exist. (Of course you have to disconnect yourself from all reasoning to do so) Or you can let your faith mature enough to accept the bible for the purpose God intended it to serve.

    Of course your scripture reference you have given twice now does not refer to the bible you presently hold in your hands. The NT was not yet written and certainly not compiled for several centuries. If you believe it does...then you have to pick and choose which version of the bible it is referring to. How do you do this? Do you just black out the parts you reject but others accept? (Baruch? Tobit? 1 & 2 Macabees? etc.) Is your version of "perfection" based on your feelings or perhaps the voices in your head?


  55. Ryan says:

    I would prefer to worship Gandalf the Gray or Aslan than embrace a theology based on “We have decided not to live by the full council of scripture, just pieces of it, & our human reasoning has dictated what is applicable to us”.

    Matthew 10:34 Jesus said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

    Is your bible only 4 book long?

  56. Gary says:

    Nice dodge...LOL

  57. Gary says:

    Well...not really a good dodge...but a dodge none the less.

    Your silly proof texting has nothing to do with the topic we are discussing. It most certainly does not lend credibility to your position, or for that matter address it at all.

  58. Ryan says:

    I was not nibbling on your move to discuss Canon. I am interested on how you come to form a belief structure around 4 short books of the New Testament when the subject of those books references/confirms over and over again the Old Covenant.

    Taken by themselves those four books make a fantastic fairy tale though! Like Harry Potter there are some terrific life lessons in love, friendship and sacrifice.

  59. Christine says:


    "Christine, you seem determined to pin this slavery thing on the Bible."

    I never at any moment attempted to *blame* slavery on the bible. I never claimed nor implied that the bible *caused* slavery. What I *said* if you care to read it, is that, if we were to strictly follow what the bible says, we would have no justification for abolishing slavery and slaves who attempt to follow the bible would not seek their freedom.

    It takes some heavy *reinterpretation* to say that the bible opposes slavery - can be done, but it's not the straight-forward literal approach fundies would advocate - it isn't compatible with a view of the bible as divine or infallible.

    This is what *some* Christians were doing when they supported abolition. And I agree it was the right approach. My *point* was that you can't accept this as legitimate on the issue of slavery, but then insist on principle that it is an illegitimate approach on all other issues.

    I indicated that Christians were on *both* sides of the issue - so illustrating that some were on the side of abolishing is actually inherent in what I said. You should also admit that it was *parts* of the church who were among the last to relinquish the idea of slavery as natural and some elements are still quite racist.

  60. Gary says:


    Oh I think I was confused. I thought at first you were proclaiming biblical perfection. Now I see you are merely attacking Christian faith all together. Either way your logical fallacy is silly.

    So then...never mind.

  61. Brigitte says:

    Christine, we know that Christians, or so-called Christians have often done wrong and often do wrong. One of the things they do is twist scripture to fit their a priori understanding or needs. This does not mean that scripture endorses slavery, as you have conceded. Paul is very clear that though we may have different roles we all have the same value and dignity. Slavery is reprehensible and the way it was practiced in the American South is beyond comprehension: sexual abuse of the women, splitting up of couples and parents from their children. Completely despicable. I've read some Oprah picks and cried through them. Unfortunately the cruelty of man to man is beyond pale. However, it's always easy to go with the crowd or custom or profit.

  62. Gary says:

    Brigitte - "...or so-called Christians have often done wrong and often do wrong."

    And there is the perfect example of the cancer that affects the fundy mind. A focus on wrongs and questioning the salvation of others based on those wrongs.

    Guess what...we ALL do wrong. And believe it or not, sometimes even terrible wrongs are committed by people with a clean conscience due to screwed up thinking. Fortunately, God forgives.

    I always love when people start accusing those who they disagree with of twisting scripture to fit their needs. LOL Surely you know that the most devout and sincere followers can and do come to diametrically opposing views of the meaning of scripture all the time. And to further complicate the issue scripture sometimes provides confusing and opposite instructions, making it possible to select whichever "proof text" fits one's agenda. This is why I believe the purpose of scripture is to point us to the truth...not to be the ultimate truth. This is why Jesus sent the Spirit of Truth...not the bible.

  63. Brigitte says:

    The proof-texting is a problem, Gary, you're right. Pick and chose your text, even like a horoscope at random. Yup. This is where a decent systematic theology comes in. Scripture interpreting scripture... and various principles.

  64. Ed Babinski says:

    A parallel cartoon might be made of a charismatic Christian thinking he's hearing Jesus' voice. Instead of Biblicism, you might call that one Anuerism. In each case there's those who side with Biblicism and those who side with their own personal Jesus inside their heads. Even employing both the Bible and your own personal Jesus, how does that proves one's case to "what God is really saying to humanity?"

  65. Gary says:

    Agreed Brigitte...and yet we have hundreds of denominations each of which feel like they are doing this "decent systematic theology" correctly yet coming to dramatically different conclusions.

    That is my amount of systematic study will resolve this problem.

  66. Gary says:

    Too much allegiance to the bible does not bring us drives us apart.

  67. Christine says:


    "One of the things they do is twist scripture to fit their a priori understanding or needs."

    Brigitte, I am saying the twisting comes in saying that the bible does *not* endorse slavery, not the other way around.

    "This does not mean that scripture endorses slavery, as you have conceded."

    I said no such thing whatsoever.

    "Paul is very clear that though we may have different roles we all have the same value and dignity."

    But is clear that being a slave is one of those roles. Having the same dignity and value, in Paul's mind, does not mean slaves should be freed.

    "Slavery is reprehensible and the way it was practiced in the American South is beyond comprehension: sexual abuse of the women, splitting up of couples and parents from their children. Completely despicable. I’ve read some Oprah picks and cried through them. Unfortunately the cruelty of man to man is beyond pale. However, it’s always easy to go with the crowd or custom or profit."

    Agreed. And?

  68. Christine says:

    To "cause" is to make happen or bring about.

    To "endorse" is to "approve, support or sustain".

    Something can endorse a practice without be the cause of it.

  69. Brigitte says:

    Christine, it's a little bit like something we had a long time ago, regarding Mother Theresa. As you probably know, our departed Christopher Hitchens, for example, had many unflattering things to say about Mother Theresa, extremely rude and outragous, actually, and some on this blog echoed the sentiment. She was faulted for keeping the poor down, accepting their poverty or getting them to accept it.

    I said then: well, what else was she supposed to to single-handedly on top of what she did do??? Run for prime-minister, throw over the cast system, establish Mother Theresa's dictatorship... Paul would have gladly kept Onesimus. He turned around Onesimus' attitude and he was a new man and a dear friend. But under the system it was right that he return to work but the "owner" was to treat him well. It was also right that Onesimus and Philemon estalbish a new relationship and put the past behind them. If the church had aimed at secular government it would be able to change all this. And when the church has secular power, it's not the right thing either. Theocracy is not to be desired. A secular ruler should aim to establish secular justice. Within the church love should rule in all established ranks.

    This is not what happened in America. Nor should a democracy with many Christians in it establish or maintain slavery. Profitability and in many places inhumanity ruled not justice, which is indeed a stain.

  70. Christine says:

    Hi Brigitte,

    I'm happy to discuss I'll you have said - I just want you to take a moment and recognize that none of that actually changes that the bible condones slavery (and not just in that one specific example in Acts).

    Indeed, Paul's influence and ability to change the existing system were quite limited. His recommendations - in many instances - I agree were clearly aimed at what could be done within that framework, which he was powerless to change. Slavery could easily be seen as one of those instances. There is also a strong theme in Paul's writing about not overthrowing the estbalished order (so that, while Christian slave owners were to treat their slaves well, Christian slaves were to unquestioningly obey even harsh masters).

    If - a big "if" - we keep in mind that Paul was a limited, fallible, context-bound human being, then all of this is fine. We can then say, that was then, this is now. We have a democracy, we have influence, we have a better understanding of human rights, slavery is far from a societal necessity - let's abolish it. If Paul were around today, I feel confident he would agree that was a the right decision.

    But, if - a more likely "if" - we view the bible as the "living, breathing Word of God", then the idea that it (i.e. God) was entirely context-bound and it (i.e. God) settled for things we now view as horrendous and evil and it (i.e. God) accepted and condone injustice because it (i.e. God) was extremely limited in what it could achieve, then we have a massive theological problem.

    But getting back to my original point...

    When we can say all this about Paul, the bible and slavery, why is it that people who adamantly oppose slavery refuse to take this approach on many other issues where Paul, or the bible generally, was also speaking to the present context?

  71. Brigitte says:

    I have the Bible in an "incarnational" understanding. We have God's word in Paul, who writes. So Paul is not a pen, who just writes as he is dictated. The whole thing is to make sense in context, as if I were writing a letter you.

  72. Christine says:


    Thanks. Then, to what extent is it God's if it is culture-bound and limited and overly compromising? Are you admitting the possibility for fallability? Or wide a wide (wide, wide) berth for interpretation.

    And you didn't address my comment about why you interpret this way for slavery and not for other things.

    And can you post the link again for that document we were discussing earlier? (Don't remember which thread we discussed it on.) I want to go back to how that document continues to justify slavery and other injustices in a modern context.

  73. Brigitte says:

    Steve is softer on infallibility than I am. While not a Biblicist in some people's sense, I take the text very seriously. Luther always said that it was the Holy Scriptures and the words of the Spirit. Luther was also big on the "living word" which is also our speech together, especially proclamation of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation. This comes even before the written word.

    When something is taken in context or as poetry, metaphorical there is some justification in the text. Paul and others will make an appeal to their authority as apostles when necessary, or they will say it is a custom, or a hymn; it's not that hard, really, when anyone reads the whole thing instead of just verses.

  74. Brigitte says:

    This is the link to the small catechism with explanations.

    If you lose it again, it's on my sidebar. If there are questions I have the official version in hardcopy at home.

  75. Christine says:

    "Steve is softer on infallibility than I am."

    Why do I find this very hard to believe...?

    So, to rephrase, you think something that is context-bound, settles for things we view as horrendous and evil, and accepts and condones injustice because it is extremely limited in what it can achieve qualifies as being infallible?

    "When something is taken in context or as poetry, metaphorical there is some justification in the text. Paul and others will make an appeal to their authority as apostles when necessary, or they will say it is a custom, or a hymn; it’s not that hard, really, when anyone reads the whole thing instead of just verses."

    Is this directed at my question about consistency? If I understand you correctly, you mean to say that you can easily tell which things should be reinterpreted based on context and which shouldn't? And by that do you mean that slavery is the only instance where such reinterpretation should happen?

  76. Gary says:

    Excellent Christine, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading what you have posted here.

    As I said above...Too much allegiance to the bible does not bring us together…it drives us apart. I found it interesting that Brigitte decided to totally sidestep my point of there being so many differences of sincere and well studied opinions on the meaning of so much of the bible. So many denominations all believing they have got it figured out and judging all others for not interpreting the scripture the same way they do.

    This is what happens when we determine that a book represents ultimate truth. If it does then it MUST be perfect...divine. As such IT requires our ultimate allegiance. And those who hold it in such blasphemous esteem...will continue to splinter and divide over it.

  77. Brigitte says:

    Sorry, Christine, your "rephrase" does not make sense to me. Try once more, but I did tell you that I am trying to stay out of discussions because of company.

    Gary, of course, I disagree with you, but I didn't think you would want to hear my answer. But perhaps you would.

    So here: as confessional Lutheran I subscribe to the entire Book of Concord (on-line), which is supposed to be a thoroughly Biblical systematic treatment going through all the controversies, reposing the questions, giving the points in the affirmative and the negative, and so on. I think it is the Christian middle of the road and properly focused on Christ and his work. If the Roman Catholics could come from their corner to the middle and the Calvinists could come from their corner to the middle, we'd have it. That's what I think. :)

  78. Christine says:


    I made those comments about the bible in my post above, saying is problematic when we equate this with God. I understood you as saying you didn't equate it directly with God, but you did think it was infallible. So, I substituted infallible into my question instead.

    In that last paragraph, do you mean the same document you linked to earlier? Are you really saying you think that *the middle of the road* in Christian theology???

  79. Christine says:


    it might be a mid-way point between extreme fundamentalist Calvinists and extreme fundamentalist Catholics... but you know that there's more to Christianity that the extreme fundamentalist factions, right?

  80. Christine says:

    From the (unofficial) small catechism:

    "The Tenth Commandment
    [God's Gift of Contentment]

    "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or
    donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

    "What does this mean?

    "We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor's
    wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do
    their duty.

    "66. What coveting does God forbid in the Tenth Commandment?

    "God forbids every sinful desire to take from our neighbor that person's spouse or

    "67. What does God require of us in the Tenth Commandment?

    "We should be content with the helpers God has given us and encourage our
    neighbor's helpers to be faithful to our neighbor."

    First off, this document is an interpretation written in 1991. No argument about the effects of the culture of first century Palestine excuses anything said in this document.

    Second, the document supports, reaffirms even, the implication that wives and workers are owned. That people can belong to other people and owe them solely by virtue or their servitude, their status in which they likely had no choice (as slaves don't and women didn't).

    The really disturbing part comes on urging workers and spouses to stay with their "owner". There are absolutely no caveats that say this doesn't apply to situations of servitude, slavery or abuse.

    I was willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, that they didn't realize the implications, but for two things:

    1. What else would they mean by this? That a Christian should never encourage someone to quit a job under any circumstances? The non-servitude, non-slavery modern equivalent here completely escapes me.

    2. This is the reference they use to support their premise: "Bible narrative: Paul returned a runaway slave to his master Philemon (Philemon)". So, they definitely got the slavery implication.

    What would be modern reality that would stem from this interpretation? On the wives part, men could apply for divorce but women couldn't. People who found themselves victim to the underground sex trade would be urged not to seek their freedom. Anyone in substantial amounts of debt should work even for no pay - bankruptcy would be prohibited even in cases where one could never pay their debts in full.

  81. Christine says:

    This sections follows shortly after the above. Tell me this isn't works-based:

    "God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should
    fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every
    blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and
    trust in Him and gladly do what He commands"

  82. Christine says:

    Thanks, Gary. :)

  83. Brigitte says:

    The coveting commandments are different from the others in terms of their speaking about the attitude, not just doing or not doing. Scheming in itself is already a sin. i.e. watch your heart. Also because divorce was lawful for men, you could "legally" divorce your wife and entice away someone else's and thereby break up a marriage. It is about being duplicitous. Under the divorce law you are really committing adultery. The underhandedness of it all, and the pretense, is what is coming under condemnation. i.e. don't think that you are acting righteously just because you could cloak your deed somehow. The problem is with the scheming involved and the lie.

    Yes, the law is the law. This is part of the proper way of dealing with law and gospel. Jesus said that he does not abolish the law. i.e. moral behavior is expected and we should continue to fear God. That's why we keep talking about forgiveness. And we will never be so perfect that we don't keep needing to go through this cycle. In Christ, however, there is a freedom from the law, in that we turn to him in hope and keep looking to him. It's not a once and for all. Now I am saved, I'll do as I please. There is the daily repentance and renewal.

  84. nakedpastor says:

    My problem with Lutheranism is that it elevates Romans and justification, etc., to a new level of law. It is glorified and wonderful, but it has become another way for humanity to attempt to perfect itself. Lutheranism's exactness in how one attains and maintains relationship with God is a mirror of Old Testament law with a new spin.

  85. Christine says:

    @Brigitte: The document you link to is talking specifically about what you should proactively urge others to do - whether or not it would have any affect on you personally financially or otherwise. And it talks about ownership, which you didn't address at all. And it was written in 1991 (how many times do I have to say that?), so the culture of OT times shouldn't be an excuse for their interpretation.

    No where is anyone saying we should be moral. I'm saying that the document is advocating something that isn't moral.

    Your response has nothing to do with anything I said, or that the document says.

    @NP: I read someone say that if Paul could see how we've turned his words into the new laws, he would be rolling in his grave.

  86. Christine says:

    Correction: "Nowhere is anyone saying we shouldn't be moral." Whether or not people should be moral is not under discussion.

  87. Christine says:

    Just to be absolutely clear, Brigitte:

    I'm not criticizing the tenth commandment; I'm criticizing the small catechism that you previously offered as an example of the theological basics that all Christians could agree on. Specifically, I am trying to illustrate why I think this document is condoning, if not promoting, slavery. It's thoughts on slavery just happen to appear in its interpretation of the tenth commandment.

  88. Brigitte says:

    Christine, I have no idea how you don't see that what I've said has nothing to do with what you've said. We keep having these communication troubles. But we can work on it.

    NP, " Lutheranism’s exactness in how one attains and maintains relationship with God is a mirror of Old Testament law with a new spin." That's kind of a vague. Salvation is in the cross in which you place your trust. You enter the covenant via baptism. You live a Christian life as morally as you can, receiving forgiveness for your repented of shortcomings along the way, remaining in Christ in this way and receiving assurance of forgiveness for you personally in the supper, Christ body and blood, given and shed for you.

  89. Gary says:

    Actually Brigitte, I was hoping you would respond to my point rather than simply provide another rehash of what a good Lutheran believes.

  90. Taylor Gahm says:

    David! Thanks for this, lol. I love it. If you have a second have a look at my complimentary essay to your drawing :

  91. Christine says:

    @Brigitte: I made comments about a particular document's treatment of a subject... then you made comments about that subject generally without speaking to the document at all... I clarified to say that I'm not addressing the subject, but the document itself... and you comment that you don't know why your comment, which had nothing to do with the document, would have nothing to do with the comments I made...

    If you can't tell the difference between a subject and a particular document's treatment of a subject... well, that would explain the "communication troubles".

  92. donna says:

    I don't get this cartoon. Please explain

  93. nakedpastor says:

    what do you think it means donna?


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