God Questions His Creation: The Story of the Flood (d)

See:  God Questions His Creation: The Story of the Flood (c)

There is always a temptation when reading Scriptures to try to explain away problems and difficulties to ease our doubts.  But in so doing we often have to discard what the text actually says in favor of some explanation of the text.   Then the explanation becomes the Scripture and the Scripture becomes simply that on which the inspired writing comments.  Orthodox scripture readers will sometimes gloss over the actual Scripture and rush to the footnotes in the ORTHODOX STUDY BIBLE as if the footnotes are the inspired part and the Scriptures are the stumbling block which slow our race to the get to the truth.       As one commentator on the Old Testament wrote, “There is tremendous interpretive pressure to raise the valleys and lower the hills, to make the way straight and level before the reader.  But a reading faithful to this book, at least, should try to describe the territory with all its bumps and clefts, for they are not merely flaws, but the essence of the landscape” (M. Fox, QOHELET AND HIS CONTRADICTIONS).   Source Theory at least takes every word of the Scriptures seriously and looks to discover their meaning without trying to gloss over inconsistencies and contradictions.  It makes us read the Scriptures as they are in the received text rather than using mental gymnastics to try to make the text say something that refutes the very words of the text. 

As a final note to give us a little more comfort with ambiguity when reading the Scriptures, and to challenge our tendency to drift into literalism, consider the following fact about the Ten Commandments.  Even Christians who know little about the Bible have heard of the Ten Commandments.  We often think they are ten clear laws which no one can tamper with and which no one would be willing to debate what they are.  The reality is that if you compare what modern Judaism claims are the Ten Commandments with what the Church Fathers believed and what modern Catholics and Lutherans believe, you would discover that although all talk about the Ten Commandments, the groups do not agree on what the 10 commandments actually are.  The first commandment for the Church Fathers was that you shall have no other gods before the Lord.  In Judaism the first commandment simply is “I am the Lord your God” – it is a reaffirmation of monotheism.  For Catholics/Lutherans the first commandment is that we are not to put other gods before the Lord nor are we to have images of any kind.  In Judaism the 2nd Commandment is not to have other gods before the Lord and not to have images of God.  For the Church Fathers the 2nd Commandment concerns no false images, and for Catholics/Lutherans the 2nd commandment is about false oaths.  The 3rd commandment for the Church Fathers and modern Jews forbids false oaths, while for Catholics/Lutherans it is to keep the Sabbath holy.  For the rest of the commandments Modern Judaism agrees with the list of the Church Fathers, while Catholics and Protestants have a different numbering system.   So before we get too upset with the various interpretations of the scriptures, note that in something as fundamental as the Ten Commandments Jews, early Christians and modern Catholics/Lutherans do not all agree on how to number the 10 commandments.  This doesn’t alter the text which is relied on, nor does it discredit the revelation.  It only tells us that interpretation plays a role in how various religious groups interpret the basics of the faith.

Next blog: Reading Noah and the Flood Through the Source Theory Lens (a)

You can also find Reading Noah and the Flood Through the Source Theory Lens as one PDF document.

 You can also read The Story of the Flood as a PDF document

The Feast of the Annunciation (2010)


The Annunciation

To My Fellow Christians,

A blessed Feast Day!

Take time to rejoice in the salvation which God has brought about for the life of the world.

“It is often said that the divine plan of salvation depended on Mary’s free assent to the word of the angel.  The work of salvation is a work of God, but it could not be carried out without the cooperation of human beings.  After Mary heard the word of the angels she said, ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’  This fiat, this ‘let it be done,’ made possible the Incarnation of the eternal Son in the womb of the Virgin.  (St.) Maximus proposes that there is another fiat in the gospels, another ‘let it be done,’ the agony of the man Christ, in which Christ, by accepting his suffering and death, wills the salvation of mankind.  Just as the plan of salvation required Mary’s ‘yes,’ so it also needed Christ’s ‘yes,’ for it was only through Christ’s passion and death that the world’s salvation could be accomplished.” (Robert Louis Wilken, THE SPIRIT OF EARLY CHRISTIAN THOUGHT: SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD, p 131)

The Christian Struggle

Two thoughts for Great Lent:

 “… in the face of the Transcendent, morality is primarily a discipline for turning to God, so as to love Him with one’s whole heart, and then to love one’s neighbor as oneself.” (Tristram Engelhardt) 

 St. Herman of Alaska“Few are those who really acquire perfect love for God, looking upon all worldly pleasures and desires as nothing and patiently enduring the devil’s trials.  But one must not despair on this account, or give up hope.  Even if many ships suffer shipwreck there are always those that come safely through to port.  For this reason we need great faith, endurance, attentiveness, struggle, hunger and thirst for what is right, as well as great understanding and discrimination, together with clear-sightedness and lack of shame in making our requests.  As we have said, most men want to attain the kingdom without toil and sweat; and although they praise the saints and desire their dignity and gifts, they are not willing to share with them in the same afflictions, hardships and sufferings.  Everyone—prostitutes, tax-collectors and everyone else—wants this.  For this reason, trials and temptations are set before us  so as to make it clear who in truth loves their Lord and deserves to attain the kingdom of heaven.”  

(St. Makarios of Egypt)