Samantha grew up in a fundamentalist church. In this post, she sums up the vast difference of how the Old Testament was treated carefully in her church, and how the New Testament was treated at literal face-value, ignoring all of the cautions they applied to the Old Testament. Her post is an example as to why the work of people like N.T. Wright, (which focuses on understanding the Jewish literature of the inter-Testamental period (400 BC – 30 AD), and what people in Jesus’ day were thinking and saying, in order to comprehend what those themes and words mean in the New Testament), is so important to a right understanding of the NT texts. Her post also illustrates why so many Nazarene scholars are un-interested in the approach to the Scriptures often taken in fundamentalist circles.
I grew up with an image of Jesus as God stuffed inside human skin. Among other ramifications (like not making the cross seem very scary for a Superman like that), this caused us to picture Jesus as omniscient just like God: a toddler already knowing E=mc2, a 5 year old staring off into space and when called to attention by Mary, saying “oh, a cheetah just took down a Thomson’s gazelle 1000 miles south of here, cool.” Of course, that gazelle wouldn’t be known as a Thomson gazelle until named after explorer Joseph Thomson in the 1800s, but Jesus Already. Knew. That. At 5. Cause he’s omniscient.
Except that the Bible doesn’t picture the pre-Ascension Jesus like that. The Bible says Jesus grew in wisdom. The Bible says Jesus was surprised at the centurion’s faith. The Bible says Jesus asked “who touched me?” Hebrews says Jesus learned. ‘Knowing what they were thinking’ does not mean Jesus was a mind-reader. I know what my kids are thinking quite often. Jesus was insightful.
And so, even if Jesus spoke of Noah’s flood as historical fact, even if Jesus spoke of Jonah as if it happened rather than being parable, (and we don’t know that he actually thought either of these things), but even if he did, it could mean he thought of these stories the way everyone else in his generation did. Because he wasn’t omniscient in the way we tend to think.
So when Ken Ham says that Michael Gungor needs to believe in the exact historical accuracy of the Genesis flood account because obviously Jesus and Peter and Paul did, and so you can’t rely on anything they said if you don’t believe the Flood narrative is 100% accurate history, Ham is doing what Rob Bell called, a long time ago, ‘brickianity’ – where we build up a brick wall of doctrines, all supported by ones lower down, and we believe the whole construction will come toppling down if we wiggle a brick toward the bottom.
This is a very frightening thought for our fundamentalist friends. And so, whenever they hear something as inconsequential as the views of a Christian singer concerning a six-day Creation (or the Flood narrative, or whether Adam and Eve are historical or parable), they react strongly and defensively. Because, in their minds, all of Christianity is under attack. But Gungor is right. Many, many, many of us follow Jesus without taking everything in the Bible as literal.
I wonder if the same people upset by Gungor’s “unbiblical” views will be just as outraged by the next idiotic, unbiblical Left Behind movie?