Saturday, October 20, 2007

book review, part 3--velvet elvis

Ok, I've started wondering if these are really book reviews, or something else, like maybe ramblings involving thoughts from books I've read. Yeah, something like that.

Anyway, back to 'Velvet Elvis'. And you thought it was safe to come back on the internet.

The second chapter is quite long, and full. Dealing with all of it here and now is, perhaps, not practical. So, from the beginning...

Actually, not much to say about the beginning. It's just Bell telling us how he got into the preaching gig. Then he gets into some things of interest, kind of starting with this statement.

"The Bible is a difficult book."

Fair enough, and true enough, as far as it goes.

He does kind of lose me here...

"...what about those letters in the New Testament form one person to another group of people? Notice his verse from 2 Corinthians: "I am out of my mind to talk like this" A man named Paul is writing this, so is it his word or God's word?

"Is God out of his mind?

"Is God out of Paul's mind?

"Is Paul out of God's mind?

"Or does it simply mean that Paul is out of Paul's mind?

"And if the verse is simply Paul being out of Paul's mind, then how is that God's word?"

As a footnote, Bell gives the reference for that verse, 2 Corinthians 11:23. I don't know what version he got those words from (it does kind of have a The Message feel to it), but in the NKJV the verse goes something like this, "Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool---I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often."

I would guess that in the version Bell used "I speak as a fool" is translated "I am out of my mind". Why?

This paragraph is being written the next day. I have an interlinear NT, and looked up the verse in question. In the interlinear, the phrase is given in English as "as being beside myself I speak". It seems to be saying more what the NKJV seems to be saying, the Paul isn't saying he is out of his mind but that what he writes is as if he were out of it. In those last few chapters of 2 Corinthians, Pauls says much about how his boasting in those chapters seems to be folly, and in the context of the passage, he is comparing himself to those whom the Corinthians seemed to think were apostles but weren't.

Anyway, Bell does bring up an interesting passage, a place in the first Corinthian's book where Paul seems to be giving his own opinion and isn't certain it's really from God, "But to the rest I, not the Lord, say...", 1 Corinthians 7:12. It's even more curious, I think, when one considers what he says in verse 10, "Now to the married I command, yet not I bout the Lord...".

I'll grant that some level of difficulty. And at least for the moment, and like Bell, I'm going to punt on it.

The next few paragraphs are about his reaction when he thinks the Bible is being misused. There is no problem with him finding it distasteful when the Bible is misused, quite all right, I can understand.

He does, I think, get a bit off when he talks about a woman who uses language such as "personal relationship with Jesus". He makes the point that such a phrase is not in the Bible. Very well, but I do think that it has some basis in the Bible, and isn't something that came out of the air. I've seen similar arguments used against the concept of the Trinity, but not finding the word Trinity doesn't mean that the idea itself has no biblical basis.

"I was reading last year in one of the national newspapers about a gathering of the leaders of a massive Christian denomination (literally millions of members worldwide). The reason their annual gathering was in the news was that they had voted to affirm their view of the importance of the verse that says a wife's role is to submit to her husband.

"This is a big deal to them.

"This is what made news.

"This is what they are known for."

Bell doesn't give any more info about this gathering. I don't know from what he wrote who they were, what they said about it overall, or really much of anything else. I'm really not even certain when it took place--the books copyright is 2005, so maybe 'last year' is relative to that, but that depends on if he wrote that that year.

Anyway, he goes on...

"What about the verse before that?

"What about the verse after that?

"What about the verse that talks about women having authority over their husbands?

"What about all of the marriages in which this verse has been used to oppress and mistreat women?"

Ok, what about them? I assume he wants us to think that this denominational meeting did not deal in any way with those things, and has not in the past. Maybe he's right, maybe not. The fact is, we know only the very little information that Bell has given us, and we seem to be asked to accept his inferences that they gave and have not given any thought to those things.

But this does raise up something that seems to be common--the idea that some things in the Bible should be questioned because they have been misused. Like what Bell says about the verse that says a wife should submit to her husband. He raises the spectre that "this verse has been used to oppress and mistreat women".

Ok, let's say it has. Does that negate the verse, or how people have practiced it? I think it was Rasputin who took the doctrine of repentence and forgiveness of sins and abused it to think that he should intentionally sin so that he could continue to experience the joy of forgiveness. Should we do away with that doctrine, which has solid biblical support, because it was been abused?

We know the NT taught that there are times people who should be cast out of the church because of their sins. No doubt that has been abused, but does that negate such teachings regarding church discipline?

We have places in the Bible were we are told that corporal punishment, spanking if you would, is a good way to punish and correct children. People could point out that those passages could be used to condone abuse of children. We could point out that the verses say no such thing, they do not condone abuse but rather correction, and for someone to use them to say that they condone abuse is to misuse them.

This "argument from abuse" just doesn't hold. Bell may point out that the verse has caused abuse, but that is because the verse has been misused. To try to use examples of abuses to argue against the teaching isn't sound. It only points out that we as fallen humans can take good things, and make evil of them. I don't know how a man blessed of God with a wife could abuse her, but I know it happens. We are fallen, and sick.

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