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The current article engages the two newspaper articles as well as the reactions and promotes the ideas of reading the biblical books as ordinary literature, of embracing the contemporary world view, and of accepting contemporary human rights. Only when we give up the futile expectation that the Bible's utterances will express what is right and authoritative can we begin to face it for what it really is, something belonging to an environment entirely different from our own, in which the questions and answers were entirely different. Human beings have been thrown back upon themselves, and have learnt to talk always of human values, human rights, human needs, and of humanitarian concerns.

Ethics, being now only human, no longer comes ready-made, cosmic and immutable. Early this year the theological faculty of the University of Pretoria held a conference with the theme "Gateway to the future from a deconstructed past. She referred, inter alia, to comments by Robert Vosloo, a church historian from the University of Stellenbosch, concerning the use of the Bible to justify apartheid.

He had not been present but did publish an article two years ago concerning the use of the Bible to justify and promote apartheid. Van der Linde's article led to a second fallacy: It is therefore understandable that Amie van Wyk, a theologian from the same reformed tradition and church as Totius, reacted with a letter to the press.

How on earth did it happen that able theologians from the Afrikaans-speaking churches used the Bible to justify apartheid? Van Wyk's question leaves the impression that he is "a stranger in Jerusalem. The article intends to illustrate that most South African theologians from the reformed tradition still adhere to an outdated view of the Bible and an old-fashioned use of the Bible to support specific convictions.

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Nothing has changed since the previous century when the Bible was used to justify the apartheid policy. If there were changes, the issue of ordaining women and of acknowledging gay and lesbian marriages would have been a non-issue in reformed churches in South Africa. The Bible and Apartheid 9. During the eighties of the previous century Jimmie Loader, Ferdinand Deist and Willem Vorster were bold enough to criticise reformed ministers and theologians' use of the Bible to bolster the apartheid policy.

They were at ease with his argument that the Bible "is not a problem-solver" 11 and that - in the words of Philip Kennedy - it "was not written in heaven, but in a dusty corner of the world. According to Loader, theologians from the Afrikaans-speaking reformed churches are at home in fundamentalism when it comes to the use of the Bible.

He took his cue from Barr's book Fundamentalism and illustrated that the "three pronounced characteristics of Anglo-American fundamentalism" can be identified in their works. Ferdinand Deist focused more on the use of the Bible in the Dutch Reformed Church NGK and left it to other scholars to engage the views prevalent in the two other Afrikaans-speaking reformed churches. According to him, theologians in this church are at home in the philosophical tradition called "common sense realism" when it comes to how they view the relationship between their theological statements and the Bible.

Deist's claim and Loader's convictions do not differ substantially. Barr argues a case that fundamentalists do work with a correspondence theory of truth, or "common sense realism" as Deist prefers to call it. They are convinced that when the Bible "refers to an external event in space and time" that event did happen - and happened in exactly the way the Bible narrates the event. It is a historical report about God's intervention to prevent humans from establishing a city where unity and not diversity prevailed. God's wish for humans was to settle in various locations across the world and to become different nations speaking different languages and developing diverse cultures.

When they went against God's will, God acted swiftly and undermined their actions. The architects of apartheid believed that they took God's will to heart and therefore devised a policy in line with it. Willem Vorster went further than Loader and Deist and argued a case that both the apartheid and anti-apartheid theologians of the NGK cherished the same convictions about the Bible and used it in the same way in their arguments. Both believed the Bible to be the Word of God but they used the Bible "as a coat hanger" to legitimise their convictions concerning the structuring of the South African society.

Although he never referred to the paradigm change that occurred at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, 22 he was well-aware of this change. Both groups ascribed to the modernist views of truth. Deist pleaded for a post-modernist understanding of truth in which the Bible "becomes a contextual conversation partner, rather than a de-contextualised collection of norms and truths, so that an appeal to Scripture can no longer be an appeal to final authority, but a reference to part of a variegated, sometimes even contradictory, tradition of contextual thought and action, that may be helpful in our own practical decisions.

Deist's article was published in a special issue of the New Testament journal Neotestamentica to honour Vorster after his untimely death the previous year Were Vorster still alive, he would surely have drawn Deist's attention to the fact that his plea for a paradigm change and Deist's plea for a post-modern use of the Bible do not differ substantially.

Both were convinced that one should read the Bible as literature coming from a distant past. Deist's own untimely death in left a still younger generation of biblical scholars with the task of continuing the discussions which he, Vorster and Loader had started. The next section concerns the newspaper article by Yolanda Dreyer and serves as illustration that the discussions about the Bible and its use have not abated since Women theologians are now joining the discussions and they bring new perspectives to the table.

Current Debates and Female Voices. In February , Yolanda Dreyer published a short article on biblical values in the Afrikaans newspaper Beeld. She argues that Christians claim too easily that they uphold "biblical values" but never reflect on the real source of those values. She illustrates this point by discussing two church members' opinions expressed at a conference which she attended.

According to one a male church member , the Bible is adamant that men should be regarded as the legitimate head of the family. Women should accept their advice, guidance and wisdom, honouring them as head of the family. Women should be humble and take second position. As this is a ' biblical norm' , Christian women living in the twenty-first century should behave accordingly and not rebel against their biblically-assigned position.

The second church member a female church member cherishes similar opinions and does not question her church's tradition of ordaining only men. According to her, God made it clear in the Bible that only men should become ministers and pastors. Women have to fulfil other roles in the church. This unquestioning acceptance of church policy and practice as reflecting "biblical values and norms" inspired Dreyer to confront readers with some of the Old Testament "texts of terror" and then ask some incisive questions about the so-called "biblical values".

Dreyer's first example is the story of how Sarai induced Abram to send Hagar, their Egyptian slave-girl, away after she became pregnant with his child Gen. But after it transpired that Hagar was pregnant, Sarai became jealous and started to ill-treat her. The consequence was Hagar's banishment from the household. She had to flee, while Abram and Sarai did not care about her and the child's survival. The second example is the appalling Old Testament stories about the extermination of villages Jos. These stories concern the ban Hebrew hersm whereby every living creature in a village had to be killed because Yahweh commanded it.

Is it a biblical norm to despise foreigners, to ill-treat and even kill them? The third example concerns the contradiction between Malachi 2 and Ezra In the first text, Yahweh says he hates divorce, but in the second text, Ezra commands the Judeans to get rid of their foreign wives. Asks Dreyen "Now what is the 'biblical norm' on divorce if the Bible communicates two contradictory points of view? Dreyer also refers to two examples from the New Testament to show how difficult it is to extract norms and values from biblical texts.

The first comes from the letter to Philemon. The slave Onesimus is sent back to his slave-owner, Philemon, with the instruction to be a well-behaved slave, while Philemon is instructed to welcome Onesimus back, and to treat him as a fellow-Christian. Nowhere does Paul encourage the abolition of slavery, 33 which could then be regarded as a biblical norm and value. Certain nineteenth century Christians used the Bible to argue exactly this point. Dreyer's second New Testament example concerns Jesus' treatment of the woman caught in the act of adultery John 8: The Jewish leaders wanted to react according to the rules and regulations given in the Torah Lev.

Or does the biblical norm apply only to women? It seems that church discipline is reserved only for women. Dreyer eventually argues that the two church members' viewpoints about the status of men reflect the convictions of certain churches and groups in our society, and are not really biblical norms and values. She then delivers a plea for Christians to look instead for "evangelical norms and values".

Evangelical norms and values are to be found in the message and acts of Jesus. He often ignored the opinions and interpretations by the Jewish authorities of his day and made no claim of adhering to "biblical norms and values. Dreyer did rather well in drawing Christians' attention to the fact that what they deem to be "biblical norms and moral values" are often only current norms and values in South African society.

Christians project their prejudices and values onto the Bible, arguing that they are "biblical norms and values. This will be argued in the next sections. Two Critical Reactions to Dreyer's Article. Two Afrikaans-speaking theologians in the reformed tradition reacted to Dreyer's article, accusing her of incorrect interpretation of the Bible. Women are partners in the covenant and are saved by Christ in the same way as men. The second mistake Dreyer commits, according to Vorster, is that she takes descriptive stories as prescriptive for how Christians should behave.

He emphasises that descriptive stories may hold a lesson for Christians but they do not prescribe specific behaviour. He accuses her of promoting feminist interpretations which, in his opinion, ignore the cultural settings of biblical texts. He claims that, had Dreyer paid more attention to the historical context in which the texts originated, she would have come to different conclusions.

Moreover, if she had been looking for biblical norms and values, she should have started with the Decalogue.

When it comes to Hagar and her predicament, it is Abram, rather than Sarai, who should be blamed. Abram did not fulfil his role as head of the family and he jumped the gun when he did not trust God. In the matter of the slave Onesimus, who is returned to his slave-owner, the letter of Paul prescribes good Christian ethical behaviour on the part of both slave and owner. Critical Comments on Dreyer's Plea and the Reactions. Dreyer's article and criticisms of it by Vorster and Simpson serve as examples that the issue of the authority of the Bible and how it should be applied to the contemporary context have not been solved yet.

Reformed theologians still believe that God is either a ventriloquist or the prime author of the biblical books. According to Tony Simpson, the Decalogue should be a guide for Christians in their search for decent norms and values, and it can be said to contain the quintessence of biblical norms and values.

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But if we are to face the facts, the Decalogue as it is formulated in Exodus Rather, it addresses a Jewish male, a member of the Israelite covenant community. The Decalogue does not address Israelite women at all. The tenth commandment allows us to gather that women in that society were regarded as being among men's possessions. Nothing is said about their moral rights or duties. It is thus evident that women were not treated as equals. A woman's standing depended on the fact that she belonged to her father, her brother or her husband. It would have been extremely difficult for a woman to survive on her own in that society.

Like Ruth in the Bible, she had to play the game according to the rules of men if she wanted to survive. This Jewish male whom the Decalogue addresses was, economically speaking, rather well-off. He possessed a house, a wife, children, slaves and livestock. He lived in the sixth or fifth century BCE. The first and fourth commandments give evidence of this fact. The first commandment emphatically commands that only Yahweh should be worshipped.

Contemporary Old Testament scholars opine that the Israelite religion became monotheistic only during the reigns of the Judean kings Hezekiah and Josiah i. In other words, the religion was not monotheistic from its very inception. The fourth commandment concerns the Sabbath. Old Testament scholars maintain that the celebration of the Sabbath became important only during the exile. The justification or motivation refers to the creation story in Gen. It is stated that God rested on the seventh day Gen.

The first creation story is assigned to the P-document of the Pentateuch and that document originated during the sixth century BCE. But there is another aspect of this version of the Decalogue that deserves our attention. This is the introduction, which reads: It is evident that Yahweh cared for the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, and liberated them from bondage.

However, according to the fourth and tenth commandments, Yahweh allowed his liberated people, now living in the Promised Land, to possess slaves themselves! Some of these slaves came from their own society although they were called by different names, cf. What does liberation mean if only some or certain groups benefit from being liberated?

Simpson argued that Dreyer did not pay thorough attention to the context of the texts to which she referred. But, ironically, he fared no better with his claim that the Decalogue reflects good 'biblical values. A contextual reading of the Decalogue reveals that Simpson's criticism does not hold water. The pot, in this case, cannot call the kettle black. When we read and study the Decalogue in its context it becomes evident that the last six commandments of the Decalogue are not unique to Israel. Stephen Harris delineates this as follows: The Decalogue does not reflect the direct words of Yahweh nor does it present timeless ethical norms and values.

Moreover, it is not as benevolent as Simpson claims. A critical reading reveals that it communicates ancient Near Eastern norms and values, which of itself is not bad. However, it does undermine the conviction that the Decalogue reflects God's will for time and eternity. If critical reading of the Old Testament confronts us with the idea that its norms and values are time-bound, then what of Koos Vorster's argument that Christians should preferably focus on the core themes of the Bible?

He claims that had Dreyer paid more attention to the core themes or fundamental motifs of the Bible, she would have discovered important ' guiding principles. He does claim, though, that the Bible on the whole paints a positive picture of women.

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Women are created in the image of God. They are partners in the covenant, and, like men, are saved by Jesus Christ. Concerning his statement that women are also created in God's image, he probably has the following text in mind: It has already been pointed out that Genesis 1: Keeping this in mind, we should remember that Genesis 1: The arguments by Simpson and Vorster do not really counter Dreyer's. Moreover, they do not help us understand how we could use the Old Testament to reflect on norms and values in our day. The two theologians still adhere to outdated doctrinal convictions about the authority of the Bible.

But what about Dreyer's own arguments? Is her conception of "evangelical norms and values" above reproach? I do not think so, but we should at least acknowledge that she finds herself in good company. Don Cupitt recently published a book in which he claims that "Jesus of Nazareth was a remote and very remarkable pioneer of our modern humanism. In my opinion, both Dreyer and Cupitt side-line the Old Testament. That Christians should preferably look for "evangelical norms and values" suggests that the Old Testament is expendable.

Dreyer's arguments left me with the impression that the "evangelical norms and values" she would like to promote are linked to the positive aphorisms and acts of Jesus. I would like to know how she would react to Jesus' handling of the Canaanite woman in Matthew At first, he ignored her cry for help. Then when he eventually engaged with her, he used a rather derogatory word for Canaanites.

They were ' dogs. He was not comfortable about throwing the bread meant for the children Jews to the dogs Canaanites. Christians should remember that Jesus was a first-century Jew who shared the convictions and prejudices of his contemporaries.


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We have been conditioned by later theological reflections to think of Jesus as a perfect human being with perfect moral values, tending to forget that he was a first-century Jew whose manners, customs and values were different from ours. Historical research made it evident that Jesus was not solely a moral teacher but that his message about Yahweh's kingdom was politically motivated. He was a Jewish prophet who cherished the hope that Yahweh would once again restore his kingdom in Palestine and that this kingdom would be different from the Roman Empire. His message is not to be equated with that of mainline churches which can be summarized as Fall-Redemption-Judgement.

It is a positive development that women theologians and biblical scholars are joining the discussions about the authority of the Bible and the way it is used in theological arguments, and in promoting Christian norms and values. However, South Africa needs more critical women theologians and biblical scholars to challenge traditional convictions about the Bible and its use. The following three issues need their attention and input: Any reflection on how Christians may use the Bible in discussing the norms and values of our society should start with the acknowledgement that the Bible is a collection of religious literature written by humans, centuries ago.

Furthermore, translators should translate the Bible so that it still reflects that world.

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When they read the biblical books, readers should feel that they are entering a strange world characterised by strange manners, customs, and values. It is also well to remember that God does not communicate directly with readers through the Bible. Many Christians still refer to the Bible as "the Word of God," maintaining that God communicates with them by means of the Bible.

This view turns God into some sort of ventriloquist who uses the Bible as a dummy to communicate with human beings. This is an outdated view of the Bible and Christians should rather acknowledge that there is "a crowd of different human voices" coming from these texts. To try harmonizing texts coming from different authors and different contexts is unwise and it does the texts no justice.

The Bible as Ordinary Literature. When Christians read the biblical books, they should not feel obliged to accept the values and norms they communicate. There are indeed horrifying stories in the books but readers should not ignore the context where they originated. To use our contemporary understanding of human rights as a yardstick when we read the laws, stories, prophetic utterances and wisdom sayings would be as unwise as trying to impose onto our society the morals and values the biblical books communicate.

Today there are numerous books and ways of reading which can help readers understand the biblical books better. This includes studying, inter alia, the characters, the plot and the setting. Jan Fokkelman quite correctly says: They will discover that the biblical stories invite readers to participate and to reflect on what they have read. In doing so they may discover that some of the biblical stories invite them to think about what it is to be a human being living, not alone, but in a community, in relationship with others.

Consider as an example the story of David's affair with Bathsheba 2 Sam. He connived with his army general, Joab, to get Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, out of the way so that he could disguise his adulterous act 2 Sam. Think of the parable the prophet Nathan told David after the death of Uriah. David was caught off-guard when Nathan announced that the parable reflected David's treacherous acts 2 Sam.

While reflecting on this story, it is also wise to take note of the introductory verse: In the Decalogue, Yahweh forbids murder, but this text evidently does not question the practice by ancient kings of commanding their armies to kill innocent people. Perhaps this story could help us in our reflections on who is to be held responsible when armies commit atrocities: Surely David could have decided not to go to war. He could have decided to turn his back on the standard practice by ancient Near Eastern kings of going to war during specific periods in the year.

And how would this apply to us? Could our country decide to invest more money in education and spend less on military weapons? What should we do with President Eisenhower's statement? Biblical stories could encourage us to ask critical questions. Image Unavailable Image not available for Color: God Shuffled His Feet. Crash Test Dummies Format: God Shuffled His Feet "Please retry".

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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Audio CD Verified Purchase. What sets this album apart from the pack? First, the subject matter of the songs. It is so atypical that I found myself reading along with the lyrics just so I would fully understand the stories. This is creative writing at it's best. Second, the music is superbly written, performed and recorded.

There isn't anything out of place here. Even the weird sounds are right, given the overall atmosphere of this album. Third, it is vastly different than the first album, this being the second. And that shows a depth and breadth of creativity lacking in so many bands that are good at only one thing, which the retread album after album More of this stuff please!! This album does not suffer the sophomore syndrome so many second efforts experience. Here's why they usually fall flat: Record companies want the best material a band has written for their first album.

But all that great music took anywhere from two to five years to write. It's easy to pick the ten best tunes out of five years' writings.

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So when the second album comes time to record, the record company asks for new material. The band isn't encouraged to use anything "left over" from the pickings of the first album. Golly, nine to twelve months to write great stuff - and a good number of those months have had the band on the road performing as followup to the release of their first album. When did they have time to write? So, a couple months of brainstorming to come up with the material for the second album Crash Test Dummies succeeds admirably.

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