I’m going to start out with a disclaimer (don’t you just hate blogs that start that way?).  I guess it’s more of a confession than a disclaimer, but I suppose it could go either way, or both ways.  Anyway, here it is: I’m not a theologian.  Wow, that feels so good to get off my chest.  Yes, I went to seminary.  No, I didn’t study theology.  I studied communications, which is another way of saying I didn’t want to study real hard but still wanted the Master’s Degree.  I don’t know hermeneutics from Herman Munster.  I don’t know Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, or German (from which all the really thick theological books were translated).  I barely know English.  You don’t turn to me if you are thirsty for a deep theological discussion because I’m liable to send you up a very shallow dry creek bed.

But I do have questions, and questions can often lead to something, eh?  My question du jour (that’s French for “of the day” in case you were wondering) is this: can some of the text we pull from Scripture be “cultural truths,” applicable mainly in the culture for which it was written; and some be “universal truths,” applicable to today and tomorrow?  What do I mean by this?  I’m glad you asked.

Scripture as Cultural Truth: One Example

1 Timothy 1:9 – 15
9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Paul says, “I do not permit…”  We don’t know the entire situation for which Paul was writing, but obviously he came from a very Jewish background, with its male dominated society where women and children were treated differently, and it could be difficult for him to break away from that mind set.  Was this text inspired? Yes. To be interpreted literally?  Yes.  But should this particular text be interpreted only for Paul’s day, or should it also be applied today just because it’s in the Bible?  I personally have problems with it today because I’ve learned some incredible things from women, and would not have any problems with them “teaching” me.  But then, like I said, I’m no theologian.

We can get real dogmatic about Scripture and say that all that was written in there thousands of years ago still must be interpreted literally and applied liberally.  But is it possible to look at Scripture with new understanding, new eyes, or new awareness?  Even Jesus reinterpreted Scripture.  More than once He said, “You have heard it was said…But I tell you” something different, something radical, something you’ve never heard before or thought of before.  He shows us a new way of looking at the Kingdom of God and the Word of God.  And it is the Holy Spirit of God that gives us that insight, that conviction of truth.  Without Him, the Scriptures are just a collection of great writings.  When Paul, in the same book as above, talks about “all Scripture is inspired by God,” maybe he was also talking about the inspiration given to us by reading the sacred texts, to use our God-given abilities and intellect.  But then, like I said, I’m no theologian.

Ok, this has gone on long enough.  I’m fully aware that there are theologians and Baptist out there who will rip me a new one because of this, but I’m just wondering.  Is it possible?

Oh, and the Scripture as Universal Truth?  How about “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”  Or “absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (The Message)  Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Absolutely NOTHING can get between us and God’s love.  That’s universal truth.  But then, like I said, I’m no theologian.