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Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

Episode 173: Cheryl B. Anderson – The Ethical Impact of Biblical Interpretation

In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Cheryl B. Anderson joins Pete and Jared to discuss ethics, law, and how we read our Bible. Together they explore the following questions: 

  • What do we do with sections of biblical law that seem outdated or irrelevant?
  • What are some examples of problematic laws or narratives within the Bible?
  • Why is there a need for inclusive biblical interpretation?
  • Whose views get encoded in what we think of as the Christian perspective?
  • What effect does the mythical norm (Audre Lorde) have on biblical interpretations?
  • How does contextual Bible study relate to the Latin American “See, Judge, Act’” structure?
  • Where does the Bible exemplify changing perspectives based on context? 
  • What pattern emerges when looking at how Jesus and Paul interpreted their traditions?
  • What did Cheryl B. Anderson learn from engaging South African biblical scholars and theologians?
  • In what way does inner-biblical warrant impact our application of scripture? 

Tweetables

Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Cheryl B. Anderson you can share. 

  • “We immediately have an issue when we want to assume that the Bible is authoritative and that it means that we have to follow the Bible exactly as it’s written.” @CherylBAnderson
  • “I was just so fascinated by how we tended to pick and choose which of the laws we would follow, and also, how we tended to not see that these laws specifically exclude certain perspectives.” @CherylBAnderson
  • “You have to define biblical authority not as submission to the text, but in fact, struggling with the text. There’s permission within the Bible itself to change perspectives based on a context.” @CherylBAnderson
  • “We do look at the historical context of these biblical texts, but at the same time, we always have to be aware of the contemporary consequences and we always have to be aware of these varying voices.” @CherylBAnderson
  • “The Bible itself was written by one group contextualizing the tradition of an earlier community and an earlier tradition. And they never felt, ‘Oh, in order to honor this tradition, I have to keep it exactly as it is.’” @CherylBAnderson

Mentioned in This Episode

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Read the transcript

0:00

Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People, the only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.

Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.

[Jaunty intro music]

Pete: Well, folks, welcome to this episode and today our topic is “The Ethical Impact of Biblical Interpretation” with our guest. Who is it?

Jared: It’s Cheryl B. Anderson who is Professor of Old Testament at Garrett Evangelical Seminary, and I appreciated having someone who has a law background, has a Ph.D. in biblical studies, talking about ethics and the law and how we read our Bible. It was fantastic.

Pete: Yeah, and particularly HIV/AIDS, that came up because that’s an area that she’s worked on a lot and her travels to South Africa to sort of dig more deeply into this issue, hermeneutically and theologically, that’s really the issue. So, we had a great time talking with her and I know you’ll enjoy this!

Jared: All right, let’s go.

[Music begins]

Cheryl: The Bible itself was written by one group contextualizing the tradition of an earlier community, and an earlier tradition and they never felt, “Oh, in order to honor this tradition, I have to keep it exactly as it is.” I look, I investigate, I consider what the application should be in today’s context.

[Music ends]

Jared: Well, hello Cheryl, welcome to the podcast.

Cheryl: Thank you, Jared. I’m delighted to be here.

Jared: Before we jump into our topic today, because it’s such an interesting road that you’ve traveled, I think it would be good to start with a little bit of your story and how you became interested in the things we’re going to be talking about today.

Cheryl: Well, it starts off with my first career, which was as a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C. and I did that for about 10 years and then I was really dissatisfied with it because by, almost by definition, if you’re a lawyer you have opponents and you’re emphasizing the differences between people. And I had been raised in diplomatic circles where we worked to bring people together. So, it really was sort of counter to my nature and at the same time, I experienced a church that was a place of bringing people together across a lot of differences and in that setting, I sensed a call into ministry and so I went back to school full time, three years, to become ordained. And I’m a United Methodist which meant that my first appointment was to predominantly white congregation in suburban Washington, D.C. And it was an interesting situation because I was the first associate pastor, the first female pastor, and the first African American to serve there.

So, with all of these firsts, it just so happened that within the first month that I was there, I did my first Bible study and I mentioned in passing that there were two creation stories in the beginning of Genesis, and they had never heard that before and I was just so shocked! Because, as I said, I’m a United Methodist, we have seminary educated clergy, and I just couldn’t understand why pastors hadn’t shared with them what they learned in seminary. So, out of that, I sensed a call to go back to school again to earn a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, focusing on the Hebrew Bible and because I had practiced law, my segue into the Bible field was to focus on biblical laws.

Pete: Ahh.

Jared: And that’s a great segue into, you know, the topic that we want to talk about and go in various directions with, but you know, in my tradition growing up, we were really sloppy with our understanding and use of Old Testament law. It just, it never really fit and yet it seemed to be the undercurrent. It’s like, we didn’t want to talk about laws, but we certainly wanted to apply them when we were, you know, talking about “can’t get rid of all the rules,” but we didn’t really know what to do with it. You know, what, can you maybe help us, even just expounding on the challenges of current modern day ethics and then this whole section of our Bible that seems to be filled with instruction and law, many of which seem really outdated or irrelevant and we don’t know what to do with.

4:45

Cheryl: Right. The basic issue, of course, is that these are ancient texts. So, we immediately have an issue when we want to assume that the Bible is authoritative and that means somehow, that it means that we have to follow the Bible exactly as it’s written. So, that’s the first problem is that we have to begin to think of our living out a life of faith as one that includes, that includes these laws, but we have to think through carefully what that means in today’s context. For me as an African American woman, I was just so fascinated by how we tended to pick and choose which of the laws we would follow, and also, how we tended to not see that these laws specifically exclude certain perspectives and it’s that exclusion of those perspectives that I found particularly problematic. We assume that, well, if we know that these laws are there, we pick and choose which ones we will use and so, if it’s problematic, we just don’t pay attention to that. But what I find fascinating is that even some of the ones that we think are safe, so to speak, are also problematic. For instance, adultery is really defined according to the marital status of the woman –

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: And not the man. Well, think about how that applies today where purity standards are applied to women, but not men, you know? We often can say “boys will be boys.” In other words, what I find is that these laws describe behaviors that even though we may not be directly aware of them, indirectly they do shape what we think appropriate roles for men and women should be. And in that sense, we need to really examine them more carefully.

Pete: Yeah, because, I mean, it’s hard to just transpose an ancient, the laws are contextual, right? It’s hard to transpose the ancient context into the modern. Of course, what some people would say, and you know, you’re well aware of this, is, well, that doesn’t matter. We just have to keep, we almost have to transplant that ancient context into our modern day. So, you know, the way our society is structured where, you know, adultery, if that is even a thing, is not looked at the same way as simply from the perspective of the woman’s behavior, people will say, “well, it should be.”

Cheryl: Yes. And I certainly agree, but what I want people to admit is that we’re reinterpreting the text.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: We’re doing what we, on some other issues, say that we shouldn’t do. And that’s exactly the point. The point is, is that we have to reinterpret these texts for today’s context.

Pete: Yeah.


Cheryl: But the bigger problem for me is that you have something like the law on adultery, but even more broadly, the problem is that these laws within them really excludes certain perspectives. I might say that the law against adultery doesn’t take into account the perspective of the woman who might really like for that to apply to her husband.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: But there are other examples of both laws and narratives that are somewhat problematic. Deuteronomy 7 where God tells them to annihilate the indigenous populations, utterly destroy them, show them no mercy. I mean, these same texts were used in our own United States history. So, these texts shape attitudes toward others.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: Which are very problematic and if we don’t address that, they get encoded within valid Christian ethics and that’s a problem.

Pete: Right. Well, let’s focus, then, on one specific issue that you’ve done a lot of thinking on and a lot of writing on, and that is HIV/AIDS. So, could you talk about that, how that way of looking at the Bible that you just described is maybe not a good way? How that might have shaped this discussion over the past, say, 40 years?

9:55

Cheryl: To do that, I need to start with a story.

Pete: Go ahead!

Cheryl: And I actually start my second book with this story because it so clearly encapsulates all of the dynamics that problematize the church’s response to HIV, and I was working with a youth group – they were high school seniors, about 15 years ago – and our instructions were to share with them the kind of information I would share with my students at, you know, when I teach my seminary classes. So, I was trying to push them to ask these questions about problematic texts, so I said, oh, the 10 Commandments, that they don’t question slavery, and that an underlying message in Judges 19, the story of the Levite’s concubine or secondary wife has an underlying message which is that it’s better to rape a woman than a man. And I expected that these students who had various racial and ethnic backgrounds would have seen that these are problematic texts, and so we need to read them differently and that’s what I was going to spend my time with them on addressing. Well, there was an African American female in this group, and she didn’t like what I was teaching. And she held up the Bible and she said, “This is the Word of God. If it says, ‘slavery is okay,’ slavery is okay. If it says, ‘rape is okay,’ rape is okay.”

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: Well, I was just –

Pete: Yeah, how’d you handle that one?

Cheryl: [Laughter]

I actually did not have a response for her at the time. I just went back to where I was staying that afternoon and proceeded to spend the afternoon crying.

[Laughter]

And then the second book, basically, is why the perspectives of these groups that are constructed as “other” really need to be included in biblical interpretation and hence we talk about inclusive, the need for inclusive biblical interpretation. But I was so struck by the fact that she had learned that you couldn’t bring any questions as a woman. You couldn’t bring any questions you might have as an African American to your reading of the Bible, and that, to me, was and still remains deeply problematic.

So, who then, whose views do get encoded in what we think of as the Christian perspective? And to answer that, I use the work of Audre Lorde, where she talks about the mythical norm and it’s white, male, heterosexual, and affluent. And it doesn’t mean, necessarily, people who look like that, it’s people who, in fact, have that more, it’s actually something that becomes systemic and it’s part of traditional biblical interpretations. Once I thought of that, then later on I applied it to my work on HIV. Helped tremendously by spending time with scholars in South Africa.

South Africa has the highest number of persons living with HIV in the world, and so the theology professors and the biblical scholars there have had to look at how do you read the Bible, how do you do theology in the context of HIV and AIDS? And so, what became very apparent to me is that you had this mythical norm that is equated with the Christian perspective, but the people who were disproportionately impacted were Black, female, gay or bisexual, and poor. They were the opposite of that mythical norm. They were the opposite of those who were determining the Christian perspective. So, I’ll just stop there for a moment.

[Laughter]

Because I could talk about this, this is something I’ve spent the last 15 years working on.

Pete: Yes!

Cheryl: And so, I get really energized by it as a topic.

Jared: Good, good! And I want to, maybe, make a clarification or maybe something that we can expound on a little bit, because when you say that, the mythical norm –

Cheryl: Mm hmm.

Jared: I think some people, and I appreciate your emphasis on the systemic nature of that, but just to expound on that.

14:50

The way I would read that, and you can maybe tell me if I’m wrong or correct me, but it’s not saying that there was this malicious intent to exclude necessarily, it’s that historically, the ones who got the books published, the majority of those who were writing the books or the majority who had the wealth to sit around and research and write these books were white, male, heterosexual, and affluent. So, those perspectives get baked into the majority of books that are published about Christianity over a several hundred year period. That’s why it’s the norm, is because there weren’t those other representations that were being able to influence the population. It was one small segment that had been given the, you know, afforded the privilege because of things like colonization and other things that we could get into. But they were the ones writing the books, so those were the perspectives that were included.

Cheryl: Right, yes. That’s it. In fact, that was the term, mythical norm was the term I used based on Audre Lorde 15 years ago, but now there are even better terms like whiteness for instance, where it’s a way of being in the world, it’s a way of thinking so that it’s clear that it doesn’t have to be embodied, and people who look a certain way, that it is more systemic and to some extent, even more pervasive.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: So, yes. Yes, you’re absolutely right, Jared, that that is what I’m saying here. But that problem with HIV is what happens when you have people who are disproportionately impacted by a disease who don’t look anything like that norm? And the norm is telling them, “Well, if it’s sexually transmitted, don’t have sex.” You’d actually, that tradition would rather tell people don’t have sex than to tell them use a condom.

Jared: Or even, it just somewhat, again, in my tradition it would’ve been that your sickness is your punishment from God for your behavior.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: Definitely. Definitely. And in fact, what was very interesting is that US churches, unfortunately, some US churches did say that in the beginning of the pandemic when it was associated with gay men, that it was a punishment from God. But what quickly happened is that some of those same churches had mission projects in Africa and realized that there it’s primarily heterosexually transmitted. So, the punishment idea for same gender loving relationships didn’t apply in the same way when it was primarily heterosexually transmitted. And, to complicate matters, what happens when you tell women they are to be good wives and yet one of the major drivers of the infections were faithful, married women who were being infected by their husbands who were not faithful.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: So, it meant that you really needed to rethink how these, what these drivers of the pandemic were. Some of it was systemic, not having adequate access to healthcare, but some of them also had to do with the attitudes of the church, which wouldn’t freely allow people to follow the science, to do what they needed to do to protect themselves.

Jared: Right. So, on the flip side of that, just on the positive side of that, what was the constructive theology, like, how were pastors beginning to revisit and reinterpret these so that they were more life giving or more appropriate and relevant and spoke to people in the, in the minority position?

Cheryl: Right. One of the ways that I learned from my colleagues in South Africa was contextual Bible study where you work with church communities, and you work with them and you set up questions where they deal with the biblical text themselves. I think I can give you an example with using the book of Ruth, which helped people to see that there were dynamics that led to Ruth putting her body on the line for survival. So, by doing that kind of study, it allowed people to look at the broader dynamics in their culture, in their economies that also contributed to this.

20:00

And it wasn’t a personal failing as they had often been taught. There were other factors that were in play.

Pete: Right. So, using Ruth, so to speak as a mirror for contemporary cultural issues, is that a fair way of putting it?

Cheryl: Yes, yes.

Pete: Okay.

Cheryl: It’s, contextual Bible study is based on the Latin American “See, Judge, Act” structure, so that you’re looking at your context, you’re looking at the biblical text, and bringing to bear when it was written and the insights that we have as scholars, but then, bringing it back out into the application for their lives today.

Pete: And one of the motivations of that is the very contextual nature of the biblical texts themselves, and that we don’t share that context.

Cheryl: Yes, exactly.

Pete: So, we have to do some theology. You know?

Cheryl: That’s it exactly.

Pete: This comes up a lot on our podcast, and you know, we have a saying around here that all theology had an adjective, there’s no neutral theology. All theology is contextual and it always strikes me when people claim to have this sort of 30,000 foot above it all view where we’re “just doing theology.” I think everyone who does theology is actually radically recontextualizing a text that was written at a time and place by people who had absolutely no idea of the stuff that we would be dealing with, you know, 2,000, 3,000 years later. Right?

Cheryl: Mm hmm.

Pete: So, I guess that hermeneutical question, how do you handle this text, is always in front of us, isn’t it?

Cheryl: Yes. And that’s the kind of question I love to deal with because it means that you have to redefine biblical authority, you have to define biblical authority not as submission to the text, but in fact, struggling with the text, it’s participating in deriving meaning today. Also, I think that it has been really helpful for people that I’ve worked with to see that there’s permission within the Bible itself to change perspectives based on a context.

Jared: Hmm.

Cheryl: My favorite example is the difference between Exodus 20 when the 10 Commandments are being given and God says, “I will punish children for the iniquity of their parents for generations,” and then in Jeremiah 31, God says the opposite, “No longer will it be said.”

[Laughter]

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: And of course, I always explain that it’s because the context is different. One, you want to emphasize the importance of these laws, and in another one, you, when they’re sitting in exile, you don’t want them to feel they will be there forever because they would still be punished for what their parents had done. And I think it has a theological underpinning that’s just so beautiful, and in that very same Jeremiah 31 chapter earlier in the verses, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” And that sense of, that I use in my work, of what would a loving God say to God’s people at this point in time?  And to recognize that it can be just the opposite of what might have been said at another point in time and ultimately, what I’m beginning to think is we should read the Bible to identify for us the kinds of issues that the people of God must face, but not how we address them. It tells us what, but not how. The how is very contextual and we have to make sure that we are, in fact, including these various perspectives, and in fact, that we’re not justifying harmful consequences on people who weren’t at the table when these various perspectives and interpretations were developed.


Jared: Yeah, when you say that, I think of, you know, one of the challenges you mentioned, bringing to bear not just the current day context, but also scholarly insights, and it makes me cringe a little bit because through this podcast, I’ve come to recognize those “scholarly insights” aren’t always as neutral as we think either. And so, even those, you know, just I appreciate work like you and just having a lot of other perspectives that aren’t the white, male, heterosexual, affluent, because as much as we’d like to do neutral scholarship, I think in the history of biblical interpretation, we see that it always, that hasn’t always borne out.

Cheryl: Right, right. But there and in, it was mentioned a little bit earlier, this idea of the ethics of biblical interpretation. I think we all have to be held accountable with that and this idea that we do look at the historical context of these biblical texts, but at the same time, we always have to be aware of the contemporary consequences.

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: And we always have to be aware of these varying voices. You can’t say anymore, “Oh, I didn’t know we had Asian-American biblical scholars. Oh, I didn’t know we had African-American biblical scholars.” We exist!

[Laughter]

I mean, across our groups, across gender identities, and sexual orientations. And so, there are materials out there now. And so, it’s important, I think, to anyone who really, truly wants to live faithfully today, you have to be aware of these other voices. There had to be a recognition that there’s been a blind spot. And some of it is encoded in the biblical text. But also, it comes from subsequent interpretations that haven’t taken into account these other realities.

Jared: Can you expound, I want to go back a little bit. Can you expand a little more on what you, you said, there seemed like a rubric you used, or a filter. You know, how would a loving God interact with God’s people here? Can you say a little more about that as a rubric you use, that maybe when interpreting the Bible? Because I think that’s really helpful for everyday people to recognize that that’s a filter that you might take to the text from the very beginning.

Cheryl: Yes. I looked at how both Jesus and Paul interpreted their traditions, and I found that there was a pattern, and I used that pattern to then work with my students and work with congregations that, when invited, to begin to apply it. And it considers the impact of interpretation, so I’m really big on taking into account the consequences. It’s grounded in the biblical tradition, upholds the absolute requirement to love God and one’s neighbor, and it includes the excluded. And in the book, the greater detail, I talk about how both Jesus and Paul did that. That they followed these same factors, and they actually form a workable filter to change things and to adjust things, and they did that when they noticed this pattern, when they noticed that these practices or interpretations or understandings were, in fact, harming the marginalized. And that’s something, we can literally interpret our tradition just as Jesus and Paul interpreted theirs.

Pete: Yeah, harm to others seems to be, for a lot of people, the, when you get to harming other people with your interpretation, it’s probably not a healthy interpretation.

Cheryl: [Laughter]

Yeah, right.

Pete: No, but I understand. There are people who would disagree with that, and I understand the mentality. I’m not mocking them. I disagree with it, but, you know, it would be like, “Well, those people should be hurt because they’re sinning. They’re doing something wrong. There’s a reason why you have AIDS.” Right?

Cheryl: But actually, when you look at patterns, it’s not just individual behavior. That’s the problem. That’s an individualistic view on it. And really, in fact –

Pete: Well, that’s the American way, Cheryl. I’m sorry. Right?

Cheryl: Well yes, it is.

Pete: [Laughter]

Cheryl: But it really harms groups, unfortunately, it harms groups and communities in systemic ways.

Pete: Right, right.

Cheryl: So, one of the things that we have to take into account are these other dynamics. We don’t really act as if we have all resources and all possibilities ahead of us.

Pete: Well, it’s easy to have an individualistic perspective when your group isn’t marginalized.

Cheryl: That’s right! Exactly.

29:51

Pete: When you’re in power, you know, either, you know, implicitly, directly, indirectly, whatever – but when your position, when your humanity isn’t in question, you can be an individual, but when you’re beleaguered, when you’re oppressed, when you’re marginalized, you do tend to think in terms of our people, the group.

Cheryl: And you see that people around you have had some quality in common, whatever that issue might be.

Pete: Yeah.

Cheryl: Is it gender? Is it race? But, yes. It is, when people are collectively treated a certain way, there is a greater ability to be able to see something as a community.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: And that’s something, you’re absolutely right, we generally don’t think that way. But for something like HIV, we definitely need to.

Pete: Well, I want to back up a little bit and ask you what did you, what did you learn from engaging South African biblical scholars and theologians? You know, what was your experience of just engaging them, maybe in seeing the issue in more depth or in terms of just how they handle theological issues or how, how they – see, here’s one of the big hermeneutical issues I think we all deal with on some level – how do you bridge the gap between ancient context and contemporary context.

Cheryl: Mm hmm.

Pete: Because they’re struggling with that in ways that, you know, some of us might not. Right?

Cheryl: Right.

Pete: Just, any stories or any thought or any just, “aha moments” that you had in engaging with them?

Cheryl: Sure. Yeah, I have a story. It’s actually a story from one of the feminist theologians on the faculty where she was talking to her pastor and she shared with her pastor that she had instructed her teenage sons on condom use. And the pastor was just appalled, and he said, “Well, you’re teaching them to sin.” And she said, “Well, no. I’m teaching them to sin safely.”

Pete: [Light laughter]

Okay. All right, yeah!

Cheryl: [Laughter]

And that’s one of the things that I learned from them is that you find ways, you understand the people, you love the people, you know the context, but you find ways to help nudge them along. It is a way of really bridging the science and then at the same time, very traditional expectations around abstinence. But in this context, and we were in the part of South Africa that had the highest infection rates in South Africa. So, the stakes were very, very high. And to me, a loving mother would do exactly what she did. And I think it’s, it’s helping, I think theologically it’s important to get people to see that God loves them, God wants them to be, to survive and to be healthy, and that there are ways to do that. But it does mean being very creative with how you share who God is and how to read the Bible.

Jared: Well, as we wrap up our time, I think a have one last question, just related exactly to that. Are there some practical steps for people who are really wrestling with what you just said, which is on the one hand, I’ve been taught to read the Bible in a certain way and I want to be faithful to God and I want to be faithful to the Bible, and yet I do want to really spread a message in all my interactions in all my relationships that God loves you and that I love you and in sometimes, those don’t, aren’t obvious how those two things go together. So, do you have, like, some practical ways that people can start thinking different questions or acting in different ways to help them kind of work through that?

Cheryl: This is an exciting time, as I mentioned, there are scholars from a variety of perspectives that are publishing. You don’t even have to read a book today, you can get on Twitter –

[Laughter]

You can get on Facebook. There are all kinds of ways that you can follow scholars who are doing the contemporary work, the contextual work that brings our tradition into the 21st century.

34:59

So, I would recommend that people who are interested, that they would begin to follow the scholars who are doing this work, that they’re definitely out there. I think it’s much harder now to say, well, I never heard a different perspective. It’s much harder to say that today and it should be because people are reading our work in schools and hopefully, even in some congregations. The first African American commentary came out, oh, 30 years ago?

[Laughter]

So, we have had African American scholars who’ve been doing this work and putting together articles that speak to our realities for decades now.

Pete: Well, yeah. Yeah.

Cheryl: Mm hmm. So, the work is out there, and I would encourage your listeners to begin to follow those scholars.

Pete: Yes. Seek it out, right? Don’t, I mean, avail yourself of the conversations that have been happening and are happening which is hard for some to do. That’s not an excuse, but because the reality is just so different that, you know, they’re not even, and I say this with some sympathy, because I understand the problem. They’re not even aware.

Cheryl: Right, right.

Pete: You know?

“Oh, really? There are Black theologians?”

[Sarcastic tone]

“Yeah.”

There are a lot of them! You know?

Cheryl: [Laughter]

Right.

Pete: There are some white ones, too, out there. But you know, it is, there are many people doing very hard but important theological work to stay embedded in the Christian tradition but to take it directions that, until recently, would not have been really (recently, I mean generations) would not have been really fathomed by earlier generations. And that’s, that’s both exciting, I think, and it’s also a bit troubling for people because the narratives are changing.

Cheryl: But I keep going back to the fact that the Bible itself was written by one group contextualizing the tradition of an earlier community and an earlier tradition. And they never felt, “Oh, in order to honor this tradition, I have to keep it exactly as it is.”

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: To honor this tradition, I find out, I look, I investigate, I consider what the application should be in today’s context. So, the technical term is inner-biblical warrant, but the Bible itself gives us permission to do that. We haven’t always done it, or we have done it in some ways and not others. But I think that it’s entirely consistent with the biblical witness itself for us to make those kinds of connections for our own time and place.

Pete: Right. Well, Cheryl, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful discussion and very enlightening and I know a lot of, we’re going to get a lot of great comments from this because I think you’re making people think. That’s the point of this.

Cheryl: [Laughter]

Pete: Right? Think outside of our own narratives, think outside of our own familiar places and we all have them, including myself and Jared and you know, that’s the global church, right? And what God is doing in the world, not just in my brain.

Jared: Before we go, I wanted to ask, and I’m sorry if I missed this somewhere. What’s the name of the, of your second book that had that filter in it?

Cheryl: Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies.

Jared: Okay, that’s it. That’s the one I saw, I didn’t see another one. So, I wasn’t sure. Okay.

Cheryl: Yeah. Because in that one, I basically just look at different ways that I could, in my head, respond to that teenage girl.

[Laughter]

Pete: Right, right.

Cheryl: And say, “Nooooo! You really can incorporate your perspective!” And so, that was the Jesus and Paul chapter, and then it took me into areas that I hadn’t really worked in before, obviously, as a Hebrew Bible scholar and the Jesus and Paul chapter was one of them. But then also, I had a chapter on Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley.

Pete: Oh, great! Yeah.

39:51

Cheryl: And how each of them, in fact, I should’ve talked about that in the theology section because each one of them contradicted, went against, rejected the tradition that had come before it.

Pete: Mm hmmm.

Cheryl: Martin Luther was against the Roman Catholic Church.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: John Calvin was actually against Lutheranism.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: And then John Wesley was against John Calvin and predestination.

Pete: Right.

Cheryl: And in each of them, what they said theologically made sense based on that context.

Pete: Right and the thing is, the irony, I agree with that completely. The irony is that they all were claiming to get back to this pristine original, but the original itself is this dynamic moving thing that isn’t sitting still. And that’s, I find that to be so ironic. But –

Cheryl: So, no, you just have to understand – for me, yeah, they might have thought yeah, now we really have the true church. No, you don’t. You just have the expression of the church as it should be at this point in time. But it’s not as if it’s going to be that way forever and I, again, Methodist, so I don’t, I’m not reformed but isn’t the expression of the reformed church, reformed and reforming?

Pete: Always. Yeah. Always reformed, always reforming.

Cheryl: Exactly.

Pete: If only.

Cheryl: Exactly, but that to me that’s it! That’s exactly what you should be doing!

Pete: Mm hmm.

Cheryl: But our traditions don’t really keep up with that. I mean after all, my denomination is about to split over the issue of homosexuality, so.

Jared: For the reformed, that was only true in the 16th century.

Cheryl: [Laughter]

Jared: Maybe the 17th a little bit, then we were done reforming.

Cheryl: [Continued laughter]

That’s it! That’s it!

Pete: Right? We’re done.

Jared: Thank you so much Cheryl.

Pete: Yeah, thank you, Cheryl.

Cheryl: All right, thank you.

[Music begins]

Stephanie: You just made it through another entire episode of The Bible for Normal People. Well done to you and well done to everyone who supports us by rating the podcast, leaving us a review, or telling others about our show. We are especially grateful for our Producer’s Group who support us on Patreon. They are the reason we are able to keep bringing podcasts and other content to you. If you would like to help support the podcast, head over to Patreon.com/thebiblefornormalpeople where for as little as $3/month, you can receive bonus material, be a part of an online community, get course discounts, and much more. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.

Dave: Thanks as always to our team: Producer, Stephanie Speight; Audio Engineer, Dave Gerhart; Creative Director, Tessa Stultz; Community Champion, Ashley Ward; and Web Developer, Nick Striegel. For Pete, Jared, and the entire Bible for Normal People Team, thanks for listening.

[Music ends]

[End of recorded material]

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Resisting Emire with Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh

Interview with Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat and Dr. Brian Walsh: Resisting Empire in the Book of Romans

July 15, 2019

This week Biblical Scholar Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat and Theologian Dr. Brian Walsh talk about what Paul was up to in the book of Romans. We visit topics like salvation and politics and how maybe those words don’t mean what we thought when it comes to the New Testament.

Tweetables

Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements you can share. 

  • “It seems to me that asking the question of atonement in Romans, is perhaps asking the wrong question.” Brian Walsh
  • “Basically, [I] try to help people imagine what it’s like to live into this story, and try to imagine what it was like for people in the 1st-century to live into this story, and what we might learn from that.” Sylvia Keesmaat

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