1. I can “own” a novel or the Bible itself by virtue of reading and enjoying it. But similar to how I can own a new car — in that case even more so than its original manufacturer — it won’t do me much good to try to drive the thing across a river, contrary to its intent.

  2. John Weaver says:

    “Notice, to make my point, I acceded to a critical issue, one the discussion depends. Did Ms. Tyers intend to write several of her alien people groups as representative of Jews? If not, the entire discussion is spurious.

    Unless …

    Does a piece of writing — any writing — belong as much to the reader as to the writer? In which case, our commenter who found Firebird so offensive is right in his estimation because he personally read the book as slanted against Jews.”

    You assume that the writer understands everything he or she is putting into their piece of work. My point about Harriet Beecher Stowe, which you coincedentally never answered, still stands. Stowe did not intend her works to be racist. That does not alter the fact that they were in fact so.

    No longer do we search the Bible (a self-interpreting work) for the meaning of a scripture, but we contemplate what particular passages “mean to me.” The reader, then, supplants the author, and truth becomes “my truth.”

    “Until fairly recently, most Bible-believing (what some refer to as “literalists”) Christians would have viewed such a way of approaching God’s Word as erroneous. Today, however, any number of people who claim to believe that the Bible is God’s revelation also believe that it is a fluid document, taking meaning from the reader in his varied cultural “situatedness.”

    Clearly, the latter view calls into question the idea that Scripture is authoritative”

    How can a book, which is only a text, be self-interpreting. A being can be self-interpreting, a book can not. Furthermore, if the Bible were really self-interpreting and Christians were as good as you seem to think them, I think we’d have far fewer arguments about doctrine in the church, even among “Bible-believing” Christians.

    • Unlike, for example, Paul correcting Peter publicly for failing to heed his own words (since Peter’s vision regarding Cornelius and other non-Jews) that Jews and Greeks were now one in Christ, and prejudice against either group is legalistic and wrong?

      Unlike Paul’s later admonitions to correct false teachers, with love but firmness, and his even declaring that leaders within the church might as well go ahead and emasculate themselves as declare that Christ’s death does nothing to set us free from the burden of the Law?

      Unlike Jesus’ own words that many would claim to know Him, but in fact He never knew them and all their good deeds weren’t worth a bit to His Father?

      Nothing in Scripture says that if the Bible is self-interpreting then we would have less arguments. That’s a made-up standard. Furthermore, for every incident you may wish to cite about how “literalists” have messed things up, I can show you professing Christians who have crapped up the Church with their ignorance of Scripture — or even rejection of the same — and have insisted on re-interpreting everything with nothing but their feelings. That particular error may not have happened to you personally; but in that case, perhaps you might want to listen to those (like myself) who can share clear evidence of the same? But maybe that’s a discussion best handled in the current discussion, where I was last seen zeroing in on the debate’s roots.

    • Hi, John, I apologize if you addressed something to me about Harriet Beecher Stowe. I completely missed that (because of schedule — and lack of interest, honestly — I didn’t keep up with all the comments). I’ll try to find it as time allows and give you a response.

      In this comment you said

      Stowe did not intend her works to be racist. That does not alter the fact that they were in fact so.

      In other words, you are saying that, in fact, the reader does get to say what a work means, and not the author. Because certainly if Ms. Stowe didn’t intend to write a racist work, and we believed the author had a right to communicate what she intended, not what the reader hears, then it would be the reader who is in error, not the writer writing things she never believed people a 150 years later would think about her story and her beliefs.

      I do think readers bring something to the table. However, I’m more inclined to believe readers have the responsibility of ferreting out what the author is saying. That’s the communication part — one person has something to say, and the other person listens carefully to see if he understands what that person’s intent is.

      If person A says, I love you, and person B says, Ah-ha! She wants my money, clearly person B is either doing a good job of discerning what A intends or is “reading into” what A has said based on her own beliefs and expectations. The words certainly do not mean what B concludes.

      So who gets to say? Should A apologize for offending B because he said I love you?

      At some point, I think readers really are responsible for discerning an author’s intent.

      I think it’s also fair to say, The author intended to say XYZ but in that context or from that character or within my cultural experience, I came away hearing LMN.

      Thanks for the interaction on this one, John.


      • John Weaver says:

        Dear Becky,
        I just wanted to apologize if I sounded harsh at any time. I do disagree with you rather strongly on these two novels, but that’s no excuse. And I extend that apology to everyone. I guess it’s just better if I don’t post here. It brings back a lot of memories of my past, and makes me realize I really will never fit into evangelicalism, no matter how hard I try. Not that that’s your fault. Take care and God bless.


      • John, I hope you don’t go. I think we all have a lot to learn from one another!

        With “Evangelicalism” having so many fails, Christ’s Kingdom (already arrived but also future, in the New Heavens and New Earth with Him personally ruling a remodeled universe) is a much better place to fit into. 🙂 And Christ’s death in place of all who repent and believe, and His resurrection to confirm He defeated death and sin, proves that all who repent and believe will “fit in” quite nicely!

      • Hi, John,

        I found the reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe — actually in an exchange between you and Misti. Never fear, in a lengthy exchange like this, it’s easy to lose track of who we are actually talking to.

        Your expanded comments in that response reinforce the point I was making. Here’s the quote:

        Harriet Beecher Stowe was not consciously trying to be racist in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Quite the contrary. That doesn’t alter the fact that the work is racist.

        So contrary to Ms. Stowe’s understood intention, you are saying the work is racist. That could only be so if you mean, “The work is racist to me” since you yourself state it was not racist to her.

        If she as the author does not get to define the meaning of her work, then you must be saying the reader defines it. Consequently, there is no black and white (forgive the intended pun here). We can’t categorically state a work is or is not something because in another 50 years readers may see it in a completely different light. And, according to this fluid way of interpreting the written word, they can then declare their meaning, which might be in direct opposition to what today’s readers are saying.

        Ultimately, the author doesn’t count.

        This, of course, is taking the idea of the reader owning a piece of writing to the ultimate extreme, but I think it helps me understand my own thoughts on the subject.

        I’d have to say I’m more inclined to think the author gets to say what he intends and the reader must work to understand. At the same time, I think the reader can also say how the work impacts him.

        So I’d say, using Ms. Stowe as an example again, she intended to confront the issue of slavery (and actually did so successfully, history tells us). How it impacts me is to show the endemic nature of racism. Without realizing it, attitudes toward people groups can invade us all, even those who are reaching out to people in a different group. Consequently, I need to check my own attitude and confess before the throne of grace my own sins of racial pride.

        I see that approach as reaching a more desirable goal.


      • From Becky‘s above comment:

        In this comment you said

        Stowe did not intend her works to be racist. That does not alter the fact that they were in fact so.

        In other words, you are saying that, in fact, the reader does get to say what a work means, and not the author. Because certainly if Ms. Stowe didn’t intend to write a racist work, and we believed the author had a right to communicate what she intended, not what the reader hears, then it would be the reader who is in error, not the writer writing things she never believed people a 150 years later would think about her story and her beliefs.

        This morning I thought about that more, when I recalled that nowadays there’s a vulgar association even with the little word “do.” My wife and I were going over prayer requests before breakfast — saying “you do [this person], I’ll do …” — and I had to roll my eyes and say, “Ugh, we can’t say that anymore.” Why? Because of what someone else, perhaps writing for a sitcom someplace, had made up and popularized.

        So can we then impose that word’s vulgar Connotation on everyone else, who uses the word “do” long before, or otherwise unaware of, the Connotation?

        Does “Deck the Halls” suddenly refer to crossdressing, because of a “gay apparel” line?

        Should we call David and Jonathan “gay” just because their close friendship seems foreign to our particular cultural context?

        Should we say that Ms. Stowe, despite the remnant racism her work seems to connote to us, is therefore meant for our time and not hers, and therefore we shouldn’t even try to see what she did and her intentions first in the context of her day, not ours?

        That seems arrogant to me, yet it’s accidental. Sure, there is a place for sorting through what a work means for us today. But first we ought to see it in its original context.

        Doing so would prevent not only misunderstanding of classic literature, or today’s literature, but the Bible itself. Otherwise we’d fall into the errors exhibited by both “liberal” professing Christians and uber-“conservative” professing Christians: pulling out “meanings” that would be utterly foreign to the original hearers and readers.

        However, perhaps this next point is even more vital: No one who argues for a reader-trumps-writer reading ethic can ever do so consistently.


        Because such an arguer always reverts back to the “literal” view, that is, writer-trumps-reader, temporarily, just long enough to argue the opposite!

        A reader-trumps-writer polemicist would be the first to complain, and rightfully so, if someone applied his own supposed framework against him and “interpreted” his arguments to “mean” the exact opposite, according to the readers’ cultural constraints or supposed “perception” of what the author’s argument Really Means to Me.

        And I think that’s where we should end up agreeing: that reality is real, even if we can’t figure out all of it; that words mean things, and that it’s worth further discussion and assuming the best of another if we can agree to abide by the fact that we all, at heart, seek to read things “literally,” i.e., paying attention to the writers’ intents and seeking them out. The Bible is not so “special” that it’s exempt from this. And in these “constraints” is actually tremendous freedom to communicate and learn.

  3. Galadriel says:

    I do think that a (fiction or nonfiction) book can have meaning beyond what the author intended, but there is also danger in going beyond what the author intended, even in the opposite direction. For example, some people insisted on reading the Lord of the Rings as an allegory for WWII. This annoyed Tolkien so much that he explictly stated the opposite in the opening of later editions.
    As for Scripture, that’s an entirely different can of worms…

    • Galadriel, if we had like buttons for each of the comments, I’d have punched a like for this one. Great example of Tolkien and WWII. You are so right that he went to great pains to let everyone who would listen that he had no intention of writing an allegory about that time period.

      I think I’m leaning toward the “Scripture, an entirely different can of worms” view, too, but I have to wonder if our contemporary view of literature as a shared experience, for lack of a better way of explaining it, might not make it harder for people to view Scripture as authoritative. It’s something I hadn’t thought about before.


  4. Bob says:

    And then there is the issue of faith. The Bible states things at face value (sometimes literal and sometime figurative), that we cannot adequately explain scientifically, experientially, or even rationally (like creation, trinity, eternity, etc.). We try to wrap our minds around these topics for our own sakes, but in the end, God requires faith in his Word. I believe that’s the reason for areas
    lacking self-interpretation.

    • Good point, Bob. Some things are matters of faith. I tend to think God has revealed all we need to know, but sometimes it takes us years to uncover it or to grasp its import or to appropriate by faith what we read and know to be true (though we may not understand how it can be so).


  5. MS Quixote says:

    I’m pretty sure my 7th grade math textbook had an answer key in the back. 🙂

  6. Patrick says:

    Is a writing what the author intends or what the reader understands? Yes. It is both at the same time. The reader can not objectively read without interpreting through their own ways of thinking and experiences; the writer only knows their own intent and can not (and should not) over-think the story to anticipate every way a reader might read it. But the intended meaning is there and will influence the experience of the reader even if they don’t fully comprehend it as intended.

    The same applies to the Bible. There is Truth and there is truth. The entire Bible is Authoritative with intended meaning and purpose (but I don’t believe self-interpreting/explanatory). It continues to mean what was meant when it was written carrying the intent of the authors as inspired by the spirit. But the Bible is also Living. I like the word living better than fluid. We do not determine how the Bible moves in us. The Holy Spirit does that. Just because God speaks personally to me through His Word does not negate the fact that his word is unchanging. The original meaning is still there- but there is more for me because the Spirit speaks to My Life in the here and now through this unchanging word. It is Alive for me because it always seems to know what I need to hear. Not what I want to hear- What I need.

    “What does this mean to me” should not mean “how can I interpret this to suit my sinful life”. That is ridiculous. Why can’t it mean “How does God intend for me to apply this to my life” or “What is the Spirit doing in me” or “How can I rephrase this in my own words to see if I understand the intended meaning”? Do any of those questions violate the Bible making it somehow less than intended? The Bible is Authoritative- my understanding of it is not. But I am left incompletely with Both because I am a human that can not fully know or understand the mind of God.

    • Zoe says:

      And now I wish I’d read the comments before replying myself. This pretty much explains what I was trying to say in a few of my paragraphs, only this says it much better. So when it comes to the whole “fluid” thing (and I even said I like the word “living” better than fluid too), I defer to Patrick.

    • Zoe and Patrick, thank you for your detailed responses. Great thoughts.

      Just one point for you both about the living and active word of God. I love that you both reacted to the word fluid as you did. As I see it, the two concepts are indeed quite different. Hence, the Bible declares itself to be living but not fluid.

      Living, I believe, indicates that it functions today as it did 1500 years ago. It was authoritative then and it is authoritative now. It spoke to the needs of men and women then, and it speaks to the needs of men and women now. Which is an amazing thought, considering the way life has changed. But the Internet doesn’t cancel the power of the Word to speak into my life, nor do cars, iPads, Kindles, Faccebook, or whatever new technology awaits us in the next twenty years.

      Zoe, I think it was you that gave the example of the meat offered to idols. Our job is to suss ( 😉 ) out God’s intent, and follow the principle in our very different world.

      That’s the power of the Word as a living Book.

      The issue of fluidity, however, is something altogether different, and this is what I think affects emergent thinkers. Rather than asking, What is the intent, the person treating the Bible (or any book) as a fluid document, asks, What does this mean to me?

      If the passage about eating meat offered to idols means to me that I should become a vegetarian, then that’s what it means. But if it means to you that you are to buy only the best cut of meat, good. No problem that we see things diametrically opposed to each other because the Bible wasn’t meant to be authoritative.

      That, I fear, is the way many, many people are coming to the Bible.


      • Patrick says:

        Zoe: Thanks for the endorsement of my comment. We said very similar things throughout our independently written posts. Guess it just goes to show that great minds think alike 😉

        Becky: At least two readers misunderstood your usage of “fluid”, and reacted to what we thought we understood. Our understanding was what was real to us in the moment of reaction. I’m glad you responded to clarify your intent, and to let us know that we are all in agreement that the Bible is not fluid, but is living.

        Do readers generally have access to authors to know their intent? I can see it with well known career authors of multiple best sellers. They are more likely to have been interviewed in depth, or even to have non-fiction books written about them and their works. But it seems for most books, the mind of the author is not available to pick. If we do not realize we have misunderstood, and do not broadcast out mistaken ideas to the author then the author is not aware of our perceptions to correct us. For accurate communication to happen both parties must be engaged in the conversation. Can this happen for readers and writers? And in general do writers really care if they are misunderstood if the personal message that readers take from their text is what has made the book so popular to sell as well as it does?

  7. Kaci Hill says:

    Here’s a third possibility. Since the Bible is the only inspired book, given through a Spirit-breathed process that used human writers, does it alone belong to the Author, and all other books belong to readers?

    The Bible isn’t like other books. For one thing, it’s sixty-six books (or if you’re RCC or Orthodox, you’ve got a few extra), not one. Ultimately it has one Author, but it was inspired, not dictated or done through supernatural possession.

    Moreover, Scripture allows some room for variant interpretations that don’t go outside the point of commonality. We don’t have to agree on predestination. We do have to agree that we’re saved by faith in Jesus Christ by his grace and work on the Cross. We can put more emphasis on in-reach, out-reach, social justice, the crucifixion, the gifts of the Spirit, worship, prayer, study, preaching, and so on. There’s room for that. There’s plenty of room to legitimately disagree. But there’s a limit to how far you can go before you’ve crossed into dangerous territory.

    As far as literature goes, not all interpretations are equal. Some are better, some are closer to the author’s than others. The author has his. Sure, there’s probably some theme he didn’t include on purpose, but that he’d agree with. But this is where, as you say, communication is key: The author must make himself clear; and the reader must listen. If no one gets the author’s point, then he didn’t communicate effectively. If no one listens to the author, it doesn’t matter what he says. So the author needs the readers to listen, and the readers need the author to listen.

    But that’s me.

    In other words, you are saying that, in fact, the reader does get to say what a work means, and not the author.

    It makes lit classes interesting. 😛 Just wait till someone gets a Freudian reading out of a Hawthorne short story….

    I’ll admit, there’s some books I just don’t like. I ripped Stowe apart on narrative style alone. I’ve supposedly read Heart of Darkness….twice. And Goodbye, Columbus and…oh, what’s that Robert Wright title….? Anyway. Takes a lot to make me consider NOT reading a book for class.

  8. Zoe says:

    Once again, I want to respond to the article rather than the comments (haven’t read them yet). This was a very thought-provoking article, Stephen.

    Does a piece of writing — any writing — belong as much to the reader as to the writer?

    This is an excellent question. I think there is a certain amount of a piece of writing that can belong to the reader – I think a lot of authors write that way intentionally, in the hopes that the reader will “own” the story and make it their own. Some writers are intentionally vague about the meaning of a particular story and don’t object to multiple interpretations. For example, my fiance is writing a fairy story in which the reader can either conclude that there are natural explanations for all the events, or supernatural explanations – he leaves it open for interpretation, because in his mind there are two ways of looking at reality: with doubt or with wonder – and whichever perspective you choose, fundamentally changes the way you view reality.


    On the other hand, I am fond of a saying I heard in theology class once: “A verse cannot mean something that it didn’t mean.” In other words, when we ascribe meaning to a piece of writing that was assuredly not the intention of the writer, we are twisting the meaning of the verse to fit our own needs. This applies, I believe, to any piece of writing.

    The question, then, is how do we know what the writer meant? Usually we have numerous resources to help us out there: notes and interviews from the authors, including articles like this one, and even author biographies can give us a glimpse into a writer’s psyche and clue us in to what they may have been thinking.

    However, this brings up a point John mentioned in the earlier discussion. A writer’s worldview will permeate their writing whether or not they are intentional about putting it in. Have you watched any really old cartoons that have black characters? I recommend Warner Brothers’ “Lazy Town.” Everything from the animation to the characters’ way of speaking gives the viewer the overwhelming impression that the animators/writers of the cartoon thought black people were lazy, stupid, subhuman creatures. This was not the point of the cartoon, and probably was not consciously in the thoughts of its creators, and there is one character in the cartoon who does not exemplify these traits, but nonetheless the feeling is that black people, as a whole, are inferior to white people, and given the age of the cartoon, it is probable that the cartoon’s creators felt this way at least to some extent.

    Interestingly, this is exactly what any number of professing Christians are doing with God’s Word. No longer do we search the Bible (a self-interpreting work) for the meaning of a scripture, but we contemplate what particular passages “mean to me.” The reader, then, supplants the author, and truth becomes “my truth.”

    Back to the question, how do we know what the writer(s) meant? Certainly the authors of the various books of the Bible had a definite message that they communicated in the way they thought would best make sense to their original audience. They communicated using language that was easily understood by their recipients in order to make the message as clear as possible. I believe, therefore, that Scripture does have definite meaning, the meaning intended by the author. If we believe these authors were directed by God to write – to whatever degree – then presumably, the intention of the author is, at the very least, not in opposition to the intention of God. At best, the intention of the authors mirrored or matched God’s intention. Therefore, my belief is that by trying to understand what Scripture would have most clearly, most probably meant to its original readers, we gain a world of insight into its definite meaning.

    On the other hand (I’m doing that a lot), I believe that God, being infinite and seeing that these books and letters and poems and songs would be for all humanity, not just a limited audience, may use Scripture to speak to us individually in a personal way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Today, however, any number of people who claim to believe that the Bible is God’s revelation also believe that it is a fluid document, taking meaning from the reader in his varied cultural “situatedness.”

    Hebrews 4 tells us that “the Word of God is living and active,” and in context I think it is actually talking about the written word (since chapters 3-4 are basically an exegesis of Psalm 95). It is not a stale, stagnant book that only meant one thing to one particular culture at one particular place and time. For instance, Paul talked to the Corinthians extensively about the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. That is not a situation Western Christians face today; does that mean this passage has become useless for everyone except maybe those who live in places where practices like this still exist? No, because I think we can learn a great deal from the principle of the message (protect the conscience of your brother in Christ). As another example, I read a story once of a Bible translator working in a culture that did not know what snow was. So verses like “your sins . . . will be white as snow” had no meaning to them. If I remember right, she dealt with it by using another metaphor that did make sense to that culture.

    We can, however, get too free with this “contemporization,” as we may call it, of the Bible. In fact, I think that the best way to contemporize Scripture is to look seriously at what it meant in its original context and culture. I think a lot of disagreements about theology take place because somebody comes up with an interpretation of certain Scripture that is not based on a knowledge of its context. How much of Paul’s writings would we take in a completely different light, for example, if we didn’t know that he spent a considerable amount of time in the presence of Roman guards and therefore used a lot of soldier/war metaphors? How much would we miss about the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross if we didn’t understand the Hebrew sacrificial system? Or, to be somewhat controversial, different theories about the return of Christ stem from how one understands the phrase “meet him in the air” found in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. A lot of people don’t know that it was a military phrase, or what the phrase referred to, and there is an entire doctrine built partially around the culturally-stripped meaning of that phrase.

    Which brings me back to fiction. Do books belong to the author or to the reader? And if to the reader, are those who view the Bible as a fluid document right in their assessment?

    I think I answered this, more or less. I think it’s both, but I think they belong more to the writer than the reader. I think the Bible is “fluid” (I don’t like that word; could we use “living” instead?) in some respect, not in the sense that it loses its original cultural meaning or has no original meaning and can only mean whatever the reader wants it to mean, but in the sense that <in addition to is objective meaning, we may discover truths about God that maybe God meant for our culture. Note: since I believe God doesn’t lie and doesn’t change, I believe any of these “personal” truths can only be true if they do not contradict either the original intent of the particular passage or any other part of Scriptue.

    If, on the other hand, the Bible is authoritative, an unchanging revelation of God’s person and plan, does that mean that books belong to the author, not the reader, and that part of a reader’s job is to suss out what an author is actually saying?

    Well, here’s an example. I have never heard or seen the phrase “suss out” before in my life. I can now decide what I think it means, or decide that it is a typo, or I can look it up to see if the dictionary can give me any information. I look up the word on dictionary.com and I find that “suss” is (chiefly) British slang for “to investigate or figure out (usually followedby out ).” I would have come up with a similar definition to this one on my own, but not with as much precision, and now I have learned a new word that I happen to like.

    So yes, I think it is the reader’s job to figure out what the author is actually saying. I have found, through extensive trial and error, emphasis on error, that numerous arguments could be avoided if we would only take the time to figure out what a person is actually saying to us instead of assuming we already know. This is something you learn in premarital counseling, and if you don’t learn this skill, you will be a mess in relationships. Granted, the speaker/writer has an obligation to communicate on their part as clearly as possible, but communication is a two-way street. The clearest writing can be easily misunderstood by a failure to listen.

    Okay, I think that covers what I wanted to say.

    • Zoe says:

      I’m so sorry, Becky, I saw that you wrote this article when I started reading, and by the time I got to the end I had forgotten. This was a very thought-provoking article, BECKY. I wish I could edit my comments. *sheepish*

  9. Zoe says:

    Oh, and as a side-note in response to the comment that prompted this whole thing, I think part of the issue was that John had a different definition of “anti-Semitism” than most people do. Most Christians (though not all) believe that Jews, like Gentiles, must be saved through faith in Christ to be saved, and if I read the comments right John believes that this is anti-Semitic, and that the only way not to be anti-Semitic is to believe that all Jews are saved by virtue of being Jews, regardless of their response to Christ (someone correct me if I wrongly interpreted the meaning of that comment’s author – and notice all the buzzwords I’m using from the article). So sometimes a writer and a reader will mean/interpret different things just because they have different beliefs.

  10. someone correct me if I wrongly interpreted the meaning of that comment’s author

    Nope, Zoe, that’s exactly the (flawed) definition of “anti-Semitism” at issue in the previous discussion — making the real issue, not literary criticism, or the sins of other people in history, but the very definitions of Christianity and the Gospel. 🙂

  11. John Weaver says:

    Actually, Stephen that was only part of the definition, not the whole definition.

  12. In that case, I’m very glad you’re here to clarify what you meant so that your comments can be in effect “self-interpreting,” even if we’re not speaking face to face! 🙂

  13. John Weaver says:

    Steven, I gave you guys the definition, which now that I look it up from the previous post did not even partly use the definition Zoe is talking about:

    “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group”

    (Webster’s 3rd).

  14. Yet it also seemed that you were condemning any Christian (novel author or otherwise) for being “anti-Semitic” or hostile toward/discriminating against Jews, only because Christians don’t believe Jews have an alternate path toward salvation. Can you clarify?

    Just in case: contrary to popular perception, saying “the Bible gives no other way to be saved but repentance and faith in Christ” is not the same as saying “I hate you” or “I hate your people group (more than I hate others).” I’m sure many professing Christians (or, sadly, real ones who ignore Scripture’s clear teachings about why Christ died) have equated the two, but that doesn’t mean all Christians do — even if you haven’t yet met them personally.

  15. John Weaver says:

    I was condemning authors for being insensitive to Judaism. While I do believe that saying “unsaved” Jews go to hell is wrong and potentially anti-Semitic, I would be satisfied if evangelical authors just engaged Judaism and the Holocaust more seriously, without changing their fundamental beliefs. A good example of this is Paul Patton’s excellent play “Kurt Gerstein”, which though it does not come to the same conclusions about Christianity that I do, does take the Christian role in the Holocaust seriously and acknowledges our need for repentance and humility towards the Jewish community. And Patton is a conservative evangelical by anyone’s standards.


  16. While I do believe that saying “unsaved” Jews go to hell is wrong and potentially anti-Semitic

    Disagree, here — it likely doesn’t surprise you! — based on Scripture’s rather strong case that all of Judaism’s faith tenets were meant to be fulfilled in Christ, and now there’s no reason to revert to the shadows cast by the now-arrived light of the ultimate Savior.

    However, if you grew up with those who commonly said “unsaved Jews won’t go to heaven” and “I hate Jews” in the same sentences, and made this more clear with their behavior, I can understand the confusion.

    I think all of us have heard “I believe the Bible” along with flagrantly anti-Biblical beliefs and practices so often that we’ve all gone through a period (and still do, occasionally) of wondering Is what they believe really based on the Bible? But it takes actually reading the book, with both right methods of reading and God’s Spirit in our hearts to guide us, to see that such Christians (real or professing) aren’t following the Book at all, but making stuff up.

    I would be satisfied if evangelical authors just engaged Judaism and the Holocaust more seriously, without changing their fundamental beliefs.

    On this, though, I can empathize more! For example, I’ve read many nonfiction books that warn of the dangers of outright secular feminism, without having nearly as much to say about the dangers of Christian-ized chauvinism (which oddly enough can serve as a prop for feminism and female-dominated spirituality to creep in via the back door). I don’t mind naming one of those authors: Mark Driscoll, who has a lot to say about how men need to guide their families, husbands should lead sacrificially, etc., but doesn’t say as much — in my view, anyway — about how there are many stupid, anti-Biblical and harmful notions out there about what “male headship” means.

    However, Driscoll and others may simply not have the exposure to those wrong notions that I have. Therefore, having found that I (and others) have a “gift” in this area, an awareness of other danger spots, we can all come together, make sure we agree on the basics — what is the Gospel? what is our final authority for life and practice? — and then hash things out, so long as we’re sure that we love the same Christ and Christianity.

    Others — many on Speculative Faith, for instance — are familiar with common Christian objections to visionary fiction, or creative works for God’s glory as a whole. They can build relationships with Christians who have strengths in other areas, but not necessarily this one (they may have myths in their minds about it). And together we grow.

    Similarly, it sounds like you have a greater awareness of some professing (or, sadly, actual) Christians’ attitudes toward Jews. So if we’re all in the same boat on the basics, we can certainly learn from you how to be more careful in this area of culture, given these sensitivities. And another Christian may know more about origins-science apologetics, and another about Jehovah’s Witnesses’ cult practices and corruptions, and another may have experience with fundamentalist legalism — all part of being the Body, with different gifts and strengths, as Paul said, so long as all are in the same Spirit!

  17. […] I was not so firmly on the side of the reader, so I countered with a post of my own at Spec Faith. As I wrote my thoughts and realized that the attitude we have toward reading plays a […]

  18. […] Mediocre” and “Another Look At Good Versus Mediocre”) and how a reader reads (see “Readers, Writers, And What Each Understands”) to what a reader […]

  19. Galadriel says:

    I was reading a textbook today and came across the chapter that discusses different schools of hermanuntics.
    *LIGHTBULB* That’s basically what this post is about.

What do you think?