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On watching The View

November 1, 2012

I did something today for the first time.  I sat and watched an episode of The View.  I had not been boycotting it prior to this morning’s episode; in part I had never seen it because it didn’t match my schedule.  I’d seen bits and pieces of it when it made the news about some controversial topic and also when I was waiting for a doctor or dentist.  I just never had the drive to record or watch it.  But today was different.

Today, postponed from Monday, the ladies of The View were going to interview Rachel Held Evans whose book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” has just been released to great hoopla.  Frankly, that a relatively obscure young Christian woman could end up being interviewed by The View, as well as The Today Show last week is amazing.  It was worth watching just to see Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar express their philosophies of Biblical hermeneutics.  Actually, Whoopi asked at least one question that was hermeneutically astute. 

But Ms. Evans is a young writer/blogger who has made the Christianity Today list of 50 Christian women who are changing the world.  Her blog routinely ranks #1 among Christian women bloggers.  She is an egalitarian through and through.  Her style is witty, self-effacing and confrontational as she articulates those views.  I read her blog regularly, not because I am a devoted follower, but because she is intelligent and articulate and I enjoy reading blogs of people who think through what they believe.  But, among the church at large, not to mention the general public, she is virtually unknown.  So how did she end up on The View?

Well, her book is about her attempt to literally follow all the Bible passages about women for an entire year.  She is not afraid to be controversial as she approaches the subject and, while she is self-deprecating, to many she comes across as mocking the Bible.  Because of this the advance publicity, both pro and con, has been huge.  Lifeway Christian Bookstores has decided not to sell this book, deeming it too controversial.  Many key complementarian writers have severely criticized both her book and the way she understands Scripture. 

While Lifeway isn’t selling the book, Amazon sure is happy over the controversy; their web site says the book is available but the volume of sales may cause a delay in shipping.  And The View has taken note and they invited her to their show.

The key question seems to be, does she mock the Bible?  I am about half way through the book but my early judgment is that no, she does not.  She does however mock the way many people read and understand the Bible.  This mocking is made less hostile and more endearing by the fact that she mocks herself as much as anyone else.  She exposes the key issue for those of us who believe and want to obey the teaching of Scripture. 

The main problem is not what Scripture says, but how do I apply it.  The Bible is an ancient book written into a culture so different from ours that we can hardly understand it.  Yet we routinely overlook this gap of understanding and claim we understand and follow Scripture.

Let me give you an example that, I hope, is not as controversial as the roles of men and women.  The Bible was written into a culture where honor and shame was virtually the same as right and wrong.  We read in our modern culture the book of James where he says “let your yes, be yes” and see it as an exhortation to speak truth and avoid oaths.  Ok, fine.  Then we also see in Joshua 9 how the Gibeonites duped Joshua into giving an oath of alliance by lying to him.  This is somewhat less comfortable for us as the oath seems to outweigh what is right – truth telling – but we can live with it. 

But when we think of Judges 11 where Jephthah the judge makes an oath that if God gives him victory in battle he will sacrifice “whatever comes out to meet me first when I return home” the wheels come off.  As it happens the first thing he sees is his one and only little daughter.  He is distraught but even the girl herself pleads that he must obey his oath and kill her; which he does.  God does not call down from heaven for him to stop, no ram appears with his horns caught in the bush, and the girl dies.  Nobody in our culture can read that passage and not be troubled.  Nobody can say with confidence they know how to apply it.

For years Bible believing Christians have had a saying – God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.  I think it needs to be modified.  How about – God said it, I accept it, and I try to apply it.  The rub is in the application.  How do I know I am applying it correctly?  This, in essence, is the question of Ms. Evans’ book.  Here is my thinking.

  1.  I don’t want to mistake my application for the actual text.  I must apply with humility. 
  2. I need the affirmation of others in my church to strengthen or challenge my application.
  3. I must listen with respect and grace to Christians who differ.

When I read Ms. Evans’ blog I sometimes think she would place a gray-haired old guy like me in the “them” camp on sight.  What she has done however is to urge me to spend more time outside the camp before I jump to conclusions.  Thank you, Rachel Held Evans, for this book.

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