How do perspectives shape evaluations of truth-claims?

For centuries, people used Scripture to condone the practice of slavery. Paul's letters, the mark God placed on Cain, God's cursing of Ham - these all spoke more loudly than the big pictures of Image and Likeness and "proving neighbor."

Have any of you been in a conversation recently with a follower of Jesus who sincerely believed that the Bible was pro-slavery? To be honest, I haven't. I've had people accuse me of believing in a holy book that supports and justifies evil (like slavery). But I've never had someone try to convince me that the Bible supports slavery and that slavery is a good thing.

Now, the Biblical material as it relates to slavery is tricky. It's worth thinking through and thinking through well.

But isn't it interesting that we give little time to thinking about slavery? We rarely talk about it. It's rarely discussed in our churches or around our dinner tables. We're pretty confident in what we believe about this subject, even though we haven't worked through all of the difficulties associated with the aforementioned Biblical materials.

Now, is our certainty on this issue related to some progress we've had in the field of hermeneutics? Sure, somewhat. But certainly not in its entirely. Some of our certainty has to do with our perspective.

Our cultural perspective tells us that slavery is wrong. And I think this is a great thing because it really lines up with the Bible's teaching on this topic, especially when the Bible's read rigorously.

What we have to come to terms with, and this is really difficult, is the possibility that our flawed perspectives are constantly making truth-claims, constantly telling us how to interpret Scripture. Sometimes, it works out wonderfully. Sometimes, it doesn't.

So what about when perspectives contradict the Biblical witness? How do we know when this has happened and what can we do about it? This is the core question I'd guess the person who dropped it into the box was wondering. It's what I'll post on soon. ;)


  1. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I actually just thought of a question after reading that which I was once encountered with. If our modern perspective changes our interpretation of scripture, making it difficult to discern the intended message, doesn't that lend credence to the statement that many of the Bible's rules no longer apply to modern society. The obvious answer would be, "No, it merely seems inapplicable (is that a word) because of our modern perspective." But if the meaning of scripture is so obscured by our cultural differences doesn't that strengthen the aformentioned point? I'm not sure if I've gotten across what I meant to ask, cuz frankly, I'm not sure I've grasped what I meant to ask hehe.

  2. Not quite sure what you were trying to ask. Do these ideas help?

    - Many of the Bible's rules do no longer apply to modern society...but not because society is modern, but because those rules would no longer serve their intended purposes (see Keener's work on head coverings)

    - There's a big difference between saying that we are flawed readers in need of hermeneutic help and saying that the meaning of Scripture is so obscured by our culture that we cannot access it (humility vs. hopelessness)

    - Some people wonder if we've moved beyond the need for what we have in Scripture, if we've evolved beyond it. To this I would say that, if anything, our need has increased as the years have gone by as we have collectively become more and more broken as people and societies, scar tissue layered atop scar tissue.

    Is this helpful?