How can the Bible be the ultimate authority when it presents less than ultimate views of faith and practice?
Derek Flood in his ground-breaking book, “Disarming Scripture,” says, “Just as we find in the New Testament a less-than-ultimate-view of slavery, like wise we find in places a less-than-ultimate view of God.”
This premise if adopted could be a faith foundation shattering experience. It challenges those with an eye towards unquestioning obedience when it comes to the Bible as ultimately authoritative or the old, Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it, approach.
Derek, however, points out that a flat reading of the Bible, what some may call a literalistic reading, or what I call a face value reading of the Bible, can and has led Christians to justify slavery and child abuse. I would also add war and violent retribution. Judging from the attention human trafficking is getting specifically among Christian groups known for their flat reading of the Bible, a less-than-ultimate-view of slavery has been adopted. However the child abusive text of sparing the rod and spoiling the child is still alive and well. Still, Derek’s proposed trajectory of revelation hermeneutical approach to scripture; his unfolding of greater and even corrective truth reading of the Bible does allow Christians to ask hard questions even moral questions of the text while seeking to be faithful to God.
So, “Just as we find in the New Testament a less-than-ultimate-view of slavery in the New Testament,” we might also find in the New Testament, and rest of the Bible for that matter, a less-than-ultimate-view of homosexuality and same sex marriage. This means that some things condoned in the Bible are now condemned and somethings that were condemned in the Bible might be condoned as our understanding of humanity and God grows and develops.
Likewise, Derek says that some of our understandings of the nature of the person of God is less-than-ultimately viewed in the Bible. This also means that some of our images and characteristics of God may need correcting. According to Derek, this is the way Jesus read and used scripture. He calls it faithful questioning. Not a bad model to follow and certainly not one they teach in seminary, at least not at the one I went to at the time I went. Practically, this means that we need to hold even some so-called absolute truths about God a little more tenatively, or humbly.