Slaves, Women and Homosexuals

Two things: If I have ever been guilty of using a click bait blog post title, this is it. And, if you ever want to get weird looks at starbucks, bring this book to read with your Strawberry Acai Tea.

William Webb, who is a Seminary professor in Ontario, Canada, wrote the book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, as development of what he has called the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. It is, in brief, a way of reading and studying the Bible in the context of God’s redemptive work and relationship with mankind and it’s ultimate goal. The biblical treatment of slavery, women’s rights and homosexuality is in depth and extremely complicated by the cultural context contemporary to the writing of the bible and God’s willingness to speak into and through particular times and people.

In the end, Webb shows how, through the arc of the Scripture, the Bible is progressively eliminating slavery, increasing gender equality (though he allows for a biblical ‘soft patriarchy’) and remaining consistent in it’s regard to homosexuality. The book does a tremendous job at avoiding the normal emotions and hostility surrounding these issues. The cost, however, is that the book is highly technical and a complicated read. Webb explores the entirety of the Bible as it speaks to these three issues and does not leave anything out. For most people, this will become an all year kind of book.

If you are interested in these areas, though, I would suggest spending some time on a google search for the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic. It’s how I read the Bible, and I think it’s how you should too! Plus, he finishes the book with a chapter called, “What if I am wrong?”, how can you not love a theology book that actually considers the frailty of the author!?!

Here’s the quotes for today:

  • p.21, “Most of us are oblivious to the culture around us. Like the air that we breathe, it is invisible and we simply take it for granted… What awakens us to culture is contrast.”
  • p. 22, “It is necessary for Christians to challenge their culture where it departs from kingdom values; it is equally necessary for them to identify with their culture on all other matters.”
  • p.30, “A sense of the biblical or redemptive spirit can be obtained by listening to how texts compare to the broader cultural milieu within the development of the canon.”
  • p.37, “One might be able to persuade a modern congregation into believing that employees should ‘obey’ and ‘submit to’ their employers based upon the slavery texts. This happens all the time. But the outcome reflects a tragic misunderstanding of Scripture. The rest of the slavery material, beyond the obey/submit instructions, is often left at arm’s length and simply not applied.”
  • p.61, “Jesus’ development of a multilevel ethic in Matthew 19 provides helpful insight into at least three factors that influence the formulation of the biblical message: the hardness of people’s hearts, creative expectations and kingdom service.”
  • p.73, “A component of a text may be culturally bound if Scripture modifies the original cultural norms in such a way that suggests further movement is possible and even advantageous in a subsequent culture.”
  • p.117, “Interestingly, with the animals an explicit statement of hierarchy followed by naming is pre-Fall; with woman the explicit statement of hierarcy and personal naming are ultimately post-Fall. It is a rather curious feature of the text that the man’s name (Gen 1:26, 27, 2:7) does not change after the Fall (he retains his original name), whereas the woman is given a new name. In fact, the names by which we most commonly remember and retell the Eden story today are ‘Adam and Eve.’ Yet, one is pre-Fall and one is post-Fall.”
  • p.201, “When a New Testament text repeals and Old Testament practice, it is almost a certain indication of cultural-component status. In other words, continuity between the Testaments provides inconclusive results, whereas discontinuity offers reasonably conclusive results.”
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