Re: Scripture: Intrusion Ethics

From: John Burgeson (
Date: Thu Jul 11 2002 - 12:37:22 EDT

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    On July 1, Terry posted an extract on "intrusion ethics" by Kline and also
    wrote, in part:

    "Robert Rogland, David Campbell, and others have given able
    explanations of some of the ethically difficult Old Testament
    accounts. I wish to contribute to that discussion by posting a
    lengthy quote from Meredith G. Kline's Structure of Biblical
    Authority and his discussion of intrusion ethics. The bottom line is
    that these seemingly unethical acts that seem to be commanded by God
    are "intrusions" of the final judgment destruction of the wicked into
    the present age. Please read Kline's general argument carefully, then
    the particular applications (imprecatory Psalms and the conquest of
    Canaan in the section I am sending)."

    Terry -- I have printed, and read what you sent. The kindest thing I can say
    about the extract you sent is that I find no reason to take it seriously. If
    I were to be harsher in my judgement, I'd quote Hawthorne who once wrote
    that, for the most part, theological libraries were 95% nonsense. I don't
    wish to go that far; I am sure Kline is a good guy and an excellent scholar.
    But what he writes resembles (to me) more the reasonings of a Robertson or
    Falwell than, say, a Billy Graham.

    Terry continues:

    "Some of us hear scripture's teaching about itself--"Thy Word is
    truth"; "All scripture is God-breathed..."; "For prophecy never had
    its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God..."; "His
    letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which
    ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other
    Scriptures, to their own destruction."--and do not feel so free
    simply to say that the Bible contains errors or that parts of the
    Bible are sub-Christian. Thus we put more effort into understanding
    how these things might be consistent with the totality of God's
    revelation of himself--the result is accomodationism, intrusion
    ethics, the framework hypothesis, etc."

    I think I understand that position. And I have, to some extent at least,
    studied some of those attempts to derive inerrancy from the scriptures. I
    mentioned my studies of THINGS TO COME by J. Dwight Pentecost (misspelled
    "Penecost" in my last post). At that time, as a new Christian, I was myself
    on the track of establishing the scriptures as foolproof, inerrant, correct
    in every detail. That was 30+ years ago -- as I pursued Pentecost's
    arguments deeper, they appeared more and more "ad hoc," and when I closed
    his book for the last time, my thought was that I had seriously wasted my
    time studying nonsense.

    The extract from Kline reminded me of that book, fairly or unfairly.

    Terry again:

    "The ASA statement of faith sets forth a view of scripture which
    members have assented to: "We accept the divine inspiration,
    trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and
    conduct." This statement is broad enough to cover most (but not
    necessarily all) of the views being expressed on this list."

    I would seriously disagree with your last sentence. But even if it were
    true, it is one thing to express a view and another to argue that it is
    necessarily a true view. I might, for instance, express a view here that the
    SDA is a cult. That is a view held by many fundamentalists and some
    conservatives. I might express it to see (1) how it is received, (2) to
    explore why it might, or might not, be true, (3) If true, what it might
    mean. (BTW, Allen, I do not hold this view). Or I might well argue the
    positions of either open theism or process theology, simply to see how they
    might fit in -- or not fit in -- with other ideas. In point of fact, I have
    a lot of sympathy for both open theism and process theology, both being
    models of God which make some sense, but I do not identify with either of
    them. Today. I see no conflict with the above statement and the ASA
    statement of faith.

    Terry again:

    "... I will also assert that the view expressed in the ASA statement of
    faith leans toward the evangelical right rather than toward the liberal

    If I were always able to identify "right" and "left," I might agree. I
    suppose by your understanding, I am "left." Certainly by my understanding
    you are "right." It is hard for me to always discern these groupings into
    "us" and "others" though. For instance, I would have voted with the majority
    in the recent SCOTUS vouchers case; as much as I think the chief justice and
    his sidekick Scalia are sometimes yahoos, they got it right this time.

    One possibility occurred to me when I was reading THE IRONIC CHRISTIAN'S
    COMPANION by Patrick Henry last week was Henry's classification of two
    worldviews as (1) seeing scripture, as "just like" and (2) seeing the
    scripture as "as if." This somewhat parallels Barbour's and Peacock's ideas
    of "models of God." The first category sees from the right -- the second
    from the left, although Henry does not use that categorization himself. When
    I teach Stephen Ministry classes there is a poster I display and often refer
    to which speaks to this. It reads:

    "God" is not God's name.
    It is the marks and noise we humans make to refer to the great mystery
    that lies beyond -- and within.

    Henry has one great illustration -- he writes of a college who, on the front
    of its catelog, says "A question for every answer." The seminary here,
    Iliff, has the motto "Look deeper." So I habitually read the writers on
    both sides of any question that interests me. Even ones that are "far out."


    "I would argue that dismissing the various Old Testament passages that
    pose certain ethical problems does not even conform to the broader
    ASA statement of faith concerning scripture."

    "Dismissing" must be a live option for discussion, else the debate is
    artificially circumscribed. And I do not agree that a dismissal of any
    passage is out of conformance with the ASA statement of faith. It is the
    attitude toward the whole, not the obvious flaws, that matters. I'm sure,
    for instance, that you "dismiss" one of the two texts I mentioned a day or
    so ago where the numbers (of men, of progeny, of pillar height) are in
    conflict. My KJV only friend, BTW, does not do so -- he has an explanation
    for each.

    "Thus, efforts such as
    the one I share below continue to be necessary. At the same time I
    will count myself among those who admit that some of these issues are
    difficult. Perhaps we can't come up with a good solution. For myself,
    I would rather say "I don't know how to explain that" than to say
    that scripture is any less than what it says about itself or to
    compromise the clearer ethical teachings."

    (1) I appreciate your efforts to draw me to a more conservative stance.
    (2) We agree that they are difficult.
    (3) "I don't know" is always OK to say. "I don't know and I refuse to think
    about it" is OK if the topic is trivial.
    (4) This topic is not trivial.
    (5) What scripture says about itself is a circular argument, of course. But
    that is another topic.

    Thanks for the dialog.


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