W.In the light of our historical view of salvation it is not surprising that Christian's cherish every word that was written of the foundation of our faith and every word that Jesus is recorded to have said. Second in our reverence comes what we have from the faithful who were with Jesus and who knew him. This witness to Jesus is recorded in the Bible and is special.
W.But the tendency we have to hold on tightly to the past is a human tendency. It is not from God and it is not central to the way of faith. When I was young the Roman Catholic Church in America said all masses in Latin. Why? Because when the Christian Church became the Church of the Roman Empire it adopted the Roman speech. Tradition -- the human tendency to cling to the past -- resulted in 20th century Americans being required to receive grace in Latin.
W.Tradition is important but not if it causes us to slavishly follow the past. Traditions must be evaluated and reconsidered from time to time. Before that can happen we must be able to clearly distinguish traditions from the essence of faith. Traditions are guides to faith but they can also become hindrances -- useless or irrelevant if they do not speak to us in our own time and place. Then they need to be revised or discarded so that we can move on and grow in faith.
W.By way of example consider what Paul says about women. Paul's letters are arguably the foundation of Christian faith. Unfortunately Paul was a first century Syrian Jew who grew up in a male dominated society whose chauvinism was sanctioned by his Jewish faith. This did not change when his faith changed because early Christianity was just a sect of Judaism and the teachings of Jesus being a Jew himself offered little to modify the prevailing attitudes toward women.
W.As a result of his historical context Paul was to put it mildly not an advocate of women's rights. According to his letters he believed in the submission of women to the authority of men. What should we make of this? Do we follow what Paul says and permanently relegate women to second class status? There are some that say that this is the only choice because Paul's recorded words are the inerrant Word of God. But to say so is to ignore that when God speaks to us God must speak a specific language and use specific concepts idiomatic of our specific place and time. Not that God is bound to these. It is we who are limited in our ability to understand. If this is the case then it also applies to Paul and his letters.
W.The other option -- that we ignore teachings that are considered a part of the faith but that obviously speak to another time and place and do not speak to us -- effectively if not actually removing them from the Bible is always possible and possibly faithful. Not that this is to be undertaken lightly -- without prayer or without guidance of the larger Community of Faith. Nor is the criteria just that we may change anything that is difficult for faith in any form is difficult. But if something is a stumbling block that prevents faith then that can and must be changed. Blind adherence to written rules is not what Jesus taught. Jewish religious authorities had that down pat before he came along and proclaimed God's grace. God is also free to speak to us so that we too understand.
W.Sexist language or any teaching that limits based on their sex the full participation of any member of the human family in grace has become a stumbling block in our time. The movement to limit such language in Bible translations, hymn texts and worship language is a faithful representation of God here and now.
has not finished. God is still speaking to us. Let those
have ears hear.