Friday, March 16, 2012

How not to argue from Scripture

Reflecting on another issue with the commenter in the last section is the notion of harmony in Scripture.  The main objection to my post about persecution and the HHS mandate stems in theory from the notion that combating the administration via political means runs contra to the words of our Lord when He says to "turn the other cheek."

Scripture is to be taken as a whole.  Our interpretations and reading must not only be done in the light of Sacred Tradition, but even in cases where there is genuine ambiguity the interpretation must be consistent with the whole of the text.

The problem lies once again not with the particular claim but the demonstration of such.  And in this case the onus lay with the accuser to prove that the notion of "turn the other cheek" prohibits the use of political force in this matter.  And in order for this to hold, this interpretation must resonate with the other passages of Scripture in which the political and religious intersect.

For a defense the commenter does something unconscionable, he inserts words into Scripture to make his point:
You have heard it said, beat (hate) your enemy or get even with your enemy (eye for an eye); I say don't resist, let the enemy "win" (take your cloak, go the second mile, etc.)
 Not since Martin Luther wrecked Romans have I encountered anyone so brazen as to attempt to pound a meaning into a text that does not belong.  That such an action occurred should alone be sufficient to demonstrate the weakness of the interpretation.

While such an observation alone is enough to defeat the defense we can go one step further.  No person in the Bible used political means to proclaim the Gospel than St. Paul.  For example, Paul allowed himself at one point to be beaten and jailed, only to be revealed later that he was a Roman citizen.  This put the guard in a awkward position, since jailing a Roman citizen without trial is punishable by death.

This is but one example of how Paul furthered his ministry (and kept himself alive) by using the political means at his disposal.  Clearly the political, far from being off limits when it comes to spreading the Faith, are simply tools to wield provided they are done so in a moral manner.  Thus the Christian is perfectly free to use political means to help shape society in conformance to the will of God.

There is much more to say on all the topics here.  But suffice it to say that if you intend to prove from Scripture a particular truth, you'd best be prepared to not only defend the interpretation, but be able to harmonize it with the rest of Scripture.  It's all truth.  Not just some of it.  And we ignore the rest at our peril.

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