By John Pierce
One of the oldest tricks of Christian fundamentalism is to carefully select a few isolated Bible verses to support a preconceived notion, declare that position as divine and then piously charge anyone who doesn’t buy into that conclusion with denying biblical authority in favor of human wisdom.
It has been used to defend a 6,000-year-old universe, white superiority and human slavery, and to oppose everything from mixed-gender swimming to warmongering to drinking wine. Oh, and trick-or-treating.
So there is no surprise in the haughty criticism one Baptist leader had for Baptist-rooted Campbellsville University teaming up with Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), a group including very conservative believers who reject the notion that the Bible prohibits women from preaching the Gospel and providing congregational leadership.
According to Baptist Press, Kentucky Baptist Convention executive director Paul Chitwood said, “CBE rewrites the Bible’s teaching in passages like Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and Colossians 3.”
Once again, it’s not enough to respectfully say, “I interpret scripture differently.”
So after this biblical cherry picking presented as divine truth, he moves to the next familiar step: offering condemnation masked as compassion.
“My greatest concern for Campbellsville is that the Bible has stopped being the final authority and is being replaced with human wisdom,” Chitwood told BP. “That isn’t a good foundation for a Baptist education.”
That’s bull, Chit. The issue is not one of human wisdom replacing biblical authority.
It is whether one continually engages in the often-failed practice of proof-texting that results in yet another tragic failure to move beyond social myopia toward biblical truth.
The irony is that the answer for moving beyond such a sad, repeated state is to embrace the very thing being criticized: wisdom. It’s a good thing.
Wisdom doesn’t allow for a few Pauline passages to trump many others including the ones that reveal Jesus’ very radical embrace of women.
Wisdom recognizes the horrible track record of religious fundamentalism regarding basic human rights that should at least raise the humble possibility of being wrong on social issues at hand as well.
Such wisdom — that avoids these familiar fundamentalist traps — is indeed a good foundation for Christian education and for faithful living.