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The Presbyterian Church must not lose sight of the central message of Jesus

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How do we know what God condemns? This is the question that comes to mind upon reading an inquiry by a Commission of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland into decisions made by Pastor Katherine Meyer which is criticized as approving “what in the scriptures God sentenced “.

Christ Church Sandymount’s council in Dublin and its minister are said to have “caused a scandal detrimental to the purity and peace of the church,” as Patsy McGarry quoted in her pre-Christmas articles.

This dispute over whether or not to accept a man into a same-sex marriage as a member of the board of the church raises several questions: first, about the task of interpreting the Bible with its normative status as the Word of God. ; second, the Pauline reading used as justification; and third, the application of the human right to freedom of religion at the intersection of religious communities, individual believers and the state.

1. All Christian churches consider the Bible as the founding document of their tradition of faith, their Sacred Scripture. It testifies to the self-revelation of God as Creator, whose presence in history is “both hidden and near” (as the scholar of the history of Jesus Seán Freyne called the experience of Israel of God), and whose identity was revealed as unconditional love in the preaching and symbolism of Jesus. Actions.

When Jesus’ ministry ended on the cross, God’s new act of resurrection confirmed his proclamation of God as love. Can this brief summary of the faith that unites believers to Christ count as the gospel shared by all New Testament writers?

Is the skill of using historical-critical tools to situate biblical authors in their contexts a denial of the Word of God as authoritative?

Not enough. For biblical scholars, it is too global and erases the differences between Paul who does not deal with the life of Jesus; John, for whom the cross already belongs to the glorification of Christ; and the accounts of Mark, Matthew and Luke. What have we learned when we found that the above summary is a summary specific to the Synoptic Gospels and the oral tradition from which they are drawn?

Error of history?

Is the plurality of New Testament texts really a historical error that we should correct by ignoring the rich perspectives of the various Christian communities to which they belonged and to which they spoke?

Is the skill of using historical-critical tools to situate biblical authors in their contexts a denial of the Word of God as authoritative? Or does it help interpret the real meaning of the Bible verses both in their day and in ours?

2. If a line from Paul identified as referring to same-sex relationships is transformed into the key insight into God proclaimed in the New Testament, what method is used?

The search for the meaning of the scriptures must involve an account of the relationship between one verse and the other and what theological view of the core of its message guides the interpretation. In other normative contexts, such as constitutional law, it is legitimate to expect that these principles will be exposed.

Is the starting point for “what God condemns” adequate, or is conclusions as important about what God hates as by first identifying the essence of the biblical message?

Likewise, how do you define “purity”? The gospels describe Jesus as criticizing the division of the Pharisees between clean and unclean. The contextualization of Jesus and Paul in the currents of Second Temple Judaism reveals their divergence on this question.

Literalist position

Should the authority of the Word of God be attached to a quotation in a non-historical reading, imposing a literalist position as a binding interpretation? The alternative to “discipline,” that is, the pursuit of blameless and committed disciples of Christ, is to regain the space that Reformed Christians previously left for academic research and reflective scripture exchange. .

Is the starting point for “what God condemns” adequate, or is conclusions as important about what God hates as by first identifying the essence of the biblical message?

3. Having taught theology, hermeneutics (interpretation of biblical texts) and ethics to students from different backgrounds, I know the esteem that young people have for human rights. They are also attentive to the Christian message of God’s love and recognition for each individual.

In the Roman Catholic Church, their equal dignity is thwarted by the refusal to ordain women. What future does the Presbyterian Church see for itself if it loses sight of the fundamental Christian message and the human right to non-discrimination?

Freedom of religion or belief includes the right of religious communities to conduct their own affairs. Since members can leave religions which are voluntary associations, the state refrains from imposing its own conception of equality on them.

The space for the inevitable conflicts of interpretation between the individual and the community, and between positive and negative religious freedom – the right to both profess and avoid religion in the public sphere – must be kept open. by the neutral state so as not to become authoritarian. himself.

But human rights, including that of non-discrimination, are a minimum. Does Christian discipleship certainly raise the bar higher? What about fear-chasing love and Paul’s inspired conclusion that despite religious, ethnic, and gender differences, we are “one in Christ” (Gal. 3:27)?

Maureen Junker-Kenny is Emeritus Fellow and Retired Professor of Theology at Trinity College Dublin


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