The Ethics of Biblical Interpretation for Modern Faith Communities

- Scrivner, Joseph*
Scrivner will present the inevitable issues that arise for religious communities as they attempt to discern “divine principles” from the “historical particulars” of the Bible. He will illustrate this with three classic examples. First, there is the Bible’s ancient cosmology vs. modern scientific cosmology. A second example would be slavery in the Bible and the obvious difficulty religious communities had in discerning the divine voice on this issue in the 19th century. The Bible regulates behavior for slave owners and slaves, thereby implicitly condoning it. Obviously, this became a significant issue for religious people in slave-holding states like Alabama. Scrivner’s final example would be the issue of women’s equality and the continuing debates about this in religious communities for the past 50 years. Several passages in the Bible seem to indicate that women should be subordinate to men. Yet, religious communities have interpreted these passages in a variety of ways. Thus, a fundamental question is what was the original, historical meaning of these passages and how have they been appropriated in the present. Scrivner’s presentation will help people think about these issues more critically and engage in a more constructive dialogue with their neighbors, perhaps producing better citizens.

A board or easel with markers is requested.