orthodoxy: word of god or golden calf?
BY Drew Tatusko
The idea of reading the bible and then interpreting it for the purpose of direct application to one’s life is a little strange. It is strange because it assumes that at some point in history all of the fragments of what scholars have spliced together over the centuries the canon was complete and then sealed shut as the primary revelation of God’s work among humankind. What stands out is that the Bible is not composed of a singular revelation that God gave to one people, but is a fusion of multiple and often conflicting revelations that occurred among very different people over a very long time. What’s more complicated is that it is an incomplete record – if we can even call most of the literature contained in it a “record” at all. Indeed, the only way to apply the bible to one’s life is to assume a given ideology or orthodoxy in the process.
With the preceding, some will make assumptions that I am a “relativist” or that I have a low idea of Scriptural authority. I am making no such claims since the above is not a claim to support an ideological conviction, it is simply a fact based on the evidence of what the Bible actually is, at least from a substantive view. The point is that evidence should govern our convictions. If ideology governs what evidence to accept or reject in order to sustain an ideology, there is a serious problem that exists as one’s own ideology become the foundation of faith rather than the God who in the very same scriptures deconstructs human ideologies rather consistently. The golden calf becomes Pharisaic law and a classism that would reject the “unclean” members of society. Revelation, as H. Richard Niebuhr argued, is progressive. It does not stop with the canonization of the text. Moreover the very pages of the text itself do not encapsulate one revelation to one people that God chose to enact in one way. The text itself reveals a progressive revelation of God to a changing people in a changing world.
Orthodoxy is inherently political becuase it demands firm and clear divisions beween what can be included and what must be excluded. Because it is political, it is ideological. By nature this is not simply in terms of doctrinal propositions. It also divides people into who is on the inside, who is on the outside, who is pure, who is impure, etc. As we learn from the crucifixion it can also reject God in the midst of the people and view God as impure and unorthodox. The Jews wanted Jesus dead because he was a blasphemer – he was unorthodox, a heretic, a grotesque person who was disruptive of the ideological framework they had established. Without heresy, orthodoxy cannot be defined.
To rule out that God might be doing something new among all of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters based on ideological rule of interpretation (e.g. orthodoxy) may encompass an egregious sin. This goes deeper than one’s own idea of what is a properly defined “biblical” sexuality as if even that is to fully proscribe the behaviors of those of us living in the 21st century. For this reliance on immutable orthodoxies is to passively ignore the disruptions and changes in the Body of Christ and its place in the world. IT is to rely on the structures of human creation first without understanding how tentative and fragile they really are. In short, it is to grieve the Holy Spirit and to call God a liar. It is the same set of social conditions that would eventually call Jesus, God in the flesh, a blasphemer. The Good News is that grace destroys the pride of ideology with resurrection into new life. With that creative destruction the new creation can be born. To all of us I say, get born again and allow God lay to waste those ideologies that have become the true sacred reality in our midst.
Andrew Tatusko is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (1999, 2000) from which he earned an M.Div. and Th.M. There he focused on philosophical theology, philosophy of education, and postmodern theory. From there he was a senior instructional designer at Seton Hall University where he worked on initiatives to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Currently he is the program activity director for a Title III grant to integrate technology into teaching, learning, retention and advising at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. Drew blogs at Notes From Off Center.