Do Bible-Oriented Christians Ever Allow For Any Validity in Unitarian-Universalist Exegesis?

Last night’s post suggested that there aren’t many Bible-oriented Christians who are “who are susceptible to UU exegesis.” Fausto, whose useful list of UU-significant Bible quotes started the conversation, chimed in that conversion probably isn’t likely, but that there is a satisfaction nonetheless in watching such Christians pause and think.

Indeed there is. Just for the record, full conversion wasn’t intended as the benchmark for a successful interaction, merely openness to the idea that UU Biblical exegesis might have any validity. So here’s a question to Fausto and other Unitarian-Universalist readers: in conversations with highly Bible-oriented Christians have you found them to be open to your UU interpretations of the Bible, even if they declined to agree with you?

[Obligatory notes: 1) Obviously UU Christians who claim to be particularly Bible-oriented are excepted here. 2) By Bible-oriented is meant the general category of Christians who take the Bible as the word of God and final authority on all matters Christian, generally treating it as if God sat down at a desk somewhere and hammered it out overnight on a typewriter as a single and internally-coherent book–a book that anybody can pick up, read, and understand regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, class, or whether or not they belong to a small group of pre-scientific people hanging out a long time ago in the eastern Mediterranean. Terms like “traditional” Christians are avoided here since, as the many historically-informed readers of this blog are aware, ideas such as Biblical inerrancy, literalism, and the plain meaning of the text are recent innovations in Christian history, not representative of how most Christians have understood the Bible(s) through most of Christian history. 3) If the preceding loose definition is rather flip it nonetheless is not meant to be disrespectful. Your definition may differ somewhat but as long as we can agree on the general parameters let’s keep the focus on the real topic: whether Bible-oriented Christians seem to accept that your interpretations of the Bible could have any validity, even for yourself.]


1 Comment

Filed under Anti-Liberalism, Unitarian-Universalism

One response to “Do Bible-Oriented Christians Ever Allow For Any Validity in Unitarian-Universalist Exegesis?

  1. In my experience, liberal Christians and other Christians familiar with Scriptural scholarship have no problem with our approach to exegesis — in fact, many of them share the same approach, have taken it further than we have since they never abandoned the practice as we have largely done, and draw similar conclusions. They have, however, remained more intentionally fixed within a Christian frame of reference than we have. (Think of Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, John Dominic Crossan, Bishop Spong, for example.)

    Even conservative “Bible-oriented” Christians are also willing to listen as long as we proceed carefully within exegetical ground rules that they recognize as valid, although they are generally unwilling to embrace an interpretation that leads them away from their particular doctrinaire tenets. If they are intellectual and honest, however, that can lead to an interesting follow-on discussion of Scripture and tradition as competing sources of authority. The most doctrinaire, closed-minded Christians tend to be the ones who most heavily emphasize the principle of “sola Scriptura”, so those discussions can be fun.

    Where we do lose them is when we commit “eisegesis”, i.e., reading our own presuppositions into the text rather than drawing the authentic meaning out of it. We UUs with our casual approach to the text can be susceptible to doing just that. However, so can conservative Christians who in practice tend to elevate their doctrinaire confessions and creeds above the source text itself, so even getting accused of liberal eisegesis can result in a “teachable moment”.

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