The Noble Purpose

“And what if it was true that the Sisterhood no longer heard the music of life?” (342)
“Without noble purpose we are nothing.” (344)
Quotes from “Heretics of Dune,” part of the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
What is the Church? What is the noble purpose presented to the Church? Has the Church lost its ability to pursue the noble purpose? Does it no longer understand what resonates within the hearts and desires and pain of the world? Does the Church no longer hear the music of life?
Again and again, when we so entangle ourselves within the systems of the world, mistakenly thinking that they are the conveyors of the noble purpose, the justifications for the noble purpose, or the reasons to continue in the noble purpose, we have already lost, already failed.
It is first the discovery of the One behind the noble purpose, and in so discovering firstly we will understand true and not contrived justifications of, reasons for, and ways for conveying the noble purpose that prove that we have not lost the ability to hear the music of life.
There is no real solace in thinking that our purpose rests in purely temporal form or purpose. The Cure of Souls is the first priority. All else, while vitally important to the noble path, are secondary. The second cannot occur without the first, and the first cannot be fully realized without the second. We try and try and try to reorder the process differently according to our own design born of limited understanding, but in the end we get no where. The noble purpose is clouded and diminished, stripped of its power, and we are left deaf.

It’s Bible!!! That settles it!

The way we engage and use Scripture is consequential to the way we deal with one another and experience this thing called the Christian life. If one believes that the Bible is divinely inspired (in whatever form) or that it simply has profound impact on a lot of people within the Christian faith (and to an extent Christian-influenced culture), then the way the Bible is interpreted and applied is important, perhaps of the utmost importance. When dealing with the deep differences of belief concerning the interpretation and application of Scripture, there are rarely stolid arguments or debates. As a matter of fact, as we witness in our own society in these times, the debates are more often than not full of vitupertive accusation and condemnation. (Usin’ new words soes I don’t forget ’em)
The machinations that we witness between this Christian group and that one, this Diocese and the rest of them, that Province and the other bunch over any number of theological and social issues imbibe deeply from the worst of human proclivities. We act as if we know little about or understand little of the meaning of God’s directives to us in Scripture – how are we to treat other people? How are we to be a different example of a different way to the rest of the world that revels in negativism and destruction?
So, I was wondering how Christians during the 1800’s dealt with the divisive and destructive issue of Slavery. How did Christians deal with Scripture? How did they deal with one another in their different interpretations and applications of Scripture? How did all of this work through society? If we remember the Civil War, we will know. There are lessons to be learned from the history of this period that play out in our own controversies in these days, particularly dealing this the gay issue that is tearing apart families, communities, denominations, and whole Communions.
This rather lengthy quote from Mark Noll’s book, “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” published in 2006 by The University of North Carolina Press. Noll is a professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College (a bastion of American-Evangelical higher education, a good school!) currently the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

“This mode of argument became more elaborate and more definite when other Bible believers took up Scripture to attack slavery. Crucially, as Larry Tise and others have pointed out, biblical defenses of slavery were once widespread throughout the Western world; they were put forward by both Catholics and Protestants, both Europeans and North Americans. Nonetheless, by the mid-nineteenth century, the force of the biblical proslavery argument had weakened everywhere except the United States. There, however, it remained strong among Bible believers in the North as well as among Bible believers in the South.
“It was no coincidence that the biblical defense of slavery remained strongest in the United States, a place where democratic, antitraditional and individualistic religion was also strongest. By the nineteenth century, it was an axiom of American public thought that free people should read, think, and reason for themselves. When such a populace, committed to republican and democratic principles, was also a Bible-reading populace, the proslavery biblical case never lacked for persuasive resources. Precedents provided by the books of Leviticus and Philemon were only part of the picture. [Earlier, Noll detailed Thompson’s defense of slavery using passages in the above two books that detail the relationship between Hebrews/Christians and their slaves.] Protestants well schooled in reading the Scriptures for themselves also know of many other relevant texts, among which the following were most important:

  • Genesis 9:25-27: “And he said…” (For the sin of Ham, who exposed his father Noah’s nakedness, Ham’s descendants through his son Canaan were to be owned as slaves by descendants of Noah’s two other sons.)
  • Genesis 17:22: “And he that is eight days old…” (God sanctioned and regulated the slaveholding of the patriarch Abraham, father of all believers)
  • Deuteronomy 20:10-11: “When thou goest forth…” (God sanctioned the enslavement of Israel’s enemies.)
  • While Jesus abrogated many of the regulations of the Old Testament – for example, those allowing for polygamy and easy divorce – he never said a word against slaveholding.
  • I Corinthians 7:21: “Art thou called…” (While a Christian slave may welcome emancipation, that slave should net chafe if emancipation is not given.)
  • Romans 13:1,7: “Let every soul be subject…” (The Apostle Paul urged Christian believers to conform to the Roman imperial system, which practiced a harsh form of slaveholding.)
  • Colossians 3:22, 4:1: “Servants, obey…” (The apostle regulated the master-slave relationship, but did not question it.)
  • I Timothy 6:1-2: “Let as many servants…” (The apostle explicitly taught that the conversion of slaves did not provide cause for even Christian masters to emancipate those Christian slaves.)”

There is no end to how we manipulate and contrive meaning from Scripture as we force it to support our already conceived beliefs and convictions. How are we to treat others, again? How will they know we are Christians, again? How do we “rightly divide the Word of God,” again? And Americans, here we go again (or rather, why don’t we learn our lessons the first time rather than God having to put us through the same situations again and again until we do?).