You may have seen this already, but here is a link to Adam Hamilton’s post in response to the Rev. Ogletree resolution and on the nature of the Bible. It also plugs his new book, which is in my Amazon shopping cart, a couple times.
The comments section would be the interesting basis of a conversation in a church small group setting.
Hamilton displays his gift for explaining things with clarity and sharp metaphors. His “three buckets” metaphor is powerful and clearly resonates with many people.
In short, he says scripture can be divided into three buckets.
- Things that reflect God’s heart, character, and eternal will
- Things that reflect God’s will for particular times and places
- Things that do not reflect God’s heart, will, or character
The third category, he acknowledges, is the most controversial. As the comments on his blog post demonstrate, many people worry that his third bucket invites us to take up our pen knife like Thomas Jefferson did and cut up the Bible to make it conform to our desires.
Of course, Christians have always wrestled, in particular, with how the Torah should be read and applied in the light of Jesus Christ. John Wesley subscribed to the common notion in his day that Torah could be divided into ceremonial, political, and moral laws, with only the last remaining in force. For what it is worth, Wesley would clearly disagree with Hamilton’s assertion that large chunks of the Bible do not reflect God’s will.
Recently, I read David deSilva’s interpretation that also uses a three-fold framework to divide Torah, as interpreted by Jesus and the New Testament, into three kinds of laws:
- Those that reflect God’s eternal will for people (no murder)
- Those that are concessions to a fallen people (divorce and slavery)
- Those that form and guide Israel in its particular vocation (food laws, animal sacrifice, purity)
The first and third categories overlap with two of Hamilton’s buckets, although they are not identical with them.
Both Wesley and deSilva are looking more narrowly at Torah. Hamilton widens his analysis to the entire Bible, which leads him to argue that the extermination wars of the Israelites were not God’s will. Hamilton also mentions the plague in response to David’s census as a case that strikes him as not representing the true heart of God.
Reading that got me wondering about Numbers 21 — where God sends snakes to bite and poison Israel — as I will be preaching on John 3:1-17 this Sunday, where Jesus compares himself to the bronze serpent Moses erected in Numbers 21.
Did Jesus — or maybe Hamilton would say the writer of John — misunderstand God’s character in comparing Jesus on the cross to the bronze serpent?
It is a conversation we will continue to have. I look forward to reading Hamilton’s book.