“It’s Not a Matter of Obeying the Bible”: 8 Questions for Walter Brueggemann

The Old Testament scholar says the “military consumerist mentality” is one of the most pressing problems facing churches today.

Dr. Walter Brueggemann is one of the most influential contemporary theologians. His dozens of books and hundreds of articles have shaped American sermons, as Brueggemann’s work — especially on the Old Testament and the Psalms — has been widely utilized by seminaries and pastors across the country.

Recently, I caught up with Dr. Brueggemann during a lectureship series sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Findlay.

What’s your main message for young church leaders today?

We in the United States live in a deathly social context that’s marked by consumerism and militarism and the loss of the common good. Younger people that are committed to the gospel have to think carefully about how to critique that dominant system of military consumerism and how to imagine alternative forms of life that are not defined by those corrosive pressures.

That’s a very demanding job, but I suspect that the gospel at its best has always been a summons to think about how the world can be practiced differently.

Can you give some examples of a military consumerist mentality in the church?

That ideological system causes us to be very afraid, to regard other people as competitors, or as threats, or as rivals. It causes us to think of the world in very frightened and privatistic forms.

The gospel very much wants us to think in terms of a neighborhood, in terms of being in solidarity with other people, in sharing our resources, and of living out beyond ourselves. The gospel contradicts the dominant values of our system, which encourages self-protection and self-sufficiency at the loss of the common good. The church is in some ways a reflection of those dominant values.

What are some concrete ways we can be neighborly?

A paradigmatic example is the conversation that we’ve had about healthcare, the Affordable Care Act. Providing healthcare for all of our citizens is a mandate for any workable society. Our resistance reflects our kind of privatized notion that everyone ought to get what they can pay for – and if they can’t pay for it, they ought not to get it. And [that] identifies and fosters a kind of disadvantaged class that is excluded from all of the resources of society.

You can watch while the differences between people who have a lot and people who have a little or nothing — that gap grows and grows. You can’t have a viable society if you organize the economy that way. You can take it in terms of healthcare delivery, education, or in terms of housing or any of the social goods. If you do not have a practice of neighborliness, society becomes unlivable.

Does it bother you that more conservative evangelicals might label such ideas as communist or socialist?

Of course, to beat each other up with labels like capitalism or communism or socialism is simply a waste of time.

The real issue is neighborliness. There are many ways to practice neighborliness — it requires the private sector being involved, the corporations, the government, the church. Everybody has a stake in maintaining a viable neighborliness, and to get caught up in abstract discussion about those kind of labels takes energy away from what our real concerns ought to be.

You talked about the poor and healthcare. What about the LGBTQ community, especially when people use the Old Testament to argue against that community?

The discussion needs to start with what it means to be made in the image of God. The confession of Christian faith is that all of God’s human creatures are made in the image of God. That means that they are to be treated with dignity, offered maintenance and security, as is necessary. There’s almost no use arguing over biblical text.

The only thing that will change people’s minds about this is getting to know people who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual, and what you discover is that they’re people just like us. To overcome our fears, I think it is basically fear, means getting to know people and to see that they are not a threat. There may be people with those sexual differences whom we like or whom we don’t like, but they’re all made in the image of God. To stereotype them negatively, it seems to me, is a complete misunderstanding of Christian faith.

I know those texts are in the Bible, but the Bible is a dynamic tradition that’s always on the move to new truth. If you track that out, probably the ultimate statement about that is made by Paul in Galatians 3, that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Barbarian, slave or free. We are all one in Christ. And what we know in the gospel is that God’s love reaches toward all of God’s creatures. To sort them out in terms of who are the deserving and the qualified and who are not is imposing a judgment on human reality that simply cannot be done.

But some Christians fear disobeying God when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Because of what the Bible says, they fear that they are compromising the gospel.

Well, what we do is to pick and choose things out of the Bible that conform to our fears. It’s not a matter of obeying the Bible — it’s about obeying the gospel. The gospel is about God’s saving love that wants to restore all of humanity to full communion. To reach back to an ancient text that has now been corrected by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is simply a bad maneuver and poor methodology and theologically irresponsible. Those texts are not the determinative texts.

The texts that are determinative are those that talk about the love of God that has been shown to us in Jesus. We can’t compromise that.

What do you say to people who have a problem reconciling the God of the Old Testament and Jesus?

The question is an important one. It is a difficult and complex one. But I believe that running through the Old Testament and through the New Testament is an overriding question about the faithfulness or the fidelity of God — whether God keeps promises and whether God can be trusted. There are many articulations of that in the Old Testament. There are many articulations of it in the New Testament.

The attempt to contrast the Old and New Testament and to say they are different Gods and all that kind of business — I just think that’s too easy. The whole interpretive process is much more complex than that. I want to resist such easy conclusions.

Have you found God to be faithful?

The answer is yes. I have found God to be faithful, and I have found it to be a big question in my life about whether God is faithful. It is a central theological preoccupation of my life, as it is of the Christian tradition. In some ways, our defining human vocation [is] to be preoccupied with questions of fidelity.

Image via Westminster John Knox.

Marlena Graves
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  • bakabomb

    “Younger people that are committed to the gospel have to think carefully about how to critique that dominant system of military consumerism and how to imagine alternative forms of life that are not defined by those corrosive pressures.”

    Brueggemann’s right about this, but I have a couple of minor cavils.

    I’m not sure the portmanteau term “military consumerism” serves a useful purpose (and in any event, Brueggemann doesn’t offer a rationale for linking the two words — in fact, after using the term he then proceeds to address the different evils of each separately). Without that underlying rationale, it becomes easy to criticize the term as mere jargon — which, of course, doesn’t benefit his arguments.

    And I think Graves may have misheard “dominance system” as “dominant system”. “Dominance system” is a well-recognized term in modern theology and seems likelier in the given context.

    • Jon

      I wonder if he actually means ‘militant’ consumerism? Because I am not sure I fully understand his use of the word ‘military’ in this context.

  • http://wp.theoblogical.org/ Dale Lature

    “Neighborliness” also impacts how so many have “privatized” the Bible; made it into a good luck charm and “individual walk” devotional tool instead of a shared narrative to be explored in community and allowed to be formative for us.

  • Iain Boyd

    He makes some very good points that I don’t want to miss. However, I feel like he has some non sequitur conclusions. Does a person have to support the Affordable Care Act in order to be ‘neighborly?’ What if I object to the Affordable Care Act because I don’t think it will help the common good? What if I think it’s not the best way to make health care accessible to disadvantaged people? What if I do care about the least of these getting health care, but I don’t think that the responsibility falls on the government to bring that about? I’m not saying that is my position. However, just because a person doesn’t agree with how you want to care for the poor doesn’t mean they don’t care about the poor. I feel like this is a huge blindspot in our public conversation, and Brueggemann is just feeding into it by equating neighborliness with the Affordable Care Act. Likewise, the traditional perspective on human sexuality is not solely held by theologically irresponsible homophobes. Is it possible for someone to look at another person, profoundly disagree with how they live their lives, and still see in them the image of God? It is basic to the gospel that God loves sinners. To say that unless you accept someone else’ behavior, you don’t accept them is a fundamentally misguided thought. Furthermore, where is the neighborliness in caricaturing those with whom we disagree? Rather than taking the worst arguments against our positions, should we not pay attention to the best arguments our opponents have to offer? I wonder, is Brueggemann doing with his theological opponents what he himself accuses them of doing?

    • bakabomb

      Rereading the section about health care, I don’t see where he makes any claims of inerrancy regarding the ACA. He offers it as an illustrative example of the conversation that typically ensues when the issue is one of helping those who aren’t blessed with financial security, the “disadvantaged class” to use his term. The debate — as he frames it — isn’t about how to care for the poor, but whether to care for them: “…everyone ought to get what they can pay for – and if they can’t pay for it, they ought not to get it.” That’s a much broader subject than the particular specifics of the ACA.

      As to the LGBTQ community, there the point of his argument is that the “traditional perspective” is simply mistaken. Not necessarily homophobic or theologically irresponsible, just an incorrect conclusion that arises from our human tendency to cherry-pick scripture. His argument is essentially that Ephesians trumps Leviticus. His conclusion: love between same-gender partners is fundamentally the same as heteronormative love, and it’s mistaken to term it “sinful”. He’d say if there’s any sin involved, it’s the sin of judgmentalism — and that sin rests on the shoulders of third-party observers who really have no personal skin in the game.

      Intelligent folks may reach different conclusions on these subjects, but I don’t think Brueggemann is being hypocritical here.

      • Jim Claypool


    • Mark

      I see the ACA as typical of most government legislation – cobbled together so as to gain the broadest consensus, and therefore falling way short of the mark of effectively providing healthcare for Americans. I don’t think it’s the best way to make healthcare accessible for all, but was the only thing that could get passed at the time. I do agree that it is society’s mandate to ensure all are afforded healthcare, and enough to eat, and a roof over their heads. How best to make that happen, I don’t have the answers. But it’s impossible for me to believe that Jesus called us to ignore those who are less fortunate – those with nowhere to live, not enough to eat, and no means of accessing quality healthcare – and take the attitude that, if they can’t afford it, it’s no one’s fault but their own, and they can do without.

    • Mark

      Do you eat pork? Or shellfish? The Hebrew scriptures – the same ones most use to condemn homosexuality – are even more explicit in what foods you may eat, and in how to treat your parents. And yet, most people pick and choose the condemnation of homosexuality, and have no problem eating shrimp, or divorcing their mate, or violating the commandment to “honor father and mother.” And your comments indicate you feel sexual orientation is a choice and a lifestyle. How can you believe you are “accepting” someone when you admit you “profoundly disagree with how they live their lives”? If you truly accept someone, you don’t have an agenda of changing them, which you obviously do if you feel they are condemning themselves to an eternity outside of God’s love if they don’t change their “behavior.”

      • John

        We are told to love others but loving does not mean you accept something that is said to be wrong. for example if you have a child you love your child and say they steal something. Because you love them does that mean you accept them stealing which is wrong? No. Jesus loves us but he does not say sin is ok. And for not changing their behavior well if a person accepts Christ a change should take place because they are born again John 3:3-8 you are a new creation the old is replaced with new 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:22-24.

        • Mark

          So, assuming you’ve been born again, have you changed your behavior to conform to all the rules and laws in the Bible? Do you eat pork? Do you do any work on Sunday? Would you stone your unruly son, or force your daughter to marry someone who had raped her? There is very little actually in the Bible condemning homosexuality (and the Jews, who wrote down the laws, don’t consider lesbianism a sin, by the way), and Jesus is much more concrete in his disapproval of divorce than he is of homosexuality. But we cherry pick our verses, ignoring the ones about working on the Sabbath and eating pork, and overlooking our friends’ and family’s divorces, while condemning who are wired differently than we are and might be living in more committed relationships than our sons and daughters. You can quote verses all day long – people did that to justify slavery and to keep women from voting as well – but saying it over and over again still doesn’t make it right.

          • John

            obviously you didn’t see what I said about that verse in Deuteronomy 22 the word does not mean rape the word taphas is a primitive root to manipulate that verse is talking about a guy manipulating a girl so that she willingly sleeps with him much like a lot of guys do today. you keep mentioning food have you not read Romans 14:20? Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. Jesus Himself said what goes into your mouth does not defile you what comes out of your mouth does because what goes in the mouth goes into the belly and out to the drain but what comes out of the mouth comes from within from the heart Matt 15. Jesus is more concrete about his disapproval about divorce than a same sex relationship? That would be incorrect and no they aren’t wired differently either it does come from within though its a matter of the heart. Jesus said in Matt 15:19-20 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. Have you read Leviticus 18 do you know what that chapter is on? Sexual sins (sexual immorality). Do you know what’s in there? Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Again In Lev 20:13 haven’t you read about Sodom and Gomorrah? Gen 19. Jude 1:7 Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Notice it said unnatural desire? Now look at Romans 1:24-27 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. Verse 32 says who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. I don’t agree with their actions but I am not judging them or have anything against them it’s not me that says it’s wrong it’s the Word of God that says it is.

          • bob cratchette

            the whole pork thing is old jewish dietary laws the ones concerning homosexuality are moral . most jews have never accepted that Jesus their messiah and HIS sacrifice was to take the place of the animal sacrifice forever. the jewish moral laws that GOD gave to Moses is what a Christian should strive to live like . the Jews were the ones that asked to be put under GOD’S laws and GOD knew that man could never live up to his standards that is why he gave them the different sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins and that is to long a discussion for here. PETER had a dream about a sheet that came down before him with all kinds of meats that were against the Jewish dietary laws and GOD told Peter take and eat to which Peter said not so Lord this goes on for one or two more times and GOD told Peter what he had made clean not to call unclean. long story short the crucifixion did away with the dietary laws but not the moral laws of the Mosaic laws. the moral laws are like a mirror that Christians look into to see how they are measuring up and where their live may be deficient in the Christian walk but we are also living under grace at this time so their is forgiveness for trespassing against them but that does not give someone claiming to be a christian the freedom to go out and live anyway they please. if someone claiming to be a Christian is living in sin and refusing to turn from it then it brings into question the validity of their conversion. GOD will never accept sin and he has not changed his mind on any of his stances on HIS moral laws. someone that is a christian knows that GOD does not change HIS ways to meet our demands but Christians should be striving to change their ways to become close to what GOD would want them to be. as a true christian will not be able to live outside of GOD’S will aand have any kind of peace because GOD will convict them of their sin. the christian people do not hate the ones practicing homosexuality but most are just trying to warn them of the error of their ways and save them from the judgement that will surely catch up with them but GOD has not changed his mind for a second on the question of homosexuality it was and still is an abomination to him and if you have a problem with that you should take it up with HIM but i think HE will tell you that it is not up for debate and who are we anyway to question GOD. this age of grace we enjoy now will come to an end at the rapture and the people alive during the millennial reign of Jesus will be living under the law once again

          • Mark

            So the “moral” laws are still in place? The one commanding people to stone an unruly son? The one commanding daughters who have been raped to marry the rapist? Is the commandment to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” applicable, or do you agree with the guy who told me that “Sabbath” applied only to the jews, so we can blow that one off, also? Jesus very clearly stated that there were no grounds for divorce (Mark 10: 6-12) and Paul said that divorced people should not remarry; however, Christians get divorced just as often as non-Christians. Since Jesus and Paul spoke more on divorce than on homosexuality, perhaps it is the divorced Christians who are being convicted of their sin. Perhaps the Defense of Marriage Act should have clearly stated that marriage is a ONE TIME ACTION, and a lifetime commitment. Once again, we cherry pick our sins.

            “a true christian will not be able to live outside of GOD’S will and have any kind of peace because GOD will convict them of their sin.” I know a pastor who is a lesbian in a long term, committed relationship; and, I know her well enough to know she is not being convicted of any sin from living the way God made her.

          • bob cratchette

            that is not a moral law. get it straight mark. it does talk about disciplining an unruly child though. what are you going to do when you stand before GOD argue with him? i would like to see that. no matter what you may think what GOD says is the rule that is the way it is HE is not asking you to debate him . even under the mosaic law people did not follow it to the letter the part about stoning an unruly son i doubt very highly anyone did that and the woman marrying her rapist i mean come on mark get real. it would seem your whole argument seems to be on the basis of the ss marriage argument and all i can say is that GOD still looks at it as a sin and no matter what anyone may think mark GOD has not changed his mind on it or divorce and your lesbian friend that is a pastor refuses to see the truth or just chooses to ignore it but i would be willing to bet you that when she is alone the guilt of her chosen lifestyle still nags at her even though she would b=never admit it to anyone. then again she probably teaches from the queen james bible doesn’t she? i agree about divorce n the church but all of us make mistakes and Jesus said if we confess our sins he was faithful and just to forgive us of them but once we confess those sins we are to turn from them and not return unto them. GOD realizes we are all humans and make mistakes but on the other hand if we are willing to confess them and turn from them he will forgive them or his word is not true and that means the sin of homosexuality also it does no good to confess it and ask for forgiveness and go right back to it the person has not turned back to the right way but instead has told GOD you will accept me and my sin or i will not have anything to do with you to which GOD would reply well you come and talk to me when you decide you are ready to become serious about living a life the way I want you to live it.
            that is the whole thing is GOD knew we as humans and Christians would fail at times in our walk with HIM but in the same instance HE made a path for us to come back to him and make things right and that involves doing things the way he wants it done and we either accept that or reject it. stop with the quotes you are making about the old testament law because you have very poor understanding of the new covenant that replaced parts of the old and refuse to see or just don’t want to come to grips with the idea that homosexuality is not an acceptable way of life in GOD’S eyes.

          • Mark

            See, you are still picking and choosing, just like everyone else does. There are over 600 Mosaic laws. Sure, we don’t have to be circumcised, and there are verses about not having to adhere to the dietary laws. But where do you find support for your position that “God’s people” didn’t follow the laws about unruly children, or forcing daughters to marry someone who raped them? Just because that sounds like a stupid law to you? (it does to me, by the way.) And here’s the thing about divorce. The scriptures plainly state that someone who divorces their spouse and remarries commits adultery. That’s forever. You can repent all you want, but if you’re on your second marriage it is very clear that you are an adulterer, and continuing to commit that sin. We don’t picket the government for granting divorces, because our culture (Catholicism largely excepted) accepts divorce, at least in certain situations (I would never counsel my daughter to stay with a husband who regularly got drunk and beat her and her kids, for example). So we gloss over the scriptures on divorce, but cling mightily to those few talking about homosexuality, mostly because of the “ick” factor. We don’t try to get to know people, and understand what’s in each others’ hearts, and, basically, to follow Jesus’ main commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

            It’s pretty obvious that our respective theologies are far apart, that we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. At least I respect (even while disagreeing with) the Catholic church on divorce, and the pentecostals for insisting the women wear their hair long and the men cut is short.

          • bob cratchette

            yes but GOD will forgive divorce if the person realizes at a later time what he did was wrong and repents of it. you seem to be hung up on the old mosaic laws. the bible plainly states also that if we confess our sins GOD is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and there is no except in the case of in that verse. explain to me then why did GOD call david a man after his own heart after he had bathsheba’s husband uriah killed in battle because david at that point was guilty of murder,fornication,and adultery but he repented and turned from what he was doing and GOD forgave him but he was still married to bathsheba.

      • Billy Wood Jr.

        This is the most common question asked today of Christian apologists. It has a very simple answer. Jesus said that salvation is of the Jews. He was talking to a Samaritan woman who was questioning Him on why He would speak to her when it was commonly forbidden for a Jewish man to speak to a unrelated woman when not in the company of others. It was also unusual for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan at all, especially a woman. Jesus was answering her question by saying the the same one-and-only existing God known to the Jews would also send His one-and-only living Son to be the salvation of every member of the human race. The laws you speak of are very specifically given to the children of Israel only. The Old Testament states very clearly, leaving no room for confusion or doubt, that these are specifically Jewish laws, and not for anyone else. Jesus is the saying the same God who gave that law to the Jews is now offering salvation to all through repentance and faith in Him. The New Testament is equally explicit on what is expected of Christians. It is clear on dietary laws and homosexuality. It is a fair question, but a simple surface reading of the Hebrew Scriptures followed by the New Testament straight through will bear out the answer. There is little need of Biblical scholarship to find it. I am no scholar but I have read The Bible. I would encourage everyone who is sincere in getting an answer to any non-rhetorical question do the same.

      • Bensalo

        Paul condemned all sex outside of marriage between a man and woman man and man woman on woman. God only ordained marriage and sex between man and woman. Even Christ pointed to the old testament to back up His claims of being God’s Son. Face it people sin is sin. Christ came to save the sinner but if they refuse to believe he walked away knowing they were going to hell. Christ came to do God’s will not His own. Remember Christ said if you do not repent from your sins you will go to hell. This goes for people that teach false doctrine too. In fact those that do not teach the truth of the Bible when they teach will have a harsher punishment.

        • Mark

          I don’t live in fear of eternal punishment, because I don’t believe in that kind of God. I believe in a God of infinite love, who never created a literal Hell, and who ultimately takes us all back to Godself. I also think that people should be more concerned about ending worldwide hunger, slavery, and poverty than whether two men or two women should be allowed to marry each other. I have commented earlier, and I will again here, that everyone who considers homosexuality a sin should likewise consider divorced people who remarry to be committing the sin of adultery. Mark’s gospel very clearly has Jesus stating there is NO allowance for divorce (although Matthew adds the caveat “except for sexual immorality.”)

          • Bensalo

            I agree remarriage except in the event of death is sin. Remember if a person divorces the sin is still forgiveable. Remarriage puts you in the act of adultery every time you know your spouse. Our God is a loving God you are correct. If you choose to disobey Him it is you who turned your back on God. God did not turn His back on you. If a person does not love God enough to obey Him then they will find that he is a jealous God and will taste His wrath at the judgement. And you are wrong about hell because hell means the grave. But God did create a place of outer darkness with eternal torment for satan and his followers.

    • Carolyn Bryant Schaub

      He could have just as easily been talking about non-profit, church run hospitals of the past.

  • Jonathan Prentice

    So supporting the Affordable Care Act = loving and neighborly ? Not sure I buy that, when insurance premiums are soaring, there are still many without insurance, rural hospitals are closing, healthcare reimbursement continues to be cut, etc. I think free healthcare for all is a great idea, but who’s gonna pay for it? We cannot rely on the goodness of people’s hearts to do so.

    Also, I’m tired of Christians equating Jesus’ love with “Well, whatever you wanna do is ok…Jesus just can’t stop loving you” That’s just not Biblical. His love is real but it is also a demanding and divisive love too. That’s apparent when the gospels are read. I think he’s oversimplifying several things here, and I’m SO tired about being labeled “afraid” if I don’t feel what you’re doing is right…that’s getting really old. It is a non-sequitur to the max.

    • gapaul

      In response to your first question, I can’t imagine that Brueggemann, any more than the rest of us who support the ACA, are completely happy with it in its current form. We saw too many deals that left the health care industry largely intact, making outsize profits. So there you go, premiums increase. It is also the case that some of that increase is covering the care of the indigent that would have shown up elsewhere in our national budget. What the ACA did was take a giant step towards saying that we are going to share costs among us, and nobody is going to be left to die because they can’t get insurance. I for one would appreciate the adoption of models other nations use which keep costs down but care for all. The fact of the matter is we have a hybrid system now, which is still largely profit based.

      I do not, and never will understand how we can have a country where people own private jets and third homes and yet say we cannot provide health care insurance for people who have a pre-existing conditions.

      As to your second question, this won’t satisfy you, but as I read the New Testament, Jesus did speak difficult words, but always in favor of love. He judged laws and traditions and people in power who kept other people down, and caused them greater suffering. If you needed to eat on the sabbath, or be healed, the law of love trumped some rule about what you could and could not do on that day. Seems to me that what fundamentalist Christians like yourself must show is that you’re supporting a rule which does not support human flourishing. And what Brueggeman (and many of the rest of us) have seen is that continuing to tell gay people that they cannot love and be partnered with whomever they love does not lead to their flourishing. You would have to demonstrate that someone was being hurt by their relationships. I know the evangelical community has tried mightily to find suffering children, or psychological neuroses, but again and again, they fail. So they are left to support a rule that simply causes hurt.

      • Jonathan Prentice

        Thanks for your thoughtful response gapaul. It’s not the idea of universal health care I’m opposed to, but the form in which we have it now. As a practitioner in a major metropolitan area of the East, I’d be hard pressed to talk to other practitioners who would say that health care in America is actually in a better place than it was 5 years ago when the ACA was passed. It does trouble me that if one doesn’t read carefully, one may equate not supporting the ACA with not being loving like Jesus.
        The problem too is not just the ACA. It’s greed from all sides really, including ours. Sigh…that’s why I need Jesus as a savior, not just a role model.

        Anyway, I understand Dr. B’s point was not about the ACA per se.

        I agree with you that Jesus was most loving. I wish I could be more like him! It’s a delicate balance wanting to speak truth and love, a tightrope not easily walked. Jesus did this with amazing accuracy. As I read John and Mark, I am amazed at how he loved and spoke truth, and how much opposition he had from friends, family, and religious leaders who should have been his friends. I would argue that love without truth is no love at all, and truth cannot be judged on whether someone seems to be temporarily flourishing or not. The life of Jesus himself, who ended up nailed to a cross, would seem to indicate this, if you take the gospels as valid.

        I’d be happy to continue conversation with you in private if you’d like.

        respectfully, JP

        • gapaul

          Thank you. I would simply say ACA is better than the past — denying health care to people because of pre-existing conditions was an abominable practice, but I hope we can build on and improve the system we have, and not reverse course. That said, I’d favor a single player option, and the current voices of dissent want to run backwards in the other direction. I’d add that it is simply a mistake to presume health care costs would not have risen if it were not for ACA. They were already rising and would have continued to do so. My own care plan over 30 plus years had more than doubled before ACA, and has continued to rise since. What part of that can be attributed to the ACA seems like a topic for another comment section.

          I don’t think it will do much good to continue to discuss whether gay people are sinning and must be kept from the life they feel called to or not. I think Dr. B is right: ” The only thing that will change people’s minds about this is getting to know people who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual, and what you discover is that they’re people just like us.” I once thought as you do until it became clear to me that I had brothers and sisters, fellow Christians, who were just like me only they loved someone of the same gender. It finally became impossible to look at their lives and say “sin.”

  • John

    “It’s not a matter of obeying the Bible”. Mr. Brueggemann you must have missed 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God breathed and is profitable for doctoring, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: So to say that you’re saying we don’t have to obey God we don’t need his instruction, his guidance. And you must of missed when Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. the Hebrew word for law is Torah that’s what the old Testament is called. The Torah is the Jewish Bible so Jesus said he did not come to destroy the Torah (the Old Testament) or the prophets but to fulfill them Matthew 5:17. “A New Truth” Again you must have missed the verse that God is the same today yesterday and forever Hebrew 13:8. So there can’t be any new truth because he doesn’t change there’s one truth and that is Christ the Lord if he said it’s a sin it’s still a sin today it doesn’t change because he doesn’t change. And for Galatians 3 not everyone is one in Christ those who have accepted Christ (baptized into Christ) are one in Christ if you look at the verse just before the one you quoted it says 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. You mentioned about picking in choosing to conform when you did exactly that with Galatians 3:28 you took it out of context to conform it to say that everyone is one in Christ which incorrect. God created man (Adam) in his image Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2 and all things were good at the time they were created Gen 1:31 until man fell sin entered into him when he ate the fruit he retained an impaired image of God Gen 9:6 we are the likeness of a falling and sinful man Gen 5:3. Which is why we are sinners and born into sin we have his sinful likeness therefore we do sinful, corrupt and evil things and though somethings don’t seem to be sinful, corrupt or evil to us they are to God that’s why we need a Savior to redeem us.

    • Victoria

      The Torah is not the Old Testament. The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

      • John

        Yes I know that I was on my phone and it is faster to use speech to text than to type the problem with speech to text is sometimes it doesn’t pick up what you say correctly. I corrected it.

    • Mark

      One does not have to take the scriptures literally to accept them as sacred texts. In my understanding, Judaism does not translate the Genesis story of Adam’s disobedience to the doctrine of original sin. That came much later, in the Christian tradition. Which means that Jesus, as a Jew, would not have seen the Genesis story as meaning we are “born into sin.” Christianity, with and without the help of the New Testament scriptures, has invented many new doctrines and concepts which are not in the Hebrew scriptures. Please don’t make the common mistake of turning your personal interpretation of scripture into an idol. There are many ways to interpret the Word, and I would much sooner trust Walter Brueggemann’s thoughts on the context and interpretation of scripture than yours.

      And there may be no “new truths”; but there are certainly new understandings of truths. Such as the biblical support for slavery, for women in positions of authority in the church, for divorce, for the scientific understanding of evolution, for the cause of rain, for…

      It was once a “truth” that unruly sons should be stoned, and that under certain conditions young women should be forced to marry their rapists. Would you have us go back to those “truths”?

      • John

        Scripture is the word of God and Jesus said that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word of God. Since scripture is the word of God and God does not lie according to God’s Word we are born into sin it reads in Psalms 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. so I supposed that was added later to yet these books predate Christianity. And a woman was not forced to marry someone that raped her if you do some research you would know the word that’s used for that verse that you’re talking about in Deut 22 the word refers to manipulation the word is taphas it’s a primitive root; to manipulate. Manipulate is used two ways of tools or a person when its concerning a person it is to control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously. A lot of guys today munipulate girls to get them to sleep with them they don’t want to be with the girl they just want sex from the girl so they manipulate her in a way that she will sleep with him.

        • Robert F Detweiler

          John, I’m glad you made the distinction between rape, forced copulation, and consensual copulation. Scripture calls for the man who rapes a woman to be put to death and provides relief for the woman who was raped. See Deuteronomy 22:25-27.

  • Gerry

    “I know those texts are in the Bible, but the Bible is a dynamic tradition that’s always on the move to new truth”.
    Truth is truth. It doesn’t, and cannot change, or it is not truth. Our understanding of truth may grow, like Paul described babies desiring the sincere “milk” of the word of God. He then chided those who should be past that stage and be getting the “meat”.
    In the beginning was the Word, (Christ), and He said that He was unchanging, always the same.
    I believe this Idea that the Bible is only, “a dynamic tradition”, is a HUGE mistake.

    • Nordenfeldt

      If so, then you must be a big fan of slavery, which is justified and excused in both OT and NT and not once condemned in the bible. Or would you accept perhaps perhaps that that ‘truth’ has changed?

      • Spartan093

        Go take a course in ancient history. Many of the forms of labour today would fall under that kind of slavery. The Confederate American slavery model is a world away from the Roman empire, or the Levant.

        I don’t think the truth has changed at all, in the countries where Christians are still slaves, they should follow Paul’s guidance and obey their masters.

    • gapaul

      But every time we take communion we hear Jesus words about a “new covenant.” Paul and co. had to come to terms with “circumcision no longer required.” So I don’t know how we can claim “truth is unchanging.”

      • Spartan093

        So have you found the Word in your backyard fulfilling the present covenant and making a new one? The Holy Spirit was poured out on the Nations, which legitimized this new covenant. It’s still here, so I don’t see how we can’t still say that our revelation has not changed.

      • bob cratchette

        paul really did not have much of a problem coming to grips with the problems you mention but peter was the one that had the biggest problem of wanting to convert gentiles to have them keep the lawof jewish society and paul actually called peter out on these issues.

    • Bensalo

      God and Jesus do not change they are the same today as yesterday that means the Bible never changes as it is the inspired word of God. You people that want to keep arguing the Bible to fit what makes them feel good. ..well. If you cannot except the truth all we can do is pray for to show you the truth.

  • verbracity

    I have taught logic and Rhetorical Analysis.
    Also I was raised in a hard core DEM home I was a Senate page and latter surrounded by college academia.
    The simple truth is that these pseudo-intellectual twits practice stringing esoteric
    dialogs together that border on lyrics from the psychedelic era (which may play more of a role than we know).
    Their intent is to sound so profound that they embarrass people into agreement and support.
    The fact is however, if you can’t say what you need to about most anything non-scientific so that
    a bright 3rd grader can get it then you are the one that is an idiot, or you’re being intentionally obtuse.
    (Bet on the 2nd one)
    His 1st statement betrays his marxist/socialist perspective which as every real Christian knows is UTTERLY incompatible with scripture. So how do you sucker people into that line of thought? You can’t be too clear can you? So start the bafflement.

    The 2nd line says to the naive Christians that they ‘must’ (because of the gospel)
    turn away from thing military and things capitalist.
    Note the adjectives he uses to subtly paint those things as evil.
    This is of course a deception.
    The 2nd paragraph is a lie and there is at least one lie in each of the next two paragraphs.
    I stopped at the 4th one when he said;
    “The gospel contradicts the dominant values of our system,
    which encourages self-protection and self-sufficiency at the loss of the common good.”
    This is a lie in numerous ways.but chiefly because he does not direct us to GOD as our sufficiency.
    Instead his entire line of BS is directing us to the marxist ideal of the common good; ie From those as they are able, to those as they have need.
    A reprehensible and ever failing ideology that can never work and always and only results in boundless human suffering.

    Liberalism is predicated on two things:
    The denial or ignorance of history, and
    the denial or ignorance of human nature. JMG

    • backekuchen

      The Preamble to the Constitution makes reference to the “common good” something which radical fundamentalists have been ignoring. There is nothing Marxist about being concerned for the common good. Recorded in the Acts of the Apostles true communism was attempted the church when “everything was sold” and put in a common storehouse. This was the way the settlers of Jamestown set up the community. Everyone was to contribute to the common good. History tells us it was tweaked but they did not loose sight of the “common good.” The Boston Commons was created to provide pasture for the community—the common good has been part of the American way. The Native peoples were concerned for the common good. Ideologues ignore history or twist it to suit their own ideologies. We ought to be able to reason together and even agree to disagree at times, but continue to walk together for the common good (general welfare).

      • Robert F Detweiler

        Your statement “radical fundamentalist” seems (?) to carry with it a hostile overtone towards fundamentalists; I am assuming you are referencing Christian fundamentalists who hold to the literal meaning of scripture as well as Constitutional fundamentalists who hold to the original meaning of its crafters. So your statement would be correct in they ignore the “common good” because that wording is not in the Preamble.

        “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic
        Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

        The Preamble speaks to the “common defense” not the “common good”, and then goes on to speak to the “general welfare” which legally is very different then the “common good”.

  • Bill Wagner

    This article is not a fair assessment and reflects a narrow and equally biased viewpoint in order to coax a a sympathetic response to the author’s point. It wouldn’t pay to point them all out as those who would support the totality of this article would indeed show their militaristic standard by the attacks I will recieve in reply to my comments. But how about just one example of using broad strokes to make a point?

    He states relevant to how “evangelicals” respond to the current health care law, “Our resistance reflects our kind of privatized notion that everyone
    ought to get what they can pay for – and if they can’t pay for it, they
    ought not to get it.” The evangelical position has nothing to do with not making health care available to everybody. In fact, the bible is clear about our need to help each other. But as this plan was passed into law, what did it contain? It contained much more than just caring for our health. And because we now are spreading the cost blanket to include not only every citizen in health care (which is good), we also are paying for things that are not relevant to our health (which is bad). This is increasing cost so much that insurance companies are now deciding just how much of our health they can afford to cover as they are also required to pay for the non-health related costs our health care plans cover.

    What is militaristic is how one side attempts to prevent dialogue from the other unless that dialogue exclusively contains agreement. We are no longer allowed, it seems, to have open point/counterpoint discussions on controversial topics. No opinions of apposition are allowed without the risk of having a label of “bigotry” or “hate” attached. Tell me how this has advanced our supposed enlightened society forward?

  • Paul Lashomb

    He’s right that there’s a problem with “military consumerist mentality” in the church. However, all of his solutions are insufficient and completely miss the point…

  • Jonathan
  • Jim Brasher

    the new testament clearly condemns LGBT, so there is no need whatsoever to keep saying it is the old testament we get this from. that is absurd. why do all these people keep saying it is only condemned in the old testament? i know why LGBT says this, but why do christians say it? are they so misinformed about the new testament?

  • Jim Brasher

    the new testament clearly condemns LGBT, so there is no need whatsoever to keep saying it is the old testament we get this from. that is absurd. why do all these people keep saying it is only condemned in the old testament? i know why LGBT says this, but why do christians say it? are they so misinformed about the new testament?

    • Spartan093

      Just a head’s up, nowadays they say the NT really condemns pederasty. Of course it’s nothing but tripe, no honest historian of christian thought or ancient Greece will stand for that. But the heart wants what it wants, so they will believe anything to be conformed to the world.

  • gapaul

    Can someone point me to where Brueggemann (in one of his books) might elaborate on the interpretive process, as he calls it here.