Thursday, October 14, 2010

Richard Hays on Christian Repudiation of Biblical Authority

This week I began re-reading Richard Hays' The Moral Vision of the New Testament for one of my classes, and apart from being struck again at Hays' articulate brilliance and the scope of his project, I also noted a rather dry crack he makes in the last footnote of the introductory chapter. Hays is usually quite measured in his critiques of others, and so this comment stands out all the more. After claiming that "normative Christian ethics is fundamentally a hermeneutical enterprise: it must begin and end in the interpretation and application of Scripture for the life of the community of faith," he notes that "[s]uch a pronouncement will prove controversial in some circles" (p. 10), which then leads to this footnote:
Indeed, there are many -- including some who would identify themselves as Christian theologians -- for whom the Bible is seen as a source of oppression and moral blindness, particularly with regard to issues of sexual ethics; for such interpreters, the most crucial question about the moral teaching of the NT is how we can get critical leverage against it. ... Such forthright repudiation of biblical authority by self-identified Christian thinkers is a historical phenomenon that is both relatively recent and unlikely to exercise any lasting influence within the church. (p. 11n.29)
As it happens, I noticed this comment immediately following an engagement of Rosemary Radford Ruether, which of course made for interesting reflection on exactly who Hays has in mind. In any case, it was certainly good to see Hays getting his polemic on.

1 comment:

  1. I consider this text one of the top works on the NT, and despite its age - relatively speaking - it remains not simply a classic but of great force in contemporary thought. With all that said, he is prescient as I believe the movement toward moving the Bible down in the consideration process has accelerated. Rather than work through some of the more "difficult" passages/narratives, it is easier it seems to toss out the label Biblicist and ignore any effort to work it out.