Tag Archives: jesus

Nothing Outside the Text: Sola Scriptura in a Postmodern Age


Contemporary philosophy (& some theology as well) tend to emphasize the primacy of language, that various social constructions are linguistic systems made of the interplay of signs. All knowledge is interpretive, relational, and constructed, and not, as was once commonly believed, objective. Words do not have fixed meanings, but rather gain their meaning contextually, through their use in communal settings. This last thought might not be hard for many Christians to accept, but the greater implication is that all social systems, whether they be ethical, legal, religious, etc., are not based on any fixed foundation, but also gain meaning according to their context and communal interpretations. Contemporary Christianity, which is mostly rooted in an objectivist understanding of knowledge, ethics, and religion might find this hard to swallow, but I am of the opinion that we should embrace such perspectives of postmodern philosophy.

This readiness to jettison belief in an objective foundation may alarm some readers. They may even think, “Didn’t Christ say that we should build our house on the rock, a firm foundation?” The answer is that, yes, he did indeed say that. However, the rock he was referring to was not Descartes’ model of the autonomous subject, or Kant’s model of the subject that gains objective knowledge through reason and the senses, but rather, himself. Thus we Christians should build the Church on Christ, who is not a fixed object, but a relational Being.

We can think of the Church as a linguistic system, a body that shares a common language and set of symbols, all of which gain meaning and significance through context and the interpretation of the Church. When we say, “Christians are called to be loving and peaceful,” we must understand that the meaning of words like “love” and “peace” are not fixed, but change over time and in different situations. I have heard several sermons throughout my life contrasting the English word “love” with the Greek “agape”, about how our English concept of love does not compare to this Greek concept. But truly, this concept of God’s love, the love that is God (1 John 4:8), is not a Greek or an English or French or Chinese concept, it is a Christian concept. This kind of love is defined only through the narrative of the Bible, through Christ. The biblical narrative informs the Christian worldview, it defines the vocabulary of the Church. The laws, and rituals, and language, and understanding of the Church are not fixed traditions that must be preserved, but things that the Church should continually reconstruct so that they continue to embody Christ.

The idea of Sola Scriptura has not been the most popular in recent times, especially among the more liberal set of Christians who favor personal experience in deciding how the Church should act. But the Bible is integral to maintaining the particularity of the Christian faith through the communal interpretation of the Church, and dialogue between the text and ourselves.

Martin Heidegger stressed the idea that language precedes us, we are thrown into it, and that it forms us as much as we (communally) form it. The same understanding should be applied to the Church. It precedes us. We are embedded in it. We must allow its past to form us as we continue to form it in its current form. This is the Life of the Church.


Why Jesus Ate Fish: An Open Letter to Vegetarian Christians

I should begin by saying that I am both a vegan and a Christian. There are compelling reasons to be both. Several Christian publications offer valid reasons for the Christian to consider the vegetarian lifestyle. These include the fact that God’s original intent was for human beings to be vegetarians (Gen 1:29) and Isaiah’s inspiring prophecy in which the lion will someday eat straw like the ox (Is 65:25). So it seems that, according to the Christian worldview, the order that has proceeded, and that which will proceed, this current state, will be peaceful and bloodless. Not much to argue with so far. But many Christian vegetarians are appalled by Luke 24: 42 & 43, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

What can this mean? Some insist that this passage is a forgery, it can not be authentic. Others claim that this single verse makes vegetarianism completely incompatible with Christianity. But lets take a closer look.

If we take this verse to be an authentic account of Jesus Christ after the resurrection, and we uphold the belief that he was without sin, then we must deduct that eating meat is not inherently sinful. This point may seem like anathema to any vegan, Christian or otherwise. But once we analyze the politics of food, it becomes clear that the option to avoid meat is sometimes available only to a privileged few. For example, the impoverished and starving child hardly has the option to refuse any meal that is provided. The natives of extreme elevations or frozen tundras haven’t had the luxury of choosing a vegetarian diet (until recently, but which still remains highly unsustainable). And as any honest vegan will tell you, even we are not without blood on our hands. The vegan philosophy is not about the impossible task of eliminating any and all animal suffering in our lives, it is about minimizing it. Animals suffer and die in the process of farming and shipping vegetables. Animals suffer and die in the process of mining the metals, and harvesting the lumber, that is used to make the household objects that people use everyday. Hell, even people suffer and die in the process of securing the petroleum that is used to make the plastic used to build the computer you are looking at right now. There is no one who has lived without causing harm to another living creature, whether directly or indirectly. No one. Not even Christ.

So, in that simple act of eating a piece of broiled fish, Christ has placed himself in solidarity with the poor of world. He has removed the guilt from those who are without the luxury of being vegetarians. But my argument here is not that people should choose to eat meat. It is precisely the opposite. If offered the choice, people should choose to minimize animal death and suffering to the best of their ability. That choice, however, should not make them feel superior to any other human being. As in the words of the Apostle Paul, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).