Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Oslo murders

So what motivated Breivik?

When a friend told me about the Oslo murders, my reaction was to ask if Muslim terrorists were responsible.

On being told the perpetrator was a "fundamentalist Christian", I thought this didn't seem likely. While some Christians have attacked abortion workers, Christians have not gone in for indiscriminate massacres.

What's the basis for this report? It comes from the Norwegian police, who noted that the murderer, Anders Breivik, had described himself as a "fundamentalist Christian".

As this description fits liberal sentiments, it's been widely disseminated. But, unsurprisingly, the story is more complex.

First, while Breivik identified culturally with Europe's Christian past, particularly with the crusaders, there is no evidence that he had a deeper faith.

In particular, there's no mention of him having attended a church, whether regularly or not.

Also, Breivik was apparently a mason. This is not to propose deep conspiracies, but simply to indicate that there's room for characterizing him in other ways.

In sum, like many people on the fringes, he had a jumble of ideas. And they did not include the Gospel message of redemption.

So how should we react?

Let's pray for the victims, for the repose of their souls or for their recovery.

Let's also pray for familes and others traumatized by these events.

But let's also pray for Anders himself. May he move beyond the cultural trappings of western Christianity and find salvation in Christ.

Something else to bear in mind

I used to occasionally speculate on how bad things would need to become, in order to justify taking violent action.

I discontinued this in 1996, after watching the movie, The Rock.

In the film, a group captures a nuclear weapon, to force the US Government into recognizing their concerns. The Government calls their bluff, but some of the activists reject the group's leadership and try to launch the weapons. (Only to be foiled by an ageing Sean Connery ...)

It got me thinking. Suppose someone with more enthusiasm than judgement (and I knew people like that) told me that he had just assassinated an objectionable politician, media person, or bishop? Might I be partly responsible?

In short, academic discussions about civil disobedience can have consequences. May I suggest an appropriate circumspection on this point.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Evaluating novel exegesis

Associating with fundamentalists, charismatics and traditionalists means that you encounter creative instances of scriptural exegesis (ie interpretations of what the Bible means).

My favourite is the Catholic charismatic who, refering to the creation of man on the sixth day, said this means that the Lord created all human souls in Paradise and that conception merely involves the incarnation of a pre-existing soul.

Though recognising his originality, I pointed out that Origen had also taught this back in the third century and that his theory had been condemned by the Church. But this cut no ice. My interlocuter merely said that we're bound by the clear teaching of Scripture ...

And the other day, a friend relayed an exciting exegesis that she had heard from a visiting preacher.

After thinking about it and other such novelties, I now offer Felix's first law of hermeneutics:

The plausibilty of a novel exegesis is inversely proportional to the excitement with which it is proposed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Four Senses of Scripture

Aliens in This World (link below) has a discussion on a mediaeval rhyme about the four senses of Holy Scripture.

Here's the Latin:

Littera” gesta docet,
Quod credas “Allegoria”,
“Moralia” quod agas,
Quo tendas “Anagogia.”

And here's my suggested translation.

The Literal tells about the deed,
The Allegory about the creed.
The Moral tells you what to do,
And Anagogy what's in store for you.