Scriptural Interpretation - Are We Consistent?

Throughout the New Testament, the slave-master relationship is used in an allegorical manner to point to the relationship between the disciple and God. In our present Western circumstances, we dismiss slavery as something that is not honoring to God. Another Scriptural allegory that is used to represent the relationship between Christ and the church is the groom-bride relationship. While all Christians recognize this allegory in Scripture, some give it greater influence and priority over other allegories. More specifically, in today's modern debate over homosexuality, it seems as though this allegory is revered in more conservative circles. I wonder how we as believers can use this allegory in an argument against homosexuality, while at the same time read allegories about slavery and still argue against slavery? This seems like an inconsistent interpretation of Scripture. What are we to do with this? Are we willing to admit that we think slavery is right? Do we explain away this difference by pointing to other Scripture that verifies our theology? Do we reconsider how we make the interpretive choices that we make? Do we deemphasize this allegory and search the rest of Scripture to discover what we believe?

I think the allegory of the relationship between Christ and the Church being similar to the relationship between a groom and a bride is beautiful! I wouldn't see anything wrong with the bride-groom relationship. In fact, as an engaged person myself, this allegory is gaining a greater depth and width of meaning and is helping me to appreciate a different aspect of God and to love the church in ways that I hadn't prior to being engaged. And in some strange way, I also see the allegory of our relationship with God being like that of a servant/slave and master as meaningful as well. You see, as it connects with God and all of who God is, it works! But, it doesn't work the other way around! It is an allegory that is meant to point us upward. It is meant to be understood in its purest sense. Not as the relationship between a fallen and wicked master and his brutalized slave, but rather between a good master and a cared for slave. This is why, we needn't dismiss it when we see it as an allegory, rather than as a directive. Or perhaps, if we want to see it as a directive, we can only see it as a directive in the case of a holy relationship that is freely chosen, just as our relationship with God is to be.

Comments

Katie Z. said…
your post made me think of how hard I wrestled with the images of slavery used by Paul last summer. Here is a sermon that came out of that wrestling.

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