April 25, 2014

Adam Hamilton: Parts of Bible Don’t Reflect God’s Will

This past Wednesday, April 23, prominent United Methodist pastor Adam Hamilton spoke at Foundry UMC about his newest book Making Sense of the Bible. Hamilton is the pastor of the largest United Methodist congregation in the country, Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. Hamilton is perhaps most famous for his failed proposal at the 2012 General Conference to change the Book of Discipline to acknowledge that United Methodists were divided on the issue of homosexuality.

IRD has reported at length about Foundry UMC, a Washington, D.C. “reconciling” congregation that voted in 2010 to allow same-sex marriage to be performed on the premises, a violation of the Book of Discipline. Foundry frequently invites guest speakers who espouse a liberal Christian view, including defrocked United Methodist pastors, NETWORK’s Sister Simone Campbell, and the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

Rev. Hamilton began by expressing his deep respect for the Bible, and telling the story of how he was converted from agnosticism to Christianity by reading a Bible his grandmother gave him. But over time, his understanding of the Bible changed. Every pastor, he said, comes across a part of Scripture where their reaction is simply, “Man, I don’t know what to do with that.” Those verses– such as Old Testament violence seemingly ordered by God– often form the blunt of attacks by atheists such as Bill Maher. His newest book in part was written to address many of these claims.

Much of what Hamilton said about the Bible and how Christians should interpret it was relatively uncontroversial. He made the familiar points that the Bible was inspired by God, not verbally dictated as many believe, that biblical canon was formed after centuries of debate, and that many Old Testament commandments were declared moot at the Council of Jerusalem as depicted in Acts 15. But from there, things took a turn towards the controversial.

Hamilton said that every verse in the Bible that people found confusing or troubling fit into one of three “buckets,” which he illustrated using three physical buckets he brought with him. The largest bucket was composed of verses which were metaphors, such as the Creation story. The second largest bucket was verses that were relevant for a certain time and place, but no longer apply to Christians today, such as much of the Mosaic Law. But third, and most controversially, was Hamilton’s assertion that very few parts of the Bible “never ever reflected the heart and character of God.”

He recognized that the last part would anger some. “That’s an unsettling thing to say…[I]t took me a long time to be able to finally say those words, even though I felt them and believed them for a long time.”

Hamilton’s “buckets” first made their appearance in blog post he made about a month back questioning whether prohibitions of homosexuality still apply today. There he gave examples of which verses fit in the third bucket, the same examples he repeated in his lecture:

Leviticus 21:9 requires that if the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute she must be burned to death.  In Exodus 21:20-21, God permits slave-owners to beat their slaves with rods provided they don’t die within the first 48 hours after the beating “for the slave is his property.”  God commands the destruction of every man, woman, and child in 31 Canaanite cities and later killis [sic] 70,000 Israelites in punishment for David taking a census. These passages seem to me to be completely inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ who cared for prostitutes, commanded that we love our enemies, and gave his life to save sinners.

Concerns about the brutal violence of the Old Testament are hardly new. Some Christian scholars argue that Old Testament violence was regrettable but necessary, in order to ensure the uniqueness of a people that would one day birth the Son of God. Others argue that compared to other societies in ancient times, the Old Testament laws were relatively liberal. There are pros and cons to these responses. But I’ll admit that simply wishing away the verses you don’t like (the Jefferson school of biblical interpretation, as I call it) is one way of dealing with the problem.

Here’s the crux of my problem with Hamilton’s proposition: let us suppose for a minute that it’s true that there are verses that contradict the loving message of Jesus Christ. Why does it follow that it’s the violent verses that are the false ones? Why not suppose that the Gospels have somehow included false teachings? This isn’t just an idle thought experiment; the supposed contradiction between the Old Testament and New is one major reason Jews reject Christianity.

To say nothing of its implications for biblical inspiration: the theological guidelines of the United Methodist Church claim that “The biblical authors, illumined by the Holy Spirit, bear witness that in Christ the world is reconciled to God.” As a United Methodist pastor in good standing, presumably the Reverend Hamilton agrees that the biblical authors were at least partly inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Scriptures.

Are we supposed to believe that in Exodus 20, the biblical author was divinely inspired to transmit the Ten Commandments, only for the Holy Spirit to take a break just in time for Exodus 21 to go on about slaves? And then in Exodus 22, the Holy Spirit is around for the verses about respecting property rights, but absent in verses 19-20 when “destruction” is mandated for bestiality and idolatry. But verse 21 is that one about not mistreating foreigners that proponents of immigration reform love; that’s got to be divinely inspired! Verses 22 and 23 are all about not mistreating widows and the fatherless… but then verse 24 says, “My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” Yikes, looks like the Holy Spirit ducked out mid-thought there.

And let’s suppose that there are verses that do not reflect God’s will or character, and that many of them can be found in the Old Testament. Wouldn’t such verses have been around in Jesus’ time? Either Jesus Christ knowingly allowed a false picture of God’s nature to persist, or we’re supposed to assume that Jesus did correct the falsehoods, but early Christian writers forgot to mention that God didn’t actually order the deaths of millions of people. Instead, the Gospels paint a picture of Jesus very much in love with the Scriptures, the Scriptures Hamilton would have us believe are teeming with falsehoods.

Basically, I don’t see any way of writing off the supposedly “bad” biblical verses without condemning the Gospels to the same fate. Jesus himself actually put it pretty well in John 5:46-47: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Of course, I recognize that there’s little point in quoting Scripture at a pastor who has declared the power to simply segregate certain verses from our understanding of God. But the point remains that you can’t pull a Jefferson on the Bible and expect to retain any sort of consistency in your beliefs.

As I said, there were many great points raised by Rev. Hamilton in his speech. He’s correct that troubling verses of Scripture are among the most frequent ammunition used by atheists. Christians need to meet their accusations head-on and make sense of these verses. Hamilton also made the point that addressing these concerns is especially important for young Christians entering college and hearing these arguments for the first time. Most Christians are content to never think about these issues, and Hamilton is to be commended for taking them head-on.

But his approach is wrongheaded and contrary to millennia of Christian teachings. Even most liberal Christians who dislike certain passages– like the ones that have traditionally been interpreted to condemn homosexuality– do not simply declare those passages contrary to the will of God. Instead, they bicker over the meaning of Greek words, debate what exactly the sin of the Sodomites was, contextualize commandments, and otherwise try to find reasons why the text doesn’t say what it says. But perhaps this too will change; Hamilton’s book comes with glowing endorsements from Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and Brian McLaren.

I must stress that I have not read Adam Hamilton’s book. From what he’s said, the “buckets” make up only two paragraphs. It’s possible that he gives a better explanation than in his Foundry speech and blog post, and perhaps even addresses some of my critiques. It’s possible that my sense of his book will mirror his sense of the Bible; an excellent book with a few troubling passages that we should ignore. But I even find the mindset behind the buckets analogy troubling; namely that Scriptures should take a backseat to MY understanding of justice, rather than vice versa.

Good News has good list of conservative responses to Adam Hamilton’s buckets analogy here.The entire video of the event can be watched here, courtesy of Foundry UMC.

39 Responses to Adam Hamilton: Parts of Bible Don’t Reflect God’s Will

  1. cleareyedtruthmeister says:

    Adam Hamilton has become a victim of his own ego. Sad.

  2. Adam Hamilton says:

    Hello Alexander, thanks for attending the event at Foundry. I’m grateful you were there and for your thoughtful response to my talk. Also, please tell Mark Tooley I said “hello.” I enjoyed breaking bread with him several years ago.

    Thanks for including a link to the talk so people can watch it themselves. I hope they will. Better, I’d love people to read the book. The book addresses most of the critiques conservatives have offered to the metaphor of the three buckets. The United Methodist conservatives I’ve spoken to who have read the book agreed with most, though not all, of what is in it.

    One correction first: You noted that I indicated that the largest bucket “was composed of verses which were metaphors, such as the Creation story.” That’s not actually how I describe the first bucket. The first and largest bucket is those scriptures which most Christians recognize describe the heart and character of God and God’s will for our lives. I note that nearly all of scripture falls into this category or bucket. Examples of the scriptures in this bucket includes things like the Great Commandments, the Great Commission, Micah 6:8, Psalm 23, everything Jesus said and did, and most of the rest of scripture.

    The bucket metaphor is just a metaphor and like all metaphors it breaks down at points. It is, as you noted, also only a couple of paragraphs in the book, but I find it helpful and I think others will as well. If the term “bucket” is offensive to some, I’d suggest “categories.”

    As you noted, most don’t question the first two categories or buckets I mention, those that clearly apply to us today and which seem to clearly reflect God’s character and timeless will, and those that reflected God’s will for a particular time but do not reflect God’s will for us today (this second category includes circumcision, the kosher laws and a host of others). It is the idea that a small number of scriptures may never have accurately conveyed the heart, character and will of God that is disconcerting.

    The question I intend to raise with this metaphor is whether there are passages in the Bible that tell us more about the times in which these stories occurred and the cultural ethos and theological assumptions than they tell us about God and God’s will for us.

    Let’s take the genocide commanded by God in the Old Testament as an example as this is a huge stumbling block to many thoughtful Christians. As I argue in my chapter on violence in the Old Testament, we know from archaeological finds like the Mesha Stele (aka the Moabite Stone) that other ancient near eastern people believed their gods asked them to put entire cities (men, women and children) to the “ban” – a term that meant killing everyone as a kind of sacred offering to their gods. This ideas and the language on the Mesha Stele closely mirrors that in Joshua in which God commanded the Israelites to put the people of the Canaanite cities to the ban killing every man, woman and child. In the book I suggest this might help us make sense of the troubling genocide passages in the Hebrew Bible. It seems that most of the ancient near eastern people believed that their gods were behind the wars they waged and that, at times, putting everyone to death as a sacred offering was desired by their gods. Again I argue that these passages in Joshua might tell us more about the assumptions and rules of war in the ancient near east, than about God.

    This view of God, calling his people to slaughter entire nations and peoples, seems to be a very different picture of God than the one Jesus conveyed when he told us to “love your enemies” and to turn the other cheek.

    You note that the crux of your problem with my proposition is, as I see it, the same argument the inerrantists make to those of us, including most conservative United Methodists, who reject the doctrine of inerrancy: If you find an error in one place in the Bible how can you trust any of it. You articulate that in a slightly different way. You suggest that if we say that some of the passages of scripture do not reflect God’s character or will, like the passages calling for genocide, or affirming slavery, or the subordination of women, how can we trust any of it? I cover this in the book in the course of several chapters on inerrancy and divine inspiration. In part I argue that the biblical authors were influenced by the Spirit, and shaped by their encounters and experience with God but they were also shaped by the world in which they lived and some of the cultural and theological assumptions that were a part of this. Which is why it is important that we study the cultural context of scripture as we interpret it.

    Ultimately, as I mentioned at Foundry, Jesus Christ is the interpretive lens or the hermeneutical principle by which all other words about God in scripture are read and interpreted. He is the only inerrant, infallible and unmitigated Word of God. When somethings seems to contradict the gospel he preached and lived, and the Great Commands and the Golden Rule which he said summarized the Law and the Prophets, we might at least question such passages.

    You stated, “Either Jesus Christ knowingly allowed a false picture of God’s nature to persist, or we’re supposed to assume that Jesus did correct the falsehoods, but early Christian writers forgot to mention” these things. I believe Jesus did correct these false pictures of God by his life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection and the early Christians did write these things down in the gospels. Only one example among dozens is when the woman caught in the act of adultery is brought to Jesus, and the religious leaders want to fulfill the law and stone her to death, Jesus forgives her.

    By the way, I don’t believe the scriptures are “teeming with falsehoods” as you suggest. I believe the scripture writers were influenced by God yet people of their time and that it is important that we interpret their words in the light of Jesus, the Word incarnate.

    One last word: I don’t believe that “Scriptures should take a backseat to MY understanding of justice, rather than vice versa.” I am not advocating that scriptures take a backset to your own thinking, but to encourage you to read scripture in the light of Jesus Christ, and to do what you likely already do – interpret scripture with the help of tradition, experience and reason.

    Alexander, I appreciate you being present for my talk, and your critique of my talk. You are a gifted writer. If you get a chance I hope you’ll actually read the book. I think you’d agree with a great deal of it. Blessings on your work and thanks again for attending.


    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Reverend Hamilton, I thought your book of a few years ago, Confronting The Controversies, was honest, insightful and generally faithful to Scripture. Why have you come to disagree with that iteration of Adam Hamilton? I have to believe there are reasons other than the ones you have so far publicly given.

      You are smart enough to know that the western media is mainly liberal, and a great means of getting its attention is to a) express liberal views on controversial issues (like gay “marriage,” which the media have been endorsing for years after telling us previously that marriage was an outdated institution) or b) express conservative views in inarticulate ways.

      Accordingly, it is hard not to notice your waxing popularity in leftist, sometimes anti-Christian, venues like the Huffington Post, NPR, PBS, and Salon (which featured an interesting photo of two men ostensibly exemplifying your newly-found Scriptural accommodation).

      Are you comfortable being the latest addition to the “sexuality-as-identity” movement? Do you really think that showing Christian love and respect toward LGBT persons requires agreeing with them on sexuality?

      I do not question your sincerity, but it seems to me–and I speak as a person who has led UM Discipleship Bible studies for many years–that you are letting your subjective experiences, and perhaps an overzealous, unrecognized desire to be relevant and accepted by culture, color your take on Biblical interpretation.

      Even if your bucket analogy were valid, the preponderance of evidence, in my view, would still not place the teachings about sexuality in the bucket you label as “may never have accurately conveyed the heart, character and will of God.” And your comparison of sexuality to slavery is a worn-out apples and oranges argument.

      Your implication that you have an unusual capacity to accurately understand the “heart, character and will of God,” in contradistinction to centuries of understandings regarding Biblical inspiration and exegesis, is most troubling…in many ways, as Andrew alludes to in his excellent essay, I find your approach more arrogant and less intellectual that than the flawed literalism that has been a hallmark of historic fundamentalism.

      Again, I believe your past insights to be quite valuable, but I am left scratching my head at your more recent actions.

      You’ve lost a number of Christians who are, indeed, as “thoughtful” as anyone else about these issues.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Reverend Hamilton, would you be willing to provide a link, etc. via which one might obtain a free copy of your book?

  3. Russ says:

    Hamilton is trying to address a big problem. The problem is the there are all sorts of conflicts between what the Bible says and what science and/or modern sensibilities tell us is appropriate and true in the modern world.

    In the marketplace of ideas, the outcome is predictable. Modernizers like Hamilton will try to save religion by rationalizing or explaining away parts that bother modern socially-conscious people. Most of the “flock” (and conservative bloggers) will prefer traditional, more comfortable, more internally consistent positions, such as “God wrote it, I believe it, end of argument.”

    The result seems inevitable. Over the short run fundamentalists will “win” in every religion (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism). They will take over and exclude the modernists, like the Southern Baptist leaders who purged the seminaries and are now making stained glass windows with their own images–a remarkable thing. Never mind the decline.

    Meanwhile, those who accept science will be defined as the enemy and forced out. Or they will become fringe figures, mocked as liberals or squishy modernists, like John Shelby Spong and Dominic Crossan. Those two approach Christianity is a way that does not contradict science, but they are almost universally scorned by conservative religious bloggers.

    Curiously enough, the inherent difficulties of using a 2000 year old mindset to explain the universe is almost never mentioned in attempts to understand the decline in attendance and belief in old-time religions. The idea that people are turning toward evidence-based, constantly improving explanations of reality (and away from revelation-based, fixed explanations of reality) is too dangerous, taboo. It is generally ignored in discussions of “the decline.” Instead the decline is blamed on a variety of factors, depending on the writer, such as (a) sports on Sunday, or (b) problems in modern families, or (c) liturgies that are too boring or (d) liturgies not demanding enough, or (e) self-centered attitudes of millenials or… you name it, but never “science is increasingly superior at explaining things.”

    Anyway, Hamilton will fight his good fight, but he will lose to people with a more simple and literal faith, and in the long run you will not find people like Hamilton in churches.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Here we go again, conflating apples with oranges. Suggesting that adherance to Biblical standards regarding sexuality is equivalent to believing in a flat earth is a product of ignorance and, often, blatant prejudice and hate.

      Scripture is not always easy to interpret, but when one studies it rigorously and with the respect and reverence that Christ Himself exemplified, certain things become clearer than modern liberal interpreters typically suppose.

      Focusing only on the sexuality issue, it is clear what Scripture says about homosexual behavior, in both the Old and New Testaments: it condemns it. Anyone who thinks this conclusion is debatable doesn’t have a problem with traditionalists as much as he has a problem with comprehension…and any Christian who thinks what Scripture says is not important has an even larger problem.

      Science cannot address the rightness of alternative sexual behavior, but it can offer the observations that a) some people have sexual urges that are outside the normal heterosexual mainstream, and b) such urges, carried to their logical extreme, could lead to societal extinction. Contrary to the politically motivated material we often read in the media, and which has brainwashed so many, at this point in time science cannot make any firm conclusions about why this is so.

      Regardless, people are not barnyard animals, lacking any control over their urges. Respecting people means respecting their free will.

      I am afraid the “modernizers” are largely people who have preconceived notions about Scripture and are thus unable to study it with an open mind, or or simply cultural accomodationists seeking approval and recognition from all the wrong places. Thus, their faith is largely concerned with a comfortable, go-with-the-flow ethos. In total contrast to what some suggest, holding to orthodoxy in today’s climate is not comfortable. The easy thing is capitulation to culture. I think this is what Hamilton has done.

      Hamilton’s is surely not a more intellectual take on Christian Scripture–indeed, he seems to conflate moral laws, which Christ proclaimed as timeless, with ceremonial laws which Christ suggested had reached expiration.

  4. Mordecai says:

    Please forgive me, I do not know from which denominational affiliation Mr. Griswold comes, but I question the tactic of saying a new interpretation doesn’t match with two millennia of traditional scriptural interpretation. As a United Methodist, I begin from a point of reinterpretation of 1.5 millennium of scriptural interpretation. Unless one is Catholic, it is hypocritical to ignore the inherent contrarian position of protestant denominations. To claim one’s interpretation to be backed by two millennia’s worth of teachings is to ignore that our denominational ancestors picked and chose the teachings they handed down to us, added new, and discarded others.

    Whether or not Adam Hamilton is right or wrong is irrelevant to the need we have for some leaders to question the veracity of traditional interpretation, especially when traditional interpretation is used to minimize the human value of some groups of people. There is a tension between the Old and New Testaments that some people find too grave to accept. It is a point of contention used against Christianity. While I may not agree with Hamilton’s conclusions, I do agree that the God displayed in the New Testament does not seem consistent with the God displayed in the Old Testament.

    Jesus said, “the one who sees me sees the one who sent me.” (Jn. 12:45) When I look at Jesus as portrayed I do not see a God who kills. Yet that is the portrayal of God in the Old Testament. That is a hurdle many find too tall to accept. Traditional interpretation hasn’t eased that tension for me and many others.

    Again, I am not saying Hamilton is right or wrong, but I think the traditional interpretation needs to be questioned and the tension resolved based on our current views of justice, love, and violence.

  5. David Brower says:

    “Hamilton is perhaps most famous for his failed proposal at the 2012 General Conference to change the Book of Discipline to acknowledge that United Methodists were divided on the issue of homosexuality.”

    And it all went downhill from here. I would argue that the majority of United Methodists have no concern with what goes on at General Conference. Hamilton is known and respected for his teachings and leadership within the UMC. Simply because we were unable to speak the truth about ourselves at GC2012 is really of no consequence to the ministry and reputation of Rev. Hamilton.

    If we’re quoting Jesus and his take on the Hebrew Bible there were unserious instances where Jesus used an interpretation method similar to Hamilton’s bucket analogy. “You have heard it said…but I say to you…”; “Humanity was not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath for humanity.” The method speaks honestly about the process of interpretation that happens naturally in every human being. Every understanding, every reading is an interpretation. We create meaning; we don’t discover it.

    • Sky McCracken says:

      “I would argue that the majority of United Methodists have no concern with what goes on at General Conference.”

      You would win that argument – most UM’s DON’T care what happens at GC anymore. As a DS, I see more and more folks saying, “I don’t care what is doing – we’re doing this and going forward.” Equally, fewer and fewer folks outside the UMC are paying any attention to what we are doing – and our mission and ministry to the world is diminishing rapidly. The only news the outside world gets is from the extreme factions and caucuses who might get picked up by a news source… which usually makes us look like buffoons.

      Lord, forgive us.

  6. Chris Ellis says:

    Adam Hamilton… another reason why I am glad to be leaving the UMC…

  7. Todd says:

    If John Wesley knew how far the UMC had strayed from sound doctrine, he would, as my grandmother used to say, “roll over in his grave”. We have to stop conceding the truth of scripture to societal demands. Preach the Gospel!

  8. James Mahoney says:

    John Wesley was himself one of those people who said “if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth.”

    While I acknowledge that there are some difficult passages, I would say that ‘conservative’ United Methodists are less likely to say that there are errors in Scripture as to say that we are not always clear on the manner in which Scripture is intended to be taken.

    It is also worth pointing out that the early Church dealt with a heresy called Marcionism that posited that the god of the Old Testament was not the God of the New Testament; the church’s response was that they were one and the same (it carries over into the United Methodist Church as Article VI of our Articles of Religion), and that the Old Testament was not contrary in any sense to the New Testament.

    There is a danger of approaching Marcionism when we say that Jesus is the interpretive lens through which we see the Old Testament. On the one hand, Jesus said “You have heard it said…but I say to you;” on the other, he said “Think not that I have come to overthrow the law, but to fulfill it.” In other words, using Jesus as an interpretive lens should not lead us to discount areas of Scripture as contrary to God’s will, but rather that we should seek to understand the ways in which Scripture shows God’s will.

  9. KC Bob says:

    I love that Adam posted in the comments thread. I really appreciate his approach to the scriptures. His weekly messages at our church have helped me to better interpret the scriptures.

  10. John Smith says:

    My problem with this approach is the underlying concepts of “if you dislike/disagree with the verse/chapter/book its probably wrong” which leads to the follow on of “if you aren’t sure which parts of the bible are correct, I’ll tell you.” I’m more comfortable with differing interpretations of scripture rather than saying this part is scripture, this isn’t. Of course I recognize this is an old problem that goes far earlier than Jefferson, didn’t Marcion teach us anything?

  11. Fielden Sanders says:

    Adam Hamilton is such a nice man…really. I think he’s a good man. I also know that he has allowed “culture” to corrupt his understanding of the truth. It makes me sad to see another UMC pastor water down the truth of Scripture in order to be more “inclusive,” and “relevant” to our time.
    It makes me sad that I cannot purchase ANY publications by Mr. Hamilton in the future. Why? A whole lot of good words with “just a little” bad is too much. Not at all to compare Hamilton to Satan, but this is the exact message Satan uses. He wraps sin and evil in a very pretty package; That was beautiful fruit that Eve ate in the Garden…

  12. John Schuh says:

    “namely that Scriptures should take a backseat to MY understanding of justice, rather than vice versa.” Right on! We have to accept the Bible for what it is: a true account of the relationship between man and his Creator. Yes, the Law of Moses expresses the will of God; yes, the Sermon on the Mount expresses the will of God. Yes, the crucifixion expresses the will of God; yes. the Resurrection expresses the will of God. Chesterton was always reminding us of paradoxes. In a creation that God declares as “good,” “evil happens. What are we here, what are we creatures whom He invests with free will, to make of all this?

  13. Sky McCracken says:

    “Hamilton is perhaps most famous for his failed proposal at the 2012 General Conference to change the Book of Discipline to acknowledge that United Methodists were divided on the issue of homosexuality.”

    That’s a jab, and not a very nice one. Adam’s built one of the largest churches in Methodism and has mentored countless folks in building faithful communities who take discipleship and mission seriously. That’s what he’s most “famous” for.

    This first paragraph is what IRD is most famous for.

    “I must stress that I have not read Adam Hamilton’s book.”

    This should have been the FIRST paragraph, not the next to last one. And you want to be taken seriously?!?

    There are a lot of Methodist who might disagree with Adam in the issue of same-gender marriage. I am one of them. But this kind of rhetoric, along with the rhetoric of Good News, is just a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. It’s not helpful.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      I think your shot at the IRD, and particularly Alexander Griswold, is unfair and unwarranted. Alexander’s article was based on Adam Hamilton’s speech, for which he was personally present.

      Adam Hamilton’s personal response in this forum indicates that Alexander was pretty much on the mark or else Hamilton would have offered more than a minor corrective.

      I believe Hamilton is a truly nice person, with good intentions, but he is not immune to the profit motive and one need not buy his book (which he has encouraged repeatedly) in order to accurately ascertain his views on this topic.

      With the help of God Adam Hamilton was able to build a mega-church based on an orthodox understanding of Scripture and Christian teaching. Most of this occurred before Hamilton came up with his “bucket” analogy…we will see how things play out from this point forward.

      • Sky McCracken says:

        I think Mr. Griswold can take it – his opening shot and “perhaps most famous for” made it clear where the article was going.

        The disclaimer came at the end of a pretty long harangue – which would have been much more respectable/honest writing if he’d started at the beginning – particularly since Griswold even admitted that “it’s possible” that Hamilton had answers to his questions that could be addressed if he’d simply read the book.” It’s possible… perhaps even…it’s possible…” Why didn’t he just read his book? It seems folly to posit statements that one doesn’t know the answer to – and I’m glad that Mr. Griswold isn’t a lawyer. He wouldn’t last long with an approach like that.

        Sorry, Cleareyed… IRD and Good News folks aren’t getting any points from me. And I suspect I agree with them theologically as much as anyone. But the method matters – and we ARE Methodists.

        Or, at least we used to be.

        • Sky McCracken says:

          All Adam’s response did was show how much of a “miss” Griswold’s article was. No one likes to be misunderstood, much less misquoted. Adam was far, far more gracious than Griswold deserved. I hope Griswold realizes this.

          • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

            I am not sure what you are talking about. You may want to re-read Andrew’s article and Hamilton’s response.

            Hamilton’s corrective was really quite minor. He didn’t quibble too much with the substance of Andrew’s description of the lecture.

            What Hamilton did do was present his own ideas about how some of the violence in OT should be viewed; he did not demonstrate how much of a “miss” Andrew’s article was in providing a summary of Hamilton’s Foundry address.

            And, as I said earlier, it is not necessary for someone to buy Hamilton’s book in order to understand his “bucket” analogy since he has been in numerous venues trying to explain it.

            Andrew personally attended Hamilton’s lecture, so I think all your hand-wringing over not reading the book is much ado about nothing.

          • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

            Sorry, I meant “Alexander” not “Andrew.”

  14. Martha Berry says:

    sounds to me like he may still/ again be an agnostic.

  15. Mark Miller says:

    I am so glad that we have someone like “cleareyedtruthmeister” among us, who has the ability to discern the state of Adam Hamilton’s ego and share that with us all (sarcasm intended). I guess inappropriate and unfounded criticisms never go out of style, even in the church. Now that is sad.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Mark, here’s an idea: why not objectively demonstrate the “inappropriate and unfounded criticisms” rather than engage in sarcastic invective?

      I think my observations are supported by evidence…you present no evidence to support yours.

  16. Foundry United Methodist Church says:

    The video you have linked in your article is the “raw” footage stored by the livestreaming site. Here is the link to the footage edited and enhanced by our video tech: http://youtu.be/NH_3OeNbT4Q

  17. Mark Miller says:

    Hi Cleareyedtruthmeister,
    I was referring to your original comment “Adam Hamilton has become a victim of his own ego. Sad.” I would submit that your comment is both inappropriate and unfounded criticism. It also lacks Christian grace. To suggest that someone is a victim of his ego because he does not share your view of a handful of scripture passages is clearly unfounded, unless you have some kind of special access to measure someone’s ego.
    As someone who has read Adam’s recent book and heard him speak on these issues, I find him to be both humble and gracious when presenting his viewpoints.
    But I admit that I was no better for making my own snarky comment about your snarky comment. For that I apologize.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Yes, I could have phrased it better, but when you see Rev. Hamilton running all over the place promoting his book and currying favor with entities that have often been hostile to Christianity then I think there is some justification.

      As I stated before, I believe Hamilton to be a good man and well-intentioned…but he is still human and subject to the same fallacious judgments and sins as are the rest of us. He is certainly not a Biblical scholar, and humility in demeanor is not always humility in deed. People–even pastors–can change with their fame and fortune.

      And no, it’s not just MY “view of a handful” of verses,” it is a well-reasoned, holistic view that many others also hold, including centuries of Christian saints and scholars whose intellect and spirituality was no less than ours. It is wrong to arrogantly discount their testimony as less enlightened.

  18. John Smith says:

    Can we go back to the article instead of picking back and forth?
    Upon closer reading I can understand Sky’s exception to the characterization of Hamilton. Most people know him as a successful UMC pastor, successful in such a way that even nonMethodists have heard the name. Were it not for his success his support of the GC proposal would have been unremarkable. One of many who have failed to change the BOD.
    I don’t think its that important but I’ve a thick skin. I am continually amazed at the things that people get upset about, offended by, are mortally wounded, hurt, etc. Where there is smoke doesn’t always mean there is fire, sometimes its an attempt to hide something.

  19. Greg Paley says:

    I tend to side with C. S. Lewis and his analysis of atheism, since he was an atheist: it’s not about science and it’s not about troubling passages of the Bible – it’s about ego. The atheist wants himself at the center of the universe, so God is an unwanted rival. As Lewis put it, the atheist want to say “I am my own,” and the believer agrees with Paul, “We are not our own.” I respect apologists immensely, but I believe the role they play is more to bolster the faith of believers, for they have minimal influence on unbelievers. I read lots of atheist posts on Christian blogs, and the usual accusations are contradictions in the Bible, and the violence in Christian history (though it pales in comparison with violence done by atheists). “Explaining” the Bible isn’t going to convert atheists to belief, something in them has to “break,” they have to get weary of being their own god in their own universe.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister says:

      Great points, Greg.

      Some atheists have been converted to theism via facts and logic, but very few. Reasoning alone will usually not get you to God if you closed to His existence from the start.

      I lead an apologetics society and the biggest impediments to faith are not inconsistencies in the Bible, the existence of evil, science, etc., but preconceived notions based on egomaniacal, arrogant, and narrow-minded thinking.

      I would add one more point. Even theists are not immune to the ill-effects of an expanding ego that can lead them to act as de facto agnostics or atheists. The renewing of one’s mind, humbly recognizing that there is One much bigger than ours, is a constant need.

  20. Matt Miofsky says:

    I regularly read the IRD blog. Though I disagree often with the perspectives shared here, I respect the thoughtfulness and rigor with which most of the authors make their arguments.This article is a departure from that usual thoroughness. From the way Adam’s arguments are characterized to the claim that he departs from “millennia of Christian teachings” on scripture is, to use the author’s words, wrongheaded. There are legitimate objections to be shared about Adam’s perspective, but the article falls well short of offering them. A better article could have been written, one more respectful of Adam, and more precise in its objections and characterizations.

    • David says:

      I couldn’t help but laugh at this. Matt, you advocate for and encourage a sexual union which is the antithesis for God’s plan for us. You talk about this article not being “respectful” of Pastor Adam, yet your sermons are disrespectful to the Scripture which you claim to have insight to, and which you have so pridefully distorted.

      You seemed to have missed reading James 3:1. I suggest you read that again.

      God Bless, Matt.

  21. Amy Patterson says:

    I’m currently reading the book. Quite frankly, I am frightened for the implications that this his claims in this book make. May God guard the hearts and minds of all who read it.

  22. TChapman says:

    Adam Hamilton is a businessman for the corporation formerly known as America. All the rest…. smoke and mirrors.

  23. Jay says:

    It’s easy to critique, but for all that’s been said, I haven’t heard anyone willing to offer a better explanation than that offered by Hamilton. He didn’t argue against Scripture. He pointed out the need to read Scripture under the priority and supremacy of Christ, who is described in John’s Gospel as the Word of God made flesh. If anyone has a better take on the troubling OT texts that have been cited, state your case. I’d love to hear it!

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