If an alien from outer space were teleported to the United States, given a copy of the Christian Scriptures, and asked to assess the sanity of our faith’s adherents, he would no doubt conclude that American Christians are a rather schizophrenic lot. Walking into one of our evangelical churches, he would probably observe men, some of them long-haired, greeting women, many of them short-haired and almost none of them wearing any kind of head covering, with both men and women stubbornly refusing to kiss each other (in a “holy” manner, of course) at all! In Gen-X churches, at least, our intrepid extraterrestrial would be astonished to see young men and women in their 20’s and 30’s failing to rise in the presence of any elders entering their worship service. Our stupefied spaceman would be baffled to discover Pentecostals dancing within the church walls but not outside of them, Presbyterians dancing outside the church walls but not within them, and Southern Baptists not dancing anywhere! Further, all of these bodies would rarely, if ever, be seen using tambourines and cymbals (unless, of course, the cymbals were part of drum set). And even if certain members of these churches might be found to occasionally take wine for medicinal reasons, probably none of them, to the utter confusion of our befuddled bystander, would even think of administering beer to the poor, downtrodden, and dying of their congregations. In the end, our marveling Martian would probably throw up his hands in resignation and blast away in a trail of stardust, desperately seeking a group of people who actually do what their Holy Book tells them to do. Our friendly foreigner, of course, has just dealt firsthand with the challenges of cultural hermeneutics and contemporary application. He seems to have assumed (quite naturally) that any command found in the Christian Scriptures would be binding upon Christians of all times, and that cultural differences would have little effect upon the application of an ancient text to a modern setting. Although most of us would probably claim to be at least somewhat more hermeneutically savvy than our vexed visitor, no doubt all of us could identify with the frustration of trying to understand why ancient commands may sometimes be applied differently in our modern context—or sometimes not at all.

source: Clay Daniel: As Easy as X-Y-Z: A Review of William Webb’s Slaves, Women and Homosexuals at bible.org tags: Inspiration Of Scripture, Bible, Hermeneutics