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Give John J. Collins credit for showing his cards up front. In his What Are Biblical Values? Collins aims to lay out, as dispassionately as possible, what the Bible actually says on a range of issues in contemporary debate—abortion, homosexuality, marriage and family, the environment, slavery, violence, and social justice.
Collins doesn’t think the Bible gives clear answers to most of these questions. The Bible is internally contradictory, a “running argument” with “conflicting values.” It doesn’t matter anyway: “Biblical values are not normative or acceptable for modern society simply because they are found in the Bible.” They have to be sifted and critiqued, both by comparison of Scripture with Scripture and by “dialogue with modern values,” which represent “clear advances in moral sensitivity.” The Bible contributes to the church’s deliberations, but “its contribution is not necessarily decisive.”
Set-up - Bible - Abortion - Language - Rights
With that set-up, it’s not hard to predict what will be decisive. The Bible doesn’t ever mention abortion, nor does it trade in the language of rights. (Collins gives only superficial attention to the main text, Exodus 21:22-25.) There’s “much to commend” the view that the Bible is “hospitable to new life and resistant to abortion,” but this construal isn’t “necessary.” It doesn’t matter anyway: “the Bible does not decide the matter for us.” Well, OK. Then why did I read this chapter?
He’s refreshingly honest about the biblical evidence regarding homosexuality. Leviticus condemns anal intercourse between men and judges both partners to be worthy of death. Paul shares the Hellenistic Jewish hostility to **** and male homoerotic acts. In both Testaments, “we find explicit condemnation of homosexual acts,” but these appear “only in a few passages” that are “confined to narrow strands of tradition.” This, too, doesn’t matter in the end: A “responsible” treatment of modern homosexuality has to consider more than a “few scriptural...
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