February 6, 2013
Is the Bible Immoral? Messiah College Professor Says Yes, Sometimes
Eric Seibert: "Not everything in the 'good book' is either good, or good for us."
According to Messiah College professor and author Eric Seibert, misuse of the Bible is not just Christians' fault. Rather, the problem "runs right through the pages of Scripture itself."
In a recent Patheos blog post, Seibert writes that the Bible "has been used to justify warfare, oppress women, condemn gays and lesbians, support slavery, and legitimate colonization, to name just a few of its troubling legacies."
It's an old discussion, and Seibert notes that "Most Christians would attribute this misuse of the Bible to faulty interpretations and misguided interpreters." But that's not the only problem, he says. "At times the Bible endorses values we should reject, praises acts we must condemn, and portrays God in ways we cannot accept."
As a result, he argues, Christians have a moral obligation to critique Scripture and condemn what is immoral," he states.
Seibert's claims about the nature of Scripture are rare among professors at evangelical colleges, albeit not entirely new; the call for Christians to pursue an 'ethical' reading of Scripture has long been a fixture in some mainline circles. But the sentiment seems to be new in the Bible department of Messiah, one of the few Anabaptist colleges in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Still, according to the school's statement of faith, "God gives us the Bible as the inspired, trustworthy and authoritative Scripture to reveal God's ways and purposes, to nourish our minds and souls, and to instruct us in how we ought to think and to live."
Seibert has made similar claims before, most notably in his book Disturbing Divine Behavior—which also received criticism. (Scot McKnight called Seibert's argument "at times Marcion-like," referring to the second-century heretic who rejected the Old Testament.)
This time around, Boyce College theology professor Owen Strachan calls Seibert's piece "shameful," pointing out the "serious friction … between Seibert and his school’s statement of faith."
CT previously has examined the question of how to read the Bible, including a look at sin in the Old Testament, why God seems to sanction raw violence in the Old Testament but not the New, and similar topics.