The Moral Use of “Biblical Authority”

It keeps us from turning commands found there into isolated rules of principles that are assumed to have special status because they are in the Bible. Rather is proposes that Christians (and we hope others) take them to heart (and mind) because they have been found to be crucial to a people formed by the story of God. Such commands stand as reminders of the kind of people we must be if we are to be capable of remembering for ourselves and the world the story of God’s dealing with us.

To take the prohibition of adultery, it does not claim to be intelligible in itself, but draws its force from the meaning and significance of marriage in the Jewish and Christian communities. Marriage in those communities derives from profound hope in and commitment to the future, witnessed by the willingness and duty to bring new life into the world. Moreover for those traditions family and marriage have special significance as they are also an expression of the relation these people have with their God. the prohibition against adultry does not therefore derive from a set of premises concerned directly with the legitimacy of sexual expression, though without doubt it has often been so interpreted, but from the profoundest commitment of the community concerning the form of sexual life necessary to sustain their understanding of marriage and family.

Nor does the prohibition against resisting evil derive from an assumption about violence as inherently evil, but rather from the community’s understanding of how God rules his creation. For how can a people who believe God is Lord of their existence show forth that conviction if they act as if the meaning of their existence, and perhaps even history itself, must be insured by the use of force? The nonviolence of the church derives from the character of the story of God that makes us what we are–namely a community capable of witnessing to others the kind of life made possible when trust rather than fear rules our relation with one another.

Stanley Hauerwas – A Community of Character, Pg 70

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