How Does Narrative Teach Theology and Ethics? Dr. Darrell Bock

How Does Narrative Teach Theology and Ethics?
[Part 1 – Applying Biblical Ethics to Hot Button Issues]
with Darrell Bock, Daniel Carroll Rodas

In this episode, Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Daniel Carroll-Rodas discuss approaching ethical issues with a holistic view of Scripture, focusing on the relationship of Old Testament narratives to biblical ethics. From Dallas Theological Seminary.…

00:13 Dr. Carroll-Rodas’ background in Ethics and Old Testament Studies
04:01 Why are ethical statements not more prominent in creeds?
09:51 How can we begin to think about the Bible ethically?
12:39 How do Old Testament narratives teach us about ethics?
19:18 Learning from the narrative of Abram and Sarai in Genesis 12
24:23 How does one’s position on ethical issues impact one’s reading of Old Testament narratives?
31:25 How does one’s location impact one’s reading of Old Testament narratives?…


VIDEO by dallasseminary

…an excerpt from the pdf, a parallel to immigration, from the Old Testament:

So that means we’ve gotta be better readers and more careful readers, and we’ve got to think about narrative in a different way. You did something in what you presented today, even though this podcast is gonna go out weeks from now. You did something today that I thought was interesting, that I thought might be worth also getting people to think about how narrative works as we move to talking about ethics, and that is you told the story of Abraham as an immigrant. And normally in our circles, when we go to Genesis, we go to Genesis for the Abrahamic Covenant.

Here’s the promise made to Israel. And yeah, Abraham took a little bit of a journey, and it took a while and that kind of thing, but eventually worked its way there and the promise was planted. And that’s about all you get out of it. But you were trying to get us to think through if I can say it this way, where Abraham was, where his location was, what he was is God took him through what he went through and how that can be a lesson for us. Can you illustrate that and elaborate that for us for a little?

Yeah. Let me illustrate that and then tell you how I was taught it.

Okay, and there you’ll see the comparison or contrast. What I was telling this morning in chapel was the Genesis 12, where he’s been called out of Ur at the end of chapter 11, goes up to Harran and he then he comes into Canaan and receives the promise Abram does in Genesis 12-1:3 and we sit on that, rightly so. And then he begins to move into the land and build altars and call the name of God. All very good, but then you get about verse nine or ten and it says there was a famine in the land and he picks up the clan, because he’s the head of a clan, not a nuclear family.

And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. photo

And they begin to make the trek to Egypt because there’s food. You have the Nile. So you’ll have water, which means you have harvest, which means there is food to eat. And so Egypt was always having to deal with people trying to come in for food. And so we know from archaeology they’d set up a series of forts along their eastern frontier to help monitor the movement. So it’s very human, I mean, what’s going on. Nothing new on that.

That’s their border wall, huh?

That’s their border wall.

And so what happens is they get close to Egypt and does this mean he’s coming up to one of these checkpoints for it? Don’t know, but he tells Sarai, „Look, if they ask you, tell them you’re my sister, not my wife.” Now, we know from later in the narrative that they are related, but what you see – he’s trying to protect himself, right? But the driving point of the story is that they’re hungry and Abram is willing to lie to get across the border and to protect himself in that move.

But what is driving them to go there is hunger. And she’s willing to go through with it for the sake of the family. Now, it’s very wise. I didn’t get into this this morning because I was watching the clock, but as the brother, if anyone wanted Sarai, they would have to ask the brother for permission to marry her. So you could see where at the same time he is protecting her and they’re just pushing whatever bad thing happens down the road a little bit.

But I was trying to tell people this morning is that what you see is Abram is hungry, and this is why people move, because they’re hungry. And if it means lying to get across a border to feed your family, you’re willing to do it, and she’s willing to put herself at risk sexually, for being very blunt, for the sake of the family, okay? Now, so you’re reading this as an immigrant story, and I work a lot with immigration, as you know, so I’ve heard these stories. And they’re kind of like this, you know, where they lie to get across.

But I know when I went to seminary, the ethical debate was, was what Abram actually said a lie? And so there was all this kind of maneuvering to get Abram off the hook for not actually lying. Or if he did, it wasn’t really a bad a lie, right? So what you can see is though it is echoing immigrant stories, when I got taught, it was all about “is it a lie?”

Yeah. It’s with the search for the moral principal and whether or not it works or not.

And so what you’re seeing is the search for some kind of eternal, moral principal or whatever is totally, I think, missed –

The narrative.

The narrative and the power of the narrative, which resonates with a lot of immigrant stories today.

And of course the background of being an alien in a strange land emerges out of that story as a core metaphor that actually runs through the totality of Scripture. Well, this is supposed to be a podcast on narrative criticism, so we’ll leave it there.

But I think the point is well established that sets kind of the parameters for what we wanna discuss, and that is that we really are talking about – when we’re talking about ethics and the Scripture, we’re really talking about reading the Bible for the whole of what it is doing, for the way in which all of it addresses something, because what happens in ethical discussions is what I find happening. And you can almost pick your issue on this, where you can think, years ago, when we were debating slavery and they were very biblically oriented people who were defending slavery to the death. I mean that’s what the Civil War was about.

Literally, yeah.

That’s right. Or you think about the way in which gun control is discussed today, or immigration is discussed today, and what happens is people pick their place to start and land their discussion as a principle and in the process then, shut off anything that comes against that. My own take on working and thinking about this is that actually what you have in Scripture is a much more complex and actually lifelike situation. The Scripture addresses the tensions of life and stories tell or address the topic from those tension points.

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