Rachel Evans is spending a year trying to obey the bible’s instructions for women. I don’t want to comment much on what she’s doing. I think it’s kind of pointless to obey Levitical instructions on how to conduct yourself when you’re menstruating, since those laws obviously do not apply to us. But maybe there’s some point to it that I’m not perceiving. What interests me is that whatever Evans’ goals are, Slate is using her experiment to attack the bible and by extension, Christianity.
As Evans points out, it’s “Biblical” for a man to take multiple wives, or for a father to sell his daughter to pay off debts. When the term “Biblical” can mean anything, it means nothing. If Christians can acknowledge this, they may treat each other more lovingly and conduct themselves with more humility.
Implicit in that last line is that Christians are not treating each other lovingly or conducting ourselves with adequate humility. That’s quite an assertion to make. It’s also an invitation to just pitch out the bible – since it can mean anything or nothing – and just live by a worldly standard of being nice. Because Christianity is all about the niceness, I guess.
But words do mean things, and “Biblical” doesn’t mean either anything or nothing. When a person describes something as “Biblical” he’s saying it can be read in the bible. And that can be used to mislead. An atheist acquaintance of mine is very fond of Leviticus as a tool to bash Christians. She’s willfully ignorant (meaning she’s been told repeatedly and just refuses to acknowledge it) of the fact that Christians have never been bound by Jewish law. So while there are verses in the bible involving polygamy and slavery and quite a few other unsavory things, it should be pretty clear that those verses are not in effect today, and when someone conflates those verses with the New Testament by saying, “it’s Biblical” it seems very disingenuous to me. The real question is not whether something can be found in the bible but is that command in effect today? Are theologians generally in agreement about what it means, or is it something that Christians can disagree on yet still be part of the body of Christ?
Slate doesn’t say. Slate evidently doesn’t care. Just acknowledge that the bible is meaningless and get busy living according to worldly standards, why don’t you?
As for the project itself… it looks interesting.