Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exclusive? Or Universal?

ChaliceChick's LinguistFriend offers a very close reading, based on the translation of the original Greek, of the words commonly rendered as "Peace on Earth and Goodwill To Men" in Luke's Nativity story, and points out that a more accurate reading of the words suggests that "peace is considered to be limited to those who participate in the covenant with God." This is the sort of exclusivist reading that liberal Christians and UUs reject, preferring a much more expansive interpretation. Indeed, such a reading would seem to give some degree of support to Fundamentalist interpretations that suggest salvation really is only for an elect few.

LF suggests it's important for UU "orientation" to include "reconsideration of aspects of historical Christianity and Christian texts."

But, as I commented at the Chaliceblog, the reading is challenging to many more people than UUs or other religious liberals. Serious progressive Christians--that is, serious about their progressivism but also serious about their Christianity--are also likely to find it challenging.

At DairyStateMom's church the overriding message about God and Jesus is that of a boundless and extravagant love from God to humanity, in the person of Jesus. This is not a church, notwithstanding its Calvinist roots, that especially emphasizes the Fundamentalist's Jesus as the atonement for Adam's sin or the only protection from eternal hell. But it is a church that is very serious about its Christian identity.

And the exclusivity reflected in the translation LF cites is certainly is not what that church embraces. I, for one, am quite curious how they and like-minded liberal and open-minded Christians view this.


  1. I think LF's point was that UU's need to consider whether or not they are agreeing with faulty Biblical translation just because it is more palatable for them. The original writing may promote a more exclusive vision of salvation, but it wouldn't be the first time UU's disagree with a literal reading of scripture.

  2. Oh, I quite agree w/ what you, and LF, are saying there. As UU's we have the freedom to outright reject what we disagree with in scripture from any tradition. My point is just that this may be more challenging for liberal Christians in some way.

  3. I posted over on LF's thread that the original source texts are not consistent in meaning. LF himself acknowledges that the KJV's "goodwill toward men" is an accurate translation of the sources in which the original Greek word eudokia is in the nominative case. The NRSV's "among those whom he favors" is an accurate translation of the sources where it appears as eudokias in the genitive case. My argument is that Christian witness and doctrine is more consistent with the nominative case, which should therefore be preferred in the absence of clear evidence of the superior authenticity eudokias. LF's argument is that he believes the genitive sources are more authentic, and that the switch to the nominative case must have been a later corruption. In contrast, ancient witnesses such as the Church Fathers demonstrate that both versions have been in use and circulation since very early times. I am not persuaded that the eudokias sources either (a) are in fact more authentic copies of the lost original text, or (b) should be presumptively taken to represent the canonical text, or (c) better represent the actual faith and doctrine of the Church.


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