Even Peter Leithart realizes that the Bible doesn’t give the kind of moral specificity that so many practically minded believers desire?
The Bible rarely lives up to our ordinary standards of practicality. Page after page is given over to genealogical lists of obscure people whose only role is to be a human bridge between famous ancestors and notorious descendants. A third of Exodus is nothing but verbal blueprints for building the tabernacle and the first quarter of Leviticus contains detailed regulations concerning sacrifice. Two lengthy chapters of Leviticus diagnose the varieties of skin disease that cause impurity. It seems so tedious, and even when the Bible holds our interest, it doesnt seem very useful. Stories of plagues, exodus, and wars of utter destruction make for juicy reading, but how do they help one become virtuous? Why cant the Bible be more relevant?
While one can mine nuggets of moral instruction from the depths of the text, the Bibles apparent lessons are difficult, and not infrequently troubling. Abraham goes to Egypt, deceives Pharaoh about his relationship to Sarah, and leaves Egypt richer than ever. Whats the lesson-that lying pays? What moral do we draw from Moses killing of the Egyptian, or Joshuas slaughter of everything that breathed at Jericho? The more we read the Bible, the clearer it becomes that the book isnt a Hebraic Aesops fables.
Treating Scripture as a directory of moral lessons or compendium of moral rules assumes a constricted view of moral practice and reasoning. We dont pursue virtue simply by applying general principles to particular situations, and true morality is never simply obedience to commandments. Practical morality requires the ability to assess situations accurately, memory of our own past patterns of action and of others inspiring examples, and enough moral imagination to see how a potential tragedy might become the birthplace of unforeseen comedy.
Scripture is ethical paedeia, not an ethics manual.
Or Carl Trueman acknowledges that expansive claims for kingdom work and redeeming culture run rough shod over the marks of the church?
So what happens to church discipline when the means of grace start to be expanded beyond word and sacrament? When we include art, or music or even sports? I have no sympathy whatsoever with such an expansion; but, given the emphasis on these emerging in certain quarters and, indeed, the arrival of arts and sports pastors on the scene, I wonder if those who do in practice seem to see these things as means of grace have really thought through the practical consequences for church discipline. Perhaps we have to stop people looking at pictures (unless it is something by Thomas Kinkade?), listening to anything but 70s disco music, and playing anything but American football? Answers on a postcard.