Sunday, May 13, 2012

I Learned a New Acronym

Growing up I always heard about the CoC's standard hermeneutic for Biblical interpretation: Direct Command, Approved Example, Necessary Inference. Just recently I was reading and saw this refered to by the acronym CENI. So I learned a new acronym which is always exciting. Sometimes it is refered to as just CEI. Really it should be DCAENI, but that is much harder to say and write and not as catchy.

This whole revelation got me thinking about many things including the following discussion that took place based on a Facebook post of mine. I had been reading that the Lord's Supper was to be taken only on Sunday and every Sunday. Taking the LS on any other day of the week is sinful. We had also recently discussed this in a Sunday morning Bible class. Not liking the way that sat in my stomach, I came up with this "modest proposal" hearkening back to my HS English class days and Jonathan Swift.

I didn't take all the comments here, just a couple from David and my Mom (in honor of Mother's Day). Notice how quickly I went from the "modest proposal" into ranting and didn't stop ranting even after I said I would. Only minor edits here for grammar.

For my CoC brethren (and cisterns) and others interested in needless controversies: Since the Lord Supper is to be taken on a Sunday, each Sunday, and only on Sunday (as the general CoC instruction goes) and the examples we have in scriptures would follow the Jewish time reckoning of sundown to sundown and there was no concept of timezones, should we only be taking the Lord's Supper while the sun is up in the land of Israel? Seems we should make this a new rule and put it into practice immediately based on the CENI principles we hold so dear.
Well it would change based on the seasons as days get shorter and longer but we could probably pick a time that would always be acceptable, I'll have to figure that out and codify it into the rulebook
The earliest sunset in Israel is 4:36PM local time which translates to 8:26AM CST. The latest sunset is at 7:51PM which is 11:51AM CST. So to have a constant time throughout the year, any time between noon Saturday and 8AM Sunday local time would be acceptable. Thinking of bringing this to the elders and suggesting we adjust our service times accordingly.
You're welcome to use my timezone research so that my labors are not in vain. The problem with disputable matters is that we sit around disputing them so much, we get mad and then divide ourselves into small groups call each other false teachers and unfaithful. All this serves to harm the cause of Christ rather than spreading God's love to all. Where there is grace for moral issues, there is no grace for doctrinal issues (in the eyes of many). Jesus worshiped (as was his custom) in the Synagogue which was not authorized for Jewish worship by God but their own institution. David ate the sacred bread which Jesus said was fine. The disciples picked grain on the Sabbath which Jesus said was fine. There is grace from God, just not a lot of grace among those that should be brothers and sisters. Rant off
In addition we must also take Communion on Thursday evenings since that's when Jesus started it. Afterwards we must all go out to the local park, pray, sleep and get arrested. I'll let someone else do the timezone math on when this should all take place.
Regarding CENI (Command, Example, Necessary Inference) it is just a tool. it seems to be best suited toward evaluating what we already do rather than exploring what the Bible said God would have us do or not do. You can pass practices through the filter of CENI and come out with a Yes/No answer, but you can't use it to discover new things. Also, the implied adjectives "Direct" Command, "Approved" Example, "Necessary" Inference are really squishy and can be and have been used to filter in or out lots of ideas using many legalistic machinations that make my heart and head hurt. I've been reading too many religious blogs this week.* is a blog I've started reading this week trying to spider out and find both "liberal" and "conservative" viewpoints on a variety of issues. Some of the ulta-conservative stuff I've encountered has made me sick to my stomach. Little tiny things causing such division in God's body.
David said: "So I really wonder if there are other tools, or mechanisms, or logic paths used by others for interpreting secpriture. CENI is a fairly stright forward method of categorizing ways to glean information from scriptures. Do other people use something else? IFG-YFG-LF (I Feel Good - You Feel Good - Lets Fellowship)."
Mom said: "So are you thinking something more detailed like a NT book similar to Leviticus would solve many of these disputes?"
Yes, mom, we definitely need all the rules clearly defined so that we know where to look for the loopholes. I am starting to think that CENI and the other lists we make are good for teaching simple principles but start to fall apart amid the messiness of life. 5 steps to salvation, 5 acts of worship, 4 types of prayer. All are simplified ideas pulled from a variety of scriptures but do not tell the whole story. That's the problem with living by rules in general, there are always more rules to make. And rather than finding common ground by focusing on the important stuff, we make important that which is God has not and create divisions in his church. David, hopefully this will give you plenty of sermon fodder. Bottom line, I think it is a fallacy to say that CENI or any other hermeneutic applies universally specifically since God did not give them to us.
Another recent FB status update I spewed at the world (or at least my social network):
Speak where the Bible speaks and create binding laws for everyone where the Bible is silent.
As quickly as I came to know and understand CENI, I have come to dislike it. As I said, it can be useful, but it doesn't not tell the whole story nor is it the right tool for every encounter with scripture.

*Note: that I mentioned is not one of the ultra-conservative writings that I said hurt my head. It is a very well thought out set of writings that I appreciate very much. I just wanted to make this clear as reading through the context it might seem that I was putting it down.
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