Andy Miller III
Cover Image for Sola Scriptura with Ben Witherington III

Sola Scriptura with Ben Witherington III

December 7, 2023

Ben Witherington III suggests that churches and Christians are taking their signals and sense of direction from the culture rather than the biblical witness itself. That’s why he has written Sola Scriptura, a book that clarifies Scripture as the “final authority in the modern world.” Ben was one of my teachers and has written a commentary on every New Testament book. Baylor University Press calls this a ‘magisterial study’ and it is fitting for a scholar like Ben to give the church this volume now.

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Welcome to the more to the story. Podcast I'm so glad you have come along. We have one of my favorite guests who have had in the past. I'm so glad he's come back, and I'll introduce him in just a second. But this podcast is brought to you by Wesley Biblical Seminary, where we are developing trusted leaders for faithful churches. And this is an exciting moment in the life of Wbs. As we've just added a global Methodist church pastors.

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Course of study. We have almost 600 students with us this fall. It's a 600% increase in the last 5 years, and we have several other programs happening that we'd love for you to think about. So you can find out more about Also, I'm thankful to my friend Bill Roberts, who helped sponsor this podcast

00:12:11.310 --> 00:12:28.479
he's a financial planner who comes at that discipline through, his own discipleship, as he particularly is good at guiding pastors to think about retirement. It's not something they train us in in seminary, so I'd encourage you to check out William H., or you can find a link to that in my show notes.

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Andy Miller III: Finally, there are several things happening from more to story ministries. We have a free tool available for people who sign up for my email list. It's called 5 steps to deeper teaching and preaching. And you'll learn some of the things that I learned from our guest today, as we want to learn how to go deeper into text with the aim of proclaiming that word faithfully and creatively. So it's a 45 min teaching

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and a tool that you can use in your own preparation. Also, you'll find on my website at Andy Miller. The third com. There are 2 courses available. One is a study of the book of Jude, and another is a study of the afterlife. These are various video sessions that have discussion guides that you can use with a Sunday school group, or a small or small group, or various other groups that you might want to go deeper in studying Scripture. So I ask you to check that out

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if you're interested.

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benwitherington: But now I am so glad to welcome into the Podcast Dr. Ben Withering, who serves as the Amos chair for New Testament studies and doctoral studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, Ben welcome to the Podcast it's good to be with you, Andy.

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benwitherington: Well, you were. You came on my former podcast. Called Captain's Corner. So people can go back in my archives and check that out. But it's a real delight to be able to see a new book coming out from you, which if I had you on every time you had a new book you'd be on every other week. It feels like not not true, but a nice exaggeration.

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Andy Miller III: There you go! Well in in as we get in this, you have a new book that's coming out. Or maybe it's just come out from University Press. Is it out now? Okay, called solar scriptora

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Andy Miller III: Scripture's final authority in the modern world. And before we get into the content of this book, I think it's interesting how this comes along at this stage in your career

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Andy Miller III: after. And maybe people don't know this about you. You've already written a commentary on every book of the New Testament dozens of other books on top of that, on New Testament themes, on theology in general, even a novel about first Corinth or the Corinthians, and all kinds of things you've done. But it's interesting that this comes at this stage in your career. Could you help us understand why this book and why now?

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benwitherington: Well, II had already published a book called The Living Word of God, with Balor. And you know, that

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benwitherington: was intended to give people a general orientation about the real nature

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benwitherington: of of the Bible and the Bible as the Word of God, Bible as inspired?

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benwitherington: Where did it come from? The canonization of the Bible? All those kinds of usual questions, and that's now more than a decade ago, when that book came out.

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benwitherington: this book is not that this book is intended to help us process some things that we may have taken for granted in the Church. But you can't take for granted any more, one of which is

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benwitherington: the final authority of Scripture in matters that the Bible actually teaches about.

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benwitherington: and my assessment of what the dot Bible teaches the subjects the Bible teaches us about

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benwitherington: our theology, ethics, salvation, history, not just any old kind of history, but salvation, history.

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benwitherington: spiritual formation. So those are the Big 4.

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benwitherington: And here's the thing.

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benwitherington: Biblical literacy, even in the Church. has diminished in my lifetime enormously.

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benwitherington: enormously. I mean, we even have students, master level students who come to seminary

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benwitherington: and can't even name the books of the Bible, you know. I mean, that's

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benwitherington: it's like a blank slate, you know. Well, we know some of our favorite Scriptures, but

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benwitherington: we don't know Doodle squat about most things about the Bible, and so my concern is

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benwitherington: with the decline of literacy, Biblical literacy in the Church. as well as the general culture

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benwitherington: and and the decline in things that promote discipleship like Sunday School, I mean the Sunday school movement

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benwitherington: is wasting away, you know, Margaritaville, you know I mean it is. It is disappearing before our very eyes. What is replacing it is more worship services, including praise, worship services, but not in depth, study of the Bible or in depth, Sunday school, or other sort of ways to do discipleship so.

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benwitherington: and not surprisingly, what's happened as a result, since nature abhors a vacuum. Is that the larger agendas of the culture have seeped into the church

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benwitherington: and actually taken over some of the agendas and the ways that we read the Bible. especially in regard to the presenting issue of human sexuality and sexual behavior.

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benwitherington: And so my concern with this book was sort of 2 fold number one

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benwitherington: to make clear that the long history of the Bible from Biblical times until now.

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benwitherington: the majority opinion by by a lot in any form of Christianity, whether we're talking about Roman Catholicism, orthodoxy.

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benwitherington: Protestantism

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benwitherington: is that the Bible is or should be, the final authority in matters of faith and practice. So that's

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benwitherington: a big point right there.

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benwitherington: Experience shouldn't be the final authority. Reason shouldn't be the final authority. A tradition shouldn't be the final authority. All of those things can be contributory to our understanding of Scripture or ways that Scripture can be expressed.

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benwitherington: but they are not an inspired final authority, like the Scriptures, are

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benwitherington: certainly not, and especially in regard to making experience a a final authority. This is extremely dangerous, because experiences can be genuine.

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benwitherington: and at the same time not be true to the character of God or the character Christians should have. And so that that's a big concern I had in writing this and come to the second issue. The second matter is, I want to get there in just a minute. You mentioned the being the final authority. A lot of people struggle even with the phrase sola scriptora, right? Because they they might think. And I've heard I heard Kevin Van Hoozer say this for the first time I ever heard anybody articulate, this is sola scriptora is not solo

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Andy Miller III: scriptora, right? You're being very clear in this book to not you to de differentiate what you're saying by saying final authority, what is that? Not saying?

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benwitherington: Well, the the phrase Solos Scriptura, of course, literally as a translation of the Latin means only Scripture. and and that actually is with very conservative Protestants and and some others.

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benwitherington: What

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benwitherington: they mean by the phrase. But if you actually are a student of church history.

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benwitherington: That's like never what it's meant.

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benwitherington: because tradition had some some authority. Experience had some kind of authority. Reason had some kind right reason had some kind of authority, not on a par with Scripture.

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benwitherington: and not as some kind of quadrilateral where they were an equilateral, and they all have the same authority.

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benwitherington: or one could trump the other. You know. When I say, what's sola? Scriptura

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benwitherington: really has meant over the many ages of, and more than 2,000 years. Now it is that it is the final litmus test.

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benwitherington: the final authority. What matters it actually teaches about?

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benwitherington: And of course, the negative side of that is, there are a whole host of things. It doesn't teach us about like how to brush our teeth, what clothes to wear, what car to buy, etc., etc. The age of the earth doesn't teach us that it's not a scientific text book. Those kinds of things. So knowing exactly what the Bible is trying to teach us is one thing.

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benwitherington: and and then, knowing

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benwitherington: that the Bible touches a lot of things that it's not trying to teach us about.

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benwitherington: I mean, it's not trying to teach us the the the history of the Hittites or the Hivites, or the Amorites, or the Termites. It's not trying to teach us right? It's not trying to teach us any of that. Those things only come into the picture tangentially, in so far as they have contact with

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benwitherington: God's people. That's it. End of story. So, knowing what it teaches, and not merely what it touches, is is critical to understanding the authority, the Bible, and what subjects it is the final authority for. So that's one thing that I was trying to accomplish with this.

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benwitherington: But but the other thing I was trying to accomplish is to ask the question, How have we gotten to our current?

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benwitherington: So I had to review in this book the process from the Reformation to the enlightenment.

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benwitherington: to the modern rise of science, the rise of evolution, all those sorts of things, and then the reaction by conservative Christians to that with the Chicago statement, or by inerrancy and various other things like that. Okay, because you can't really know where this is all going. If you don't know where you are in the history

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benwitherington: of the process of all of this. especially in the West.

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benwitherington: So you know I'm those were the 2 fold aims that that I was striving for. But the other subtle aim which is addressed is that people sometimes would take a parade issue like slavery, and say, well, since we cannot

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benwitherington: affirm what the Bible says about slavery, since the Bible is wrong, slavery, then here are some other issues. It's wrong on including human sexuality. Okay?

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benwitherington: And so what I decided I needed to do in the appendix to the book was, deconstruct that whole argument based on slavery. The Bible does not, in fact.

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benwitherington: endorse slavery. It deals with the reality of slavery that was in the ancient Near East and in the Greco Roman world. but it deals with it in ways that deconstruct

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benwitherington: the various aspects of it. And and that's what I wanted to say.

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benwitherington: and of course the proof of that for me was, I mean, I work at the Museum of the Bible from time to time, and there was an exhibit for several months of the slave Bible. Now, what's that? This is a Bible that was produced in Britain

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benwitherington: for their colonies as well as for the United Kingdom as well.

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benwitherington: which cut out

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benwitherington: 25% of the Bible that those who were producing this Bible thought endorsed anti slavery. Hmm. Now, that should tell us that should tell us everything right.

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benwitherington: If the Bible is so pro slavery, why do you have to drop a quarter of the Bible? You know, edit out a quarter of the Bible that has anything to do with slavery.

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benwitherington: So you know I'm I'm trying to make clear that the Bible has plenty to say about slavery.

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benwitherington: but what it doesn't say is that God endorses slavery, and therefore we should, too. It doesn't say that. And so

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benwitherington: I'm trying to deal with the usual objections to well, the Bible teaches us. This form of sexual behavior is immoral, but we don't have to pay attention to that, because we're modern people and we know better.

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Andy Miller III: It's like East Stanley. Jones has a kind of clever way of saying, he said it was like a stick of dynamite that various authors put in to Scripture like

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Andy Miller III: Philemon, you know, like we have Paul's words. If I, Leeman is a stick of dynamite that would explode centuries later. And I love. I love that image. I'm interested in. The fact that this is this book comes from you now, and it's something that could you have written this, I mean you could have in a sense, beginning of your career. I mean, it comes at the after you've written all of these commentaries. These other pieces is a. Is there a significance to the order in that?

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benwitherington: I could have written it earlier for sure. But

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benwitherington: you know what the crisis that produced this book is what's happened. I'm a cradle Methodist, I mean. My mom said my first 2 words were John Wesley. I kinda doubt that, you know, but I I've been in the Methodist Church in particular, the United Methodist Church

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benwitherington: all my life all life. I'm ordained in that church, right? So the presenting issue for me was it was high time I did something. That's a relevance to deal with. That presenting issue

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benwitherington: from the point of view is what is what is the final authority in the Bible about these kinds of issues. So yes, I could have done it sooner. but, in fact, now it would be the propitious moment to do it.

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benwitherington: As a new Methodist denomination is launching in an old one is

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benwitherington: disaffiliating. 7, 8, 9,000 churches, you know. Now would be the time to give some guidance about this for the future. And I'm really hoping

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benwitherington: that this book for Nazarenes and Wesleyans and Free Methodists, and inexpensive Methodists, and the GM. And whoever else are out there? Oh, absolutely the Salvation Army! Pentecostal churches that are not Calvinists. Oh, you know, my hope would be that this book will will light a fire under those folks

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benwitherington: to continue to hold to a very high view of Scripture in all the things it intends to teach us. That would be my hope.

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Andy Miller III: I love that. And I think in this moment what's happening with Methodism? I've talked about that a fair amount on this program, but you have a gift of of wit and conciseness at times, and sometimes it's just really helpful when I hear you tell the story that I've been trying to read about for a long time. So W. Could you tell my audience just a nice little summary of what's going on in Methodism.

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benwitherington: Well, what's happening in Methodism

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benwitherington: with the decline of Biblical literacy? It's a reinterpretation of text that for 2,000 years have been read a particular way which are now deliberately being read a different way. In order to justify a change in stance

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benwitherington: on things like gay marriage and transgender things and various other parts of the whole discussion of human sexuality. Okay? And so, because that's going on

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benwitherington: a even for those who are not leaving the United Methodist church or some other mainline denomination which has changed its stance on these issues. And and though

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benwitherington: the United Methods Church has not learned any lessons from what happened to the Episcopal Church or the Presbyterian U.S.A. Church, or the Lutheran Church when they went this way and lost thousands of members that they didn't learn anything from all of those previous experiences. No, they decided to go down the same road.

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benwitherington: And so that's you know. That's really why II have been doing this for me. It's it's a hard issue, cause my heart is just broken with cradle denomination in regard to what's happening and and the cause of what's happening. And it is a very peculiar situation.

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benwitherington: The people who are leaving are the people who are still faithful to the United Methodist discipline. Right. That's just weird. you know. That doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense.

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benwitherington: But the thing is, they can see the handwriting on the wall of where this is going. and no, the other part of it that gives me Agida, as our Italian friends would say, is that you know I'm a John Wesley fellow.

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benwitherington: I was picked in 1977 to be a John Wesley fellow, and the goal

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benwitherington: of now a hundred 80 John Wesley fellows out there was to reform our seminaries in a way

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benwitherington: that was more congenial to orthodoxy in various ways.

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benwitherington: you know that was the goal, and many John Wesley fellows, including me, who have actually taught at some United Methodist seminaries along the way. But frankly, the the progressive tide that washed over the culture has washed over these seminaries as well, and almost without exception. And and now you know, what's happened is that particular effort by John Wesley Fellows.

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benwitherington: It has not accomplished what Ed Rob originally hoped it would accomplish. Indeed, some of the John Wesley fellows have gone over to the dark side of the force on these issues. And and so me, that's that's the second heartbreak.

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benwitherington: I love these people. I've mentored a lot of these people.

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benwitherington: And unfortunately, on these key issues they have decided to punt.

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benwitherington: or, you know, say nothing, or, in fact, endorse positions that are certainly not Biblical in any way. And so you know, for me. It's one of those. Here I stand. I can do no other. I had to say something.

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benwitherington: and and this is, as you know, ironic away as I could do it by writing a book that's not polemical. but deals with the facts.

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Andy Miller III: And so you do that by like leaning on some of the principles that you've, you know, taught students and people who've heard you preach or teach for a while even just a basic idea that the text means what it meant. Right? This is like, kind of like a key, a key kind of foundational piece. But it's of course, that doesn't mean that it's done in isolation. Anybody who looks at any of the work that you've done, or I would hope that people who've come, you know.

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from you students of yours through the years, would then do the same thing that we are looking at the tradition. But we are looking to the final authority of Scripture as the kind of the norming norm behind what we're able to establish. So so can you help me understand like, is that too simplistic that it means what it meant, I mean, it seems like a pretty clear principle.

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benwitherington: Well, there's 2 parts to that. The first part is yes.

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benwitherington: what the text text meant when the inspired writers wrote them is still what it means to day. Now it may have a

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benwitherington: new significance for us in a different cultural setting, and may have a different application, but the meaning has not changed, nor do we have the right

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benwitherington: to treat the Bible like a Rorschach test into which we could read that in that ink blot whatever we wanted to read in it or out of it.

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benwitherington: And you know the the other artful dodge is to say, well, there are many interpretations of this. Okay, what that really means is my interpretation to day is at odds with the 99% of all previous interpretations of these texts. But I'm right.

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benwitherington: What that means is that the real final authority is the person who's doing the interpreting, not Scripture itself. Okay, that's that's the big deal. So besides saying, it meant what it means. The other thing I say, is a text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to me.

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benwitherington: And and so the other thing that's happened is taking these text out of context, and and then just skewing in them in a direction that's favorable to your own Gestalt and trajectory.

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Andy Miller III: Well, and you very kindly put me in my place in Seminary, you know that's a very important job. And I, you know, 6 generations in the Salvation Army, and you did this with love and respect. But it's really helpful to see, like the way that the Salvation Army did. This hadn't has done this in our own interpretation

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Andy Miller III: with reference to the historic Protestant sacraments. Right? And you very kindly said to me, well, it's just you and the Quakers. I'm not challenging your salvation, but you're going against all of these other interpretations, and like. That's an important place to keep in mind like I wanted to maintain a certain standard just because it was fitting in with here it is my experience right?

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Andy Miller III: And I had a good experience in that tradition, but it can't hold up.

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benwitherington: Yeah, well, exactly. And and frankly, that's where the body of Christ comes in.

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benwitherington: We all of us have deficiencies in blind spots. I mean, Amen to that. Right? Yeah.

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benwitherington: So we need the whole body of Christ as a corrective to our particular lacunae or gaps in our understanding, in our experience, in our faith practice, we we need that. I mean, I have friends that are orthodox Christians. I have friends that are Catholic Christians. I have all

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benwitherington: Boku, hundreds of domenomiation Protestant friends from all over the world, and I've taught all over the world, and you know, and my bottom line is we need them all, you know. I'll give you one example. Father Jim Martin is a is a Jesuit in New York City. He's a he's a good friend of mine, and he's just written a book on Lazarus

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benwitherington: as the beloved disciple, one of my favorite topics.

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benwitherington: and you know we're good friends. There are many ways that we differ along the way.

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benwitherington: but he's a genuine, devout Christian who loves the Bible right? And so

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benwitherington: what John Wesley said in his famous letter to Catholics in Ireland was, if your hand yeah, you know, if your heart is with my heart on these issues. Give me your hand. Let's work together. That's the ironic and ecumenical way that I think we need to be viewing each other today in the church we can learn from each other. There's lots to be learned from each other, and I really enjoy that kind of cross fertilization. I think it's a good thing.

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benwitherington: Yeah, II not surprised how you've gotten me in trouble because I've adopted that last review. Occasionally people look at me with that interesting, but I can't. I can't walk away from. I never saw the beloved disciple the same way after you unfolded that that teaching there. So another subject, I guess. Oh, okay, one more thing about that. One last thing. Jim Martin is with the Pope right now. He's been with the Pope for a month and a half, because they're having a conclave on a whole issue home

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benwitherington: panoply of major issues that are eating them alive, including the whole rule about celibacy

00:36:34.580 --> 00:36:48.869
benwitherington: which is caused in in numberable problems, not the least of which is, they don't have enough priests anymore. So obviously, he's not a favour in the world. It just isn't so.

00:36:48.940 --> 00:36:56.739
benwitherington: The the thing is that he is sharing a lot of the exegetical work he's done with the Pope

00:36:56.750 --> 00:36:58.980
benwitherington: to help the Pope have a

00:36:59.030 --> 00:37:01.009
benwitherington: more Biblical view

00:37:01.130 --> 00:37:28.849
benwitherington: of a lot of these issues, and I'm going. You go, Jim, you go. This is a good thing. I like Pope Francis. I've met Pope Francis, but an exig he's not, you know. Jim. Jim is trying to inject the Bible into the conversation, and that's a good thing now I might have the various people within the Catholic Roman Catholic world off in my mind. But it wouldn't. Jim Martin be somebody who wouldn't affirm that

00:37:28.960 --> 00:37:31.630
Andy Miller III: Church's historical stance on sexuality.

00:37:31.830 --> 00:37:33.010
Andy Miller III: and he's got

00:37:33.180 --> 00:37:52.329
benwitherington: well. It. He affirms the doctrine in the dogma of the Catholic Church. What he does not affirm is the way the Church has treated gay and Lesbian people, and he's tried to correct that. He. He believes that that we should love everybody.

00:37:52.350 --> 00:38:08.230
benwitherington: even if we don't love their ways, even if we don't endorse some of their behaviors, and that would be true of everybody, sure, that would be true of everybody. So you know he's had a ministry to gay and lesbian persons

00:38:08.500 --> 00:38:24.570
benwitherington: so long as he doesn't violate the official statements of the Church on these issues, so he's not running around advocating gay marriage or gay organization. He's just not, you know. He may have some opinions about that.

00:38:24.620 --> 00:38:30.369
benwitherington: but he is faithful to his own Church and its official teachings

00:38:30.380 --> 00:38:39.400
benwitherington: and stays within those parameters, whatever his inclinations may be. And and I really admire that. I mean, that's.

00:38:39.660 --> 00:38:53.549
benwitherington: you know, that's so different from United Methodists who say this is what the discipline says, but to head with the discipline, you know. that's a very different attitude towards the official authority of what the Church says about such things

00:38:53.990 --> 00:39:15.129
benwitherington: in in United Methodism. The challenges you've already alluded to the so-called quadrilateral. I mean, you think that's in part a is is a quadrilateral, particularly how it has been interpreted. Does it stand at odds with solar scriptora? Well, it has been read that way. Now the person who came up with the term.

00:39:15.170 --> 00:39:19.089
benwitherington: who profoundly regretted it later is Albert Outler.

00:39:19.100 --> 00:39:24.360
benwitherington: the great theologian and church historian from Perkins

00:39:24.380 --> 00:39:26.719
benwitherington: and Wesley scholar as well.

00:39:26.910 --> 00:39:56.520
benwitherington: and he, he later said to me and to others, I wish I had never opened my mouth and mentioned that term, because it was like opening Pandora's box, because that then gave permission to various people to say, well, experiences just as important in the authority as this or that or the other. Now one of the chapters in my book, Solos Scriptura, makes very clear that John Wesley didn't think experience was an authority.

00:39:57.490 --> 00:40:04.150
benwitherington: that he believed that the truth of Scripture could be confirmed in experience.

00:40:04.450 --> 00:40:09.469
benwitherington: That's a whole different ball game. That's a whole different ball game.

00:40:09.490 --> 00:40:26.340
benwitherington: He believed that reason could help us to improperly interpret Scripture. He believed tradition could help us properly interpret Scripture, but at no point was there any of those things a final authority on things that Scripture teaches us.

00:40:26.430 --> 00:40:32.569
benwitherington: And so it's a total misuse of the Wesleyan tradition and of John Wesley

00:40:32.680 --> 00:40:42.150
benwitherington: to say that he had a view of Scripture that fit the modern discussion on the quadrilateral. This is not true.

00:40:42.250 --> 00:40:56.930
benwitherington: John Wesley famously said. If there'd be one error in Scripture be a thousand, but as for me, there are not a anything that Scripture is teaching us is true and trustworthy.

00:40:57.240 --> 00:41:22.229
Andy Miller III: I just had a Calvin Robinson come on the podcast he is a Anglican leader in in England, after he was a part of the Church of England, but was never able to be fully ordained there, because he stood up for issues on human sexuality with the Biblical view. And at Oxford Union debate he said something to this effect, like he said, well, you might say that we have a fuller understanding now of human sexuality.

00:41:22.230 --> 00:41:30.330
and maybe we do. Maybe we maybe we know more than past generations knew. He said this. But but do we know more than God

00:41:30.410 --> 00:41:38.539
Andy Miller III: like? Do we know more than what God has revealed through His Word? And this idea, too, that what you're saying is connected. What John Wesley said

00:41:38.540 --> 00:42:01.009
about the nature of the of the truthfulness of Scripture, and you and I are both at institutions that say something somewhat dramatic, and some people might look at us as fundamentalists, because we say that the Bible is without air and all that it affirms. And what's behind that like when we're trying to say in in you mentioned the Chicago statement on errandc. But that's a kind of a broader way of just talking about.

00:42:01.010 --> 00:42:04.680
benwitherington: I think the truthfulness of Scripture.

00:42:04.820 --> 00:42:13.770
benwitherington: Exactly. It's truthful and trustworthy, and the things that it teaches us, or the things that it affirms, and that that's exactly right.

00:42:14.060 --> 00:42:24.019
benwitherington: Now I mean one of the things that's of course remarkable about Scripture is the honesty of Scripture. Hmm! When David tells a lie

00:42:24.560 --> 00:42:30.660
benwitherington: we get a report of a lie. and Nathan confronts him on it right?

00:42:30.790 --> 00:42:34.229
benwitherington: So we have true reports of lies.

00:42:34.600 --> 00:42:42.730
benwitherington: We have true reports of mistakes, yes, true reports of errors, and not only that in the Psalms.

00:42:42.790 --> 00:42:45.679
benwitherington: And here Martin Luther is a big help, he says.

00:42:46.190 --> 00:42:51.330
benwitherington: the Psalms reveal what's on the heart of the Psalmist

00:42:51.550 --> 00:42:53.650
benwitherington: truly accurately

00:42:53.710 --> 00:42:57.670
benwitherington: so when the Psalmist says, Blessed are those who dash the

00:42:57.730 --> 00:43:01.140
benwitherington: heads of the Edomite babies on the rocks.

00:43:01.730 --> 00:43:11.800
benwitherington: he's not reflecting God's view on this. He's coolly and accurately representing his own desires in the true revelation of the human heart.

00:43:12.590 --> 00:43:15.730
benwitherington: And I think that's true in the Psalms over and over again.

00:43:16.000 --> 00:43:19.600
benwitherington: you know. So when, when you begin to ask the question.

00:43:19.800 --> 00:43:36.689
benwitherington: what is the subject matter of the Bible, it's not just revealing to us what's on God's heart. What's God's will, God's will, etc. It's also holding up a mirror to ourselves, saying, This is how you, as a fallen person, are

00:43:37.480 --> 00:43:43.189
benwitherington: deal with it. Here's an honest reflection about that. Okay.

00:43:43.360 --> 00:44:03.170
benwitherington: and and that's powerful. So there are a lot of things in the Bible that don't reveal God's will. God's will was never that we sinned. God's will was never that there be evil in the world. God is not the author of evil. Thank you very much, John Calvin, not the author of evil right?

00:44:03.240 --> 00:44:17.330
benwitherington: So we need to be having a nuanced way that we use interpret. Apply the Bible because the Bible is a complex, diverse

00:44:17.420 --> 00:44:18.320
benwitherington: book.

00:44:18.360 --> 00:44:23.639
Andy Miller III: and not everything it touches is something that it teaches us about. Hmm!

00:44:23.770 --> 00:44:50.519
Andy Miller III: That is a helpful clarification. And I think that's the the nuance that's needed to say that, like solo, Scriptora is not, as I've heard another person say, it's not Scriptura Nuda, or the the naked text all by itself like this. We're we're looking at literary conventions. I mean, this is what you did throughout your your commentaries, like, we're looking in a deeper way behind what the Scriptures are trying to do.

00:44:50.980 --> 00:45:03.600
benwitherington: Yeah, exactly. So we're supposed to be interpreting metaphor as metaphor. visionary descriptions as visionary descriptions. You know, it's not all flatly literal.

00:45:04.000 --> 00:45:19.639
benwitherington: And you know I mean, I have a perfect ex illustration of that. I mean, it was just after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and a friend, and I took my dad's 55 Chevy up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the mountains of North Carolina, went for a ride.

00:45:20.050 --> 00:45:42.010
benwitherington: and we were riding along, having a big O big old time! And all of a sudden the clutch blew out, and, as the Scriptures say, my accountants fell, because there are no gas stations or repair shops on the Blue Ridge Parkway, right? So we had to be pushed down a ramp into a Texaco station, and the man had no tools and no parts to fix the car.

00:45:42.140 --> 00:45:46.580
benwitherington: so we had to hitchhike home all the way back to the middle of the States in High Point.

00:45:46.840 --> 00:45:50.029
benwitherington: so we stuck out our thumb, and we got picked up

00:45:50.410 --> 00:45:54.140
benwitherington: by 2 really elderly people in an old Plymouth.

00:45:54.560 --> 00:46:05.340
benwitherington: and they happened to be going in the right direction towards North Wales Corridor, and on towards High Point. So he took the ride. Now my friend Doug Harris, who was with me.

00:46:05.550 --> 00:46:26.730
benwitherington: who in his adult life has been a lawyer and very loquacious? Asked the driver of the car. Not before we got more than a mile down the road. Well, what'd you think about Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and all those pictures of the earth revolving and blue and beautiful in the sky? Yeah. And the driver said, That's all fake.

00:46:26.890 --> 00:46:27.690
Andy Miller III: Ha!

00:46:27.860 --> 00:46:37.539
benwitherington: Hollywood stunt never happened, and Doug, not recognizing invincible ignorance when he saw it, said, Well, why in the world do you think that?

00:46:37.610 --> 00:46:55.019
benwitherington: And the man replied, it says in the Book of Revelations, I mean, beware of anybody that starts a sentence like that cause. That's not even the name of that book. Right, as in the Book of Revelations. The angels will stand on the 4 corners of the earth. Can't be round, can it, mister? If it's got 4 corners?

00:46:55.040 --> 00:46:56.100
Andy Miller III: Wow!

00:46:56.550 --> 00:47:04.439
benwitherington: That's what you call a literal interpretation of a metaphorical text. a huge mistake.

00:47:04.560 --> 00:47:26.660
benwitherington: a huge mistake. The author is not trying to teach us the shape of the earth. He's saying that the angels will gather God's people from all corners on the earth. That's all he's saying right. But this poor man thought that he had to interpret every single last iota of the Bible in in terms of his own sense of what counts as literal.

00:47:27.030 --> 00:47:37.760
benwitherington: No, that's not good interpretation of Scripture cause. That's actually violating what the author was intending to say and do with that text.

00:47:39.050 --> 00:47:45.350
Andy Miller III: It's interesting. Some people try to bring, I would say, like people like you and me and this tradition.

00:47:45.350 --> 00:48:09.580
Andy Miller III: and coalesce us into this, that same Varipi kind man who gave you a ride right to say, well, then, anybody who takes this view of solo script Torah is in that camp. It's so much so like I've heard. I've heard some people even lately some other scholars suggest that. Well, the problem with that type of view soloscript Torah, is that it's overly emphasizing epistemology

00:48:09.580 --> 00:48:20.830
Andy Miller III: as as opposed to the fact that Scriptures about so teriology. Now I'm I'm cautious of somebody trying to split those pieces up. I'm not suggesting that the Bible is 100%

00:48:20.960 --> 00:48:37.310
Andy Miller III: accurate and trying to describe the 4 corners of the universe of the of the planet. I'm not saying that. But instead, there is historical data like this is hit it's spoken in space and time and a real reality. So I don't see why it can't be both.

00:48:37.680 --> 00:48:45.600
benwitherington: Yeah. Well, again, I would say, the Bible's, for example, the Bible's not only not teaching us cosmology.

00:48:45.960 --> 00:48:53.149
benwitherington: it's not teaching us anthropology. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

00:48:53.910 --> 00:48:57.859
benwitherington: The heart, as we know to day, is just a pump.

00:48:58.620 --> 00:49:01.260
benwitherington: There are not any thoughts in here.

00:49:01.320 --> 00:49:03.720
benwitherington: The thoughts are in here right.

00:49:03.800 --> 00:49:06.529
benwitherington: the Bible's not teaching us anthropology.

00:49:06.680 --> 00:49:11.819
benwitherington: So the question is, what are the subjects? The Bible's actually teaching us

00:49:11.830 --> 00:49:21.939
benwitherington: theology, ethics, spiritual formation, salvation, history. That's what it's teaching us, and if you stick with those you will not go wrong.

00:49:22.080 --> 00:49:23.970
benwitherington: you will not go wrong.

00:49:23.990 --> 00:49:48.889
benwitherington: So you know, I think that's part of the problem really is. People want this broad span of things that it's teaching us right? It's not teaching us anthropology. It's not teaching us the edge of the earth. It's not. It's not a pseudo scientific textbook downloaded on a pre scientific era who couldn't, couldn't possibly have understood that stuff, anyway.

00:49:49.180 --> 00:50:01.359
benwitherington: Right? So no God's revelation was appropriate to the age in which it was revealed. and it was revealed in such a way that people could understand it then. And now

00:50:01.650 --> 00:50:03.609
benwitherington: see, this is another problem.

00:50:03.690 --> 00:50:22.090
benwitherington: We've got people to day that say, Well, bless their hearts! Those people to whom the prophecies were written originally, including the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Well, they couldn't possibly understand them, because really those things are being fulfilled now, 2,000 years later.

00:50:22.090 --> 00:50:34.469
benwitherington: and you need to have lived 2,000 years later to understand that that stuff about flying bugs is really about Blackhawk helicopters, and on and on and on right. This is utter nonsense.

00:50:35.230 --> 00:50:38.910
benwitherington: It was a revelation to God's people

00:50:38.970 --> 00:50:46.240
benwitherington: 2,000 2,000 plus years ago. and it had a meaning for them. In the first place.

00:50:46.600 --> 00:50:54.680
benwitherington: what kind of arrogance reads the Bible, and assumes anachronisically that it's only for us now.

00:50:54.890 --> 00:51:02.930
benwitherington: and we're the ones, bless our hearts who understand it, but those poor slobs couldn't possibly have understood it back then back there.

00:51:03.000 --> 00:51:06.130
benwitherington: that's the height of arrogance and just wrong.

00:51:06.270 --> 00:51:07.100
Andy Miller III: Yeah.

00:51:07.640 --> 00:51:28.249
Andy Miller III: this is is really interesting to think about like these little details. And again, anybody who wants to look at this perspective as if it is just overly narrow. I mean, just we could talk about this for hours. I'm interested. The fact that you study this for so long and just your life has in your career, and your teaching is just focused on

00:51:28.250 --> 00:51:46.510
Andy Miller III: Scripture. You decide to go through and look at this historical presentation. You go, you know, from the early Church fathers to the Reformation, the rise of modern science, you know modern period. Was there something new to you that you found? I mean, I I'll admit, like when I see you. When I think about you I think about

00:51:46.550 --> 00:51:59.549
Andy Miller III: I just feel like you could just speak the books out like you have have it all there, but I imagine there's something that might have surprised you that you learned in the absolutely I mean, I had the usual Protestant bias assumption

00:51:59.620 --> 00:52:03.979
benwitherington: that this whole waving the solos. Scriptura banner was a Protestant thing.

00:52:04.730 --> 00:52:08.249
benwitherington: and then I discovered that the people who first

00:52:08.320 --> 00:52:16.420
benwitherington: coined the phrase and used the phrase and believed the phrase were Marcellus of Padua, a priest.

00:52:16.910 --> 00:52:25.530
benwitherington: and william of Ockham, a philosopher in England. and John Wickliffe, whom we know

00:52:25.640 --> 00:52:29.919
benwitherington: as a translator, but also a Catholic priest. These are all Catholics.

00:52:30.250 --> 00:52:37.080
benwitherington: and they used the phrase to say, No, the Pope is not the final authority. Wow!

00:52:37.170 --> 00:52:43.400
benwitherington: What they meant by it was Scripture as the final. Say not the Pope.

00:52:43.610 --> 00:52:53.960
benwitherington: not the Church councils, not the conclave, you know not the gathering of cardinals to make decisions. No, the final authority is Scripture itself.

00:52:54.360 --> 00:52:57.590
benwitherington: And who's most clear about this is

00:52:57.620 --> 00:53:17.509
benwitherington: is Wycliffe. But as it turns out, there were more, there were more so when Martin Luther comes along and says, Solofides solo striptura, I mean, he's echoing things that have been said before by other Roman Catholics, because, of course, Luther began as an Augustinian Catholic monk.

00:53:17.740 --> 00:53:29.110
benwitherington: I mean, and he learned some of these things from the history that he knew. So for me it was new to know the first persons that were waving the solar script tour about her.

00:53:29.110 --> 00:53:58.490
benwitherington: We're not Protestants, they they were, they were Catholic folk, and and you know, though for me that was refreshing. Yeah. Oh, I love that. Yeah, I look forward so again, folks, I'm talking to Dr. Ben Withering, who's written a new book that's come out from Baylor University Press, called Sola Scriptora. They describe it. I don't know. In the promotional materials, they say, with this magisterial study, how do you like being described as having a magisterial study. I'm guessing you didn't write that about yourself.

00:53:58.490 --> 00:54:06.559
benwitherington: No, II certainly didn't. You know, that's that's what the British would call over egging the pudding.

00:54:06.660 --> 00:54:21.669
benwitherington: That's probably too big a claim. That's for somebody else to assess. It's not for me to assess, anyway, of what the real importance of this is, but I certainly felt some urgency in doing this. I wrote this last

00:54:21.820 --> 00:54:27.680
benwitherington: January, February, March, you know, and gradually added more to it and more to it, and then

00:54:27.730 --> 00:54:37.079
benwitherington: Baylor jumped on on board and said, Oh, we definitely want this. Wait, please please send it. Don't send it to anybody else. Please send it to us.

00:54:37.090 --> 00:54:49.509
benwitherington: So you know II had a happy publisher that was eager for it, and that's always a good situation instead of it's like pulling teeth. Could we please publish this? Well, I don't know.

00:54:49.680 --> 00:55:00.110
benwitherington: Come back to me later about this. I'll give it some thought and prayer. You know those kinds of things, and that was not the case with this for them they saw. This is important.

00:55:00.350 --> 00:55:04.110
benwitherington: and you know, if you look at the blurbs on the back.

00:55:04.390 --> 00:55:09.400
benwitherington: They got some people, Protestant and Catholic to say.

00:55:09.450 --> 00:55:10.660
benwitherington: Yeah.

00:55:10.790 --> 00:55:39.940
Andy Miller III: this is really important, considering where we are in the culture at this point so, and I don't mean to be too tribalistic with this statement, but it but we don't have many works like that. We have your earlier work with Baylor in the Living Word. But there's not many Wesley invoices that are describing this basic understanding of like what we mean is Scripture being divine revelation. And so I think there's like a definite contribution here. But I know that you don't wanna probably just in in

00:55:39.940 --> 00:55:51.629
this is brought on by your own experiences in with United Methodism. But this isn't just a Wesley and Methodist type of piece, and you see that very clearly for the people who endorsed this.

00:55:51.690 --> 00:56:02.230
benwitherington: No, that's exactly right. And and it it's Pan Protestanism as well. You know. Many of my Calvinist friends were going to be mostly happy with this.

00:56:02.550 --> 00:56:08.619
benwitherington: Many of them don't even know what John Wesley's views were on these subjects. That's why I spent a whole chapter saying.

00:56:08.900 --> 00:56:37.010
benwitherington: mostly, let's talk about John Wesley, because he's been underestimated or wrongly represented by his own descendants in the Methodist tradition. And so let's let's really look in what he says about Scripture. So II laid that out in lavender. I mean, it's in detail. There it is. This is what he actually says about Scripture, and you know, IA lot of my Calvinist friends will say, Well, well, golly.

00:56:37.220 --> 00:56:56.930
benwitherington: how come? Methodist didn't agree with John Wesley, you know that's a fair point. It's a very fair point, you know, the early Methodists certainly did. Francis Asbury certainly did Richard Watson, the great early Methodist theologian of the nineteenth century, absolutely did.

00:56:56.930 --> 00:57:08.629
benwitherington: And so yeah, well, absolutely. But the thing that interests me is that an American Methodism? If you look at the first half of the nineteenth century.

00:57:08.910 --> 00:57:12.770
benwitherington: the required textbooks were Wesley's notes

00:57:12.950 --> 00:57:16.680
benwitherington: on the New Testament, Wesley's Standard Sermons

00:57:16.730 --> 00:57:19.619
benwitherington: and Watson's Institutes. Hmm.

00:57:19.810 --> 00:57:26.750
benwitherington: Those were the required readings for Methodist preachers in the first half of the nineteenth century

00:57:26.760 --> 00:57:40.580
benwitherington: we would do well to require them all over again was they were congenial to and conversant with the Scriptures, and and empowerfully so in various ways.

00:57:41.280 --> 00:58:06.109
Andy Miller III: We've talked a little bit here about your your career, and where this comes and like what's brought this about. But I just love for for people to hear some of the things you're doing now before we got in the call, you're talking about your thinking this was, gonna be like kind of like a a phasing down, so to speak. You're not teaching as much, and maybe the this ways you did 20 years ago, but mainly folks and doctoral students. But there's a been a resurgence. Tell us a little about what you know, how God's using you and your teaching ministry. Now.

00:58:06.680 --> 00:58:09.590
benwitherington: Well, you know when the pandemic happened.

00:58:09.840 --> 00:58:21.759
benwitherington: all of sudden, like mushrooms all over the forest podcasts started springing up, you know, among other things, among other things. And So

00:58:21.830 --> 00:58:48.970
benwitherington: these were ways to do ministry, even when you were isolated from other people and couldn't have physical contact with them. These were ways to, you know. Suddenly zoom zoomed up the chart as a valuable resource. We these were ways we could continue to teach our students, even when we couldn't be with them in person. And so, you know, we're in a new stage of education, as you know perfectly well.

00:58:49.000 --> 00:58:54.320
benwitherington: some institutions have gone to entirely online education.

00:58:54.630 --> 00:59:00.479
benwitherington: And honestly, II don't feel good about that in terms of ministry.

00:59:00.540 --> 00:59:18.540
benwitherington: because it is the job of seminary professors and counselors and and teachers to evaluate the spiritual formation of their students and say, yes, this person's ready for ministry. You really can't do that in a purely online setting, you can't.

00:59:18.630 --> 00:59:29.689
benwitherington: you know. And and you know what's what happened in my tradition at least, is there was this ping pong ball that went back and forth between the Board of Ordained Ministry and the seminaries.

00:59:30.410 --> 00:59:59.109
benwitherington: you know. Seminary. Some seminaries would say, well, that's for the Board of Ordained Ministry to decide whether they're spiritually ready for Ministry or not, and the Board of Ordain Ministry would say, we have them for like 2 h, once every 2 years. You're seeing them all the time. No seminaries are supposed to evaluate this right. And so II have some very serious reservations about theological education done purely online.

00:59:59.130 --> 01:00:13.039
benwitherington: II think that's a less than the best we can do, which is one of the reasons why, as Barry has this not only insistence on, please come to campus, but we have hybrid models where we go to them.

01:00:13.050 --> 01:00:41.449
benwitherington: you know, fulfilling my destiny as another circuit writer going to Tulsa in February because of our hybrid with a church in Tulsa, you know, and and they're coming to us for hybrids as well. Well, it's it's a compromise, but it's better than nothing but online education. And and I really have problems with with that I think I'm I'm not just old fashion. I believe that face to face

01:00:41.500 --> 01:00:44.040
benwitherington: and getting to know your students personally

01:00:44.130 --> 01:00:54.180
benwitherington: is crucial to the future of the Church, because we don't want to unleash people on the church that have talents and gifts. but are not

01:00:54.360 --> 01:01:07.469
benwitherington: formed by the fruit of spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control. You know we need to be able to give character witness to these people, to the denominations.

01:01:07.690 --> 01:01:28.250
Andy Miller III: And you're also doing a fair amount of work, too, with a doctoral students. Right? That's a a big emphasis that you've had this training up a new generation of scholars like Wb's own Murray Vassar, and others like him. I mean, that's has that been a shift for you to do more doctoral ministry. Well, we got this going about 13 or so years ago.

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benwitherington: through the generosity of 2 wonderful Methodists, the Amos family in Columbus, Georgia. and it's taken us a while to get up to speed and to know exactly what we needed to do, and to have the full staff to be able to do it.

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benwitherington: you know, and in fact, I mean all the way back to 95. This was part of the vision of Maxedenham. Know. I mean, I remember the phone call that he made to me while I was busy teaching at Ashland Seminary Ban.

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benwitherington: This is Maxi.

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benwitherington: This is messy.

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benwitherington: You need to get your hind quarters down here to Wilmore. We're going. Start a doctoral program. We're hiring 11 or 13 new people. Hurry up.

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benwitherington: Get this doctoral program going, you know. And I went. Wow, okay, that's an interesting invitation is, is Asbury really gonna be able to get up to speed to have a top quality doctoral program that's academically rigorous, but also spiritually and theologically.

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benwitherington: right where it ought to be.

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Andy Miller III: -Hmm.

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benwitherington: Well, it took a while to get there. To be honest.

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There were a lot of things that we had to adjust along the way. We had to keep revising the revising the Student Hand Book and what not.

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benwitherington: But at this point

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benwitherington: we're getting students that are top quality students from all over the world. The program is half domestic and half foreign. And so we're training Methodists from all over the world as well as non Methodists from all over the world. And who could have envisioned that? We'd have a hundred Ph. D. Students, you know, after a decade in this program.

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benwitherington: But we have. And so you know.

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benwitherington: it's it's something that in the providence of God the time was right for this, and for some one like me.

01:03:25.510 --> 01:03:27.210
benwitherington: who's, you know.

01:03:27.330 --> 01:03:37.759
benwitherington: heading towards the finish line, but not there yet. This came at the right time in my career, for sure, because I had gotten

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benwitherington: the the largest quantity of the things I needed to write done. And now I could invest in the writing of these doctoral students. Amongst other things.

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Andy Miller III: I love that you're able to do that I love. You're able to take time and like feed into the lives of these scholars who are emerging and like going to serve the church and seminaries and colleges. We need it. And so I'm so thankful for that pipeline that's been established there. My podcast is called more to the story. And I often ask people is there more to this story than you typically tell on a podcast or even things people know about you. You're pretty colorful, guy. I'll have to admit sitting in a class, all of a sudden, if there happened to be a piano, you turn around and play a Claroon. Next thing I know you're picking up a guitar and a harmonica. I you have all kinds of things. So

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tell tell us that. What's something that you don't talk about very often, something that you like to do. There's more to the story of Ben Withering.

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benwitherington: Well, you know I grew up in a musical family. My mother was a pianist and a piano teacher. She taught at various colleges in North Carolina, growing up.

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benwitherington: and so I grew up in music.

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benwitherington: you know not just church choirs. I played in an orchestra from the time I was violin I was

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benwitherington: 8,

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benwitherington: and all the way through high school, and then then I played in the string quartet at Carolina, and you know, but I'm also a child of the sixties. I loved the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the whole 9 yards.

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benwitherington: So

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benwitherington: II took up the guitar, you know, and I played the guitar, and II played guitar, for in a varsity and a Varsity Christian fellowship at Carolina, you know, with small groups and that sort of stuff, and on retreats and and whatnot, and I worked in the in the rock and roll industry, working for the record bar, chain.

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benwitherington: concert, selling tickets, selling a zillion records. I mean, I still love all that stuff. I'm still a musical person, and I love all of that stuff.

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benwitherington: If you had one concert. If you got you get get. I'm just gonna narrow it down. You go to a classical concert. What would you want to hear if you get it here in orchestra? What piece would you want to be listening to?

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benwitherington: You get 2 or 3? How about that? I won't leave, I would say I would want to go here. Beethoven's Night Symphony.

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benwitherington: yes, or Bronze First Symphony. or perhaps Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony. I love all of that Prakova's Classical symphony

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benwitherington: musical pieces like new source keys, pictures at an exhibition. But even Emerson Lake and Palmer tried to do a rock and roll version of you know, there's there's so much of that that I just. It's part of my soul, my musical soul, and II love all of that. And so that's a part of me. The other thing is that I've always, you know

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benwitherington: I've been a runner for most of my life in the

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benwitherington: when I got to be 38, I said, well, it's now or never. So I ran 3 marathons. I ran

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benwitherington: the Cleveland Marathon, and then in 93 I ran the Boston Marathon. And then after that I ran my hometown Marathon, in Charlotte, so I'm still. I'm a very slow jogger or power walker. At this point I've always I took very seriously John Wesley's exportation to stay in reasonable fit and

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benwitherington: eat reasonably, you know, and I still try. I still try to do that as well, so you know I love sports, I love music.

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benwitherington: those are my hobbies. Those are the things that that

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benwitherington: you know. Keep me going and get me excited in various ways.

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Andy Miller III: I love it well, thanks so much for taking time with us here. We're so thankful for this book which Baylor calls a magisterial study which I'm excited to, that it's going to be out there, and that people could use it as textbook, but it certainly is available and accessible to lay people as well. So thankful for your ministry. Ben, it means a lot to me that you take time to come on my podcast and we appreciate what you're doing.

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benwitherington: Well, you are most welcoming. I will tell you that I just got finished doing with a Salvation Army event last month. Absolute blast with your fellow Salvationists in Nashville, we

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benwitherington: note, with several regions gathering together in Nashville for a little retreat.

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benwitherington: We had a blast. It was just great, and one of the things I love about the Salvation Army folks is what you see is what you get

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benwitherington: as genuine as the day. As long they love the Bible. They love the Lord, and you know it's not like pulling teeth to teach them. They want to eat it up. So for me this is easy. This is like boon feeding somebody the best Southern barbecue imaginable. Right? Cause they they they want it. They desire so greetings to you from all of those folks thanks so much. God bless you! Thanks for your time.

Copyright ©2024 Andrew S. Miller III