A while back, I gave my Thoughts on Biblical Maculinity in response to Brad over at Confessions of a Seminarian. I get really bothered anytime someone tries to label something "Biblical" like "I believe in Biblical masculinity/feminism/marriage/family values/ethics/etc."
I touched on this discomfort in that post, but it wasn't fully articulated. I will try to do that here.
ONe of the hardest problems is interpreting the Bible to our modern context. some will say "The Bible doesn't need interpreting, you just read what's written" advocating a literal interpretation. I will now say that the majority of the people who say this ARE NOT reading the bible literally, but traditionally. Just take Christmas for example... the innkeeper who tells Mary and Joe to hit up the manger, Mary remaining a virgin and not having any children OR sex, that there are 3 wisemen, and Jesus is raised to be a carpenter in Nazareth are NOT in the Bible! Those are traditions PLACED on the Bible... Sola Scriptura indeed.
Plus we need to look at the social structures assumed in the Bible and ask, are an essential part of God's revelation? We no longer live in a world of absolute monarchies, slavery, tribal and clan warfare, patriarchy nor animal sacrifice in their ancient Middle Eastern forms. Instead of an agrarian world we're urban, instead of assumed male superiority there is women's rights movements, instead of absolute monarchy democracy is a pervasive ideal, instead of an all-encompassing religious, economic, political and social legal system we have patchwork of laws that govern different aspects of life.
The story of God in the Bible is inseparable from an understanding of the kind of society Israel was meant to be nor can God not be removed from Israel's context and view of the world.
However, look at how progressive Israel despite the context! Within the context of slavery, Israel was to free all slaves and give them a nest egg every 7 years (Duet 15). within monarchy, they knew how this system would be a form of oppression (1 Sam 8) and there's no greater king than God (2 Sam 12). In an agricultural economy, Israel was to ensure everyone had a fair share of the wealth and resources (Lev 25). Within the context of patriarchy and polygamy, Israel was to protect the rights of women (Duet 21:10-14; 22:13-29).
How do we bridge the 2,000+ year gap? I would say the last thing we need to do is recreate the context of ancient Israel! We can't get out of our own symbols and cultural context and we read Israel's story and Jesus' story through our own cultural experience. We CAN'T apply the Bible literally because we'd ultimately being applying our own bias and prejudices. Our experience is not on a higher plain than the scriptures but it is our beginning and ending.
We cannot approach the Bible as a narrow rule book that sets out models of behavior for every single circumstance. What does the Bible say about a flat tire on the side of the highway? What does the Bible say about interacting with societies completely alien from your own? Some stuff, surely, but the application isn't exact. Every time we pick up the Bible there needs to be serious consideration of context, culture, and other communal structures.
Combining the story of the Bible with the story of our culture in such a way that our praxis becomes the product of wisdom. There is no easy way nor one way to accomplish this. There are aspects of the Bible in everything we do because we are a saturated culture, however, calling something like it's the authoritive BIBLICAL anything is just patently untrue and makes for bad marketing.