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11.3.02

Some thoughts that came out of questions about how the Bible could say that homosexuality is bad (assuming that liberal revisionist interpretations are incorrect) when that seems to go against the principles of the faith.

In terms of ethics and code of conduct, the Bible contains two basic types of statements -- specific rules and general principles. Granted, there is more of a spectrum from the most specific rule to the most general principle, but I think my analysis still stands. This means there are two ways of looking at how they fit together.

The more common way, especially among people who take the literal truth of the Bible very seriously, is an inductive approach. In any situation, they would look first for a verse that specifically addresses their situation. If none can be found, they look for more and more general principles. Principles fill the gaps between specific commands, which can operate as exceptions to the principles.

But I would take a more deductive approach. To me, the principles are what's key. We can then reason from the principles to more specific rules for whatever situation we encounter. The rules in the Bible, then, are attempts by the authors to do just that. They can be useful as far as giving us the answers to tough problems (which we can later verify for ourselves). But this deduction is context-specific. So it is important to always be checking St. Paul's reasoning, to make sure that he wasn't either thinking of a slightly different situation, or simply mistaken. EIther way, the principles always supersede the rules.

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