So over at Stand Firm, our Worthy Opponents are harshly critiquing an excerpt from Called to Teach and Learn (1994), titled "An Anglican Approach to Scripture." The comments are, as is so often the case, illuminating of a mindset that I can't really call Anglican, especially as they degenerate into a challenge to a more liberal commenter to "think of one example where the Scriptures have been reinterpreted in the light of contemporary knowledge and experience in the last 2,000 y[ea]rs?" They ask, especially, for one prior to the Twentieth Century, but "anything will do for us to examine."
Well, I'm somewhat surprised that a self-identified Anglican would need this example pointed out to them, but how about Mark 10:11-12 ("Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery"); Luke 16:18., compare Matt. 19:9: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery"; and 1 Cor. 7:10 (divorce allowed for abandonment by an unbelieving spouse). Beyond the easy gibe that the English Reformation was precipitated in part by, and Thomas Cramner endorsed, a divorce for King Henry VIII, the fact is that these texts conflict, and some interpretation of them is needed.
How about this one: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18. That text, as endorsed and interpreted by Thomas Aquinas, led to half a millenium's persecution from the Middle Ages through colonial times. To quote Louis Brandeis, "men feared witches, and burned women." Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)(Brandeis, J., concurring). As recently as 1999, this text was deployed by Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), Paul Weyrich and Rev. Jack Harvey to argue for civil laws excluding Wiccans from the armed services, despite the clear terms of the First Amendment prohibiting federal laws burdening the free exercise of religion.
And, to take an example I have previously noted, Matthew 27:24-25--in which the people--meaning the Jewish people--say to Pilate "His blood be upon us and our children"--is just one of many New Testament passages that has been cited to justify anti-semitism. (There's a helpful collection of anti-semitic applications of the New Testament here; a more complete account is James Carroll's book Constantine's Sword (2001)).
Now, these three passages have clearly either been reinterpreted in the very formation of Anglicanism, or, in the case of the latter two, have led to appalling acts of cruelty and even genocide. I strongly suspect that no Anglican would argue for the "plain meaning" interpretation of any of the three--or else they are ceding the illegitimacy of the Anglican Reformation, or advocating mass murder in the name of Christ. These three scriptural passages are not, by the way, the only examples one could find (I once wrote about "The West Wing Conundrum", which featured several other examples as well--although some interesting rebuttals were posted to that one).
Which is why, in my prior post above linked, I tried to suggest that St. Paul's statement that "we see now through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12) and St. John's recording in his Gospel that Jesus told us that He has "yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," (Jn. 16:12), suggest that revelation is still unfolding, and we should be cautious in our judgments. And, as truth is the daughter of time, and the Gifts of the Spirit may be known by their fruits, when the result of a scriptural interpretation is disaster--murder, cruelty and pain, in the name of Christ--perhaps we need to consider if our reading of scripture is at fault. Arrogance can take many forms--including an inflexible assumption that what seems the obvious reading of the text is in fact the right one.