Why Bible-believing Methodists Shouldn’t Eat Black Pudding

by Richard on March 17, 2008

I mentioned this very useful book in a comment the other day. It really is a most helpful introduction to the subject of Biblical interpretation, and will be of benefit to everyone, even non-Methodists who wouldn’t touch black pudding with a barge pole! I’m delighted to say that the book’s author, Stephen Dawes (who had the misfortune of teaching me Old Testament a few years ago) has given me permission to make an electronic version available through this website for free download.

Here are a few words from the introduction to give you a flavour:

In this book I look at how the Bible is used in the Methodist Church today, and what authority it now has for us. But before we can look at that question it is necessary to look closely at the Bible itself, at what it is and what it isn’t, and at how it came to us. For any belief about the place which the Bible ought to have in the Church, or about its inspiration and authority must begin from the Bible itself, and must take the Bible as it is very seriously. And I hope that taking the Bible seriously is what I do throughout this little book.

If by any chance you are not a Methodist but have got this far, I hope you won’t stop reading now. I am a Methodist, writing for Methodists and using Methodist illustrations, but the issue of the place and authority of the Bible is one that every denomination of the Christian Church is having to face up to today. I guarantee that my illustrations will not be very far from what is happening in your Church too. This issue affects us all.

I really can’t commend this highly enough, and I feel very privileged to offer it to you.

Read it here

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }


Paul Martin 03.17.08 at 2:20 pm

I can certainly recommend this book. It kept be in Methodism.


Paul Martin 03.17.08 at 2:21 pm

Above should have read

I can certainly recommend this book. It kept me in Methodism.


PamBG 03.17.08 at 2:50 pm

Cool! Thank you, Richard. :-)

Paul, I thought you were speaking some new kind of argot!


Kim 03.17.08 at 3:08 pm

Yeah, a great little book (fifteen years old now I see from my copy - happy anniversary!). My only problem is why anyone in their right mind would want to eat black pudding!


Bene D 03.17.08 at 3:24 pm

Thank you! I’m looking forward to reading this very much.
That was decent of you Steven Dawes, I hope you has an opportunity to pop over and see your generousity is appreciated.


Bene D 03.17.08 at 3:25 pm

Opps, that should be “I hope you have…”


Will 03.17.08 at 4:18 pm

Thanks, Richard!


Paul Martin 03.17.08 at 4:53 pm

Kim, I actually love black pudding - uncooked. I have often indulged this taste in my car whilst putting off hospital visits.
You should try it. It might even beat your Angie’s very best deserts. Go on! Give it a chance!


James 03.17.08 at 5:49 pm

Thank you Richard, for addressing my argument. I think I will read this book because at the moment, the use of some passages in the epistles and the dismissal of others seems at best delusional, and at worst flagrant hypocrisy. I personally think we need to take the letters examine them objectively and then decide whether they are of any choice to the modern church. Rather than misinterpet and use semantic arguments to get out of what they say.

So thank you.


Dave Warnock 03.17.08 at 8:52 pm


I am not sure if you are aiming your negative comments at me, I did after all disagree with you on another thread here.

But I just do not understand what I have said (nor for that matter what Pam & Kim have said) that could lead you to think that it is accurate to say “use of some passages in the epistles and the dismissal of others seems at best delusional, and at worst flagrant hypocrisy.”

Please would you point to something I have written that dismisses anything written in Scripture. That idea goes completely against my foundational view of Scripture, if I had such a view I would neither have worked for the United Bible Societies for 9 years nor accepted a call to ministry in the Methodist Church.

I am confused. So far as I can see having re-read the comments in question I have challenged your interpretation of Paul, I have challenged your lack of reference to the Gospels BUT I just do not see that any where have I dismissed Paul’s contribution to Scripture nor any other.

I would be grateful if you would point to where you think I have dismissed Scripture. At the moment it appears to me that if someone has a different interpretation to you then your response is to say they are dismissing scripture or are delusional or hypocritical.

Speaking for myself I have spent countless hours studying all the texts in Scripture related to the issue of sexuality, if you look at my bookshelves you will find most of the books written on the subject (from a wide variety of view point) and I have read them all. To then be told I am dismissing Scripture or am delusional or am hypocritical is upsetting.


fatprophet 03.17.08 at 10:16 pm

Thanks for this Richard - I have just had a skim through it and it seems a fascinating little book especially as i have only just dicovered how good black puddings is cooked and served with a full Scottish Breakfast.


PamBG 03.17.08 at 10:36 pm

the use of some passages in the epistles and the dismissal of others seems at best delusional, and at worst flagrant hypocrisy.

You say you want serious discussion and you continue to insult people by saying that we are pretending to be better than we are and suggesting that we are mentally ill.

What’s the deal?

The way you treat people belies your statement that you want a genuine discussion.


Richard 03.17.08 at 10:50 pm

James — I think if you read this book, you’ll see how it is possible that those who’ve disagreed with you are neither hypocritical nor delusional. You might still not agree with them, but I hope you’ll be able to see that they’re coming from a position of faithfulness and integrity. But even if you don’t get to that point, at the very least perhaps you’ll see that lobbing words like those into a conversation aren’t calculated to get people to engage with what you have to say.


Beth 03.18.08 at 12:28 pm

Paul, you’ve clearly never eaten Angie’s cooking, or you would never make such heretical remarks!


DH 03.18.08 at 3:09 pm

I think when one reads Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 without any bias then one can see to a point where James is coming from. While I would call or believe Dave, Beth, Pam or Richard “hypocrits”, I do think it is “selective belief” to come to their conclusions on this subject. Also, to suggest that because it isn’t mentioned in the Gospels that that contradicts Paul seems rather strange when one understands that the Epistles are just as much “God’s Word” as the “Gospels”. Just because someone worked in a “Bible Society” or is a theologian doesn’t mean they are correct. Just because someone read a bunch of books doesn’t make what they believe correct.

When one reads Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 in light of what some have said here then I can understand how James could say this: “Rather than misinterpet and use semantic arguments to get out of what they say.”

I will say that I do not believe any of you are hypocrites. I really do think James was over the top and I will stand by Pam, Richard, Beth and Dave in their addressing of the attitude of James. However, I will stand by James in his understanding of Rmans 1 and 1 Cor 6 which are very clear on this subject and I will also stand by him in his defense that just because some theologian says homosexuality is okay, has read a bunch of books or was part of a Bible society and still believes that homosexuality is okay doesn’t make it okay. Especially sense Scripture never says homosexuality is okay yet say heterosexuality within marriage IS okay.


DH 03.18.08 at 3:17 pm

Sorry, I was trying to say “NOT Call” as opposed to “Call” on the second sentence. I will not stand by and let people call Richard, Beth, Pam, Dave “hypocrtis” when they are not. At the same time, I can’t sit back and say “homosexuality is okay” when Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 are very clear about the subject.


Richard 03.18.08 at 3:52 pm

Hi DH. Please read the ‘Black Pudding’ book. It might not change your mind, but it will help you to better understand how some of us have reached the conclusions we have.


PamBG 03.18.08 at 5:42 pm

Thank you, DH.


DH 03.18.08 at 5:46 pm

Richard, I read the book and I still don’t understand how some of you have reached the conclusions you have. I might repect you as a person but I still don’t understand how you all come to the conclusions you have. Reading the book had some predispositions about it that were projected onto the text. Remember I did read all of it and it didn’t give me any more of a “rationale” for your position. To me it is irrational to suggest there are errors in Scripture when in fact here aren’t. Every supposed error in Scripture has a perfect explaination that shows it is in fact not in error. I also don’t buy the analysis of the supposed historical context of Scripture because I believe the author of this book misinterprets the historical on this. I don’t reject the historical context but one must be accurate in the understanding of the historical context which for me he is inaccurate.

I have read the book and I don’t understand how you came to the conclusions you have. I still respect you as a person though. I respect you enough to even read the book but it doesn’t give me anymore understanding as to how you got to your and your cohorts came to positions. The only thing I can come up with is that you came to your conclusions from your own predispositions.


James 03.18.08 at 6:34 pm

Dave and PamBG. I don’t see the point in backtracking over the whole debate but I’ll just say that this:

the use of some passages in the epistles and the dismissal of others seems at best delusional, and at worst flagrant hypocrisy.

is talking about your interpretations not you yourself. If I’d said you were those things you might have a reason to be upset but I was talking about your use of Paul. To be honest rereading it it could be interpreted as being agressive but that was not my intention. Anyway - this is a waste of time we could be discussing Theology here. In future don’t get offended so easily.


malc 03.18.08 at 6:40 pm

I like black pudding… but then again, I’m not a Methodist so all’s alright then!! ;o)


fatprophet 03.18.08 at 7:10 pm

It really saddens me that people can make a statement that something was not written in an aggressive way and then end the post with what to me seemed another agrressive statement.
I don’t always agree with other people but try to comment in a constructive manner when offering an opinion and I always read the comment thorugh to see if I think it can be misconstrued in any way before I hit the submit button.
As for discussing theology it would be good if there could be discussion rather than the ‘I’m right and you’re all wrong’ attitude that pervades much of what is said on many blogs.
I wonder what a non Christian would think if they stumbled across much of what I read on Christian blogs - I don’t a lot of it would encourage me to become a member of the family of God.


Kim 03.18.08 at 7:26 pm

Hi DH,

Just a few questions/observations.

(1) Which Bible are you referring to? I trust that you are not a “King Jimmy Only” Christian. Rather obviously there is no single “edition” of the Bible. And within the many modern versions, textual variants are acknowledged. And of course these versions are translations of the Hebrew and Greek, and as any translator knows, all translations are interpretations. And then there are the interpretations of the translation-interpretations. Doesn’t inerrancy by this point become a rather preposterous idea?

(2) No doubt, like most modern inerrantists (though that might be a tautology - premodern, i.e pre-enlightenment, inerrantists were as rare as hen’s teeth, if they existed at all - the issue is still debated) you will appeal to an original “autograph” - that is the inerrant Bible. But what a hopelessly otiose concept, not to mention an undemonstrable one. And in fact all the papyrus evidence points to an irreducibly fluid New Testament during the first two centuries. Interestingly, however, this situation caused no crisis whatsoever in the early church’s doctrinal debates. Why? Because the fathers weren’t inerrantists!

(3) Above all, however, nowhere does any text in any Bible say that Bible is inerrant - and before you start, no, not even II Timothy 3:16-17, quite apart from the fact that it is referring to the Hebrew Scriptures (because, of course, there was no New Testament at the time). The only way you can make this text speak of inerrancy is to smuggle it in via the term theopneustos - literally, “God-breathed”, usually translated “inspired”. Moreover you’d be smuggling in a pagan Greek, not a Jewish idea.

(4) God certainly is inerrant; to say that God can make mistakes would indeed be heretical. But to say that the authors of the biblical writings are inerrant smacks of docetism, because it makes them less than human, sinless even - and docetism is a heresy.

(5) I believe, then, that inerrantists not only commit intellectual suicide, more importantly they commit theological suicide. And I would add that this quest for certainty strikes me as psychologically pathological. For me the wonder - indeed the miracle - is that God speaks to us, communicates with us, through fundamentally trustworthy writers using seriously inadequate words which, by his Spirit, turn us to Christ and equip us for discipleship. What more could you ask for?

I’ve got a funny feeling we’ve been here before. I guess I’m an incorrigible head-banger! Anyway, DH, you know I love you to bits. Have a great Easter. One thing - perhaps the one thing needful - that we both agree on: the Lord is risen! And screw those liberals who think that the resurrection was something that happened to/in the disciples and not to Jesus himself! :)


Richard 03.18.08 at 7:35 pm

I’ve often wondered the same thing myself, FP. I’m as certain that I’m right as the next person but I have always tried to maintain this as a place where the conversation is friendly even when robust. It gets a little out of hand occasionally, but broadly I think the little community of folk around here do their best to listen to one another.

To me, the whole point of any public Christian conversation is witness. That doesn’t mean sweeping disagreements under the carpet: quite the reverse. But it should mean recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course, the fiercest cat fights are often between brothers and sisters!


James 03.18.08 at 7:37 pm

Let’s put the ‘we’re all offending each other’ stuff to one side. We’re all Christians, we’ll all forgive each other etc.. etc… so lets get back to the Theology.

Thank you Richard - I’ve read through it now and it was an interesting book.

I thought that in Chapter 10 he was asking all the right questions but I think he came short of answering them convincingly.

He seemed to argue that “Christians have always picked and chosen, observed some Bible instructions and decided to take no notice of others” therefore picking and chosing on issues such as sexuality and the ‘nasty bits’ is in a sense natural. I think thats a little weak. Also I don’t think points such as the fallibility of the Bible impact much on how we can decide which parts of Pauls Epistles we can take as having to obey and which not. (I do agree with his slippery slope argument though as I see little point in its use)

However, let us use the example of Paul. If we can use his arguments about love but not his arguments against homosexuals, are we not just, at a basic level picking and chosing because of our emotive response to something, in the same way a very small child would?


Richard 03.18.08 at 7:47 pm

I’d hoped that reading this book would help you to move past this simple dichotomy, James and I remain hopeful that, in time, it will. Which is not to say that I expect you to be entirely convinced by it, still less agree with me! But I did hope that you’d be persuaded that the conclusions that some of us have come to about homosexuality have been arrived at after paying close attention to the scriptures. (Not, DH, simply read our presuppositions into it)

I think this needs another post…


DH 03.18.08 at 7:56 pm

Well, Kim, I still don’t believe you fully understand how people can come to my position. I still don’t understand how you can come to your position as well. You misunderstand the term regarding innerancy and you mitpick to death. I could go point by point on each one of these. I also probably have in the past and in the past it always seemed that I would have the last word which at least shows that you recognized that I had some reasonable arguments even though you might disagree with them.

Fluid document of the NT? I don’t believe this unless you are focusing on the documents written by the Gnostic’s which were heretics. If one includes heretical thought and false doctrine that tyhe apostle Paul said was such then your argument regarding that point is really unvalid.

I also don’t adhere to docetism because I never said the God-breathed writers were 100% perfect at all time. I just believe what they wrote that is in Scripture was perfect. To me the miralce is that God used imperfect people to do perfect things. This sure isn’t docetism even though Scripture says “Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

On the 1st century church, it wasn’t an issue because they Believed the original “autographs” of Scripture. Also we know Scripture was written in Greek and we know the Jews believed that Scripture was innerent.

Just because some liberal translator mistranslates Scripture doesn’t make Scripture innerant. Your argument is therefore circular in reasoning with regard to this by the implications you are implying. :)

On point 5 you don’t even explain the “theological suicide” or “intellectual suicide”. Who are you to say that the words of the Bible are “inadequate”? Who are you to say it is theological suicide or intellectual suicide when Scripture is truly “God-breathed” (and this wasn’t solely a Greek thing but also a Jewish thing unless you are projecting beliefs on Scripture that the Pharisee’s believed when we know they were flawed as well. Again using a cirular argument on what you are implying.) Who are we to say words from “God’s Word” are inadequate? Maybe your understanding of adequate and inadequate are flawed? Maybe if you considered the explainations therein you might see that your understanding of what you think is inadequate in Scripture is truly adequate. Questioning the nature of His Word. Wow, that is not for us to do. That sure seems condesending to God’s authority to me.


DH 03.18.08 at 8:09 pm

Richard, I read the entire book and the presuppositions were glaringly off the page. If one truly puts aside those things then one can see when Scripture says Romans 1 or 1 Cor 6 there is no other way to see that homosexuality is in fact sin. Nowhere in Scripture is it ever condoned but heterosexuality within the confines of marriage is. I think this book doesn’t look closely at Scriptures. They attempt to try to appear to look at Scriptures but the presuppositions still were shown. I have read it again and every disagreement against James and I’s view can be fully explained.

I agree that you pay close attention to SCriptures but James offers a perfect question with regard to the subject that I can’t help but reiterate:
“If we can use his arguments about love but not his arguments against homosexuals, are we not just, at a basic level picking and chosing because of our emotive response to something, in the same way a very small child would?”

I believe that there is perfect unity among all of Scripture within itself therefore when the Apostle Paul states Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 Jesus (being fully God) is saying those words as well since Scripture is God’s Word.

I agree with James, the writer didn’t answer his questions convincinly because noone who mentions that homosexuality is a sin is focusing solely on those bits and not the rest. Just because a person might mentioned one particular thing in a conversation doesn’t mean they are focusing solely on it because ALL sin is sin. Just because I mention homosexuality is a sin doesn’t take away all of the other sins mentioned in the Bible that are sin or that I don’t believe that other sins are not as important. That is a strawman argument like James mentioned.


Beth 03.19.08 at 1:10 am

Wow - so much has happened since I last checked in!

Firstly, DH - I was really touched by your last comment on the post that prequelled this one! (No point posting a comment there, I think, as it’s all moved on…) I think I did tend to see people who hold your views as offensive, and although that’s still my gut reaction I’m trying to temper it with respect and an open ear.

I believe very strongly that the cord that binds Christ’s teachings is love. You can’t get away from it. So, even though I may not be sure about what is a sin and what is not (I don’t claim Kim’s certainty on this one!), I approach any discussion of sin by trying to view it through the filter of love. Things become clearer to me. A loving God does not want us to make people feel unwelcome and violated for any reason. A loving God is not going to condemn two people for loving each other.

You and I will never, ever agree on this, DH, for the simple fact that you believe that the Bible is perfectly inerrant, and I cannot accept that. In a sense, for you and me personally to have this particular discussion is utterly pointless. But what I’m slowly learning is that you have a lot to teach me about God, about the Bible, about life, that I simply don’t know. You certainly have a lot to teach me about love for others.

And that goes for all of you here. Thanks, for your patience, your impatience, your kindness, your challenges, and your absolutely abominable senses of humour.


DH 03.19.08 at 1:54 pm

Beth, those were very, very kind words. I really try to project the love of God in my statements. I know some times it doesn’t come across but I truly have a feeling that when any of us sin Christ has a “tear in His eye”. Even when some people whose hard is so hard as to never come to Christ He still has that “tear in His eye”. I understand that we might not agree on certain things but we can agree that God loves us. At the same time I don’t believe that God’s Grace is such that we can sin without any punishment, discipline, etc. “Whom He loves He chastens.” or “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound? God forbid! How are we who are dead to sin live any longer in it?” or Jesus when He said “Go and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t condone the sin because by saying this He was acknowledging that the woman was in fact sinning.

I know I probably said too much on the last part of the paragraph above. I just really appreciate your care and consideration from your last response. Beth, you have a tender heart and I believe strongly that anyone whose heart are strong toward God will become closer to God. As one becomes closer to God changes happen in beliefs, thoughts, etc. I’m so glad that you are limiting your “gut reaction”. I’m working on doing the same. By your reply it seems that I have come a long way in regards to attitude but like any of us we still have ways to go.

Beth, God bless you and may God reveal to you His perfection and may God draw you even closer to Himself and His Word. :)

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