I want to be a little more positive to begin with towards Boby clinto's use of biblical characters than I was in the last post on him. Despite the annoying rigidity of his system, despite his annoying determinism, despite his hermeneutical obliviousness, he obviously knows an aweful lot about the kinds of experiences emerging leaders often undergo. He just needs someone to remove the annoying clothing in which he dresses thse components and all would be well.
What he sees in the various characters of the Bible often works because 1) he knows what he's looking for and 2) there are indeed some traces of common human lessons in these stories to be learned. Much of what we say we are getting from the Bible often turns out to be a mirror of our own God-given wisdom rather than a true drawing from the text. This is why ten different preachers can give ten different helpful messages from the same passage and a hundred members of these different congregations hear a hundred still different helpful unintended messages.
But here are three clear problems with Clinton's use of biblical characters:
1. He confuses description with prescription. We cannot assume that God wants us to imitate the actions of any biblical narrative just because someone is described as doing something. Fee and Stuart say we have to find a clear statement in the non-narrative portions of Scripture to know what to imitate in the narratives. I think we can do more than this, because narratives often have an implied "evaluative point of view." But even so we must take into account...
2. Individual books of Scripture speak to us in relation to the whole of Scripture. Any individual book may give us a misleading sense of direction if we do not take into account the rest. If we only had Ecclesiastes, we would not believe in the afterlife. If we only had Joshua, we would think that misfortune is always a consequence of sin. We do not technically move from any one passage to today, but through the whole council of Scripture to today.
So Elijah built high places to Yahweh all over the place, never went to Jerusalem to worship as far as we know, believed Baal was a real god, and more or less commissioned Jehu to assassinate Ahab. He was a scary dude. There may be lessons about modern leadership we can learn from him, but I bet Clinton would be taken aback if he had actually met him.
3. Leadership in one culture will not be the same in another. If you just look at my description of Elijah above, you can see his sense of leadership would not be advised in a North American church. Because Jesus ministered at a different time and place, it is not even clear that he gives us the paradigm for leadership in our time in terms of specifics.
4. Biblical narratives do not seem to be exact videotapes. These characters in real life were almost certainly more complex than in the biblical narratives.