Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Let the Bible Be Human


I have had a discussion over at Two Friars and a Fool about the Bible. They do good work over there. Aric has made a couple of fine posts regarding the Bible, Thinking About the Bible and Firing the Canon. The friars also post about a number of other important issues and are respectful, intelligent conversation partners.

I have been pushing and poking regarding the Bible, particularly the notion of canon and its authority.

I should say up front that people should be familiar with the Bible. It is
the classic of western literature.




It is a best seller every year. It is packaged and repackaged for public consumption. There seems to be no end to the creativity of those who wish to profit by selling it.




So much other literature is based upon its themes and stories. If a person wants to be literate regarding western culture, they ought to know the Bible. To test your literacy take this interesting quiz posted on the BBC site, Do you know your biblical references?

To do my little part, I have had each congregation I have served devote a year to reading the Bible. We finished this project last year and I have kept a blog for it, Bible and Jive, complete with a reading schedule and quizzes.

I like the Bible. I have devoted much of my life trying to understand it.

However, I do not like most theologies of the Bible.

Before I go there, I should ask what is the Bible?

On one level it is a canon completed in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation and Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. That is when it became "a book." There is the Protestant canon and the Roman Catholic canon. Two books with a beginning and an end. The RC canon has some books the Protestant canon does not include.

Of course there are other canons as well, but for the most part these two are what people mean when they talk about "the Bible." Jews call the TaNaKh the Bible. It is its own book. It contains the same books as the Protestant "Old Testament" but the books are in a different order. It is a different book. If you change the order of the texts, you really have a different story altogether.


Obviously the individual books of the Bible were completed by various authors over time, edited, and so forth. But the product we have is a book from Genesis to Revelation and its order is part of what it is.

The authors of these various bibles or canons are the ecclesiastical bodies that determined what pieces of literature would be included and their respective ordering. This process also happened over time, building on earlier work and revising it.

I am perfectly happy having on my bookshelf a number of these various bibles. I think as I said earlier, that for sake of general knowledge and cultural literacy, we should be familiar with them.

Yet we all know that "the Bible" is much more than that. It is wrapped in theology. It is not merely a book on my shelf, but it is supposedly "the word of God." That phrase makes it a dangerous and a destructive book.

To illustrate, here is that firebrand infidel, Robert Ingersoll, from Some Mistakes of Moses:

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature's night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is forced to raise the standards of revolt.
Notice Ingersoll's point. It is not the contents of the Bible, but the theology of the Bible, the halo it places around bad texts, and the authority given to it that makes it "palpably absurd."

Think of the damage that the authority of the Bible is doing in our culture.
  • Because of the Bible, religious zealots deny gay and lesbian people basic rights.
  • Because of the Bible, women are shamed into positions of subservience to their husbands.
  • Because of the Bible, science is under attack in our public schools.
  • Because of the Bible, holy wars are justified.
Granted, the Bible has been a resource for liberating movements. The Bible can be and is used to provide a critique of tyranny and injustice. Dr. King brought Amos alive in service to the civil rights movement:
Let us justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
I find much in the Bible that is inspiring and that challenges me to be a better person. But that is not because of but in spite of its supposed authority. The baggage of its supposed authority is doing more damage than good. Amos' critique of injustice is just as true whether or not he was "inspired by God" or not.

It is a book. Its contents were written by human beings, every jot and tittle. Let it be human. Let it be the creative work of our ancestors. Let us read it. Let us read it critically. Read it devotionally if you wish. Wrestle with it. Preach from it if you like. But let it be human.

I fail to see the benefit of finding ways to prop up its authority. I think I understand the psychology of this task. We still wish to cling to the apron strings of mother church with its dogmas, creeds, and watchful eye. To that I quote from the good book:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

47 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for this FANTASTIC post. It expresses so succinctly and clearly what i have been unable to communicate.

    Warm Regards,

    EP

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, EP! I appreciate the visit and the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I appreciate Gal. 3.24-25, that the role of the Bible is to bring us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith, but having come to Christ we're not under the supervision of the Bible anymore. For me, that is the essence of the Bible's authority -- it brings us to Christ.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mmm...yeah, what you're getting at is "What is authority". I have a feeling you have an anarchist flag to wave (Covenantal Anarchy perhaps?)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Asthedeer,

    I think I could translate that into language that would fit for me. Be transformed by the truth and beauty found there and let the rest go.

    Doug,

    Anarchist? Maybe. Depends if an anarchist is likable and one you would like to have over for dinner.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Could it be that distaste for the Bible is due to our nature as egocentric, overfed aesthetes? What Ingersoll was really saying is that he could have done a better job than the Bible authors did. As asthedeer said, the essence of the Bible's authority is to bring us to Christ, and that's enough to take it seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My distaste comes from passages like this:

    When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you in forced labour. If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. Deut. 20:10-14

    After you sanitize that one, Jim, I have hundreds more.

    Here is a fun link.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fascinating post! There is good reading in the Bible - just as there is in Proust. Sometimes the story is enough, and sometimes just the way the words form into sentences is enough.

    By the way, I scored 8 of 10 on the Biblical reference quiz.;-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good reading, just as there is in Proust. Yes, you got it.

    8 of 10! Gotta get you preachin' girl!

    ReplyDelete
  10. John, I think the title of your blog "Shuck and Jive", tells me what I need to know! LOL!

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shuck+and+jive&defid=1340082

    ReplyDelete
  11. John, those JEWS in the Old Testament sure had a lot of gall struggling against extermination by the surrounding cultures!

    They should have been pacifists.

    After all, in World War Two they didn't fight back.

    That was a result you were much happier with than all that Old Testament fighting and stuff, weren't you?

    But don't get me started on Israel...those darn Jews, why don't they just lie down and welcome the Arab armies into Israel with open arms.

    I am sure they would be well treated.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Say, aren't atheistic scientists the ones who have filled the world with nuclear weapons?

    Must be, since Richard Dawkins assures us most scientists are atheists.

    Well, I am sure they know what they are doing, because atheists, like the fat cat wealthy Ingersoll, are all good people!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Welcome Andrew, you certainly have a lot to say. Here is more about Shuck and Jive

    Interesting use of Deuteronomy to justify modern Israel. I guess I will add that to the list of stupid things people do with the Bible.

    ~atheists, nuclear weapons, fat cat ingersoll.~ That is so disjointed and nonsensical, I don't know how to respond. So I won't.

    ReplyDelete
  14. From that Urban Dictionary link:
    Shuck: To get rid of, ditch, throw away. To try to shed your true image in favor of a false one.
    Jive: Trying to adopt a new social status, pretending to be "all that" + a bag of pentium chips.
    Rig likes to shuck and jive about his "new" system. Man, dude is running a 286.

    A very funny coincidence.-)

    I'm teaching on the life of Moses right now. I agree it's a bummer that God chose the Israelites. Does turn out over and over that they are undeserving (like every other tribe or nation that ever existed). You have to temper these passages with the punishments that Israel received, and then understand what all those episodes and blood sacrifices were ultimately about. God marches his way into recorded history through the Bible. Who can deny that his son has made the biggest splash in history, being that we are in 2009 AD (anno domini - in the year of our Lord). Without the Israelite history pointing to and verifying God's son's entry in the world, there is no Jesus on the world stage.

    It's a good thing they didn't lay down and die. How would we be led to Christ if his granparents let themselves be killed? He's son of man and son of God.

    Last, the world is just as rude and ugly as it was then. 6-year-old girls are being forced into prostitition in Thailand, genocides are ongoing in Congo and Darfur and threaten to develop in many other places, brutal inequality still permeates India's karma culture, and here in the "developed" world we kill a million of our own children every year.
    There's no need to whitewash the Bible. It's supposed to help us identify our own brokenness. Those who want to whitewash themselves will take offense. Is that not what this disgust over the Bible is about? Pride? Just a thought. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "atheists, fat cats, Ingersoll"...great quotemining there, John!

    And modern Israel is a problem, isn't it?

    Those DARN JEWS! LOL!

    (Don't look now, your Jew hatred is showing, sport!)

    ReplyDelete
  16. And Jim, it sure is bummer that God picked the Israelites!

    Those darn JEWS!

    Always causing trouble.

    Richard Dawkins warns us of the NOTORIOUS JEWISH LOBBY! (pages 4 and 44 of his Delusional book.)

    ReplyDelete
  17. By the way, aren't you glad the Jews didn't fight back in World War Two?

    What a MESS that would have been!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hey, I also want to say I don't want to get off on the wrong foot!

    I certainly, agree, John, that people say stupid things about the bible.

    What bothers me though are the people who say willfully dishonest things about the bible.

    Like you, sport!

    Who ya kiddin? Why don't you just come out with your agenda and join the gang of back stabbing ministers like Barker and Loftus.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ack. I was going to comment before Andrew sprayed us all with venom. Ooh! I can see the future! Andrew will keep talking about how we're all anti-Semitic and about Dawkins and nuclear weapons.

    If you want to bait someone, "sport", you have to actually have *bait*. Tripe doesn't work - I still await anything from you worth biting on.

    Back to a conversation I'm interested in:

    "I fail to see the benefit of finding ways to prop up its authority. I think I understand the psychology of this task. We still wish to cling to the apron strings of mother church with its dogmas, creeds, and watchful eye."

    This is what I read and thought that you're talking about authority itself - that it should be equitable, and rational, and humble, and open for critique from all. Just saying that I "jive" with the idea.

    ReplyDelete
  20. There's no need to whitewash the Bible. It's supposed to help us identify our own brokenness. Those who want to whitewash themselves will take offense. Is that not what this disgust over the Bible is about? Pride?

    No, Jim it is not. It is about life and texts and ethics. In Deut., Joshua, Judges, we have ethnic cleansing by any other word. And we have divine approval, in fact, commandment, for that.

    It isn't human brokenness. God says to do it--forced labor, death by sword, booty, so that they can be cleared out for God's chosen.

    How do we evaluate this text and texts like it? The way I see it, is that this text is like many other texts. They justified through story their conquest of others by saying God chose them.

    Is this human brokenness? Yes, in a sense. The brokenness is when any group thinks that it is chosen by God to do violence to others.

    I can read this as a purely human tale of claiming divine exception for unspeakable acts against others.

    Doug--Thanks. I don't think what I am saying here is that unusual. I like your definition of authority.

    Andrew has taken on the role of troll. People are welcome to disagree and offer their opinions. Respect will be greeted with a respectful response.

    People are welcome as well to attack my character. They will be treated as trolls and will not be fed.

    ReplyDelete
  21. FWIW, Our Jim is back to slamming you behind your back on his blog. Same ol' shit, different topic.

    Oh, Jim, when you use AD (and we know what it means, o condescending one), you don't put it after the number. It's AD 2009 ("in the year of our Lord 2009"), not 2009 AD ("2009: the year of our Lord"). Almost everyone agrees at this point that Jesus was probably born about BCE 6 anyway.

    ---

    Interesting post, IMO. I do agree that so much of the Bible is wrapped up in the theologies we insert into it. Yesterday on Stephanie Miller, a caller went into this weird rant about how the Bible specifically mentions both "the Antichrist" and "anti-Christs" (presumably his minions), the latter of which includes Barack Obama.

    ReplyDelete
  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Flycandler,
    My own personal troll. God bless you, you are right, it is AD 2009, not 2009 AD. I take back everything I said.8-)
    John,
    I just see that the "just another book" idea eliminates the Bible as an effective tool. I also think you are overlooking the Bible's greatest context, Jesus. To me the Bible doesn't make sense without the revelation of Christ. JC takes the seemingly contradictory Old Testament and brings it all together. No book has the transformative power of the Bible, period. We lose something, perhaps its whole meaning, when we judge it to be "just another book".

    ReplyDelete
  24. Good grief, John, what *would* other bloggers have to blog about if you weren't around? Seriously! You're bigger than the Beatles!

    I thought maybe your 15 minutes would end at some point, but with these tattletales, busybodies, fusspots and scolds around, you're sure to be famous for years to come! :)

    I have to sheepishly admit that I just did a quick search of my own blog, and I see that I've never mentioned you at all. No wonder my site traffic is so low. I guess if only I had been clever enough to gossip and backbite, I could have really driven up my site stats! Live and learn, I guess ... live and learn. From now on though, I'm going to include some sort of reference to John in every post. It may be hidden, like the hidden Nina's in a Hirschfeld, but it'll be in there.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hey Fly! Welcome! Yes dear Jim, bless his heart.

    Jim wrote:

    I just see that the "just another book" idea eliminates the Bible as an effective tool....We lose something, perhaps its whole meaning, when we judge it to be "just another book".

    I think you make a fair argument. If we didn't elevate the bible to the status of word of God maybe people wouldn't read it. OK.

    I think something greater is lost when we place our theology on it. That is we end up twisting it and giving divine sanction to things we would never do.

    I understand the Deuteronomy stories when I see them as human creations--humans trying to understand themselves, their wars, their fate, etc. The gods they create tell me about how they saw themselves.

    I get a lot more mileage out of literature being literature. I am not sure I want it to be a tool. It is fine to be what it is.

    When we try to justify atrocious acts that we would not approve today just because the character "God" commands them in the Bible, we put ourselves in an ethical pickle. We don't need to do that when we see these stories as human products.

    Obviously, I cannot tell anyone how he or she must read the Bible. I just offer my thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I have to sheepishly admit that I just did a quick search of my own blog, and I see that I've never mentioned you at all. No wonder my site traffic is so low.

    Let that be a lesson!

    It wouldn't be a church if it weren't for busybodies, fusspots, tattle tales, and scolds! : )

    ReplyDelete
  27. Well, you know what Wilde said, John, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I think something greater is lost when we place our theology on it.

    Interesting point, John. However, theists have to base their theology on something. Psalm 19 says nature gives us knowledge of God as well. What else would you trust to place your theology on?

    It seems you are faulting the Bible for bad interpretations. God is not calling us to wage holy war on other people. We see a history in the OT of him setting up a nation (often brutally) from which his son is to be born. When his son comes into the world, his Holy Spirit is poured out and, shazam, modern times have begun.

    Regardless of whether the Bible is the Word of God or not, it's right there in the middle of the history of the world. Shouldn't we show a little respect?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Shouldn't we show a little respect?

    I think we show respect by trying to understand the literature.

    God is not calling us to wage holy war on other people.

    According to the text I cited, and others, God did just that.

    There are many questions to put to this literature.

    1) Was this a one time event that has nothing to do with behavior today? As in God told these people this one time to slaughter in His name, but nobody else gets to do so ever.

    2) Or is this an ethic of behavior that followers of God should continue to emulate?

    3) Or is the character "God" an imaginary character created by the storytellers that expressed their understanding of themselves at that time?

    There could be other questions as well. Until I hear a better one, I think the third option best explains the text.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Let me paraphrase those three options. (correct me if I'm wrong)

    1) The God of the Bible is sovereign.
    2) The God of the Bible is insane.
    3) The God of the Bible is imaginary.

    I would argue #1 makes more sense and, once the Savior is in the world, the need for ethnic cleansing would cease. It's a nice thought. What do you think?

    Btw, I'm all for understanding the literature as you say. We should ask ourselves, What does this passage teach us? In fact, the Bible is there to serve us,in my opinion. As I've said before, it is infallible because it doesn't fail us. We can use it all day long for instruction and never feel we've reached the end.
    Good night and good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Door #1 for Jim.
    Door #3 for John.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Jim,

    Let me clarify that last post. No, your three choices are not the same as mine.

    From a theological standpoint, I do affirm that God is sovereign.

    I am really talking about the literature in the Bible and how we approach it.

    There is the question of what we mean when we use the word "God" and there is the question of stories in the Bible and in other texts in which "God" is a character in the narrative.

    My perspective is that all conversation about God whether in the Bible, the Qur'an, or in any other text as well as any talk about God in contemporary terms is the result of human language. We tell stories.

    These stories are the way in which we attempt to understand ourselves and our place in the world.

    At one level it is all imaginary. It all comes from our creative imaginations.

    Whether or not the stories from our creative imagination points to a reality or whether it all collapses into language is an interesting philosophical question.

    But without even needing to answer that question definitively, we can evaluate our God stories, present and past, as to whether or not they are helpful to us as we create our present and future.

    My argument in this post is to allow all God stories past and present in all traditions to be human products, which they are.

    As frightening as it sounds, it is us, here today, you and I, who decide if, how, when, and where these stories are valuable for us.

    I don't think picking one book and elevating it to a status of absolute truth respects the integrity of the book itself or our own consciences.

    ReplyDelete
  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Jim,

    For me the problem with texts like the one at issue is ethical. The implied story that you have presented is that God is sovereign and at times has ordered genocide in order to facilitate the end of bringing his son into the world.

    In ethical terms you have just said that an apparent good end(the arrival of the savior) justifies an evil mean (ethnic cleansing in the establishment of the people Israel in Canaan).

    I cannot accept this, nor should any person concerned with what is good. The ends do not, and cannot, justify the means even when that argument is writ on a cosmic scale in the case of God. In fact, far less, because God who is supposedly infinitely powerful has infinite means at his disposal. It is completely unacceptable that he should be bound by any requirement to use less than noble means to accomplish his purposes, and absurd that he should be forced to use a means as patently evil as genocide.

    Honestly, I do not see an acceptable theological approach which can preserve many texts in the Bible as accurate historical representations of the events and God's role in them. Every approach sacrifices either God's goodness, or God's freedom in defense of a far less critical theological proposition which is a narrow understanding of Biblical Inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  35. John, et al

    It depends on whether you come to the bible through Faith, or come to Faith through the bible.

    If you come to the bible through faith, then you can - you must - judge the bible through faith.

    The Fundamentalist doctrine is that you come to Faith through the Bible, and therefore must judge your faith through the Bible. Such texts that you quote then become a problem.

    And if one gets on the path that such texts are the origin of his or her faith, and if at some point such person comes to the realization that such texts must be rejected, then such person is likely to end up rejecting their faith in order to reject the text.

    That would be a (common) mistake.

    As Luther demonstrated, we are most entitled to judge the texts according to our faith.

    But we do preserve the Canon as Canon.

    And it is prudent to test our perceptions through the community of believers.

    But I trust God's Holy Spirit and I know that being wrong is not a deal breaker. Our relationship with God is a thing of Grace.

    We come to the bible through faith, we come to faith through our relationship with God, and we come to our relationship with God through God's Grace.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Aric,

    Very well said. It is the ethical question of goodness and godness. You articulated well what I have been trying to say.

    Jodie,

    Your approach is really the only way I can use that metaphor, word of God, in a careful, nuanced way.

    It is that mystical experience of being immersed, being discovered, or faith as you say.

    Others have talked about this in a similar way on this thread including asthedeer and Jim when he speaks of the Bible as not failing us, which is again a statement of faith. As that hymn says, "beyond the sacred page I seek thee."

    I don't want to lose that important quality of humility, as Aric wrote on his blog, of seeking the mystery beyond or underneath the rubble of the text.

    And I don't want to lose my own conscience, my critical mind, my ethical sensibility that a fundamentalist reading causes us to lose.

    I have actually had a similar experience in reading the Qur'an, our congregation's quest this year.

    A few weeks ago I preached from the Qur'an for the first time. I approached it devotionally, seeking to be addressed by it. It was a powerful experience and members of my congregation noted it as well.

    So yes, I don't want to lose either the critical or the devotional as I approach the wisdom of ancestors in all of our sacred texts.

    Thanks all for pushing, and please continue!

    ReplyDelete
  37. John--From a theological standpoint, I do affirm that God is sovereign.

    That's a relief.;-)

    12:21 pm comment--Others have talked about this in a similar way on this thread including asthedeer and Jim when he speaks of the Bible as not failing us, which is again a statement of faith. As that hymn says, "beyond the sacred page I seek thee."

    Who couldn't agree with that? The Bible leads us to a relationship with God; the specific hand of God. The Bible is there to serve us, but how useful can it be if we see it as a fiction? You might as well teach from "The Shack".

    Your approach is really the only way I can use that metaphor, word of God, in a careful, nuanced way.

    I don't see as nuanced your belief on rights for same-sex couples, by the way. You are extremely adamant, positively passionate, about it. What authority would you cite for holding that position?

    Aric,
    What if that God is God? He has screwed up royally in our own time; two World Wars, numerous genocides and other wars, and probably two Great Depressions in under 100 years. Isn't he just as guilty for letting those things happen?

    ReplyDelete
  38. The Bible is there to serve us, but how useful can it be if we see it as a fiction? You might as well teach from "The Shack".

    Is "God" unable to write fiction? I think the parables of Jesus are useful even as they are fiction.

    I don't see as nuanced your belief on rights for same-sex couples, by the way. You are extremely adamant, positively passionate, about it. What authority would you cite for holding that position?

    People are my authority. I know people.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Just curious how you balance your ordination vows, the the bible is God's word to you, with the view that it isn't God's word. do you see any contradiction here?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Seeing as the full question is actually

    "Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?"

    from what I've gathered so far, I would believe John's answer.

    ReplyDelete
  41. John,

    "Is "God" unable to write fiction? I think the parables of Jesus are useful even as they are fiction."

    I think you and I are God's fiction.

    Seriously. Think about it.

    Jodie

    ReplyDelete
  42. Jodie,

    That's clever but I am not sure what you mean. Are you talking about a philosophy that existence is an illusion, that we are characters in some divine dream?

    I suppose that could be true, no way I know of testing it.

    I assume that I exist and act from that assumption.

    I think my post here is actually a bit frightening to some.

    I can be dismissed as a heretic and a nut and whatever. That's fine.

    But on a deeper level we are scared that there really might not be some absolute truth or authority 'out there', some cosmic standard that religions claim is revealed in a book or a person or a perfect teaching.

    If we admit that we might not think we have a reason to live. So we set up authorities to give us security. We think, believe, or hope that there is some meaning and purpose outside of us. The Bible is the word of God because we can't bear to live without some such word.

    What if there isn't? What if it is just us, making our way?

    The theory of evolution coupled with higher criticism of the Bible are seen as the two greatest enemies to the church for a reason. Both whittle away at notions of absolute truth outside of us.

    Higher criticism shows the human nature of the Bible and evolution shows that our story of beginning in the garden and ending in the holy city is not real.

    Perhaps this is it. This is life. Life is what we make it. No guarantees. There is only the flow of life. We have a part in it for this moment.

    Our task--not given to us from beyond by the gods outside of us, because there is no outside, but from within--is to create our lives, now, and live them.

    Our holy books are the lives of others who have gone before. But they are not us. We must write our own book, our own story, our own meaning.

    Some find that frightening and empty and I can understand that. But once we embrace it, we can truly start to live.

    At this stage in my life I live for this day and for the future. No future in heaven, I don't say it is not possible, I just don't care.

    I live now for justice and kindness in the best way I can understand those things. I also live for my descendants, whom I do not know. I hope they will have a chance to witness beauty.

    I have carved out a meaning for me. Is it absolute truth? No. It is my truth. But it is enough.

    The holy books are helpful in that, actually. Perhaps that is how they are "word of God" in that I continue to find in them fruit that nourishes my journey.

    They surprise me with a narrative or a metaphor now and then upon which I can hang my experience.

    And so it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  43. That's clever but I am not sure what you mean.

    I think that sums up the problem of we-make-reality thinking.

    I have carved out a meaning for me. Is it absolute truth? No. It is my truth. But it is enough.

    If I were to believe that PC(USA) was a cover for a secret organization to bring Baal back into worship that might be enough for me, too. It just wouldn't be True, I don't think. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  44. John,

    I was stepping out into the realm of metaphorical reasoning. (All other forms of reasoning fail when theologizing.)

    "The Bible is the word of God because we can't bear to live without some such word. "

    There is a literary theme in the Bible that says that Jesus is the Word of God. The theme is interesting in that it has to be in contrast to something. It has to have a context. That context can only be the contrast Jesus makes with the scriptures as the alternate word of God. In that context, the scriptures can only be the word of Man.

    I see in Scripture a literary theme known in theater as "breaking the fourth wall". Paul asks whether the pot can ask the potter why he was made thus? Can creature speak to creator? Paul is playing with the fourth wall. (What happens to characters when they go off stage? Do they even exist? See the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard)

    I find the Bible very Post-Modern in places.

    We are like characters in a book, brought to life by the Author. When we write fiction, we get words on paper that come to life, characters with minds of their own, that become set apart, sacred, and may even speak back to us. Any writer will tell you of this experience. Of not knowing what the character will do next. Of being surprised or shocked at a character's behavior. Of getting angry with, and even killing off characters in retaliation for their evil behavior.

    Sometimes an author will even write himself into a play.

    We get glimpses in Scripture of the authors trying to break through the Fourth Wall. Paul, I believe, really did. Isaiah did. And we see Paul and John, and Matthew trying to process whom Jesus was.

    And what they came up with was that Jesus was God writing himself into his Play. He was, literally and literarily, the Author's Word.

    When we who are flesh and blood speak, we get breath. When God who is breath speaks, we get Flesh and Blood.

    All these other things you are talking about, history, science, (evolution), religion, art, all of these are what happens on stage. Trying to connect with God is trying to connect with what lies beyond the Fourth Wall.

    (As an aside, I wonder if the episode where Jesus says that John the Baptist was in fact Elijah is a case of breaking the Fifth Wall – an actor’s role in a play makes reference to a different role he or she played in a different play – thereby hinting that he exists beyond either role)

    So you see, we are all really God’s fiction trying to figure out who and what we are, who our Author is, and trying to either reach across the fourth wall to have a relationship with the Author, or trying to bring him onto our stage. Jesus says we can only reach across the Wall through Him. If you spend any time thinking about it, pretty soon you loose sight of which layer of the onion you are playing in, one reality being the fiction of the other, the boundaries between them melting away into insignificance.

    Or you can say it hurts your head too much and just live entirely within the confines laid out before you. I honestly believe that is OK. Quite sane in fact.

    "Our holy books are the lives of others who have gone before. But they are not us.”

    True, but they were written FOR us.

    “We must write our own book, our own story, our own meaning."

    Absolutely. And wouldn’t it be cool if centuries from now someone thought what you or I wrote was worthy to be called Canon?

    Hah!

    ReplyDelete
  45. John, 1 Corinthians 2:14,16 fits your "philosophy" quite well--"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, because they are spiritually appraised. v. 16, "For Who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ." (NAS)

    However, since you apparently don't accept the Bible as inspired by the Holy Spirit, this won't mean anything to you.

    Iris

    ReplyDelete