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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, ESV

The Bible is not the “Word of God.” It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It contains words of God. It even talks about the Word of God… but it is still not THE Word of God. The Word of God is actually Jesus Christ. Not the words of Jesus, but Christ himself. This little misunderstanding has created a whole heap of confusion about the point Christianity and how we are to use Scripture in our lives.

While I would like to claim I am being brave with this topic, I was actually inspired by Zack Hunt’s recent article, The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself. As he has opened the Pandora’s box for discussion, I felt compelled to chime in. My contribution to is not to question the inerrancy of Scripture, which I believe, but define differently from most, but rather it’s place in the mental, spiritual, and religious life of Christians.

Source Yaholo Hoyt: Mislabeling the Word of God – Red Letter Christians.

 

Another inspirational post over at Red Letter Christians that needs no comments. Click on the source above to see the whole post….

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Emergent 5Lets continue on with some more quotes from the book by Tony Jones entitled The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

“I’m humble,” an emergent might tell you, “because I don’t know what I’m wrong about today. I’ll speak with confidence, and I’ll speak with passion, but I won’t speak with certainty.”

Being humble/uncertain in any area of theology is very intimidating to some within the church. They say we must believe everything in the Bible comes from God. They say we will invariably go down the “slippery slope” if we question anything in that document. They say if we question anything then everything in it is worthless.  Emergents believe that we are all relativist in one form or another. None of us truly believe that everything in the Bible is absolutely true.

Emergents are willing to say that they are relativists, many other won’t confess that. But there is the basic problem with confessing that you are an absolutist.

  • You must therefore say that God demands that you kill all homosexuals for it seems to say that somewhere in biblical text.
  • Paul says that all women should cover their heads when in church and you should shave those who don’t.  
  • He says that no women should come to church with braided hair.
  • He says that women should be quiet in church and let their husbands explain things to them when they are home.
  • The Bible tells us that all slaves should be happy in their circumstances and not to rebel against their masters

I dare say that no Christian church today abides by all of these demands of Paul. By not following the strict letter of the law they are proclaiming that some words in the bible are not relevant to our times and therefore, even if they don’t admit it, are declaring themselves relativists.

During the 1950s and 60s in the U.S. most Christian churches  declared that segregation was the law of God. In the 1930 most churches claimed that denying the vote to women was a command from God and that Hitler’s rule was a command from God.  Each generation has their set of things in the Bible or maybe the doctrine of their particular flavor of Christianity that they declare is absolute only to have the next generation deny that claim.

To claim that we are not all relativist when it comes to the Bible is the epitome of arrogance. Emergents at least are humble when it comes to their faith. They speak with passion and confidence but not with certainty on what they know about God and his messages to us.

Let’s close this discussion out with some additional words from Mr. Jones’ book”

For if one has rock-solid certainty, it’s only natural to suppose that all other viewpoints are wrong and therefore impose one’s certainty on others. Proper confidence [as practiced by emergents], by contrast, lends itself to persuasion, not imposition.

Emergents are humble. They don’t imagine that they have it all right and therefore those who disagree with them are wrong. Emergents do not pre-suppose that they alone know the true heart of God. They are humble to say that what they believe today just might be proved wrong tomorrow. That is the kind of Christianity that I want to follow.

The primary reason there are 39,000+ Christian denominations is that each are trying to maintain “purity” of beliefs. Here is how that logic usually plays out:

” If we allow differences of opinions among us then we will soon reach a slippery slope where we will slide into heresy. For that reason we must be on the constant watch to exclude anyone among us who asks the ‘wrong’ questions or dares to disagree any of our creeds or beliefs.”

I have personally felt the stink of one of these churches. But what these church authorities espousing this view overlook is that they are looking at Jesus through the lens of many others who came before them. Things like their recent stubborn insistence that every word in the Bible came directly from God is putting themselves into a straight-jacket that is almost impossible to wear, and very uninviting to those outside their clique.

Of course institutional purity is not new to the twenty-first century. It has been going on since the time of Constantine in the fourth century and probably even before that. Here are some words from Harvey Cox in his book The Future of Faith:

 During the ensuing “Constantinian era,” Christianity, at least in its official version, froze into a system of mandatory precepts that were codified into creeds and strictly monitored by a powerful hierarchy and imperial decrees. Heresy became treason, and treason became heresy. The year 385 CE marked a particularly grim turning point. A synod of bishops condemned a man named Priscillian of Avila for heresy, and by order of the emperor Maximus he and six of his followers were beheaded in Treves. Christian fundamentalism had claimed its first victim. Today Priscillian’s alleged theological errors hardly seem to warrant the death penalty. He urged his followers to avoid meat and wine, advocated the careful study of scripture…

There are countless similar stories from the years following. One historian estimates that in the two and a half centuries after Constantine, Christian imperial authorities put twenty-five thousand to death for their lack of creedal correctness.  And of course we all know that in 1431 Joan of Arc was burned as a heretic. In the twentieth century she became a saint.

Here are some additional words by Philip Gulley in his book The Evolution of Faith about trying to maintain institutional purity:

Some Christians have thus concluded that we are our own worst enemies, that our best option for a viable future lies in our determination to embrace a rigid faith in order to stave off the adulterating influences of other cultures and religions. But I would contend that this has been tried repeatedly throughout our long history and always ends the same suspicion, intolerance, exclusion, division, and, finally, war. No, if the church has a future indeed if our world has a future it will rest in the church’s ability to honor and assimilate the best of each religious tradition,  just as Jesus found virtue in Samaritans, publicans, centurions, and Gentiles. How this good man came to be the focus of a creedalism that ultimately excludes others is a mystery for the ages. The incorporation of other traditions into our own will undoubtedly change us, but for the better, for it will lead us toward one another, which is also and always a movement toward the Divine Presence and the universal grace that Presence represents. 

Inspiring words indeed! We should not be locking and bolting the church door against others beliefs but instead should be embracing them if they celebrate the Divine Presence of Jesus Christ. In other words we should do as he did.  And that is what I hope the coming emergent church will bring about.

Taking Back the Bible….

December 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

I read the Bible on a regular basis.  The words of Jesus, which to me is what the Bible is really all about, inspire me to love my fellow-man and to love my God.  Many stories in the Bible  even though they might just be stories, parables, or even myths are inspiring in the lessons they teach. I delight in the sheer narrative power they provide.

I am very disheartened by the fact that some Christians today try to demand that the Bible was dropped down from heaven by God and not truly written my men who lived in the early times.  They say instead he just used their pens to write what he demanded of them. I think the Bible is richer when we admit that it was written by men inspired by God. But no, they say everything in the Bible is directly from God’s lips?

Here are some interesting words about that from the book The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox

Does it ever trouble fundamentalists that their attitude toward the Bible, a relatively recent one in the history of Christianity, is exactly the same as that of most Muslims who believe the Qur’an was dictated word for word to Muhammad by Allah? I doubt it…..

I am confident that it is possible to take the Bible back from its fundamentalist hijacking and make it once again a genuine support of faith, instead of an obstacle. To do this, it is helpful to know something about how we got into the impasse in which we find ourselves. There are four significant turning points in the recent history of how Christians have viewed the Bible.

      • One came in the late fifteenth century when the invention of printing made the wide distribution of the Bible possible and then—with the spread of literacy—eventually democratized it.
      • The second came in the nineteenth century with the application of the historical-critical method, which subjected the Bible to the same scrupulous scholarship about dating, authorship, and audience that is applied to any other historical document.
      • The third was the advent of the fundamentalist view of the Bible, which rose as a counterattack against the historical critics.
      • The fourth was the “liberation” of the Bible from both historical critics and fundamentalists, which is happening mainly—though not exclusively—in the global South.

The way to read them is to let their sheer narrative power evoke whatever response it can without relying on an externally decreed authority to either sanctify their status or pick apart their accuracy. Reading the Bible with this kind of imaginative leap puts us into the company of our spiritual forebears.

It is interesting to see the four turning points outlined here. I need to study and report some more details about the third event when the so-called fundamentalists among us decided to change the Bible from inspirational text into literal truth. As said above they did this when they were backed into a corner by the historical-critical method.  They panicked and proclaimed a slippery slope that if we questioned anything in the Bible then all of it becomes worthless.

I personally have had a lengthy discussion with one fundamentalist preacher about this. His willingness to throw out the Bible if any of it is not perfectly factual surprised me. In some ways I think I deem the Bible to be worth more than he does. But, more about that in some later posts. The fourth turning point is part of the emergent church that we will also get more into in future posts.

I started out my Spiritual journey as a Catholic because that is what my parents were. I came to find out that they were only tepid Catholic as they really didn’t go to church themselves very often but more often just dropped us off and then went home.  Upon entering high school I went about twenty years moving between an inactive Christian and an agnostic verging on atheist. Then as a result of getting married I joined a Protestant congregation.  When I was going to a Catholic grade school I remember hearing a lot of things about Jesus and not much about the letters of St. Paul or any of the other “epistles”. But when I joined the Lutheran church Paul strangely seemed to be front and center on their theology.

Martin Luther’s epiphany was based on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about being saved by grace and not works so I guess I should not have been surprised to see Paul not Jesus to be the center of that congregation’s beliefs. It was not until I started seriously studying the words of Jesus that I came to fully realize that Jesus must be the total focus.

When I started out blogging here more than four years ago I promptly got a comment from someone rather high up in the Lutheran church. He chastised me saying all the words in the Bible are from God so none are more important than any others. This statement amazed me because it said that Jesus’ words were no more important than any others in the Bible. Of course I have come, after years of serious study, to totally renounce that man-made belief.

When I came across the words below in a book entitled “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” by Brian McLaren who is a Protestant clergy and author, they verified what I already knew:

Like a lot of Protestants, for many years I “knew” what the gospel was. I “knew” that the gospel was the message of “justification by grace through faith,” distorted or forgotten by those pesky Catholics, but rediscovered by our hero Martin Luther through a reading of our even greater hero Paul, especially his magnum opus, the Letter to the Romans. If Catholics were called “Roman Catholics” because of their headquarters in Rome, we could have been called “Romans Protestants,” because Paul’s Roman letter served as our theological headquarters……

He then asked me how I would define the gospel, and I answered as any good Romans Protestant would, quoting Romans. He followed up with this simple but annoying rhetorical question: “You’re quoting Paul. Shouldn’t you let Jesus define the gospel?” When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, “What was the gospel according to Jesus?” A little humiliated, I mumbled something akin to “You tell me,” and he replied, “For Jesus, the gospel was very clear: The kingdom of God is at hand. That’s the gospel according to Jesus. Right?” I again mumbled something, maybe “I guess so.” Seeing my lack of conviction, he added, “Shouldn’t you read Paul in light of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus in light of Paul?”

Today I firmly believe that to be a follower of Jesus Christ we most put our almost total focus on his words. At best we should use the other authors as reinforcement of Jesus not a replacement for him as I see in many congregations today.

Women Be Quiet!!!

June 9, 2012 — 10 Comments

1 Timothy 2:11-12 A woman  should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;  she must be quiet.  

I have always been troubled by these verses from Paul. I just don’t believe that God intended, especially for all eternity, that women to be quiet and not have any authority over men. Why would he deprive us of so much that women have to offer in almost every area?? Yes, I have heard that the majority of today’s theologians don’t believe that these words actually came from Paul but instead were added by someone later trying to advance a particular agenda.  Like all of these types of controversies it is impossible to discern the truth as the original documents to all of the Biblical text have long since disappeared.

I was certainly pleased to see a response to this verse below.

What’s with the women at Ephesus?

Just as I’ve never heard a sermon against Cretans, I’ve also never heard a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:8, in which Paul tells Timothy, “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting holy hands without anger or disputing” that included a universal dictum that all men everywhere must raise their hands whenever they pray. Nor have I heard a sermon on one of the most common instructions found in the epistles, to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:20) Nor have I ever heard of a pastor being removed from the position in keeping with Titus 1:5-6 because one of his or her children had left the faith. (It’s an uncomfortable reality, but if complementarians were as consistent in their application of biblically-based pastoral qualifications as they claim to be, a few of their most prominent spokesmen would have had to resign from their pastoral positions when their children left the faith. They didn’t.)

I haven’t heard any sermons on all of those biblical instructions, but I’ve heard more than I can count on 1 Timothy 2:11, which says, “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Rachel Held Evans | Blog.

As shown above this response came from Rachel Held Evans blog. This young lady is certainly one I don’t want to be quiet! She is now on my regular read list. Check out the full post by clicking on the label above. She has much more to say about this than is shown above.

I am fully aligned with her that we Christians, especially the fundamentalists among us, pick and choose which verses they decide to take literally. When we quit doing that and take the Bible as an inspired series of stories we just might quit continuously dividing ourselves. I think 39,000 different versions of Christ is enough …

Until the next time I bid you peace….

In a previous post I asked the question “why didn’t God write a book?”.  One possible answer to that question came from a Quaker friend. He said that if God had written a book then man would have a relationship with a book and not with God. God want us to come to him not to a book about him.  But that did not end my questions in this area. I still wonder what if God were to write a book what would it look like?  Here are some of my conclusions about that. Of course I am painfully aware that I certainly don’t know the mind of God. That is something that man can never really know. Our minds are just too puny for that task. But that doesn’t keep me from speculating some of the possible answers to my questions.  So here goes.

  • If God were to write a book there would be absolutely no mistake that it was from God…. With our current written text know as the  Bible theologians throughout the ages have constantly shown doubt about the authors of almost every book of the New Testament.  We just can’t seem to decide, and there seems to be little evidence, of the true authors of the documents that make the Bible.
  • There would be no hidden messages…. Compared to Him God knows we are all very simple minded people who need simple minded instructions on what God expects from us and what we can expect from God.
  • It would be a book that is constantly changing…. ( I can just hear the jaws drop on this one 🙂 )It would be a changing book in that would it would give us different messages as we move along our road of life and our journey with Christ. It’s messages would be as clear to a four year old as they were to a life long follower of Christ.
  • There would be no need for all the theologians around today… There are literally thousands of theologians around today to help us understand the Bible. But, one of the problems with that is that no two seem to have the same answers. So it depends on which is our favorite flavor of theologian as to what we think the Bible says. If God were to write a book this field of occupation would disappear. There would be no need for us to rely on others to know the meanings of a book written by God.
I believe that the Bible we currently use to try to understand the nature of God is an awesome collection of works. Yes, they do give us a basic understanding of the nature of God at least from the perspective of those who penned the words.  And quite frankly, without that book we would be hard pressed to know much of anything about the mind of God. But being a book produced by inspired men and not God, the Bible is often misunderstood, misquoted, and misused. Being a collection of works written by different men at different times it is not a very unified document many pieces of text seem to say completely different things.  If God had indeed written a book none of these problems would exist. It would be perfect as God is perfect.

God did not intend us to have a relationship with a book but a relationship with him.

About the Bible

May 20, 2011 — 1 Comment

Source: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/05/19/6677671-is-the-bible-full-of-forgeries

Just a short note to refer you to the article above. It is about the Bible and how it was written. For those who think the Bible is 100% from God this article will probably be somewhat disturbing. The article reports that through the ages many believe that most of the books of the Bible were probably not actually written by those whose names are attached to them. By providing you with this source article it is not my intent to get into a theological debate about the subject.

My purpose for mentioning this subject goes to the quote below by the Catholic News Service:

The Catholic News Service’s Agostino Bono makes a similar point: “Even if a specific letter was not done by Peter or Paul, it could well have been written by someone drawing from the oral tradition passed down by one or the other,” he writes.

So it appears that my beliefs that the Bible was written by men who many times got their info from oral traditions that may have been passed down from generation to generation before put in ink.  For me this doesn’t take away from the value of the Bible as a man-made document but for those who hold the literal and inerrant belief making the Bible a second, or third, or even fourth hand account is probably threatening indeed.

As I always say the Bible is not God; it is about God. Keep your eyes on Jesus and let the Bible be what it is.

This is a continuation of the last post to finish up some of my fundamental beliefs about the Bible. I have not come to these beliefs on a whim. They are the result of many years of thoughtful prayer and study. I am also not trying to prove anyone wrong. Everyone should come to God in their own ways. So let’s get on with the final four areas of my beliefs on the Bible.

  • Some words of the Bible have much more significance to our lives than others— The words of God himself through Jesus’ lips are the most important. Every other word is secondary at best. This is a major sticking point for some. It has to do with a concept that I have coined “the slippery slope”. I will get more into that on the next post. It just seems like a no-brainer to me that the words from God himself should take front and center in the Bible text. To say that there are no words in the Bible that are any more important than others seem nonsense to me.
  • The Bible contains words from God —  But is not THE Word of God… Many call the Bible the word of God but I personally along with other Christians agree with John’s opening in his gospel.  Jesus is the word of God, not a book assembled by man even if much of its writings were inspired by God.  To give a book that status is making an idol of it.  To put every word and circumstance mentioned in the biblical text in the literal grouping just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.  When Paul insisted that women were not to be over men in any circumstance he was speaking first century words. When he told people to be happy as slaves owned by others he was speaking first century words. These words were not intended for eternity. Yes, much of the Bible was written under the inspiration of God but it is at the same time a very human document.
  • The Bible contains stories passed down from one generation to another, allegories, and parables. To insist that all the words in the Bible are absolutely without error and are absolutely literal is beyond my understanding. I am convinced that even the writers of the books of the Bible were not willing to put that status on all their own words. The Apostle Paul even made it a point in one of his letters collected in the Bible that he was speaking of his own accord. I wish he had done that more frequently. Since I don’t put much study on the Old Testament I will not be discussing those books here. But even the New Testament of which much was written up to forty years after the fact certainly contained things that were remembered but not necessarily totally factual. In many places Jesus himself identified his stories as parables. I believe that the use a parables and allegories was a very common occurrence in many of the biblical writings whether the authors said they were or not.
  • Not all the inspired words from God are included in the Bible. I have done some studies of some of the text that was considered but finally excluded from the official bible when it was formulated by King Constantine’s council. The books of Thomas and Barnabas in particular I am convinced were also written at least to some degree with inspiration from God. There are probably several others in that category. We Christians should consider all the writings of the time to see where we can deepen our understanding of God. I also believe that God continues to give inspired words through some of us Christians even today. All of us must constantly be listening for those inspirations in our daily lives. But it seems that “listening” is a difficult thing for many of us to do today. Moses in the Old Testament did not believe he was worthy to relay words from God but God used him as a mouthpiece all the same. So I believe that God’s continues to give simple men personal revelations from time to time.
Next time I will discussing some others beliefs when it comes to the Bible and where they disagree with my current view. May all the glory and power go to my lord and savior Jesus Christ.

A fellow blogger who happens to be a Quaker asked an interesting question recently. It was

“Why didn’t Jesus write a book while he was on earth and settle this thing once and for all?”

I know Jesus, like most of the twelve apostles was probably illiterate but I’m sure he could have written a book if he thought it was important.  Why didn’t he choose to do that? As my friend said a book directly from Jesus would, or at least should, have settled all the many  many current day differences among us Christians. I have wondered about this many times.

We currently rely on a book finally assembled four hundred years after the fact that was written mostly by the apostles or their representatives to tell us the things of Jesus. Of course there were also those like St. Paul who had no direct relationship with Jesus but was instead inspired by a miraculous act to write what he did.  Many of the early church fathers, meaning those in the first one hundred years, also recorded their opinions, inspired or otherwise, of what they thought Jesus meant for us to do. But most of those writing were not chosen by the council who put together our Bible to be included. It seems we have many second or third hand words about Jesus in the Bible and other documents but none directly from Jesus himself. Why didn’t Jesus write something himself?

My Quaker friend imagined God’s answer to his question to be this:

“I desire a direct spiritual relationship with all men… if my son had written a book… then all men would have a relationship with a book  and not God”

I can’t imagine a more apt response from God than what my friend proposed!  Jesus wants us to have a direct relationship with God. How much simpler could that be! It seems that today many put the book called the Bible above their relationship with God himself. While the book does give us valuable information about Jesus and God it should never be thought of on the same level as God. To do so would be to treat the book as an idol. And of course most of us know what God thinks of idolatry.  Enough said..