Friday, January 07, 2005

The Bible: Faith's Family Album

Before too long (if it hasn't already), the question of how I view scripture will pop into a reader's mind. In my traditionally lazy way (and in an effort to quickly beef up my post count here), I've dug up some ramblings from Xn, which will at least get us started.

One another note: I can't claim the 'faith's family album' metaphor as my own. I wish I'd thought of it first, but this guy beat me to it.

So here it is, edited severely so it'll make sense in this context. Also keep in mind that the original post was made in response to an avowed non-Christian:

At various points in my life, both on and offline, attempts to explain how I'm a Christian and yet don't believe the Bible to be inerrant have been met with comments such as, "Well, if you don't believe all of it I don't see how you can really call yourself a Christian," "Oh, you're just picking and choosing to suit your own preferences," "You actually sound more like a Buddhist than a Christian," "If you don't believe those things, you must still call yourself a Christian because you're weak/in denial/stupid." And in some cases, nothing had to be said. Actions spoke much louder.

I'd expect some of these comments from those of a more fundamental persuasion, but it surprised me that skeptics, atheists, and "free thinkers" would say them as well. Some of those with whom I've conversed (believer and non-believer alike) assume that one brand of Christianity, that is, the fundamental/literal crowd, are the only authentic form of Christianity because they believe "whole-heartedly" in "the whole thing." Never mind that these terms and phrases are rarely parsed out very well by those who use them, and when I make an attempt it gets shot down with comments such as those mentioned.

Quote from another poster: "Do you take the "nice" teachings from the Gospels, and find fault with all the barbaric teachings from the old Testament, and Paul, and even the more harsh or belief-specific teachings from the Gospels? Even the much-beloved John 3:16 promotes the necessity of the undeniably harsh requirement of "belief" in order to be "saved" - and I must ask, saved from what, exactly, if the whole notion of original sin and innate sinfulness is nothing but a myth?What is it, precisely, that causes you to define yourself as a Christian?"

First of all, let me say that it's not about "picking and choosing" for me, and of course not about "accepting the whole." It's about constant wrestling. God cannot possibly be contained in a 66-volume work, and yet this is the work selected by a Christian council centuries ago, dictated as authoritative.

Authoritative how? I answer that question by saying that of all the manuscripts from the ancient Hebrews and early church, these are the recorded experiences of people, my faith ancestors, that they believed were the most authentic brushes with the divine, brushes that did not end in the 4th century. Perhaps the Bible does not contain fact, but it can contain truth. My spiritual ancestors wished to preserve truth, to share truth, to tell the truth that they knew to future generations, and now comes my generation to hear these truth claims.

Looking at the writers as ancestors does not allow me to reject certain passages out of hand, but it does allow me to question, reflect, even tell an ancestor that s/he was wrong on some occasions, perhaps only for that same ancestor to show me something new down the road. Above all else, I experience the same God that the Jesus Movement and early church experienced in Jesus, both from what I read and through my own experiences. His command to love God and neighbor is the highest truth I find. It is a universal truth that I experience particularly in Jesus. And to that end I ask my ancestors how well their beliefs or actions about God stand up to these commands. I ask my Christian brothers and sisters whether theirs do. I ask myself if mine do.Yes, I really am a Christian. Jesus calls me to love and I do my best, because that's the call and caller that I hear the clearest. It's deeper than that, of course, but I've typed enough.

End of post. I say again that it IS deeper than that, but words currently fail me to express how that is. I've only had one cup of coffee.:) But it makes for a nice potential follow-up post, yes?