The Church Is Not a Democracy….

We in the U.S. know that one of the primary foundations of our democracy is freedom of speech. That is being able to say something different from our leaders and not suffer serious consequences. In my opinion, this is what has allowed our country to remain so strong over the centuries. Many times criticisms lead to change and though we might not realize it at that time that is good for us. It makes us better; it makes us stronger. Without freedom of speech, I doubt our country would even exist today.

Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is not a democracy but instead has for most of its history a very vertical-oriented top-heavy organization. When the leadership of the church said something everyone was expected to quickly get in line with no questions asked.

Dissension, or some might say freedom of speech, is simply not allowed.   In the past, anyone who even hinted at a disagreement was quickly handled.  In the first few centuries of the church, many were proclaimed to be a heretic, which basically meant they didn’t agree with the leadership in some way or another. It usually followed that all of their writings, if they existed, were burned so their words would not pollute the church.  And some were burned along with their books.

Thank heavens at least in the last few centuries heretics are not so severely handled but that does not mean that they are now ignored. Many think only of the Catholic church when they think of the power structures. No Catholic, especially the cardinals and bishops would go against anything that the Pope proclaims.  But this situation also occurs amongst the Protestant denominations as well. Plainly speaking the leadership is to be obeyed.

If you even hint that you don’t agree with all the various creeds and statements can cause you to be disciplined or even thrown out. I know personally of a Lutheran minister who was brought back from an overseas mission and stripped of his sermon rights because he dared to join in prayer with other Christian groups, and years later I like him was shown the door due because I didn’t tow the line on how old the earth is among other things.

Many just can’t accept any questioning of their proclaimed doctrine. They claim that it would stain their institutional purity. About the only denomination that I am aware of that doesn’t do this are the Quakers. But since they are adamantly opposed to creeds, in general, that seems natural to them.

Sadly, there is simply no such thing as freedom of speech inside most church doors…

Conformity..

 For this Sunday’s post, I want to talk about the strict conformity many churches today demand of those who want to be members. It is not as simple as deciding to join but you must jump through all the hoops they tell you to before they will accept you.

canstockphoto3695937.jpgI’ve seen the light go out in people’s eyes when they decide it’s safer to embrace a doctrine or a policy that their gut tells them is wrong than it is to challenge those who say it’s right.

I’ve watched open minds close and tender hearts harden.

I’ve seen people pretend to believe things they don’t actually believe and do things they don’t actually want to do, all in the name of conformity to God’s will, all in the name of sacrifice and submission.

Fundamentalism erases people. It erases their joy, their compassion, their instincts, their curiosity, their passion, their selves. And then it celebrates this ghosting, this nulling and numbing, as a glorious “dying to the self,” just like Jesus demanded.

SOURCE: Hearts of Flesh.

These are some powerful words from Rachel Held Evans who is a young and popular Christian author and lecturer. She seldom parses words when it comes to her spirituality.  She also seems to be very aligned with the latest statistics of the Millennial generation when it comes to shedding much of the dogma of the current “church”.

I truly believe that the conformity that many churches demand is a primary factor for why even those raised in it are leaving in droves. They see things that directly contradict what they believe to be simple knowledge. They see their church speaking so viciously about those who are different from them.  What they see is not “conformity to God’s will” but to some hardened hearts who happen to have leadership positions.  They see a fixated emphasis on below the belt issues when Jesus said almost nothing about that topic.

Many young people are still in the mode of questioning things. They are still forming their own personal opinions on what will be important in their life. They will not allow someone to tell them what is moral when it is obviously not the definition of moral to them.

During my lifetime fundamentalism, even though it started with trying to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world, has, for the most part, morphed into something completely different. It is now primarily about what you are supposed to hate rather than what Jesus told you to love. It has become the dark side of Christianity in many respects.

2014-03-25_16-33-02It is encouraging to see that the force is no longer with the fundamentalists but instead beginning to meld into what is now called the Great Emergence as described by Harvey Cox in his book entitled The Future Of Faith.  As explained in the book the emergent church is more about moving on to the next stage of Christianity rather than tearing down the current one. It is about shedding all those man-made rules and replacing them with the messages of its founder. If you are becoming discouraged with the direction that many in the church are taking maybe it is time you took up the book and read it with an open mind. It just might change your idea of some of the basic things you are told you must believe in order to see God.

Contemplating the All Powerful God and the All Loving God…

2017-12-16_14-27-42.png The Old Testament has always been a struggle for me. I find far too many places where God’s wrath is brutally shown. This is in such a total contrast with Jesus Christ I know in the New Testament. It is almost like the good cop/bad cop scenarios that play out so much on the TV cop shows. I tend to refer to it as the all-powerful God vs. the all loving God. Can the two really co-exist or did God basically change his management style between the Old Testament and the New Testament or you could say between the old and the new covenant? These are the things I have been thinking about lately. I know they are theological in nature and I have sworn off that sort of thing but it still crops up from time to time. I just can’t seem to help it.

I must admit that I almost ignore the power side of God. In that sense, I seem to be in conflict with many evangelical religious establishments today who revel in God’s power. They deem that God is all-powerful and absolutely everything that happens is because He has willed it.  One of the dictionary definitions of the word will is the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action.

So following this “all powerful” to its conclusion means that God deliberately brought millions of children into existence so that he could kill one every three seconds today by depriving them to have safe drinking water or enough to food to eat! Or in another example, he purposefully created all the dictators of the world so that they could kill thousands (millions collectively) of the people for little or no reason.  The people who pray to the all-powerful God say they don’t understand these sort of things but God must have a divine purpose for his extreme brutality.  I find it very difficult to even contemplate praying to that kind of god.

Here is how I see all of this: 

I kind of believe in the God of the Possible as illustrated by Greg Boyd in one of his many books. That along with the fact that God gave man free will answers the good god/bad god dichotomy for me. No, God is not responsible for all those children dying. That pitiful condition belongs totally to us humans. We are the ones who can’t seem to get along with one another.

Jesus told us to love one another; we just can’t seem to get that right especially when it comes to loving across national borders. God gave us free will and except for maybe some very very rare circumstances, he does not go back on his word.  It is not God doing his will, as some say, that causes all the suffering in the world it is that WE don’t do God’s will to love one another.

I know I have no right to speculate but so many theologians do it every day so here goes. I do kind of believe that God did change his approach on how to guide us between the old and the new covenants. He could see that the “powerful God” approach just didn’t work with us sinful human being and at that point, He just decided to love us anyway.  God’s love is called agape love that is it doesn’t have conditions attached. What the ramification of that has concerning heaven and hell is a matter for a future post.

Why Are We Here? We Are Here Because…

Some say that all religions are the result of mankind asking “Why are we here?” Everyone eventually comes to that question and various answers have resulted in what we now call “religion”.

I have let it be freely known here that I am a follower of Jesus Christ but don’t call myself a Christian anymore, and particularly not an Evangelical! That word has been totally destroyed by the political nature of the ones who kidnapped it.

When Jesus was asked to sum up why we are here he gave us two commands: To love each other and to love God.  To that end, the quote below perfectly sums up why we are here:

2017-12-09_09-46-39.pngWe are here because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.

Finally, we are here because we believe our nation yearns to hear from us this day… 

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey —  Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology

There is not a sentence in the quote above that I don’t wholeheartedly agree with.  I am a man of principles and this is one of the primary ones. “Love each other”. That means my brothers don’t have to worry if they have enough money to go to a doctor when they are sick.  It means that no child in the world, let alone this country, should go to bed hungry each night.  It means we are good samaritans, we help each other out.

I know my Evangelical friends, if I have any now, say that these things are the church’s job, not the government’s. It is documented that yes the church meets about 3% of the total need. But what about the other 97%? Do they have to wait for churches to eventually get to them?  I am a believer that government exists to the people’s business and since the church won’t take care of those in need, and in reality can’t meet the demand then we have to do collectively through our government.

As the quote above insinuates, perhaps the most damaging part of the “Evangelical” movement is normalizing of lie after lie, after lie.  The current Oval Office occupant continues daily to push them daily further down into the ditch. When, if ever will they finally say enough is enough and come back to the words of Jesus? Their current mantra is that “a pedophile is better than a Democrat!”  How much further down the rabbit’s hole will they allow themselves to go?

 

Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity

I find myself often complaining when Christian organizations don’t come right out and say that currently labeled “Evangelicals” have kidnapped the true meaning of their religion and have replaced it with their own political version.  I search out where someone is speaking out on this topic and here is one of them.   You might want to read the whole article if this is of interest to you:

“Is Roy Moore a hill on which Evangelicals are prepared to die? As for me and my house, ‘Hell no, we won’t go,’” said Evangelical theologian Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Associate Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary, asking the crisis question and answering it…

One of the key organizers of The Boston Declaration, Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, contrasted the Gospel teachings with what is being peddled as Christianity today in some conservative circles, both religious and political. She said:

We are here because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.

Finally, we are here because we believe our nation yearns to hear from us this day and to watch for how our commitment as Christian theologians continues into the election season of next year.

Rev. Dr. David Wilhite, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, said with great intensity that “Evangelical is a category I can’t use any more. Evangelicals have come to misrepresent Christianity. The heart of Evangelicalism is keeping the Gospel call at the heart of all we do.”

Source: Repent And Believe In The Gospel! Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity | HuffPost

I absolutely detested the fact that some from Alabama are comparing Roy Moore’s persecution to that of Jesus. Some say it was all right for Moore to “date” 14-year-olds when he was in his 30s since Joseph was much older than Mary when she was married! I widely recognize that by picking and choosing, the Bible can be used to say just about anything, but come on!!

It will be interesting to see just how the Alabama voters, many of which are Southern Baptist vote on this issue on Tuesday. Will they continue to disappoint me as they have on so many other issues, or will they step up and follow the core messages of Jesus.

Killing Religion With Your Political Cause..

2017-11-11_10-04-27I don’t know why the 1973 song “Killing me softly ”  by Roberta Flack got stuck in my head recently. Maybe it has something with my brain bleed of eight months ago but that is pretty much a stretch. 🙂  But those verses put the foundation together for this post.  If you want to see the lyrics click here.

Now on to the purpose of this post. There are simply too many in this world who are killing religion with their various causes. They put God into situations that she would certainly not put herself in. By doing this they are possibly poisoning the well of religion for many generations to come. It is a known fact that recent generations of Americans are much less religious than their parents or grandparents. I’m sure this poisoning effect is much the reason for this trend.

Far too many people put religious spins on their prejudices to try to give them some validity. An example of this is the recent allegations against Roy Moore who is a rad-con candidate for the Senate in Alabama.  He is accused among the dozen or so allegations, of sexual harassment of a 14-year-old girl while he was in his thirties. Anyone who has looked beyond the surface on these allegations has to come away with considering them to be valid.  But instead, some Alabama politicians are putting a religious spin on it.  They say that since Joseph was much older than Mary so it is ok for Mr. Moore. Some are even comparing Moore to Jesus who was wrongly persecuted by his enemies.  Religious spin for political purposes poisons the religious well.

Then there is the KKK who cloak themselves in religion as the reason for their racial hatred. Another radical fringe group who are doing basically the same thing is ISIS and radical Islam. They say their god tells them to kill everyone who is not an avid believer in their version of religion. They are killing religion with their causes.

It is common nature for us to look beyond ourselves for the deepest meaning of life. We want to believe that something or someone much wiser than us controls the high-level stuff. Most of us attach to one form of god or another for that knowledge. When others use religion to justify their radical beliefs they are poisoning the well for the rest of us. I’m pretty sure that God is neither a Republican or a Democrat and I’m absolutely sure he doesn’t hate people due to the color of their skin, or any other flippant reason we humans give as justification for our spiteful ways.

Social Gospel

Christ’s church has cycled from one level to another for almost its whole existence.  I can only hope that the cycle turns positive in the coming years. If it doesn’t I can see the end of that institution. One of the bright periods of the Protestant version of the church occurred between 1890 -1930. It was known as the social gospel.  Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

In the late 19th century, many Protestants were disgusted by the poverty level and the low quality of living in the slums. The social gospel movement provided a religious rationale for action to address those concerns. Activists in the Social Gospel movement hoped that by public health measures as well as enforced schooling the poor could develop talents and skills, the quality of their moral lives would begin to improve. Important concerns of the Social Gospel movement were labor reforms, such as abolishing child labor and regulating the hours of work by mothers. By 1920 they were crusading against the 12-hour day for workers at U.S. Steel.

Source: Social Gospel – Wikipedia

As you can see the Social Gospelers had taken the words of Jesus to heart and were determined to make things better for “the least of these”.  They became very active in the political scene for labor reforms and quality of life issues. What happened to turn to Protestants to turn so many of them almost 180 degrees since those days?

Now their biggest drives seem to be political. They want to make sure no one gets anything they haven’t earned.  If you can’t afford health care then that is just too bad.  If you don’t accept everything we tell you to believe then you are not welcomed.  How did the teachings of Jesus go from front and center to off on a remote back burner?

About Atonement..

One of the current foundations of the Christianity is the atonement. Generally that is thought to be Jesus taking the wrath of God for us with his substitutional crucifixion in order to appease God wrath toward man’s sinfulness.  I, like many others I’m sure, thought that atonement was a foundational issue with Jesus and the early church.  In reality it was post-Constantine theologians who gave us the doctrine of original sin and the blood atonement, the belief that Jesus came to earth solely for the purpose of dying for our sins, was a doctrine not fully developed in the church until the tenth century.  It was almost upsetting to me to learn this fact since so many of my inherited beliefs hinged on it.

We all like to think that the things we are told to believe about Jesus  were actually established by him.  In reality the idea of atonement was not settled until centuries after his death. Yes, Jesus mentioned here and there about dying for us but I don’t now believe it was ever a central theme. Even the concept of man’s innate sinfulness is still a matter for disagreements.  Are we born bad and must be saved, as some assert, or are we born good, as others maintain, but have forgotten where we came from, where we are going, and to whom we belong? Was the death of Jesus on the cross necessary for the salvation of the world or was he here for other, or maybe additional. purposes?

Many think that if we disregard sacrificial atonement then we must throw Christianity out the window as Jesus’ death meant nothing.  To those the idea of universal salvation is pure heresy. But to others, like Philip Gulley it meant no such thing.  They believe that while it was unnecessary for God to come in the form of Jesus to kill himself, Jesus’ time on earth was to among other things to teach us how to live and how to love. While that purpose is very encompassing he also physically conquered death by his resurrection. That is no small thing!

Sacrificial atonement is something that I have always had trouble understanding. Why would God need to take on another form and kill himself to satisfy is own wrath?  Robin Meyers in his book entitled “The Underground Church” stated:

It is no coincidence that it took as long for the idea of the blood atonement to be fully formed as it took for Christians artists to begin to show us an image of the corpse of Jesus hanging on a cross.

No dead Jesus for a thousand years. This is not to say that the suffering of Jesus is unimportant; indeed it bears witness to the depth of his capacity to Love

It is not widely acknowledged in many Christian churches just how unresolved the issue of atonement is. It continues to be widely discussed even today.

The Bible As A History Book..

I think I have let it be known that I view the Bible as a history book of the early period of Christianity. As such maybe it needs to be updated from time to time? New chapters need to be written and old ones modified to more accurately reflect information found.

The Bible was put together about 400 years after the death of Jesus. It was primarily assembled under the oversight of a Roman Emperor who intended to use it as a guide for his kingdom. It contained several of the ancient documents found at the time but by no means all of them. Some of the ancient documents just didn’t seem to align with what the emperor wanted. There was and continues to be today questions about the authorship of many of the established documents. It is now generally accepted that many of the people given credit for the authorship of the various documents didn’t really write them but instead they were written by the people who were inspired by those early Christians. Anyone who cares to look at the bible with critical analysis techniques sees these inconsistencies.  There is nothing wrong with that as they, as with any human endeavour, are not perfect.

There are some who seem to believe that after the Bible was assembled God no longer had anything to say to us.  My Quaker friends totally reject this idea and so do I. God teaches me new things on a daily basis it seems. The Bible was only the beginning of that wisdom transfer.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting if every four hundred year a biblical council such as the one in fifth century were to have been convened to add additional documents and maybe correct some things in previous versions? I guess in a way that is what Roman Catholics say is the Pope’s job.  He keeps God’s word relevant for the times. I personally doubt that this can be accomplished via a single human being. even with a massive hierarchy.

The biggest change to the church came from the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago.  Since that time we have gone from a handful of Christian organizations to literally tens of thousands.  Every time a church body has any serious conflict their answer it is to split into another version of Christianity and then claim they are the only ones who have it right. Another major problem I perceive with the  Protestant variety is that they tend to fixate on rules set down by Paul instead of the stories and lessons of Jesus.  Let’s just face it head on, the church Jesus founded morphed into something that even he would not recognize. But that is another post…

 

Science Is Not The Enemy Of The Church..

Being an engineer I consider myself a scientist and I can tell you first-hand that I felt very much attacked whenever I brought up science in my weekly bible classes. In that church the word “scientist” and “liberal” seemed to have an equally negative bias and I was both! I could never understand why so many were threatened when I asked questions based on scientific knowledge. If I did that it seemed I was immediately labeled a heretic. I found out my feeling were by no means unique. Here are some words about that from a book called Saving Jesus From The Church by Robin Meyers.

2017-10-23_15-37-24.pngIt is not the case that faith is more pure when it is uninformed or when it turns away from critical thinking and sound reasoning as threats to the life of the spirit. Science is not the enemy of faith, but rather its handmaiden. More threatening to the future of faith is the fear of what can be known as well as the search to know more. In fact, the ongoing suspicion that scientific discoveries or rigorous biblical scholarship will undermine faith is a tacit admission that faith is threatened by knowledge, because it is ultimately constructed on weak or faulty assumptions and, like the proverbial house of cards, needs to be “protected” from collapsing.

I am a strong believer that scientific knowledge is a gift from God. He gives it to us as we are ready to receive it. The Gnome project is an example. Many in the church today see science as an enemy of religion. One of the main reasons for that it is a threat to those who want to take the Bible literally and claim that the earth is a mere six thousand years old.  They maintain this position by counting back from Jesus to Adam and Eve. They believe that every generation has been accounted for in the Bible. When they see the overwhelming evidence that the earth is at least millions of years old they counter with “well, that is just God trying to trick us”. Why would God even bother to do that?

One book that I admire in this area is by Francis Collins entitled: The Language of God. It provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity . Here are some of the words about this book on Amazon.  I highly recommend it to anyone willing to possibly admit that science is not the enemy of faith.One of the great divides in the church could be overcome if we got one thing straight: the truth of which Jesus speaks is wisdom incarnate, not intellectual assent to cogent arguments made on behalf of God. …

It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God’s creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.

Religiously Powerful…

Jesus had some very stinging words about the religiously powerful of his day. The Gospel of Mark 7 is one of those places.  Let’s study some of those words.

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

In these verses Jesus was addressing the Pharisees from Jerusalem. These guys, being from Jerusalem were not some radical sect that was divorced from the mainstream Judaism, they were likely the leader of the leaders of the mainstream church. I’m sure they were totally shocked to have this carpenter’s son rebuke them so harshly. With that in mind it is not to surprising that they then went on to plan for his execution. They had, I am sure, the belief that they were the spokesman for God, not this lowly peasant.

Jesus told them that they were hypocrites, as the humble and poor people who were surrounding him to listen to his messages knew more about God than they did. Jesus told them that their religion was more about human rules than about learning lessons from God.  Can you imagine the hate they must have had for Jesus after these strong words?

The religion of Jesus’ day had devolved into traditions that had little to do with God but instead were implemented to keep the religious hierarchy of the day in power. It was more about their rules than God’s. He told them that they do many things against the true teaching of God.

I’m sure there are many in today’s churches who consider themselves the leader of the leaders as the Pharisees did. I am also sure that Jesus would say many of  the same things against them as he did two thousand years ago. Many religions have devolved into organizations of human traditions and dogma.

The current emergent movement within the church body is attempting to force the original messages of Jesus back to front-and-center in today’s church. If they are successful maybe someday the light of Jesus and his true words will again be a shining beacon for the world to look upon.

Having No Religion or Faith..

Britain is becoming an increasingly faithless society, according to a new survey that has found 53% of Britons now describe themselves as having no religion.

The proportion is the highest ever, up from 48% in 2015 and 31% in 1983 when the British Social Attitudes survey was begun by the independent National Centre for Social Research.

The trend is evident across all age groups but is particularly marked among young people, with 71% of 18-to 24-year-olds surveyed in 2016 saying they had no religion, up from 62% percent the previous year.

The majority of older people still have some faith, with only four in ten of those aged 65 to 74 describing themselves as having no religion, and only 27% of those aged 75 and over.

Source: More than half of Britons have no religion – survey

From what I remember the US has similar  but lower numbers and also trends significantly downward but not yet to the extent of Britons. I wonder how much of this decline here is associated with politics? Evangelicals are now known more as an ultra right political group than a religious one.  That fact alone does serious, and maybe deadly, harm to religion.

On another thought, there are just so many things that educated people today see to enforce their belief that religion does more harm than good in our societies. They look at all the wars in the world today and see that religion is the source for almost all of them.

Too many versions of religions demand a blind faith.  That is, you are supposed to take whatever they say is true no matter was current day facts prove. That alone will eventually cause the demise of most forms of religion in the world. God gave us intellect and a questioning attitude for a reason.

When we as a world community finally come to see that we are all praying to the same God we may be able to eventually salvage what’s left of religion from the dust heaps of time.  These are pretty harsh words but I think they need to be said.

I proudly say I am a follower of Jesus Christ and his messages to us but I am currently not religious. This statement causes confusion in many but once I explain this dichotomy they understand what I am saying.

My View Of The Bible – Part 6 Closing Thoughts…

This six part Sunday series was about looking at the Bible as a human document. That is, it was written and assembled by humans with different life experiences, viewpoints, and passions.  Much of their thoughts and words were believed to come from divine inspiration. Many believed they were writing what God wanted them to write. When I study the Bible I try to understand the reasons why some of the writers might have penned what they did.  Of course, I am also a human who has my own life experiences and passions, part of which surely shaped by what I have previously studied. What I have said in this series is of my own understanding. But, what I have studied also very likely comes through in some cases so if I failed to give some credit during these and other posts I apologize. It is not intentional.

When we view the Bible as a document written by humans who were to one degree or another inspired by God it takes on a unique shape and understanding.  Those who insist that the Bible was, more or less, dropped down from heaven by God himself deprive themselves of this valuable insight.  Understanding the background and circumstances of the writers helps us to gain a better feel for the meanings behind their words. Every word in the Bible was not intended to be taken literally for all the ages. Much of what was written must be looked at with first century eyes and then sometimes applied to twenty-first century circumstances.

I will finish this series how I began it by saying again that I am not a trained theologian; I am just a simple guy who has studied the Bible and other related documents and come to some personal understanding about them. One thing I avoid in my posts, and I think I did a pretty good job here, is “theologian speak”. There seems to be a complex multisyllabic word to tag almost all studies of the bible. Although I am familiar with some of them I try to avoid them whenever possible.

I hope this round of posts had at least a small amount of value for some of you. I want you to come away from this series with the understanding that not all Christians see the Bible the same way…

My View Of The Bible — Part 5 Summing It Up..

This is the fifth post on this series about the Bible. If it is not obvious by now I want you to understand that I put my Christianity on Jesus Christ not on a book about him. I will try to keep this brief as it is really a wrap-up of the past posts.

About the Literalists:

  • Panic – In some cases I see almost total panic in people when I say not all the words in the bible are literally true. This belief is so ingrained in the foundations of their faith they cannot imagine it could not be true.
  • Irrational – Some say if you doubt any words in the Bible are not literally true than you must doubt all of them and therefore the Bible would be worthless! Nonsense..Living with that sort of belief makes life itself totally unlivable. There is nothing in this life that man has touched that is 100% accurate. This is like saying that I must throw out everything I know about George Washington, and I have read a lot about him, because someone wrongly wrote that he chopped down a cherry tree.
  • Acceptance? – Eventually the literal and absolutely true belief will be totally disproved even to the current day doubters. What will happen to those who tied their Christianity on that belief? Will they lose their faith? I just pray that when that day comes they will realize that Jesus should have been their total focus all along not a book about him.  What would happen to me if the Bible proved to be totally inerrant as they claim? I would be very surprised but it would not cause me to take my eyes off Jesus as the absolute center of my faith.
About the Bible:
  • At Jesus’ Feet – To be able to read stories from those who actually sat at Jesus’ feet is just so valuable in our walk with Christ. It helps us to understand why he came  to earth and became one of us! He did that to teach us how to live and how to love the God of the New Testament.
  • A Brother’s Narrative – There is one person who wrote part of the biblical text that most likely spent almost his entire life with Jesus and that was his brother (or maybe cousin depending on which theologian you might follow). It saddens me that James did not provide us more info about Jesus’ earlier years. But, then again maybe he did and it was not uncovered during the search or canonic documents. If not,  I guess he chose to concentrate on just what he thought was the most important of his brother’s messages. To hear James say that faith and works are one and the same and that faith without works is a dead faith is good enough for me.
  • About the Founders – To be able to read all the stories in the book of Acts about the first few years of Christianity is very enlightening. It certainly helps us to understand how Christianity got started and how some of its beliefs were formed primarily by the Apostle Pau. But, all of those things that occurred during these early years were not necessarily meant to apply to future Christians. Some are just for lessons learned and taught at the time of the writing and should be understood as such.
  • Early Conflicts – To see how Paul dealt with some many of the problems in the early church is interesting.  But again we cannot assume that all the solutions he proposed apply to all circumstances today. One size does not fit all.
Just give them Jesus:
  • Keep your eyes totally focused on the lessons of Jesus. Everything else is simply a distraction.
  • To tell others about Jesus and how he lived his life.  That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell other about Jesus and how he taught us to live.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Tell others about Jesus and what he commanded us to do.   That is the purpose of the Bible.
  • Use the Bible stories as lessons in these matters and don’t become fixated on the words themselves.  When you do that you may end up treating words as idols and that is definitely not what Jesus intended.

Never take your eyes off Jesus.

My View Of The Bible — Part 4 .. Misguided Beliefs?

This, the fourth post on the Bible centers around where I see some others may have gone astray in regards to their beliefs surrounding  the Bible.

  • Some have replaced the Holy Spirit with the book called the Bible... They put so much power in the Bible and so little in the Holy Spirit. Compared to the others in Trinity studies there is very little in-depth theological study about the Holy Spirit. The main exception to that might be  the Society of Friends otherwise known as Quakers. They treat the Holy Spirit as a very equal member of God’s team. Jesus had very clear words about just what the Holy Spirit was going to do for us after he left this earth. Many Christian denominations today seem to downplay our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • The Bible is about God; it is not a replacement for God...The Bible is a valuable document in trying to understand the nature of God but it was never meant to replace God. This idea goes back to a recent post with the question of why Jesus did not write a book? Jesus did not write a book because if he did then we lowly human beings would end up having a relationship with the book instead of with God. God intends each of us to have a personal relationship with him. I believe that sometimes the Bible actually gets in the way of that relationship.
  • Every word in the Bible are Jesus’ words… This is just simply something that I can’t conceive. With my study of just how the Bible was assembled in the late fourth century by a council directed by King Constantine it is very clear that there is a very human element in the creation of this book. To say that every word written by the Apostle Paul came directly from Jesus is to deny some of the very words of the Bible itself. Paul states in some of his epistles that some words were simply his opinion and were not necessarily inspired by God.   I personally take some of the words of Paul to simply be that of a crankety old bachelor putting out his personal opinion. There is certainly nothing wrong with that since his letters were written to human beings with particular problems that Paul addressed. Yes, they are important to the history of the church but they are not from God’s lips.
  • Everything in the Bible is literally and absolutely true… This belief causes some to deny other aspects of God’s revelations. We can learn nothing in this world unless God allows us to learn it. And this includes scientific things like carbon dating and geological strata and yes, even global warming. Much of scientific discovery today adds weight behind one interpretation of the Bible in opposition to another interpretation. There is nothing wrong with that.
  • The “Slippery Slope” is one of the most misguided beliefs… This belief goes like this.  If you can’t believe absolutely every word in the Bible then you must throw it all out as unbelievable. In other words if you can doubt anything then you will eventually fall down a slippery slope where everything is doubted. I have gone round after round with some on this topic with some fellow Christians. But, as the saying goes “you can’t reason someone out of a position that they never reasoned themselves into”.