Sunday, July 29, 2007
IS THE BIBLE THE WORD ---- OF GOD?
(Italics are used for quotes from Marcus Borg's
book, Reading the Bible Again -- for the First Time --Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.)
It's probably happened to you that you opened a book and were pleased to find the ideas which had been circulating in your head for many years were not only dealt with, but supported and expanded upon.
For many years, I have not believed that the Bible's words were the "words of God". This would mean that God dictated the actual words to the author of the text much as an executive dictates his next letter to his secretary. Or, it might be argued that God did not dictate -- he inspired the author of the gospel to express God's exact thought or feeling --- but framed in the evangelist's style. This did not seem sensible either.
However, being "sensible" is not the politically correct word to use. Can we judge the ways of God by our own "common sense"? There is some validity to this point. On the other hand, I don't believe that humans can conceptualize God or the Absolute to begin with. Well, we do it, but what hope is there that we hit the mark, we don't catch the fish. Even more to the point: can a concept, a mental form used by humans, encapsulate the Divinity?
If one has the need or the inner sense that The Bible is to some extent a "sacred text," then my position would be Borg's: "... to see the Bible as a human product --- the product of two ancient communities." It is sacred because these communities deemed it so; they sensed that these writings contained within them their human experience of God.
The Bible, therefore, is the account of a part of mankind's interaction with the Absolute. Let's accept the existence of God (or whatever name you wish to use) and that human beings have had and still do have experience of the divinity, the holy, the sacred, the numinous. The Bible contains examples of the human expression of these experiences and the actions that resulted. Some of the Bible -- how much I don't know -- is not the result of an encounter with the sacred.
As readers -- we must decide on our own.
The fundamentalists who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible have to find some way to justify the parts of the Bible that contradict one another; that no longer apply; that seem incongruous with the main thrust. One way they do this is to state that we cannot comprehend the mind of God who was the source of the word of God. If we had Divine insight or perspective --- everything fits.
This is a general characteristic of fundamentalists: they depend on a kind of faith that postulates: The Bible is the Word of God. Jesus is God. Jesus meant to found a church.
The church guided by the Holy Spirit picked just the right books for the Canon of Scripture, and avoided the false ones. Once a person lays down a list of beliefs, and then lays everything on Faith --- well, there is no room for discussion. It does give fundamentalists a strong sense of security.
I simply don't believe the Absolute acts, behaves this way. In fact, my present position is that -- God is not a Person. God does not have an "identity" as we are supposed to have.
The formulation of God's non-personal nature closest to my thinking is within Hinduism.
The Absolute, Brahmin is called Satchidananda or Being-Consciousness-Bliss. Of course, this is inadequate because human words and concepts are used, but it is a better finger pointing at the moon than the one that points at scripture, the church fathers, and the church councils. That is a human desperately reaching for Security.
God is a mystery. Anything less than this diminishes God.
The Bible can be a valuable tool in spiritual growth. However, "... a close and careful reading of the Bible makes it impossible to think that what it says comes directly or indirectly from God." "...the Bible tells us about how they saw things, not about how God sees things."
The Bible is not sacred because God is its origin. It is sacred because it was deemed this by the ancient communities from whom it originated.
The Bible is the framework or the spiritual landscape that Christians live within. Christians must actively operate within this spiritual story, but must use judgment as to what does not need to be honored because it was relevant to ancient times and peoples, and from their cultural and social environment or "...because that they were never the will of God."
The Bible can act as a "sacrament," a vehicle that generates within us the divine experience.
"Lectio Divina" is a method of reading passages from the Bible slowly, allowing them to resonate within us so that some kind of experience of the holy ensues. It dates back at least to the Middle Ages and is being rediscovered today.
Finally, "...calling the Bible the Word of God refers not to its origin but to its status and function."