This is part two of a developing series – consolidating, clarifying, and (perhaps) expanding ideas presented in this blog. These posts are, as it were, pages in my sketchbook on faith and theology.
While I draw deeply from the wells of a host of significant thinkers and writers, this is a very personal undertaking for which I bear full responsibility for any distortions or mis-use of their ideas.
This “sketch” is drawn from an earlier post.
Sketching the Bible
2 Timothy 3:14-17 (in my words)
Be fully cognizant of what you have learned and its effects on your practice of faithing. Pay special attention to who your teachers (and other influences) have been. Keep a child-like attitude as you mature as a follower of the Way lived and taught by Yeshua. There is a special place for scripture in the process of your faith formation. It will give you clues about how to interpret that unheard inner voice of insistence that comes in the name of God. Perhaps. Some will attempt to enshrine scripture, giving it ultimate authority over every aspect of life. Be careful not to treat scripture like a god. Don’t get me wrong, scripture is exceedingly “useful” as we continue to grow in the practice of faithing — we continue to learn from scripture; it reminds us when we stray from the Way’s path; it even tutors us in dignity and justice. All this to the end that we who claim to belong to God might be proficient practitioners of the Way of Yeshua – demonstrating love, compassion, peace, justice, and wholeness.
I don’t believe in the Bible! I just don’t! I know that, as a Teaching Elder, I am expected to… but I don’t! And that’s OK. I have been told by some that our job as Christians is not to interpret the Bible, but simply to believe it. But what a I to believe? The verb “destroy” is used 565 times in the NRSV. Most of time it is used to describe action anticipated or accomplished by God or God’s agents. Am I to believe that God is primarily a destroyer? If that is what Christianity is all about, count me out! Am I to believe that evolution can’t be true because it is conflicts the story told in Genesis 1 – that the world was created in 6 days. I think not!
The Bible is a remarkable resource for the practice of faithing, not the essence or object of faith; a finger pointing toward wholeness in life, not life itself; a collective witness from those on the journey of faithing, not a manual dictating the specific steps of the journey; a series of essays, songs, stories, and more written by those on the journey, not a dictation from a transcendent super-being.
I do believe, with 2 Timothy 3:16 that scripture is exceedingly “useful” as we continue to grow in the practice of faithing. Its usefulness, however, is not primarily in directing our attention heavenward or providing us with scientific, historical, or cultural ‘facts’ which are designed to be a turn-by-turn GPS navigation system for constraining life’s journey and coercing it in one specific direction (usually heavenward). Instead scripture’s usefulness lies in its ability to arouse within us a passion for abundant life in the here and now, in the meantime. Does scripture give some directions (as opposed to demands)? Yes indeed! And the directions are only somewhat specific — for example, “do justice, love compassion, and live within a god-like humility” or Yeshua’s invitation to care for the poor, distressed, and suffering. The rest (namely, what we must do specifically in particular situations) is left up to us. Community among those desiring to be faithful to Yeshua’s Way is vitally important. Most of scripture’s capacity for “teaching” and “correcting” is accomplished in dialogue, in community. In fact, I am willing to suggest that the primary “use” of scripture is to begin dialogue among Christian practitioners about their faithing journey in the dailiness of life to the end that life not become a chore but, instead, a joyful and bountiful pilgrimage.
So… do I believe in the Bible? No… no… a thousand times ‘No!’ I use the Bible to begin and/or continue dialogue about the direction of my life and the efficacy of my journey. I have a lover’s quarrel with scripture because the context in which much of it was written demanded (or, at least, generated) a more powerful (violent) understanding of God based upon a more primitive understanding of the world (a more primitive science dependent upon a set of cultural criteria that make no sense today). My lover’s quarrel with scripture is often evidenced by arguing with specific passages and/or authors deconstructing and re-writing particular texts turning scriptural arguments upside-down or inside-out.
In short, I do not revere scripture; I honor it, study it, interpret it, and even contradict it — faithfully!