In the absence of actual prophesying, seeing and revelating the leadership of many organized religions based on the revelatory experience, retreat to scripture reading and scripture quoting to take the place of actual revealed religion.
The gist of the teachings of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith was that God is a revealer who will make known to each individual human, that which is necessary to understand in order to live a moral life worthy of merit.
What must mortals do to profit by scripture? Most certainly there is a better way than literal reading …
If we only carry on a literal reading of a book of scripture, starting say at page one and marching through to the 600th page, we may march right past the prompting that comes from the search, the ponder and the prayer.
We possibly then fail to understanding that perhaps the source of prompted scripture wants words written to become a means of communicating the tenor of those words. Tenor for me means that the written words of Divinity are to be read and understood in context of the spirit of law more than the letter of law.
Deut:28:58: If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;
61: Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
The context of Deuteronomy 28 is a promise that if Israel is obedient they shall be blessed temporally and spiritually. If disobedient they shall be cursed, smitten and destroyed. The assertion of the idea of fearing God or God’s name has resulted in a myriad of literalist constructs that equates fear with love toward God.
Whether they admit it or not, those who assume such an equation of a God-who-must-be-pleased do so unwisely. Such readers fail to recognize that literal translation of words from one ancient language to modern English can be hazardous.
The usefulness of Deut 28:58 lies in understanding the promise of temporal and spiritual blessing rather than the literalist meaning which in reality proposes a God of extortion who says “do things my way or I’ll whack you!”
Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
To me this verse is Jesus telling me that whether one reads “word” as scripture or Jesus himself, the essence is a seed is personal knowledge; planted by Jesus and/or available to be used for planting from scripture.
The seed/word is a personal knowledge of one’s relationship to Divinity and a comprehension of how each child of God fits into the scheme of mortal existence. Such could be used to define what it means to be born-again as well. We are only speaking of the same thing from two different but ultimately harmonious perceptions?
Personal inner knowledge is vulnerable to being lost – not because some “devil” comes and “steals” something that is thriving within – but because inner knowledge is something that is not static; something continually responding to the experiences of life.
The inner seed grows and develops according to it’s nourishment; a consumption that includes some outward things (temptations to actions and ideas) that Jesus said elsewhere could defile one within.
Rev:22:18-9 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
If one uses this verse to justify an inerrant Bible with correct but inflexible religious formula, then I can only say that I read it and do not reach the same conclusion.
Relating the Revelations quote to the previous Luke quote, this “book of life’ is truly a book of life that contains the “seed” which should be planted within. Tampering with the book is severely condemned. However, I disagree with any implication that this Revelations quote forbids me from trying to understand Revelations according to how I understand life.
Contrary to authoritarian religious systems, there is no such thing as “one true way to read or know scripture.”
If so forbidden, then most certainly we would have a scriptural source elsewhere in the Bible that explicitly and specifically defines all meanings as the official formula by which any exploration of scripture and doctrine is based.
READING THE BIBLE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME- a review
“This older way of seeing the Bible has been called ‘natural literalism.’ In a state of natural literalism, the Bible is read and accepted literally without effort. Because someone in this state has no reason to think differently, a literal reading of the Bible poses no problems.
Natural literalism is quite different from ‘conscious literalism,’ a modern form of literalism that has become aware of problems posed by a literal reading of the Bible but insists upon it nevertheless.
Whereas natural literalism is effortless, conscious literalism is effortful. It requires ‘faith’ understood as believing things hard to believe. But natural literalism does not insist upon literal interpretation. Rather, it takes it for granted and it does not require ‘faith’ to do so.
My family and congregation were not fundamentalists. Rather, we were natural literalists, though we favored what we might call “soft literalism.’
We did not, for example, insist upon reading the Genesis stories of creation literally. It was fine to see the six days of creation as six geological epochs. We did not have to deny the existence of dinosaurs or the fossil record. But as ‘soft literalists, we took it for granted that the most important events in the Bible happened pretty much as they are reported. That at the time of the exodus the sea really did part to allow the ancient Hebrews to pass through. That Jesus really was born of a virgin really did walk on the water, really did multiply loaves, and so forth.
This is what I mean by ‘soft literalism’: taking it for granted that the most central events reported in the Bible really happened. This older way of seeing the Bible went with an older way of seeing Christianity.
The reason for the connection is obvious: the Bible has been the foundational for Christianity throughout the centuries. How one sees the Bible and how one sees Christianity go hand in hand.”
The above paragraphs are in the introductory writings to READING THE BIBLE AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME, by Marcus J. Borg, Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University.
Dr. Borg is also the author of MEETING JESUS AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE GOD WE NEVER KNEW, and JESUS: A NEW VISION.
Dr. Borg’s writing represents the “historical-metaphorical” side of an on-going debate with those who insist on a “literal-factual” way of reading the Bible. His stated intent is to offer a persuasive way of seeing and reading scriptures that “takes the Bible seriously without taking it literally.”
Using four formal statements to describe who we have become, Dr. Borg points out how our cultural context cannot be ignored as more and more of us find the older way of looking at the Bible less and less persuasive:
We are aware of religious pluralism.
We are aware of historical and cultural relativity.
We are modern people.
We live on the boundary of post-modernity.
Expounding on those statements, Dr. Borg writes to persuade that his way of seeing and reading the Bible would lead to a way of being Christian that has very little to do with believing:
“Being Christian, I will argue, is not about believing in the Bible or about believing in Christianity. Rather, it is about a deepening relationship with the God to whom the Bible points, lived within the Christian tradition as a sacrament of the sacred.”
Part One contains foundations of concepts upon which the subsequent “Reading again” presentations will be based. We are asked to look at the Bible as:
a human response to God,
as Sacred Scripture,
as Sacrament of the Sacred,
and as The Word of God,
as History and Metaphor,
and as stories about the Divine-Human Relationship.
Dr. Borg then asks that as readers of the Bible, we move from precritical naiveté through critical thinking to post critical naiveté. These jargon-like phrases identify ways of perception that recognizes our own experience.
Precritical naiveté is described as “an early childhood state in which we take it for granted that whatever the significant authority figures in our lives tell us to be true is indeed true.”
Critical thinking begins in late childhood and early adolescence. “We sift through what we learned as children to see how much of it we should keep.”
Postcritical naiveté is “the ability to hear the biblical stories once again as true stories, even as one knows that they may not be factually true and that their truth does not depend upon their factuality.”
Part Two is a rereading, using the book’s outlined perspectives, of The Hebrew Bible. Dr. Borg chooses to refer to what Christians consider the Old Testament as The Hebrew Bible for two reasons:
The first reason is respect for Judaism for whom the Hebrew Bible is THE BIBLE, not “The Old Testament.”
The second reason given is that for many Christian readers, the adjective “Old” implies outmoded or superceded – as if the “New” Testament were intended to replace the “Old” Testament.
Part Three is a rereading, using again Dr. Borg’s outlined perspectives, of the New Testament. Prepared by the foundations offered in Part One, I found Parts Two and Three well worth reading.
In conclusion, might I suggest that as you hear sermons and sunday school lessons that utilize scripture – or preach an inerrant scripture, also explore commentaries, read different interpretations.
Do what Peter suggested. Read scripture seeking to have the same spirit as that in which it was first written.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
A priesthood is not necessary to teach you what scripture means. Such is the real meaning of private interpretation. Performance based religions insist on exactly the opposite. Your personal interpretation is subject to the church’s official interpretation