From the beginning I have made the proposition that a change in attitude and behavior is necessary in order for Christianity to maintain a strong and positive influence in the world. Though not in agreement with Bishop Spong who stated that “Christianity must change or die,” I am in harmony with his understanding that literalist Christians may very well literalize themselves into inconsequential roles, or worse, becoming the cause of highly negative consequential events.
The notion that God, by virtue of a very person emotional “calling,” gives some sort of authority to those engaged in pastoral duties that is not given to the rest of humanity is a false notion.
Nor is there anything such as Bible authority that facilitates by theology, doctrine or verse the elevation of one person’s opinion and knowledge above that of others.
Basing one’s opinions by citing what the Bible says rather than what one has learned through spiritual experience with God are twp different things. Neither grant individuals any kind of authority above another.
A preacher who labors based on an innerant Bible ends up, as Watts wrote, attempting to “tell God what to do and the people how to behave.”
For a long time the second part of that phrase had more impact than the first. However, attempting to tell God what to do because the Bible is inerrant reveals itself as nothing more than childish pursuit of human priorities.
Part of perception is that the interpretation of what we perceive is primarily driven by what we expect to see, i.e. our own internal assumptions. The assumption that the Bible is inerrant then drives the expectations one has as to what God does or will say, what God actually wills, and what God deems as important.
The logic of this is inescapable. If God were to somehow make known a concept not found in the Bible (and I’m not talking about a concept contrary to something in the Bible, but, for example a concept more apropos to 21st century living), how would a culture totally based on an inerrant Bible be ever able to accept it?
“Dogmatic” for me consists of rigidity and inflexibility. I am dogmatic when it comes to my perception of the Bible as something more than a law book limited to its literal statements. I am dogmatic when it comes to viewing the Bible as but one of many powerful means of achieving on-going communion with God.
A church full of Bibles is not a stable full of animals all wearing one harness. It is a place where each person has an individual relationship via his or her personal scripture with the source of the scripture. Otherwise we reduce the Bible to a course in Religion 101, denying ourselves the advanced knowledge to be gained through experientially living religion 201, 301, 401, 100001 and more.
Why would we deliberately remain in shallow water where only splashing is allowed when we can venture into deeper waters, learn to swim and discover the ocean?
What may be true is how many religions contradict each other. In the end, all we have are religions that some claim yes to a thing, and others claim no to a thing, and so on and so forth. God cannot be and then not be. He either is, or He is not. Therefore some religions can claim that others have to be in error and false.
But such notions exist only in an either/or world defined in black and white terms by an inerrant Bible and specific assumptions that cannot be proven. In this circumstance the human mind – where the Holy Spirit is truly sensed and experienced – remains tragically closed.
From the Bible over 400 times does Jesus equate himself as God and over 800 times it is claimed that His passion is the justifying act for the atoning sacrifice that God required. And in an inerrant Bible one cannot read God Himself explaining why that atoning sacrifice is needed and in that specific way. All those references in fact reflect theology more than doctrine or the status of Jesus. The theology is that which came down to us and exemplified in the Apostles Creed. It is not Bible based, but theologically based.
That’s a strange circumstance because it leaves the believers in an inerrant Bible in a position of having to trust those who discriminately chose, compiled, organized and ordered the writings that became scripture.
It leaves Protestants having to assume that at least in regards to the Bible, Catholic forefathers were totally righteousness and pious and knew precisely the mind and will of God – and left that knowledge intact and untouched over the resulting centuries at the same time their need for survival and security compelled them to totally dishonest actions: the selling of forgiveness, the creation of crusades and inquisitions.
Belief in an inerrant Bible totally hangs on whether or not one is willing to accept that despite all other corruptions, those early Roman priests and scribes were faithfully copying and including EVERYTHING the earliest Christians knew and recorded about Jesus and God.
If one is willing to accept the above, then why could those Roman Fathers not formally agree and declare that Jesus was God until they voted on it 200+ years after Jesus resurrected?
Can we have a personal relationship with God outside the words of the literalist’s bible?
Well of courses we can. Whether one admits it or not, one’s relationship with God is totally and entirely personal. What authority might be needed before such a relationship is established?
You may deny what the bible says all day if you want and that is your right, but to claim the Bible does not state a thing is not truth and it is this that makes you out to be just another man claiming what you think.
Are we not all men and women claiming what we think?
We should and must claim what we think. We should be willing to own up to that which we think. We should honestly try to live up to that which we think – especially if we are willing to tell God what to do and people how to behave.
God has not asked your opinion, nor mine as we can only react to what is given to us through His chosen men.
That is another “old sectarian notion” that requires a Monarchical God rather than a loving Father in order for the notion to be valid. The idea that God delegates “authority” and dispenses different doses of wisdom to each individual does not correspond with a God who is no respecter of persons and who causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
Again the old lie that God will talk to a priest before God will talk to a parishoner.
Or the bigger lie that some sort of worthiness status must be achieved before one can receive the Word personally.
Or the even bigger lie that God will curse the person who does not believe men who claim to be God’s chosen mouthpieces.
a patriarchal God who talks only through male prophets;
a God who chooses and favors one man over another – worse, one people over another.
All of those old sectarian notions support a construct that never existed and endless words and sermons pleading its existence will not change that.
As I have written before, Liberal Christianity remains the oldest Christianity – the on-going living practice of what Jesus actually taught and patterned. That, for 21st Century Christians – with all one’s heart, might, mind and strength – is to love and trust God as the Father of Compassion and forgetting about an imagined Giver of Laws who must be blindly and inerrantly followed.