Thursday, January 07, 2010

Between two stools

I seem to have fallen between two stools...

I've been reading a lot of stuff recently that critically examines the Bible. This has brought me to the point of questioning my own long-held beliefs on the bible itself. OK, I haven't subscribed to the 'infallible' opinion for a very long time, possibly never, but I have still believed that the book contained the Word of God, even if not every word in there was inspired. But when viewed from a critical perspective, it certainly appears that the many books of the Bible (specifically the New Testament) do not speak with a common voice.

The writer of the gospel of Luke would appear to disagree with the writer of the gospel of Mark. Not just on minor details, but on the very essence of what Jesus was about and who he was. And then the writer of John comes along and changes everything. Not only is his interpretation of the events different from the other three, he has different events totally.

And how can we deal with the issues surrounding the epistles? The evidence seems reasonably compelling that Paul did not write several of them, whoever wrote the letters allegedly by Peter lived far too late to actually be Peter, and so on. Its enough to make you fall off the stool of belief altogether...

But.

The Christian life works. Worship works (as I've said before). Healing happens. It still seems like God reaches through to touch us... but who is this God? If most of what we know comes from an unreliable and biased book, and only a little comes from experience, can we really say we know God?

I want to know the God who is there. The problem is, I'm becoming more convinced that he is not the God described in the bible - for the bible itself does not describe one God. It gives various people's perspectives on what they believed their God was like at various points through history. But hidden somewhere behind this is the real God, its just really hard to see him! [See also my old post called "Old maps"]

4 comments:

James F. McGrath said...

Hi Ricky! Thanks for this honest and thoughtful post. Have you read Keith Ward's book What The Bible Really Teaches? I found it very helpful in transitioning from feeling guilty for having moved away from a more literalistic approach to the Bible, to realizing that even those who claim to have views based on the Bible are picking and choosing. As a result, I've come to see Christianity as something that has always been diverse. Christian theologians and mystics (as well as those in other traditions) have sometimes spoken of the divine "economy" or "the God beyond God" because of the recognition that there is a gap between the ultimate, transcendent reality, and perceptions of and writings about that reality.

Anyway, I mainly wanted to leave a comment to say I appreciated your post!

Fred H. Anderson said...

I agree with James. Please add my thanks to his.

Jonathan Robinson said...

Hi Rick, good on you for being honest about what you are processing, but don't be too quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. While the Bible most certainly does contain great diversity and even significant disagreement between its parts the level of disagreement can seem a lot greater when you are only focussing on the differences and putting special weight upon those differences that they may not entirely warrant.
Either way, pax vobiscum, :-)

Ricky Carvel said...

Thanks for all these comments!

James, I've added that book to my Amazon wishlist, so will get around to it eventually...

Jonathan, I have no intention of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, its just that I seem to be finding that the water magnifies the baby, and the baby in the bath is smaller than I expected it to be. And some of the disagreements are pretty big ones: do Christians have to follow the entire OT Law? Matthew says Yes, Paul says No. Which is it? Both are in the bible.

But this is still a work in progress. No doubt I'll change my views again in the future... keep reading. :o)