Thursday, March 31, 2011

12 baskets?

Don't know where this (minor) doubt came from, but I was listening to someone talking about the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 yesterday and it occurred to me just how fictional the story sounds.

Leaving aside the central miracle, the other details just don't ring true.

Matthew 14:
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The disciples and crowds didn't have any food with them but they did have 12 baskets? That sounds a bit funny. Beyond that, in a remote place, having distributed food to 5000 people, the disciples felt the need to collect the rubbish from the ground? It was just bread and bits of fish - the birds would have dealt with all that soon enough, and its not as if they needed it, they've just seen Jesus multiply food.

So even allowing the miracle as a possibility, it still seems pretty unlikely. More like a 'just so' story than a recollection of a real event.

Weaker Brother

I came across this the other day. I might get one and wear it to church for a laugh...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I believe in the Holy Spirit

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I hear some of you cry. "Finally, after all that doubting, a sound post with a positive declaration of faith..."

Erm, well, sorry to disappoint you, but this isn't that post.

I'm wrestling with the whole area of faith vs experience at the moment. I'm working on a longer blog post on faith, which I'll post eventually, but I just realised this morning what it all boils down to. And that is this:

All my Christian experience leads me to believe, or rather to know that the Holy Spirit is an ever-present reality. (Hallelujah!)

I've seen the presence of the Spirit in my life and in the lives of others, I've experienced the promptings of the Spirit in my experience and I've even seen (minor) miracles and healings done in his name. Of course, I have heard tale of greater things than those, but I'm a skeptical sort, so I'll stick with "That which ... we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched" (1 John 1v1) rather than second or third hand reports.

The problem, or the doubt, is this:

While I know the existence of the Spirit, I don't (and can't) have equivalent experience of God the Father or of God the Son. Both of them are purely taken on faith. And that faith is built on things that were written thousands of years ago, by people possibly unknown to us. It takes a lot of faith to believe the words of that book. And when you doubt some of it (as I do, and have) you soon find that quite a lot of it unravels and falls apart.

Faith in the bible is (almost) an all or nothing stance. You can't have your cake and eat it. Life would be so easy if I could believe that the Bible was completely inspired and therefore infallible. But I've scratched at too many flaky bits to believe that anymore. But if bits of it are not infallible, or if bits of it are not inspired, then how can you decide which is which? And beyond that, how can you know if any of it is inspired, or indeed, if there was an inspirer?

The thing is, if you start with that which you can see and experience and go from there, I don't think you can ever get to the edifice of faith that is biblical Christian belief. Christian belief is a mixture of the experiential and the unverifiable written stuff. Most of which is just unquestioningly taken on board.

But if you start from the experiential and don't take on board the unverifiable, you end up in a radically different place to most Christians. Indeed, you end up closer to Pagans than Christians.

Confused? Yes I am! But still looking for the light.