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Beliefs in Motion: Where I am for a few minutes Part One

October 27, 2011

To appreciate how shockingly wide open my spirituality has become I have to note that I spent decades in a conservative evangelical church and family.   On the inside this was never really who I was, however it was all I knew—my entire social network and the religious path in which I received affirmation from key people in my life.  To escape this I left everything, married a sho’ nuff pagan, and I’m in the midst of many years of evolving into what was implanted into me as God’s deepest dream for my life.  I still have a long way to go, however I want to do this excercise where I kind of riff on the statement of beliefs of a conservative church I recently visited.  There were lots of things I liked about the church…the music was amazing!  However it horrifies me to hear for the gazillionth time the conservative evangelical party line.  Frankly it’s hard for me to grasp that the pastor really believes what he’s saying, however I think he actually does.  (Note I’ve spoken with several pastors who confided in me that they DIDN’T believe what they were preaching, but they couldn’t afford to lose their job by speaking their truth.)  The entire statement of beliefs is here.   I’ll hit the eight points one at a time.

Today…The Authority of the Bible:

From the church:  We believe that the Scriptures comprised of 66 books contain the only written revelation, given by the Holy Spirit to human authors. The Word of God is free from errors in the original manuscripts, constituting the only infallible and sufficient rule for life and godliness. (Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; 3:16)

My Take:  In that there are numerous lengthy books on the topic, all I can do is hit some highlights:

1.  Many moons ago I actually memorized each of the scriptures the church cites as authority.  The circular reasoning of “The Bible is true because the Bible says it’s true” would carry more weight if the Bible as we know it today existed when these verses were written.   When the Psalm passage was written the “Bible” consisted of the first five books of the Old Testament.  When the passages from Timothy and Peter were written the Old Testament had fleshed out a bit, however there was no recognized collection of works which were or were to become the New Testament.

2. There are over forty thousand denominations—-that’s forty thousand groups of folks who said their unique understanding of the Bible was so worth fighting for that they could not align with any other Christian group.   Even if the Bible were “infallible and sufficient,”  it is so very unclear that basing one’s Christian faith solely on the Bible can do as much damage as it does good.

3. Remember that for more than three quarters of Christian history, the average person had no access to “The Bible.”   There were significant splits on issues, however the church was much more cohesive and just as loved by God when Chritianity was shared by word of mouth and by art.

4  I love reading about the formation of the canon: the collection of books we now call “The Bible.”  It was done by a contentious democratic vote by misongynist men with religious and political agendas.  Read The Jesus Wars.     I don’t believe the men who created the canon were led solely by God, nor do I think they got it right.

5.  I was just about to toss out the whole Bible upon which I’d based my life when I discovered the books of Richard Rohr, D.E. Paulk, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, and others.  Father Rohr in particular showed me a non-dualistic approach to understanding the New Testament that helped me see the teaching from the mindset in which it was written.  This has given me a renewed respect for the Bible…although I still approach it with caution.

6.  There were dozens of other books, which thousands of Christians believed to be THE truth and Word of God, which were tossed out and destroyed seventeen hundred years or so ago when the 66 books of what we call the Bible were chosen.  I believe many of those books, particularly the Gnostic Gospels, have much to teach us about the nature of Jesus/God/Holy Spirit.  Because I believe the early fathers of the church and the Roman government systematically massaged the new testament books to exclude and reduce the importance Jesus intended regarding women, I tend to believe parts of the gnostic gospels are often closer to the truth than what we have in the established canon.

7.   Like the men who created the canon, the King James Version was shaped by a religious and political agenda which was not in alignment with the heart of God.  I don’t like it one bit.

8.  Last, and perhaps most important, I believe God is still speaking to people like you and me, and what we’re hearing is often as valid and true as anything in the traditional Bible.  When we read something in the Bible, or when a preacher states what something in the Bible means, and in our heart of hearts it doesn’t ring true….I think we must trust the voice within, and at least investigate further.

My current Statement of Belief regarding the Authority of The Bible:   The Bible is a fascinating historical record of people seeking to know and understand God which, put in its historical context and considered with other spiritual writings,  teaching, art, as well as God’s voice within us, has great value today as we pursue Divine revelation.

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