this is a continuation of an earlier post entitled the God in my box.
one of the most difficult dilemmas in my life right now is the debate over how to treat the bible. it's true that i live in one of the most adamantly christian nations on earth, and to add to that i am surrounded by people who are convinced that the protestant bible is the infallible word of God. this is how i grew up.
|this dumpster has an incredibly difficult lid |
as well. just don't read into it too much.
i was taught to believe "in the beginning.." and "for God so loved..." before i could form sentences on my own, and these are among the verses that i vehemently defended until a year ago. thankfully, life experiences have recently prompted me to ask some very specific questions.
it seems very obvious to me now that the belief system i once subscribed to is built on a series of half truths and convenient assumptions, which would not hold up against a little critical thinking and solid reasoning. how about yours?
while this entire issue may seem irrelevant to many, i have found it very valuable to have an ongoing discussion regarding the evolution of my stance on belief and religion with those around me. it has helped me to think critically and stay sane.
would you like to join the discussion? the following are just
three of the main reasons that i simply could not give up my faith in the bible as higher truth for so very long. enjoy! (and feel free to disagree in the comment box below)
three myths i whole-heartedly believed about the bible
the argument for the inerrancy of scriptures was initially taught to me in apologist form. i had already embraced the biblical texts as the highest from of truth due to songs and mantras that i learned in sunday school and at home. in reality, i believed in inerrancy of the scriptures chiefly because of vacation bible school songs like "i believe the bible is the word of God."
when i actually did learn the basis for our belief in divinely inspired and uncompromised nature of the bible, it was in fragmentary form. archaeological evidence was referenced in passing. the cohesiveness of the texts
was invoked. by far the most compelling reason i was given was that literally billions of people have embraced the christian faith over literally thousands of years.
how could two billion christians be wrong? there are a billion muslims who can tell you exactly how.
i remember asking my mother why certain books were chosen for inclusion in the bible while others were left out. she replied that by the time of the council of nicea (325 ad, when the bible as we know it was assembled), it was obvious which books had changed people's lives and which had not. and this answer sticks with me to this day.
in a certain sense my mom was right; belief in the inerrancy of the bible does change people's lives. but i would argue that you can take any book and bestow upon it the status of higher truth, wholeheartedly living according to the (real or imagined) principles contained in it. there is no doubt that that book will change your life.
maybe the biggest misnomer about the biblical texts is that they are collectively expressive of a set of transcendent values. for years
i have heard
from parents, church leaders and friends who i studied the bible with that the bible never contradicts itself.
this is categorically untrue. there are so many contradictions within the current biblical texts that the problem of agreeing on an interpretation for application has started actual wars.
this one task occupies the minds of millions of intelligent scholars around the globe, and has preoccupied millions more for literally sixteen hundred years. their failure is testified to by the existence of thousands of distinct christian groups, many antagonistic and some willing violently prejudiced against each other.
for years, when i would point out a contradiction in the biblical texts i was studying, my friends or family or family members would point to a lack of faith on my part. sometimes they would follow this by expressing their concern that i was looking for a reason to ignore the moral standards in the bible.
however, my motivation for questioning the veracity of the biblical texts wasn't always motivated by an irrational and nihilistic rebellion. much to the contrary, my greatest motivation was often genuine desire to understand what is true about the world, about God.
in a structure of belief that depends on the interpretation of the biblical morals as a basis for community, questions like mine were outside of the scope of discussion.
i think this is why it took me until long after i left the church to establish a clear line of thinking about the possibility of a transcendent moral structure throughout the scriptures.
it was only after i left the church that i was able to take more seriously the observation that the biblical authors are saying radically different things. there actually didn't seem to be much of a continuous thread uniting them...
and this brings me to the most prevalent myth of all. i was previously convinced of the notion that the biblical texts represented a whole document that revealed God's unfolding plan of redemption to humanity.
the trouble is that these texts do not appear to be written by God, but by several people over the course of more than a thousand years. there can be no cohesiveness of the biblical texts as a whole for the same reason that we have failed over the centuries to successfully extract a coherent moral structure from the these books. these notions have traditionally been read into the text, but the reality they assert doesn't intrinsically manifest itself to the critical reader.
there is no transcendent take-home message - probably because no such message was intended.
to sum up
if you think about it, none of the aforementioned myths have solid foundations in the biblical texts in the first place. the biblical texts never claim to be part of a cohesive 66-part volume; and no author could make the claim that their writings would not contradict those of the other authors, because many of them didn't even know about each other. it's true that a few of the canonized authors make claims regarding the supernatural inspiration of their books, but the vast majority do not.
i confess that i don't express as much faith as i once did. but i actually look at this as a good thing. my faith was not primarily in God, or even the bible, but in culturally absorbed myths about the bible.
but what should we believe? or is faith obsolete?
i have no answers to these questions. but maybe we have over-focused on belief out of convenience or out of fear. maybe we have made too many (or too few) conclusions. whatever the case, i suggest we take a closer look at what we believe to start with.