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Posts Tagged ‘certainty’

By Mike Edwards

“The unquestioned assumption that the Bible is, and has to be inerrant, or else it cannot be the word of God, is the number one assumption/expectation that appears in deconversion narratives.”

John Marriott – A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures

Most people I know don’t tune out God or leave from faith in God as an excuse to lead a hell-bent life. I am not sure why some are more or less inclined to believe and seek a relationship with a Creator. Either belief requires faith. Many may desire God be more a part of their life but are turned away because what they imagine God should be like isn’t what others claim.

Most get their understanding about God from the Bible.  

Church-goers gain most of their understanding of God from the Bible. Many non-going church people are impacted by what others claim about God according to the Bible. I wrote here that the main passages used to condemn gays in God’s name are highly debatable. Try telling people with a straight face a perfect moral God tortures forever after death for beliefs held while a short time here on earth. What many assume of a good God doesn’t match what the Bible says!

The problem is how the Bible is viewed.

The Bible has been used to misled many about God, but we must admit the Bible has inspired many. Jesus, who represented God, set a powerful example by how He treated others. Yet, a close reading of the Bible notices hundreds of passages advocating violence in God’s name. It is normal to question an interpretation that makes God appear immoral from a human perspective. It is normal to question if the writers always fully understood God. It is not God’s nature to controlled anyone’s thoughts. Writers could be influenced by culture norms where sacrilegious to not speak of God as all-controlling than relational.

When insisting all of the Bible is inspired or approved by God, it forces one to reject the Bible if wrong on any issue. Many insist the Bible can’t support evolution. These same people also insist the Bible is without error. If one believes evolution is a possibility, this forces them to reject the Bible and often God goes with that. Maybe Genesis isn’t meant to be a historical or scientific rendering of creation but written to convey there was a Creator.

It is suggested we should look to Jesus as the final authority when confused.

There are still interpretation issues even if we insist Jesus be the final voice in what God is truly like. Those who respect Scriptures don’t always agree what Jesus thought. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus would do.

How can we read and represent the Bible?

The Bible can be viewed as a recording of experiences with God for reflection by the readers. God didn’t necessarily perform a lobotomy to control the thoughts and words of the writers. The Bible or any literature written thousands of years ago isn’t meant to be used as a rules or answers book. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

A part of the solution is to stop the sin of certainty!

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? Religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God, often according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. I am convinced the Bible or any literature wasn’t meant to be used as a question and answer book. The Bible read reflectively allows God’s spirit to speak to individuals in making unselfish decisions for a better world. Don’t push people away from God because of the Bible.

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By Mike Edwards

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Open-minded uncertainty rather than supposed certainty could go a long way to healing our nation and personal relationships!

Certainty about God because of the Bible

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim.  Writers could have clearly misunderstood God. God’s nature is not to control thoughts and words of writers. Besides, the Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. Which books are supposedly infallible? The Bible isn’t a question and answer book. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties?

Certainty about our interpretation of the Bible

It is not often admitted one’s interpretations may be wrong but instead emphatically stated “the Bible says…” Literature always requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to our personal circumstances. Scholars and laypeople, who even respect the authority of Scriptures, frequently disagree on the meaning of the same passage. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Is violence never desired but necessary sometimes?

Certainty about what is best for individuals about their relationships

Bible folks and non-Bible folks frequently talk as if knowing what is best in one’s circumstances, whether about personal or work relationships. It is easier giving advice than listening and helping one make their own decisions. Bible-folks claim one shouldn’t divorce because the Bible supposedly says so. It’s complicated. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue.

The Bible is quoted that we must always forgive, but God is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s complicated. Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive despite their abuser denying any wrongdoing. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness to stop the victimizing?

Certainty about what is best for a nation

God-followers must stop implying or claiming moral superiority because of the Bible for reasons stated. Thankfully, we live in a democratic society. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law because one’s physical rights are clearly violated. Physical violence when disagreeing is obviously wrong and must be condemned, but it isn’t obvious if building a wall is right or wrong. Discussions best start with what parties agree on. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. It is a dictatorship when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes.

Uncertainty, not certainty, can lead to creative solutions not chaos.  

  • We must first stop claiming our views are morally superior to those we disagree with
  • We must handle differences with physical and emotional civility
  • We can begin conversations by looking for areas we agree
  • We can discuss differences by defending our reasoning, respecting the opinions of others, and committing to growing in understanding
  • In a democratic society the vote of the majority must be followed until voted on again

 

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By Mike Edwards

I still don’t know exactly how to describe God’s role with the Bible after I started rethinking why the Bible can’t be infallible or entirely inspired. It just seems so unlike God to control thoughts written down, rather than allowing us to grow in our understanding of God when ready. Scholars who respect Scriptures are admitting the Bible isn’t infallible. These same theologians are slow to suggest God didn’t inspire all of the Bible, which suggests God approves of everything written, but see concerns below. Many have been provoked to not even consider a relationship with God when sexist, homophobic, and genocidal behaviors attributed to God in the Bible are rationalized.

Why the Bible can’t be proven to be infallible.  

The OT records thousands of times “God said…” Writers weren’t claiming God spoke audibly; they were simply writing about their “impressions” from God. We can’t prove such impressions were always right. It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many who accept the Bible being infallible would not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on OT writers’ impressions of what they thought God was telling them.

But, even if God dictated all of the Bible words are still subject to interpretation. Forget the Older Testament. Scholars don’t agree what Jesus meant when talking about Hell. The fact that we disagree about the meaning of the same passages makes the discussion of the Bible’s infallibility a moot point because interpretations aren’t infallible. The formation of the Old Testament was a long, slow development over centuries. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t know the books of the Bible we have were the ones God intended to convey truth or that other books haven’t been excluded to convey truth about God. 

Why it is doubtful God inspired all of the Bible.   

To describe the Bible as inspired or authoritative suggest to many that God approves of everything recording in the Bible. It is hard for most to believe God inspired hundreds of OT passages like I Samuel 15:3 when God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Why would God inspire views that suggest God would endorse genocide? How could God inspire approving of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)?

There are good reasons to lean toward the Bible not being inspired because of certain morals attributed to God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the supposed name of God. Different opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God gave us a moral brain! 

What is the Bible if not inspired by God?

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. Writings about God can keep us talking and reflecting what God is really like. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings would not be questioned. The Bible claims to be God-breathe which can literally mean God-spirited (2 Tim. 3:16). Only the Old Testament existed when these words penned. This passage could simply mean God uses writings about God to touch our spirit.

Certainty in God isn’t the Holy Grail!

An inspired Bible leads to interpretations magically becoming infallible. Believing such a Book exists has led to condemning gays in God’s name, though those who accept Scriptures as authoritative don’t agree the Bible disapproves of homosexuality. A fallible Book can’t hide behind infallible interpretations. Uncertainty doesn’t have to led to chaos as moral laws that violate the rights of others are obvious. The majority of people born in this world never read a Bible but seem to have an inborn knowledge of right and wrong, hinting a Creator not a Book communicates to all what is good.

How can we read the Bible?

Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love.  Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties? Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. As long as we read the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience, it seems the Bible can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

For related questions about the Bible go to:   

http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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