Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Liberal Theological Thoughts On The Bible

I suppose a bit of context is in order here. Over at Marshall Art, they're all in a dither about a stupid lawsuit a man is bringing against two Bible publishers. I fail to see what's to get upset about, but then again, I don't view the Bible in quite the same way as Marshall and some of his commenters.

As a source of authority for the Christian Church and its teaching, the Bible has no equal. All the silly, meaningless debates about what, precisely, it means to call the Bible "the word of God" are beside the point; the issue is, simply put, one of where we rest our case for what we believe. It took several hundred years for the final canon of the Bible to be settled, after serious disputes and not a little robe-renting. Fifteen hundred years later, Martin Luther took the extraordinary step of removing from the Bible several books, and portions thereof, that he felt had not place, including the wonderful book of Tobit, and the Wisdom of Solomon. He also had issues with the Epistle of James (all that works-righteousness stuff) and the Apocalypse (it was so dense and confusing even a trained scholar like Luther had problem figuring it out). Since then, we've had the LDS add an entire Testament, and the general trend to downplay the Hebrew Scriptures (all those New Testaments with the Psalms, you know).

There is nothing magical about the Bible. There is nothing inside the Bible that creates through reading some instantaneous change. People get out of the Bible what they put in; if they are reading looking for wisdom or insight or some key to a particular problem, more than likely they will find an answer. If they are looking for the inerrant Truth about Life, the Universe, and Everything, provided they are willing to suspend all that we now know about the way the world works, they will find it. Neither of these things are reasons to venerate the Bible; neither of these approaches to scripture make it what it is.

Simply put, the Bible and the Church were birthed together. What the earliest adherents of a belief that, in Jesus, something unique and unprecedented in human history had happened did was set down their impressions of what this event meant. For some, even most of the people then alive, it meant nothing at all because they had never heard of it. For those exposed to it, some found it silly, some found it blasphemous, and some found it life-transforming. These last bequeathed to us a testimony of their own struggles with what, exactly, this meant for them. It has been offered to us as a guide. No more, no less.

Making more of the Bible than it is has been a curious pastime among many Christians. Whether that means imbuing it with magical powers or seeing it as some kind of magic wand to be waved for our edification, instruction, and judgment, we are transferring to the Bible qualities that reside in God alone. The Bible is "Holy" because it is a testimony of who God is. It is not "Holy" in and for itself. The Bible is the source of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian because human beings need a source.

I suppose in the eyes of some this diminishes the Bible in some way. I suppose I should be honest and say I don't understand why.

Virtual Tin Cup

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