Am I really a Christian? Fighting my battle with myself Part 3
The trouble with Christianity is… You have to believe the Bible
NB NB NB – I have NO qualification whatsoever to write this piece, it is pure commentary and opinion.
Ok, so I made this talk in person. My nephew was out of hospital by this stage and even though I was exhausted because I was organising two teacher’s timetables, I went. Still following on with the Tim book, and his beer in his hand, the Speaker went on to validate and justify from three perspectives the reasons for the Bible being reliable and believable in the following contexts:
1) Historically. The Bible was written too close to the events to be a ‘legend’. The speaker said that because the Bible consists mostly of letters that were delivered and read whilst the people written about were still around, it is more of a ‘newspaper’, thus not a ‘legend’. Like a journalist reporting on the times, or Anne Frank and her letters, if the witnesses and main characters believed that the letters were ‘lies’ then the letters would never have been preserved or kept, never mind published. Secondly, if the Bible was not accurate then it would be ‘counter-productive’ to the objectives of Christianity. If it were filled with unacceptable lies then the Religion would have failed as the people would not have accepted it at the time.
2) Culturally. If the Bible offends you culturally, then the Speaker said that it is due to your upbringing, experience and culture. This links back to two blogs ago and the piece on “Christianity is the only right Religion”. He said that it must be remembered that the Bible has a cultural context of its own; for example the concept of: “Slavery”. ‘Slavery’ at the time of Jesus was “bonded employment”. Slaves were well paid, educated, housed and fed and had the option of buying themselves out of their slavery if they desired too, but many didn’t choose to because their life with their “master” was a good life. The suggestion was to have the approach of taking that which you are offended by and applying it to the truth of the first century in order to help one remove their own culture and experience from the Bible and see it within the culture from which the writers were writing at the time, which is nothing like today.
3) Personally. This point was linked to number 1). Luke 1v1-4 says that the Bible was written by “eye-witnesses”, people who personally experienced Jesus’ presence. Thus the eye-witnesses, having written the work within a few decades of the experience, could be questioned and challenged by the people of the time. In taking the Bible personally one can see its purpose as meant to challenge the reader and grow them on their soul journey and as human beings.
Ok, so what did my mind do with this?
1) My 1998 Psychology textbook: How reliable is eyewitness testimony? “It is not only memories recovered under hypnosis that may be inaccurate. Even memories recovered in response to ordinary questioning can be very unreliable.” In some cases “police witnesses deliberately lied to protect themselves.” “…remembering is not like looking through a photograph album and describing what is there. It is a reconstructive process. What we ‘remember’ is constructed from some information about the event we are trying to remember and general information about events of that sort contained in schemas” (organised frameworks for long-term memories). In an experiment by Loftus & Palmer (1974) “41% of the subjects altered their recollection of a photograph to match incorrect information. This is called the ‘misinformation effect’. What we remember is also altered by the process of telling what we remember.” Often when people give testimony it is a product of reconstruction and may not be very accurate. If I apply this to the Bible: Peter, it is published that he denied Jesus three times, so can it be trusted that his book in the Bible does not contain any human guilt for what he did? Was ‘Paul’, or was it ‘Saul’, over all the damage he did before the Road to Damascus event when he forged ahead? Yes, there is the individual’s truth in testimony, but it is not a ‘valid’ argument to justify belief in the Bible.
2) People of the time disputing writings of the time… the church was new and small, still finding its feet. Why would they disagree with the new leaders? I know VERY few Christians who will challenge their leaders, pastors, bishops, reverends and so on. The general populous of churches, in my experience, sit in their pews and nod, or nod off to sleep. Why would they argue with those who “know”? Isn’t that a definite trip to ‘hell’ because followers have to be ‘obedient’, isn’t disagreeing with the pastor a ‘sin’? Isn’t the pastor more ‘knowledgeable’ than his congregation? How could they argue when the whole deal of “Christianity” was new and there was no experience or comparative to argue about? If I look at my city alone today: our local municipal elections had the lowest turnout ever, if I’m not mistaken, so how interested are people in what is going on in their time anyway? The government has/is passing their secrecy bill at the moment where journalists/anyone will be charged and condemned with treason for publishing any information on how the government spends our tax money… no masses have stood up to argue this, so why would anyone have argued or disagreed with letters written by a little over 12 guys to a bunch of people who believed the same things they did?
Another point to throw in here: Just because no-one has disagreed with the ridiculously absurd policy’s being implemented in public schools over the last decade doesn’t make them any more or less valid or justifiable for the people who will read them in 2000 years time. It will only make them a part of history.
3) 2 and 3 contradict each other. First, make it contextual to 2000 years ago, oh and then, secondly, make it personal to you today. . . right…
From this point the talk got absurd for me… God forgive me for my inability to blindly accept what I’m fed, if it’s from You that is… The Speaker said we were made for relationship with God, not a job or other things, because other things will disappoint you, this I, personally, absolutely agree with. Further to this he said: The Bible is the link to God (yes, agreed), it is the ultimate authority (now I’m not convinced of this) and a personal link to God (battling with the contradiction of “context, context, context of 1 AD). I’m thinking – unreliable eyewitness accounts, contradictions and a small group of people writing what they needed and chose to at the time. . . How can I make this my ‘ultimate authority’? That’s madness. Surely God Himself needs to be the “Ultimate Authority”? The Speaker said that we as humans are bleak because, due to our sin, our relationship with God is broken, this was fixed by Jesus and so now we have a relationship with God. Pause… I’m thinking of my last blog and the whole God has unconditional love and Christians have conditional love as Christianity makes the Jesus’ ‘fix’ non-applicable unless you fulfill the ‘conditions’… grrrrrr… ugh… Then the Speaker said that the Bible is actually “one long story about one main character Jesus with the odd moral in it”… HOLD IT! I thought we were supposed to be worshipping God here? The Bible is only about Jesus? I must have interpreted that incorrectly… But that would make sense “Christianity” Christ… no God in that really… :-( Another CROSS for me not being a “Christian”, because my being belongs to God. I researched this to find out what on earth I was supposed to get from this… I found out that The Bible only ‘implies’ the “Trinity”. It isn’t written anywhere that “God, Jesus and Holy Spirit are One” it is only ‘implied’; BUT it is very definitely written: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
I sat in the biggest conundrum of all from this talk: if we are supposed to take the Bible as historically correct, keep it in context and see it as the ‘ultimate authority’, then how can we create our own translation of ‘implied’ meanings? What else are we then at liberty to ‘imply’? Should the Bible be seen as Jesus’ story or as God arranging the whole Universe and all of time and existence to serve His purpose? So much for my little brain…
The end of the talk was: “God will contradict you and it is good and healthy for your relationship with God in love”! What the? Where does it say in 1 Corinthians 13, The chapter on Love, that love will make sure it contradicts you? I sat there… thinking my God holds me and loves me especially when I make mistakes and fall. He lifts me up and understands what I went through and guides me to a better path if I ask Him to. Maybe the Speaker meant that the Bible will contradict you if you are not being the best you can be and are choosing selfishness, hate, anger, war, raping each other, raping their earth, killing each other, stealing, keeping, breaking, pornography, drugs, alcohol, hurting each other and physical, psychological and emotional manipulation and reduction of each other, but then it can’t because the Bible does not advocate any of that. . . Maybe all of the talks are just put across in words that have a different meaning between me, the Speaker and the other Christians…
Giving myself a definite cross on this one too :-( I don’t see the Bible as a single history book. I see it as a dictionary, a poetry book, a book of letters, a book of trials, tragedies and successes, but MOST of all I see and feel it as a channel through which God can speak to me for the message He needs me to hear and know for every moment I need Him in relation to where I am at in that moment. I don’t see it as a Book that requires me sitting in a room and complacently accepting what a group leader / pastor pre-prepared in his own time for himself. I see it as a guide from God in the here and now as to how he wants me to handle situations. I see it as a history book of other people’s experiences and consequences as humans being, which serve as an example for me to use as to how I should make my decisions now. I believe I need to read the Bible AND be in this world, listening to music, to others and nature with my “God-coloured” glasses on so He can give me the messages He wants to give me in order for me to move higher and closer to the ultimate destination of Unconditional Love, and the Ultimate Authority of My God.
Interestingly for me, whilst pondering over this topic, the idea came to me that the Bible is also a metaphor for our lives. Old Testament: born of the Mother’s womb, yanked out of paradise into the OId Testament, separated from paradise and God, following Kings and Speakers, until we are born again, New Testament: into God’s Spirit, like Jesus, and follow God directly on a far more difficult long life journey, like the disciples and co, which leads to a Soul journey of rising above earth, above pettiness, fickleness and human neediness, taking us higher and higher and higher to sit at the right hand of our Father, then to return again to help others find the light and move out of their own gory Old Testament lusts, power struggles, wars, years of wandering and lack of faith to join us in living in LOVE… but then, ja, I’m not indoctrinated into Christianity and I’m no authority… don’t even think I fit the criteria of a “Christian” anymore…
I’m just going to keep clinging to My Awesome Father in Heaven and pray that as He is a God of Love who sees my soul trying to elevate itself and become something My God can be proud of… even if she doesn’t see the Bible as a prescriptive, authoritarian book of history, but a real metaphor for life in all its contradictions, changes, emotions, possibilities and underlying message of: HAVE NO OTHER GOD’S BEFORE ME (not even a Book… or a man?) & LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.