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November 25, 2003

Whose Word of God?

Introducing the new category 'Matters of the Spirit', I will dare venture into the worlds of God. I'm kinda sick of the obsession over Iraq and all that warblog meme.

Anyway Rik provokes:

I ask you, how on earth could God so radically change his mind on this topic? most likely not because the bible repeatedly points to the eternity of God's word. Everyone knows that the bible is there partly to check on whether the spritit truely spoke to you or that you are subconsciously making something up.

I've studied the bible under different folks, so I believe that I have a materially different understanding about religion, faith, spirituality than the average bear.

I went to Catholic School with the Columbans for middle school and audited the Catechism class. I knew all the prayers and all the material as well as anyone, but I wasn't allowed to participate in First Communion. I can't say that I was entirely disappointed, but I was entirely excluded. At the same time I was a regular attendee with my mother at the Foursquare Church. I'm sure that membership had everything to do with it. These are the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, pentacostal evangelists. And yes I have watched my own mother hold a sign saying 'The End is Near'. I've heard more fire and brimstone preaching than most folks. I went to highschool at a Jesuit all boys prep school where courses in religion were required. We deconstructed the Pentatuch and lexically analyzed the different authors of Genesis. My favorite class however was 'Saul to Paul'. I decided, in the end, to attend Confirmation classes, be baptized and confirmed into the Episcopal Church at the age of 16, having been a page at the Episcopalian Convention, sung in the youth choir at the Cathedral (solo actually) and been a camp counselor at Episcopal Camp Stevens in San Deigo County. These days, I spend most of my time in church with Baptists (go figure).

So I have always been a thinking person when it comes to religion. I had not simply inherited something and never questioned it, or simply rejected the idea of God because of one (or fifty) bad experience(s).

That said, I think that ones experience of God is ever personal and ever evolving, and that it is altogether too simple to suggest that my experience or any sigular experience as a Christian is or should be defining. I think that is exactly where people are making mistakes about the bishop. I believe that a particular strength of Christianity is its ecumenical nature as contrasted to Judaism or Islam. But certainly there are some sects of Christians who believe entirely different, that a varying interpretation of scripture is a weakness.

Understand, however that from my perspective the major difference of Christianity is the example and the words of Christ. In the life of Christ we are 'living members'. I don't know how else to explain it other than by the understanding that Christ himself was at odds with the Scribes and the Pharisees who were the leaders of the church of the God of Abraham. What I'm saying is that Jesus himself had issues with the Bible thumping fundamentalists of His day. What he specifically didn't do in his ministry was to go around telling people how they were living in contradiction to the written word of God. And this more than anything angered the church leaders of his time, and they sought to trap him with trick questions about religious law. His commandment was about Love. Jesus wasn't a scold, and it is my belief that our calling to be Christlike does not also require us to scold, rather it calls us to Do Right.

But that's simply on the personal level. The duty of the Church is a different matter. I would simply say this. The purpose of the Christian Church is to maintain a community in Christ. It is the collective body of the living members and through its various ministries reminds us of our committments and houses us and protects us in our faithful lives. Where I take issue with the Catholic Church is in how its formalism constrains the behavior of its members. There's not an easy way to describe this, but the mechanistic way in which it deals with sin & confession presumes too much of its understanding of sin. In short, the Catholic Church has a 'banking' approach to sin, confession, repentence & redemption with I think is too easily abused and corrupted.

It's true and quite possible that any sect of Christianity could get away from the 'true message of the Bible' or the meaning of the Life of Christ. But if there is a bigger sin, surely it's the latter.

Let me say this and then I'll quit for the moment. The Bible wasn't written in English. The one man I've met who has studied the Bible harder than anyone - to the point at which in his professional life you get one drink in him and he starts in on Biblical Interpretation is my touchstone on this. He essentially taught himself Latin and finally Hebrew in order to read other translations of the Bible. Myself, I'm a King James man although I can deal with the Revised Standard Version. Neither of these satisfied my man Kevin M. So he ended up studying with a Kabbalist rabbi and said that in his entire life he never truly understood the scriptures until then. It gave him a tremendous amount of respect for Judaism and Orthodox Jews in general.

So if you are not going to go and translate the Bible for yourself, there is a great deal of lattitude you have to give your sect in its interpretation. I'm willing to do that for the Episcopal Church having attended all different kinds of Christian churches in my life.

Posted by mbowen at November 25, 2003 02:52 PM

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Whose Word? from { a burst of light }
While I won't go into detail about current personal matters, several bloggers have expressed sentiments about religion that I share. I previously posted a link dealing with religion. Here are two more: Cobb asks Whose Word of God? In the life of Christ... [Read More]

Tracked on November 25, 2003 05:14 PM


I am currently studying Biblical Hebrew and Greek and I can tell you this: even after you translate the Bible for yourself, you still have to leave lots of room for interpretation.

The Biblical authors didn't write in machine language--there is ambiguity inherent. Heck, there is probably ambiguity in the pre-language intent of the authors. Nevertheless, the main idea gets through anyway.

Posted by: wink at November 26, 2003 12:21 AM