Posted by: LucidMystery | May 12, 2008

Can of Worms…Reader Beware

Well, most of you who know me probably know I’m pretty opinionated. I try to not get too crazy with it, but around election times and whenever my views are attacked, a whole new (and slightly scary/ugly/wtc?!) version of me appears. The thing about being opinionated though, is you better have a good reasoning to back up your opinions or you’re going to look very silly if you’re advocating for something and you have your evidence wrong…not that I know from experience…er…moving on.

Well, recently, I’ve been doing some serious evaluating on some strong opinions I have and trying to figure out why I believe what about the Bible and its veracity. I’ve always been a literal interpretation kind of gal, but why is that, I wondered? Yeah, I’ve wanted to think it’s all or nothing, but why? Why is that so important to me? In the last few weeks bordering on months, I’ve been trying to determine why I think the Bible is a literal deal, and I’ve been reasoning out at a least a good enough exaplanation for myself. Now be forewarned, my logic is nothing to the caliber of, say C.S. Lewis, so please don’t be expecting “Mere Christianity.”

Also, this post is the result of some conversations I’ve had with a couple different people recently, and I just wanted to point out that this is in no way an example of me trying to be that annoying person who does little jabs from the safety of their blog! This is me collecting my thoughts, organizing them in my little English minor manner, and presenting them for public evaluation. It’s more a way of me backing why I get into this subject and maybe spur on conversation later.

Alrighty, so, do I take the Bible literally? Do I really believe all of the stories? Do I believe in a six day Creation? Do I think Jesus performed every miracle in the New Testament? Do I try (and fail…boo) to follow the lifestyle outlined in the New Testament? Yep. Do I think any of these issues are peripheral to Christianity? No!

Let’s get started with why I believe that the Bible is an all or nothing kind of deal. When I read the Bible, I know it is true and that it the Word of God and that I need to believe what it says. Why? Well, simply put, if I say that most of the Bible is true, but not all of it, where do I draw the line? How do I avoid introducing my own bias? Let’s say I’m a klepto (that’s right, keep your pens, keys, and candy bars away from me), and I really struggle with stealing. If I am under the impression that there are loose spots in the Bible that can’t be taken seriously, what’s to stop me from saying that stealing is arguably not wrong? Ok, maybe that’s too black and white. How about sexual purity? The Bible never explicitly says “Thou shalt save knowing each other until after the wedding,” but it describes sex and lust as being sinful outside the context of marriage (or inside if you’ve gotten a hankering for someone who’s not your spouse.) If you don’t believe the Bible is to be taken literally, you could easily convince yourself that either A.) the Bible wasn’t being explicit enough and can be overlooked in that matter or B.) well, that’s pretty outdated and practically everyone today has sex outside marriage. (btw, do you think people in the Bible didn’t?) Or you could overlook the section altogether just by saying that all of the Bible is not to be taken prescriptively.

In other words, if you don’t believe the Bible literally, how do you stop yourself from saying that something isn’t true just because you don’t want it to be true? By leaving the Bible open to your own interpretation like that, you are leaving a door wide open that Bible itself tries to close. The Bible describes itself as the Word of God, and therefore infallible. Just by not believing that one claim, you are discounting the relevance of the whole Bible. If you had a math book that claimed 4+4=9, you couldn’t just ignore that one little comment and move on. Keeping up the 4+4=9 mentality will mess you up no matter how far you keep going in the book, and who wants to learn instructions from a faulty manual? Therefore, the Bible has to be infallible to be believable

But let’s look at the last claim of mine. Yeah the maybe the Bible used to be infallible, but is it still? One argument to support the inability to take the Bible literally is that the Bible started out as the Word but got a little jumbled through generations of being passed down. That argument gets a little shaky though, especially with the Old Testament. Rabbis who copied the Torah (and I’m pretty sure the entire Tanakh, but I’ll have to get back to you on that one) had a ton of guidelines for when they copied it. Each verbal character had to be the right size, and the newly copied page had to have the same number of spaces between characters as the old copy, the same number of characters as the old copy, the same margin sizes as the old copy, and a ton of other fun little measuring and numerical tricks to make sure the new pages were the same as the old versions. They had to pray before writing down God’s name, and the had to pray before working on a new page, and then the page had to be inspected by someone else. To sum it up, the copying process was intense and left little room for transcriptional error, in spite of being pre-Gutenberg. Granted, I don’t know much about the processes involved with preserving the Gospels, but I would assume they were protective. Also, when the Gospels were first being presented to people, witnesses to the actual events were still alive and could easily have shot down something that wasn’t correct.

Another defense for a non-literal interpretation is the canonization of the Bible. Who decided that what books would be in the Bible, what books wouldn’t be, and why? Why is that Apocrypha just floating around in a few Bibles but not all? Here is that point where I reiterate (in the unlikely case you have’t already been thinking “wow this all makes no sense”) that I am in no way, shape, or form any sort of Bible scholar or philosopher. I don’t know much more than the average person about the Council of Trent or the Antilegomina, or any other canonization meeting/process. The first four Gospels were probably used more at first than the rest of New Testament, but why did the rest of the books eventually make it in? And what if they weren’t authored by the name my Bible lists on the front cover of each book? What Paul really didn’t write all of those letters he is credited with writing? Uncertainty…This is an issue!

Maybe this is where I have to say that I want to believe the Bible and that it’s 100% true. No, I don’t know all the Bible’s history. I know what it says about a lot of things, even if I don’t to hear that, for example, letting my mind wander about that hot guy sitting in the lifeguard tower is on the same sin page as doing everything I just thought up (but just you know, all I ever pictured was holding hands and walking through a field of daisies…get your mind out of the gutter!) Who likes that standard? It’s holding even your thoughts accountable! That makes life a whole lot harder (which makes me even more thankful Jesus has already paid for my debts). There is a key issue, literally interpreting the Bible makes life hard! We have to control all of our ungodly urges whether they are the desire to gossip (guilty!), hit someone (guilty!), or kill someone (think I’m not there yet? I’ve called someone names, which Jesus said boils down to being equal to killing someone. In that respect, probably all of us are murderers.) I’ll say it again, taking the Bible literally makes life a crazy hard challenge! Are we up to it?

Hmm, my word count just hit 1385. For the sake of wanting someone to finish this last bit and not give up on me, I will cut this short and either return to the topic later or just talk to you about it the next you feel like going deep. I just have one last question to pose and give my spin on…ready? Isn’t this a peripheral issue? The center of Christianity is Jesus. So what if I’m a hard core Creationist, I believe the earth was flooded, I don’t doubt that Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt (sans Charlton Heston), and I most definitely believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who was crucified as God’s Sacrifice to cover my sinS? So what? This is what, all of those accounts come from the same Bible. To discount one is to question them all. If the Creation story is faulty, how do we know the story of Jesus isn’t? Therefore, the veracity of the entire Bible is not a peripheral issue– it’s huge! Why else would people have not stopped debating over it for hundreds of years? It’s incredibly important! And no, I’m ignorant to the fact that it does take a leap of faith to believe what’s there, but everything in life requires faith. Science, atheism, Christianity, Islam–they all need faith to some degree (a whole other blog post for that!) It takes faith to believe the Bible literally, but I need to believe it. The written Word is all we physically have of God while we are on this Earth, but in that Word there is so much we can learn! I need to believe  it all. To about-face what I learned in IS 260, I don’t think Christianity needs the power behind its stories, it needs and is the stories themselves!

Total word count: 1699. God bless you for reading this!

 

 

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