Thursday, February 23, 2017

Leaving Room for Revelation

Some time ago, a friend explained that she didn’t agree with a particular interpretation of the book of Genesis in the Bible because “it’s 708px-Illuminated.bible.closeuphistory.”  And for her that concluded it.  “It’s history,” means that what we have is a set of linear facts, nothing more.  And though I love my friend, in this she is wrong, wrong because for the Christian (which she is) the Bible is far more than history, or poetry, or songs, or letters; the Bible is revelation, and not just any revelation but the revelation of the living God and as such, it is living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword.

When we say one thing is nothing more, i.e. a woman is nothing more than a sexual object; an immigrant is only drain on society; a person on welfare simply lazy; then we set the worth of that person and we become no more than slave masters putting a value on something, someone, who is priceless.  We want to think we are civilized, but underneath we all wish to enslave that we might have the greater power.

But, I don’t really think that was my friend’s intent.  No, her desire was to protect, to keep close what she feels is eroding, to hold onto something good and decent.  But, in doing so, she is falling into the camp of the atheist.  As the great atheist Thomas Paine stated:

As to the bible, whether true or fabulous, it is a history, and history is not revelation.  If Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, and if Samson slept in Delilah’s lap, and she cut his hair off, the relation of those things is mere history, that needed no revelation from heaven to tell it; neither does it need any revelation to tell us that Samson was a fool for his pains, and Solomon too.

Yes, in diminishing the scope of the Bible, we also diminish its revelator and without the Revelator the Bible really is nothing more than a book of ancient history, poetry, and letters.

But what if we say that the Bible is more than history.  What if we say that there are multiple ways to read the first couple of books of Genesis.  What if the book of Genesis is both a history and a book showing God’s original temple on earth.  What would it mean if God actually took the stuff of earth, molded it and shaped it to make it fit for Himself and for the crown of his creation: human beings?  What would it mean if that original pattern was God vision casting, creating His theocracy?  What if both this interpretation and the factual (historical) creation and something else beside are all true?  What if we looked at the words with all the creativity imbued by God?  What if we looked at them with all our academic prowess?  What if we looked at the Bible as a complete book (yet, more than a book) where the first and last books echoed across time?

If we think about the Bible in the way that ancient cultures did (and some current cultures that are not so westernized) we would have a decidedly more exciting and accurate experience.  They did not believe that you must settle for just one thing (history) but could hold various interpretations in thoughtful ambiguity. 

So what do we settle for.  Will we allow revelation to color our reading?  Or do we settle for black and white. thus taking the Bible prisoner for our own intents? 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Temple Policeman! Temple Policeman!

I recently read a novel and its sequels (Finding Nouf, City of Veil, Kingdom of Strangers, by Zoe Ferraris). The location is Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and its desert environs. What fascinated me was the Morality Police who could arrest a woman for driving a car, not walking behind the man she was with, not wearing appropriate covering clothing, and various other offenses by both menGold_and_Silver_Jewelry_in_Downtown_Jeddah_(3343317802) and women who would be publicly shamed (and worse)for such actions. [Zoe Ferraris was told to cover her hands with gloves and wear socks because she was so white.]

This differs little from the 1st Century Pharisees in Israel who sometimes went around looking for “sins” to uncover.  (unwashed hands before eating, working on the Sabbath, and the like). 

I recently discovered a certain Christian denomination (and I’m sure there are others) that refuses to allow into membership people who drink alcoholic beverages or smoke. For those who, as it says in Colossians 2, still "submit to regulations, do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" and I would add: do not drink, do not smoke, do not dance, do not, do not, do not. . . Colossians reminds us that these are only human commands and only appear to promote piety, "but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence." Christians should certainly remind their alcoholic friends not to drink, their drug-addicted friends drug to stay away from drugs, and their technology addicted friends to leave their cell phones behind.  But, to exclude people from the congregation on the basis of personal habits is not something that Jesus ever practiced.  He was highly inclusive, making the best wine for a neighbor’s wedding at Cana, socializing with the enemy, the thief (tax collector), and sharing life with both the religious and irreligious, the wealthy and the poor, the educated and the uneducated.  So, instead of being Temple Policemen,  Colossians 3 says Christians are to get rid of slander, abusive language, and lies, and not practice greed, fornication, and impurity, but instead to practice "compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" and, not the least, forgiveness and love.

Once we start being Temple Policeman, we are just like the Taliban, the Morality Police in Saudi Arabia, or any other repressive society.  So let's get rid of any inclination we have to be Temple Policemen or Morality Police. As Christians, we are to walk in love and forgiveness, humility (there, but for the grace of God, go I) and kindness. 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture of Saudi Woman trying on jewelry by Nouf Kinani (Gold and Silver Jewelry in Downtown Jeddah) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons