Jump to content

Questionnaire: Bible Usage


Migdalin
 Share

Recommended Posts

Here are a few questions regarding how people use The Bible.

 

Probably I shouldn't give this part away, but just to be up front: The axe I'm grinding is that most Christians don't feel comfortable having The Bible define their faith. And when you get right down to it, The Bible--in its current "unabridged" form--is a poor way for Christians to communicate with modern society or even with younger/newer members of their faith community.

 

Anyway, that's my take on it.... Also, I'm eager to get feedback on the questions themselves. I'm sure need to be massaged a bit, or way or another.

 

  • At what age should children receive their first copy of The Bible?
  • For someone in search of a spiritual home (someone who wants to understand what you stand for), would you direct them to The Bible or to some other resource?
  • Would it be useful to have an abridged version of The Bible for use by younger children, new members, and prospective members? Or do you prefer to use your church's Statement of Faith, Core Values, an "Our Beliefs 101" orientation course, or some other mechanism in such situations?

 

If you like the idea of an abridged version of The Bible:

 

  • Would you prefer that it focus on the Story of Jesus or on the Teachings of Jesus?
  • Would you want such a book to contain commentary, or should The Bible be allowed to speak for itself?
  • Are there certain bits you feel absolutely must be included? Are there bits that absolutely must be excluded?

 

Thanks,

Jim

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here are a few questions regarding how people use The Bible.

(snip)

 

  • At what age should children receive their first copy of The Bible?

I don't know that their is a right age. It seems to me to be best to wait til and if they ask for it.

 

 

 

  • For someone in search of a spiritual home (someone who wants to understand what you stand for), would you direct them to The Bible or to some other resource?

If i understand your question..... I would not direct them to the Bible nor any single resource. If someone "wants to understand what i stand for", it seems to me, it would be more accurate and best if they would get to know me better and let my actions speak rather than go to a resource.

 

 

  • Would it be useful to have an abridged version of The Bible for use by younger children, new members, and prospective members? Or do you prefer to use your church's Statement of Faith, Core Values, an "Our Beliefs 101" orientation course, or some other mechanism in such situations?

 

 

Focus on the teachings of Jesus.

Discussion and dialog by readers rather than commentary or allowing it to speak for itself.

Include teachings recorded as spoken by Jesus and exclude the rest. No need to complicate things or include alot of dogma. Other books, whether secular or religious that were similar and promoted love and peace and healthy relationships might also be good to be included.

 

 

 

Just one point of view,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The axe I'm grinding is that most Christians don't feel comfortable having The Bible define their faith.

 

We have a WIDE variety of experiences here, Jim, which is one of the strengths of this forum. As for my own experiences, I was raised in conservative, fundamentalist Christianity in which it was absolutely key that the Bible define, not only matters of faith, but also matters of dress, speech, sexual identity and practice, science, anthropology, cosmology, and many other issues that led to separating people into the saved and the damned. I'm not sure of the role of the scriptures in Catholicism or in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, but the Bible does seem to define the faith of the two largest Protestant denominations, Southern Baptists and Methodists.

 

And when you get right down to it, The Bible--in its current "unabridged" form--is a poor way for Christians to communicate with modern society or even with younger/newer members of their faith community.

 

I agree.

 

[*]At what age should children receive their first copy of The Bible?

 

I agree with Joseph, when they ask for it.

 

[*]For someone in search of a spiritual home (someone who wants to understand what you stand for), would you direct them to The Bible or to some other resource?

 

No. I would share with them my own journey, but then encourage them to explore on their own. The main thing I would try to do is to listen to what it is they seek and then use that input to help them, if possible.

 

[*]Would it be useful to have an abridged version of The Bible for use by younger children, new members, and prospective members?

 

Many churches do do this, in the way of New Testaments or Gospels of John or even tracts. But I wouldn't really be for this methodology. I would rather take a more personal approach.

 

Or do you prefer to use your church's Statement of Faith, Core Values, an "Our Beliefs 101" orientation course, or some other mechanism in such situations?

 

Definately not, at least for me. IMO, Statements of Faith and Creeds (etc.) have almost nothing to do with what Jesus taught. I'm of the opinion that if someone is interested in Christianity, they should go to the alledged source - Christ, not to the Church.

 

If you like the idea of an abridged version of The Bible:

 

[*]Would you prefer that it focus on the Story of Jesus or on the Teachings of Jesus?

 

Probably. But with some historical/cultural setting so that the uninitiated understand what issues Jesus' message and life were addressing.

 

[*]Would you want such a book to contain commentary, or should The Bible be allowed to speak for itself?

 

I would prefer a face to face conversation, probably a series of them.

 

[*]Are there certain bits you feel absolutely must be included? Are there bits that absolutely must be excluded?

 

Your question, IMO, demonstrates one of the BIG problems that Christianity has. Please don't take offense, I'm glad you worded it the way you did as it gives me the opportunity to address the issue. I think it is wrong and disrespectful for the Church or Christianity to assume that its job is to TELL people anything. For far too long, Christianity has seen evangelism as all about telling with almost no listening. The kind of Christianity that I was raised in had no use for listening to the surrounding culture or the issues that concerned people. It only wanted to diseminate information in order to get people "saved." So I would want to know what it is that people are looking for and, if I used the Bible, steer them to those passages that address those issues. But I would also tell them that the Bible has a great variety of views on issues and that they would need to listen for the "Spirit" inside them to lead them further into truth.

 

Again, it is not so much that I would exclude some parts of the Bible (except for children). I would use those parts to show how religion, whether Judaism or Christianity, can go off-track in leading people into the Ultimate Reality that we call God which many of us feel is the Source of Life, of Love, of Being.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, it is not so much that I would exclude some parts of the Bible (except for children). I would use those parts to show how religion, whether Judaism or Christianity, can go off-track....

 

Your approach fits well with a distinction I'm trying to make between (1) a book that's enlightening only if we accept the modern Christian approach to it (an approach that allows us to say "this passage is wrong / false / hateful") and (2) a book that represents what modern Christians believe, without the need for extensive commentary or creative interpretation.

 

While I agree that The Bible will always be a source of enlightenment, one way or another, I also think modern Christianity should define a day-to-day holy book that's less prone to misuse, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation.

 

The reluctance to share The Bible with children, the need to say, "Hang out with us a while and see what we're about for yourself": to my mind, these reinforce the idea that The Bible (whatever else it is) is a poor way of communicating with people what Jesus was about or what a particular faith community is about.

 

Thanks,

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I agree that The Bible will always be a source of enlightenment, one way or another, I also think modern Christianity should define a day-to-day holy book that's less prone to misuse, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation.

 

I don't think it is possible for all "modern Christianity" to define a day-to-day holy book - without starting a new religion. Although I am pessimistic about such an endeavor Malcolm Muggeridge's "Third Testament" is a example of an approach to a "new" holy book.

 

Martin Luthers letters, the writings of Dag Hammarskjöld, Mandela, Merton, but how do you have one "holy book" when God is still speaking - and why. The Canon has always needed commentary and any chosen texts would continue to need commentary. Christians who have a negative view of the Bible do relegate much of it to advanced resource. As one who planned and taught New member classes we started with our mission statement/values and our approach to understanding the Bible.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that defining a "Holy Book" and having a "Holy Book" takes the emphasis off of that which is truly Holy and Divine and places it in letters whose pages will perish with time and the using. I would prefer to call writings inspired and not limit them to those attached to a church system. That is just my personal view to consider.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think it is possible for all "modern Christianity" to define a day-to-day holy book - without starting a new religion.

 

I guess I don't see the issue of "starting a new religion" as a big problem. Given your own experience, where you used your church's mission statement and values to instruct new members, it sounds like you're already part of a new religion called Protestantism....

 

Seriously though, I agree that defining a unique version of The Bible would be contentious. But I also think it would be more up front and honest. Basically, via Mission Statements and similar items, every denomination is already unique, however trivial or petty the distinctions may be. Given that, why not come clean, and instead of modifying the Mission Statement, etc., modify The Bible to reflect what a given church actually stands for?

 

That last question isn't rhetorical, by the way, because Christians of every description see The Bible as somehow inviolate--even though Protestants already have modified The Bible by cutting out the Apocrypha.... So, again, why not come clean by revising The Bible rather than revising the Mission Statement?

 

It seems to me that defining a "Holy Book" and having a "Holy Book" takes the emphasis off of that which is truly Holy and Divine and places it in letters whose pages will perish with time and the using. I would prefer to call writings inspired and not limit them to those attached to a church system. That is just my personal view to consider.

 

That sounds good to me as well. But whatever we call it, The Bible has already crossed this dividing line for the vast majority of Christians, including most modern Christians. And it is precisely this view of The Bible as Holy with a capital H that I would like to see undermined--something that I think only Christians can do.

 

I also think that plenty of people agree with you about not wanting to have an "official" Holy Book at all. However, given the history of Christianity, given the history of how The Bible has been used, given how some Christians use The Bible even today, I think modern Christians need to do more than just say "The Bible has hateful stuff in it," while continuing to use it. In my mind, this means "officially" (and publicly) adopting an improved "holy book." That would require action, and I think this is a situation where an action is called for: a radical and surprising action that would make people blink and go "huh?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my opinion, while this might appeal to some people, it doesn’t address the real issue. The real issue for me in my journey was not the Bible itself, it was the WAY I was taught to view and read the Bible.

 

If I had been told, in my youth, “Here is a collection of stories about how ancient people tried to understand God, the world, and their own journeys of faith that reflect both great insights and great misunderstandings,” I doubt I would have struggled so much with the Bible.

 

But, instead, I was told, “Here is a book that was written by God about himself, the world, and humanity which has no errors, no inconsistencies, and tells us what we need to believe today. Never question or doubt this book as the words of God.” As a result, I struggled greatly with the Bible.

 

How would we prevent this from happening with a new canon or a “new” Bible? How would we decide whose writings are “worthy” of being in the collection? Who would assemble it? How often would we revise it? How would we communicate the concept that these writings are meaningful for us but not inerrant and infallible? How would we prevent people from idolizing these writings? Would we include everything from wise sayings from non-Christians to messages supposedly “channeled” from God and/or Jesus? How would we ensure that the new canon or new Bible was interpreted correctly? Wouldn’t trying to control all these aspects of it put it into the same conundrum that we already have with the Bible?

 

I immensely enjoy reading the writings of inspired people, many of them on this board. But as Joseph has said, if we take these things and try to canonize them, we attempt to “freeze” truth once and for all, to limit further exploration and growth, and then we find ourselves “chained to the letter of the law” rather than “walking in the freedom of the Spirit.” Sacred writings are good pointers, good signs pointing the way ahead. But, IMO, they serve better as personal invitations to explore our own experiences with God, the world, and ourselves rather than as step-by-step guides to affirming supposed changing truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was told, “Here is a book that was written by God about himself, the world, and humanity which has no errors, no inconsistencies, and tells us what we need to believe today. Never question or doubt this book as the words of God.” As a result, I struggled greatly with the Bible.

 

How would we prevent this from happening with a new canon or a “new” Bible? ... Who would assemble it? How often would we revise it? How would we communicate the concept that these writings are meaningful for us but not inerrant and infallible?

 

Naturally, there's no way to change human nature, nor is there a way to ensure that any "Bible" winds up being viewed the way we want to be viewed. That being said, there are things that Christians could do to weaken the widespread view that The Bible is absolute, infallible, etc. Books that point out The Bible's flaws, like those by John Shelby Spong or Bart D. Ehrman, are positive steps. But individual churches adopting a better Bible would also be positive steps, and very powerful steps.

 

"Who would assemble such a thing?" Individual denominations or churches. These groups have already stepped out and said, "We're different from those people over there." Whether we agree with that approach or not, it is a reality. Why, though, is it only the Statement of Faith that changes, and never The Bible? Why do modern Christians resist the idea of eliminating genocide, rape, slavery, etc., from their version of The Bible?

 

"How often would we revise it?" However often the congregation or denomination decides to.

 

"How would we communicate the concept that these writings are meaningful for us but not inerrant and infallible?" The very act of creating a version of The Bible that is unique to a congregation or denomination would help in this regard. Again, I don't want to imply that any change is some kind of magic bullet for Christianity or for the human race. I just think that we all have a responsibility to actively speak out against genocide, for example. And removing the hatefulness from the "official" holy book would be a powerful way of speaking out against those various forms of hatefulness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(snip)

 

That sounds good to me as well. But whatever we call it, The Bible has already crossed this dividing line for the vast majority of Christians, including most modern Christians. And it is precisely this view of The Bible as Holy with a capital H that I would like to see undermined--something that I think only Christians can do.

 

I also think that plenty of people agree with you about not wanting to have an "official" Holy Book at all. However, given the history of Christianity, given the history of how The Bible has been used, given how some Christians use The Bible even today, I think modern Christians need to do more than just say "The Bible has hateful stuff in it," while continuing to use it. In my mind, this means "officially" (and publicly) adopting an improved "holy book." That would require action, and I think this is a situation where an action is called for: a radical and surprising action that would make people blink and go "huh?"

 

Hi Jim,

 

Just to add a few words concerning your response....

It seems to me that true Bible history... before religion had a chance to pollute it ... speaking of the first ones that were called Christians ... To the best of my knowledge, No real Christian Bible existed. There were no printing presses and the saved Gentiles had no Old Testament nor New testament on paper. They only had Christ to present itself in their hearts.

 

True, there were letters to some organized churches written by Paul but they were clearly epistles (letters)... inspired writings, yes ... but no Holy Book was required to know Christ. Certainly words were spoken to introduce Christ to others but it was only necessary to be anointed with God's Spirit which was freely given then as it is now.

 

 

I also believe Billmc has made some excellent points in his previous post to seriously consider concerning the formation of any new Canon.

 

Just one point of view concerning your response.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Basically, via Mission Statements and similar items, every denomination is already unique, however trivial or petty the distinctions may be. Given that, why not come clean, and instead of modifying the Mission Statement, etc., modify The Bible to reflect what a given church actually stands for?

 

This is our Statement of Belief.


  •  
  • * We believe in God.
  • * We believe that Jesus revealed the goodness and love of God; and willingly embrace being instruments of that revelation today.
  • * We believe that God is still active in the world, helping us to modify the destructiveness of our behavior, that we may have joy and peace in the midst of suffering.
  • * We believe that the Bible is an account of God’s acts in the formative period of belief. These acts were interpreted in the light of faith and according to the knowledge of the times. It is a basic source of our own identity as a community of faith.
  • * We believe that church should be a place where love and forgiveness are found.
  • * At Mountain View, we value our diversity, and welcome differing viewpoints.
  • * We know that each of us is at a different point in his or her journey of faith, and try, without being arrogant, to accept people whose ideas differ from ours.
  • * We believe that an individual’s journey of faith is both an inner and outer process: one that focuses on a person’s own spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth, and also involves each person in addressing the needs and concerns of others.

 

How would we modify the Bible to respond to this?

 

And to what purpose? A church whose mission is social justice is concerned about doing those things which lead to social justice. Not modifying the Bible to support their call. They read other books that resonate with their work and are inspiring - an ad hoc canon. If they were to adopt a modified Bible they might need selected passages from the Gospels and Micah 6:8. Anything else?

 

I dislike much of the Bible, and recently am tired of how much work one does to create context and explain what one reads but I am not sure that modifying it would create anymore excitement than Esperanto. I would like to see excitement and changes in worship. I would like to hear other texts used.

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joseph, Bill, and Dutch, thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. This remains a confusing topic for me, but I've gotten a better fix on it through our discussion. Still not perfectly clear, but clearer than it was.

 

Thanks again,

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The axe I'm grinding is that most Christians don't feel comfortable having The Bible define their faith. And when you get right down to it, The Bible--in its current "unabridged" form--is a poor way for Christians to communicate with modern society or even with younger/newer members of their faith community.

 

I was trying to find a place to begin, in this forum, because I have so many issues swimming around in my head, and this issue of the Bible seems to be at the core of many of the problems I've been having in relating to conservative Christianity.

 

I have been attending a Reformed Christian Church this past year. I was looking for a small Bible-believing church, after I left the Mormons, because one of the issues I came to have with that church was that they so often disregarded the Bible. So, I "thought" that was the direction in which I needed to go. A strong Bible believing church. I am now having second thoughts about that.

 

This past summer the Pastor of my little Christian Reformed Church decided it would be a good thing for the church, as a group, to read the whole Bible over the summer. He bought this program (with videos and workbooks, etc) called "Read the Bible in 90 Days". It was actually a pretty good program...very challenging...and so, I read the Bible straight through for only the second time in my entire life. What I discovered was that I didn't really like or enjoy reading most of it; especially the Old Testament...and most especially if I was required to view every word of this book as directly from God's mouth. I really appreciated what Bill said, as far as the real issue being how we view the Bible, more so than what is actually in it. Viewing it as a book that is inerrantly God's word, became increasingly difficult for me, as I continued to read large sections, night after night. I actually became very depressed and even had a nightmare about it, one night. The magnitude of it was almost overwhelming when taken, not only literally, but in large chunks everyday for seven days a week. That's what we were doing, in order to get through it in three months.

 

Anyway, it was that reading that caused me to start questioning the idea of an "inerrant" Bible. It's funny, because I left the LDS Church, in part, because they didn't accept the Bible as inerrant, and here I was, learning on my own, that there was possibly some wisdom in that.

 

So, now, I am exploring the Bible from a whole new angle and I think I am much more able to appreciate it from a historical view...and not necessarily every word as God's word.

 

I had a Bible handed to me when I was nine years old (at my baptism), and read in it (a verse here and a verse there), off and on, all my life. But, never really read it completely through until the last couple of years. The O.T. is quite shocking. I wonder how many Christians call themselves Christians and have no idea what it is they are associating themselves with?

 

At this point, I would not give someone a Bible as the "definer" of my Christian beliefs. Actually, I'm still defining them, myself, so I'm not sure what I would give them or even what I might say. I might say that Jesus is still my compass, my perfect example of what a human being should be...that he and God are primarily love. That is the core of my religious belief.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

At this point, I would not give someone a Bible as the "definer" of my Christian beliefs. Actually, I'm still defining them, myself, so I'm not sure what I would give them or even what I might say. I might say that Jesus is still my compass, my perfect example of what a human being should be...that he and God are primarily love. That is the core of my religious belief.

 

For me, that "might" is the heart of the matter, because absolute certainty is one of the greater evils in our world. Unfortunately, most people find it impossible to exist in a "might" or "maybe" state. There's something very comforting in knowing the Answer.

 

For fundamentalist Christians, The Bible is the source of their certainty. My cynical way of saying it is, once the printing press arrived, the devil switched from using statues and icons, and made books the graven images of choice. Really, as an idol, a book is just so much spiffier than any statue could ever be. It talks! For real!

 

Anyway, I hope you find a spiritual answer, and perhaps a spiritual community, that suits you. I think the approach you're taking is the best one: relying on tools given to you directly by the hand of God. The Bible fails that test, and fails it miserably. But our conscience and our brain: these come to us straight from God, with no intermediaries. Pretty cool--and ironic how most "extreme" Christians prefer to shut off their God-given talents in favor of a book.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

But our conscience and our brain: these come to us straight from God, with no intermediaries. Pretty cool--and ironic how most "extreme" Christians prefer to shut off their God-given talents in favor of a book.

 

I think you've hit the nail on the head there, Jim. To me, the conscience could be called the Spirit or our own internal compass given to us by God. The brain would be, to me, reason, the ability to understand and to make the best decisions we have according to the amount of information that we have about reality.

 

I think there is balance to be found with these two. IMO, some Christians go too far in claiming the leading of the Spirit where their decisions become nonsensical and irrational. And others go in the other direction where they make choices based on cold logic with no heart. I suspect we operate best as compassionate human beings when we use both our conscience and our brain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, that "might" is the heart of the matter, because absolute certainty is one of the greater evils in our world. Unfortunately, most people find it impossible to exist in a "might" or "maybe" state. There's something very comforting in knowing the Answer.

 

That is so true. I have Christian friends who have an answer for everything, usually straight out of the Bible. Even if it doesn't really make good common sense...there it is, and we must believe, because it's in the Bible.

 

For fundamentalist Christians, The Bible is the source of their certainty. My cynical way of saying it is, once the printing press arrived, the devil switched from using statues and icons, and made books the graven images of choice. Really, as an idol, a book is just so much spiffier than any statue could ever be. It talks! For real!

 

Oh, I love the way you put that! lol Yes, it talks to us...but, a lot of the time we really have no clue what it means, I'm beginning to think. Trying to take it all literally is a nightmare. Some idol! Scary as heck, sometimes. :)

 

Anyway, I hope you find a spiritual answer, and perhaps a spiritual community, that suits you. I think the approach you're taking is the best one: relying on tools given to you directly by the hand of God. The Bible fails that test, and fails it miserably. But our conscience and our brain: these come to us straight from God, with no intermediaries. Pretty cool--and ironic how most "extreme" Christians prefer to shut off their God-given talents in favor of a book.

 

It really is a shame (about cutting off our God-given gifts). I have always said that God gave us a brain for a reason. We are not expected to be unquestioning sheep.

 

Thank you for the response, Migdalin. Enjoyed your post very much.

 

This whole board is just so refreshing...like taking a deep breath of fresh air.

Edited by Marsha
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that you almost have to know and understand God before one begins to study the bible.

 

steve

 

Now, that's an interesting notion...and I think you might be right.

 

Most of us use the Bible to get to know God. The Bible course I took this summer stressed that The Bible was God revealing himself to us. The more I read, the less I could truly believe that. Just so much in there that didn't seem very.."Godly".

Edited by Marsha
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reason I say that is for example

 

Our Adult bible class is currently studying the "Top 40 Bible Stories" starting with the Old Testament. Last week it was Samson from Judges 13-16. Now if I didn't have a pretty clear sense of God what would I take from that story? Women can't be trusted? Don't have relationships outside of ones clan? God will encourage the murder of people who oppose the chosen people?

 

Not the God I know.

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

God will encourage the murder of people who oppose the chosen people?

 

This one is almost an ongoing theme in the Old Testament. I agree, that is not the God I know. I think that's why I was experiencing so much cognitive dissonance, when I read the Bible this summer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marsha

 

Have you read " Reading the bible for the first time .... again"? By Markus Borg

 

It is a very good primer of how to read the bible from a prospective point of view. Ir explains a way of making ones way through the passages that deviate from my vision of a loving God.

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marsha

 

Have you read " Reading the bible for the first time .... again"? By Markus Borg

 

It is a very good primer of how to read the bible from a prospective point of view. Ir explains a way of making ones way through the passages that deviate from my vision of a loving God.

 

steve

 

No, I haven't. I'll have to look that up. Thanks for the reference, Steve.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Just wanted to come back here and say, I am about halfway through Marcus Borg's book (Reading the Bible Again). It's fabulous!!! Thank you (murmsk) for the reference!! I've also watched some video of Borg and plan on buying more of his books. Interesting man!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad it is meaningful.

 

A good follow up is "Heart of Christianity" also by Borg.

The first couple of chapters reiterates many of the concepts presented in "Reading the Bible again......"He then gets into how it relates to a persons faith, why Christian faith is relevant. I think it is his best book.

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service