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Pleasing Ourselves Is Costly


Migdalin
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Ignoring passages doesn’t remove them from the Bible. Creatively interpreting passages doesn’t change what they say. Nor can well-intentioned Christians guarantee that people a hundred years from now will be willing to either ignore or whitewash the superficial meaning of various OT passages.

 

By continuing to revere the OT, by using it to support moral or political arguments, Christians keep it alive. They reinforce its status as an authority. In this way, we aid and abet anyone who uses the OT to support moral or political ideas -- including ideas we disagree with.

 

To protect the future from a literal interpretation of the OT, Christians today only have one reliable tool: decanonization. Only by undermining the OT’s perceived status as an authoritative document can Christians today hope to influence the way it is read in the future.

Edited by Migdalin
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Another alternative is education. Teach people to recognise that the OT is a collection of writings written from the perspective of particular people during particular cultures and societal mindsets. It's how those people saw God, wrongly or rightly. If nothing else, maybe it'll come to be useful for Christians to recognise humanities evolving spiritual nature.

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To protect the future from a literal interpretation of the OT, Christians today only have one reliable tool: decanonization. Only by undermining the OT’s perceived status as an authoritative document can Christians today hope to influence the way it is read in the future.

,

 

Migdalin,

 

I agree with Paul's approach being education. To me, the most practical way would be gaining a better understanding of what the Bible really is. That alone can intelligently change ones perspective of its content and influence the way it is read. There are a host of good scholarly books by such Progressive Christian authors and teachers such as Marcus Borg, Bishop Spong, Karen Armstrong and many others who do a wonderful job in that area.

 

Migdalin, I would be interested in learning of your familiarity or exposure with any of those authors. Also, i would be interested in learning a bit about any of your personal religious/theology background or experience that you would be willing to share. Perhaps you would be so kind to post an introduction in the Watercooler area as is customary so members in this community can get to know a bit about you and your interest in PC. Thanks in advance.

 

Joseph

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Canonisation is actually the Catholic practice of making a deceased person a saint, but I'm gathering you are referring to the 'list of authorised documents' called the canon. I don't think the process itself is idolatry, but I do think for some the bible has definitely become an idol.

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Gardener,

 

The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.”

 

The cannonization of the books of the Bible into its form as the Bible is in my opinion not idolatry. While most anything can be made into an idol, forming a single canon from a series of writings to be authoritative or inspiring is in itself not an idol or idolatry. Idolatry requires worship or excessive devotion or reverence to become such. In that case it is only idolatry to the one that personally makes it such. At least that is my perception.

 

Joseph

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Yes, I was referring to the canonization of the Bible, not of saints.

 

"Excessive reverence for a thing"; this is why current views of the Bible constitute idolatry. Conservative Christians believe it is "God's Word" and quote verses such as in Hebrews 4 (God's Word is a two-edged sword...) anachronistically using it as some kind of proof. Hebrews was a letter, much like Paul's letters, and Paul, as arrogant as he was, never dreamed his letters would ever be regarded as Sacred Scripture.

 

In fact, the mere name of the BIble (they all say "Holy Bible" on the cover) is idolatrous. How can a thing be holy?

 

Even liberal Christians maintain this archaic idolatry in their worship services. I frequent an Episcopalian Church where a huge Bible is carried out in a parade, behind some robed guy with some sacred stick, and held up like the Holy Grail as we all rise.

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Gardener,

 

Who's current views of the Bible are you using? Certainly not mine. I view the Bible as a compilation of documents, considered by certain men in the past to be the authorative compilation representative of Christian teachings (in their opinion), which points to how the authors of the documents in their various times, understood God within the various social and political contexts of their various days.

 

There are many that view the Bible in what could be considered an idolatrous way, but this isn't the only view out there. In this information age many more people are becoming familiar with biblical scholarship and are now looking at the bible in a different way. A way that personally I think is better, but that's just my opinion of course.

 

Rather than 'de-canonisation', I would like to see the bible maintained as a valuable reference to mankind's evolving spirituality, with valuable guidance and lessons to be learned from both Testaments, but of course without the baggage of it being the authorative and final word of God. Like you, I don't believe that the authors of the various documents contained within ever imagined them being compiled into a single book considered by many to be the one and only truth.

 

Again I say, education is the key.

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Paul,

 

Your view on the Bible is a reasonable one. However, I think you're being a bit optimistic when you say that "many more people are becoming familiar with biblical scholarship." I wish that were true, but I have my doubts. Of course, many conservative Christians are close-minded when it comes to extra-canoncial writings, but I fear that even liberal Christians don't know much about other gospels, or even that they exist.

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Gardener,

 

I think you will find that Progressive Christianity is growing and catching on quite well. Authors and teachers such as Spong, Borg, Armstrong and others have sold millions of books around the world to those who are not satisfied with traditional Christian church teachings and dogmas. There are now hundreds of affiliated progressive Churches with this organization alone and thousands globally. If you hang out with what you call "conservative Christians" then of course one might be a bit pessinistic or less optomistic than one who associates more with those who are more open-minded . It seems to me there is nothing to fear. Truth has a way of exposing itself when the student is ready. Perhaps you would be surprised at the number of Christians now not only familiar with other gospels but also familiar and knowledgeable with more than one religion who identify with this PC movement.

 

Joseph

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Ignoring passages doesn’t remove them from the Bible. Creatively interpreting passages doesn’t change what they say. Nor can well-intentioned Christians guarantee that people a hundred years from now will be willing to either ignore or whitewash the superficial meaning of various OT passages.

 

By continuing to revere the OT, by using it to support moral or political arguments, Christians keep it alive. They reinforce its status as an authority. In this way, we aid and abet anyone who uses the OT to support moral or political ideas -- including ideas we disagree with.

 

To protect the future from a literal interpretation of the OT, Christians today only have one reliable tool: decanonization. Only by undermining the OT’s perceived status as an authoritative document can Christians today hope to influence the way it is read in the future.

 

I couldn't agree with you more. As long as the Bible wears the stink of infallibility, it will be a source of division for humanity rather than the balm of Gilead some of its authors, I think, were seeking.

 

Why stop with the OT? I would de-canonize the NT as well.

 

I think, as you point out elsewhere in this thread, that it is overly optimistic to believe that there are enough "enlightened" souls within Christianity to make this kind of process even remotely possible.

 

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who was raised in a very strict Catholic church, but has recently begun attending a modern, non-denominational church that she says is "extremely non judgmental and open to new ideas." I challenged her to express to them her lack of belief in supernatural phenomenon like virgin births, talking donkeys and revivification of the dead and see just how non-judgmental they really are.

 

Like it or not, there is an incontrovertible litmus test for what it means to be a Christian. And that test includes things that are incompatible with a modern understanding of the known world.

 

NORM

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Norm,

 

Do you think we'd stand a better chance of 'de-canonizing' the bible than educating people about it?

 

Personally, I don't think so, subsequently I don't even entertain the idea. I would like to see people come to a different understanding of its 'status' rather than use it as the full and final 'word' of God.

 

Cheers

Paul

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(I tried doing a multi-quote response, but it got eaten, so I'm doing a sort of manual reply to all here....)

 

I'll leave a post in the "Introduce Yourself" area. I skipped that part only because I actually joined the forum about three years ago, while I was doing research for my book.


I'm familiar with a number of progressive Christian authors and thinkers. In addition to Spong, Borg, and Bass, I like Philip Jenkins, Eric A. Seibert, Eryl W. Davies, and Robin Meyers.


I'm comfortable with saying that the OT must be understood as a product of its time, so long as we then agree that it can no longer be treated as a modern guide to morality.


Educating people on how to read the OT the right way is great when it works. A Christian woman told me that her 19-year-old son regularly challenges her with material out of the OT. Her patient attempts to set him straight have, so far, failed. Sadly, our response in such cases is to commiserate and then move on, even though we do have a solution available.


I also question whether "educating" people on the OT is always the right answer, even when it works. The woman's son was objecting for reasons of conscience. Is it really a good idea for Christians to educate people on how to get around pangs of conscience?


For that woman, I would say there is a clear choice: does she prefer to have her son, or the OT, with her in church?

Edited by Migdalin
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Jim,

 

Yes, education of course, does not always work. Yet it seems to me to be the most practical option. Undoing past programming is not for everyone at the present. Sooner or later over the course of the evolution of his/her consciousness, the student will be ready. Sometimes as you may know, we have to hit a dead end before we realize we took a 'wrong' turn. It can be painful to the student and others but perhaps it was a necessary step for the individuals concerned?

 

Joseph

 

PS As your title alludes to... It can be costly.

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Norm,

 

Do you think we'd stand a better chance of 'de-canonizing' the bible than educating people about it?

 

Personally, I don't think so, subsequently I don't even entertain the idea. I would like to see people come to a different understanding of its 'status' rather than use it as the full and final 'word' of God.

 

Cheers

Paul

 

No, I don't think there is a chance in hell the Bible will be de-canonized in my lifetime. There are too many folks who worship its pages.

 

I am currently reading Spong's Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World. I think publications like that are a first step in the right direction. Rather than de-canonize it, Spong prefers to de-mystify it.

 

NORM

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Yes, to de-mystify the bible, to understand it better with the cultural context and times in which various bits were written, is key IMO. Of course, this will likely lead to de-canonisation so to speak as people slowly learn not to worship the bible.

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My hope is that at least one major denomination will formally pursue decanonization, so people can have the choice available to them: to be part of a Christian community without the OT being in the mix.

 

I see this as similar to the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. I've had people tell me that women already have all available rights, so a formal amendment isn't required. My response is that, if equal rights for women is already a defacto state, then passing the amendment should be trivial.... Better to have it be formally a part of the constitution, because regular laws are just too easy to change.

 

Similarly, at some point in the future, rather than fading away, the darker aspects of the OT may once again be used to justify practices we today consider unthinkable. Today, we have a chance to make such a divinely inspired, darker future less likely.

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Jim,

 

I think you make good points here and in the first chapter of your book. Yet even the NT has problems in it. As progressive Christians why should we be limited to any one book as if all that has to be said has been said in the language of our times? IMO, even the NT must be read in context of the times it was written. It is a series of letters and Gospels of which as you know there are more. Do you remove them also?

 

Joseph

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My impression, which is purely subjective, is that the OT is a major stumbling block for people (and a major target for attack). While the NT also has problems, I feel there's a qualitative difference. For Paul to say "wives be obedient" isn't wonderful, but it isn't in the same league with a story where an unnamed concubine is gang-raped and then cut up into pieces, so she can serve as an object lesson: to me, those are different levels of "bad."

 

It's fair to say that I am a minimalist, and if it were totally up to me, I'd go with a Thomas Jefferson approach, so that the Bible would consist of the Two Commandments, the Golden Rule, the story of the Good Samaritan, the story of the Talents, the Sermon on the Mount, and perhaps a few other bits. I guess this would be closer to a Buddhist version of Christianity, where people sort of "meditate" on the Two Commandments.

 

That's just me, and I don't have any desire to promote that as a good solution in general. The OT, on the other hand, contains enough overt violence, intolerance, and bigotry that I do feel Christians should formally and publically renounce it. I think that's the right thing to do.

 

(Thanks for taking a look at the book!)

Edited by Migdalin
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Jim,

I certainly don't disagree that the OT taken as the "Word of God" has been the impetus of much violence​ in the history of man. Personally i just do not favor engaging in the battle to decanonize it. I prefer education and de-mystifying it to what it is. It seems to me that will naturally decanonize it over time as people are ready which is already happening with many PC's.

Anyway, i don't think original Christianity was based on a book although the traditional church system seems to always make it so. I believe it was based on a message that was transmitted by more than just words even as can be today. For me, i call it Christianity because it was exemplified by Jesus who we see as (Christ) 'anointed of God', ( or as a smearing together or Oneness with God "Christos") which title is not limited to a single man or woman. It was just a small portion of the recorded message of Jesus (forgiveness of others/self) that provided the way for me to find an approach to God. From that point, i find, no one single book is necessary but many can be helpful.

I see Christ in many people whether they refer to themselves as Christians or not. I believe there were people even before Jesus that exemplified that spirit. Christ was around long before the man Jesus but he is one of our best recorded and familiar examples of that spirit of love that is found in Christ. So, for some Progressive Christians and progressives in general , i think the label they call themselves is not as important as behavior or how they live their life.

Joseph

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The concept of love is taught in the Bible as well as in other writings, but one does not learn how to love from reading, one only gains the spiritual inspiration to love. I think education is the ultimate answer, but not education of the Bible, but of the inner life it points to. Many read the Bible religiously over and over again and pontificate on it for hours, but the persons who practice the essence of its knowledge are not many. The people who just parrot what others say without practicing and experiencing the their own essence will misinterpret and misunderstand the Bible. They seem to love reading about cake without ever tasting it. The Bible is just a tool that can inspirer us to gain the direct perception of God consciousness within ourselves. If we read the Bible or not, we are all entitled to the direct experience with God. Jesus never read the Bible and he had a direct understanding of the soul. The apostles acted in the spirit and qualified for the secret of the soul too.

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