Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity   by Roger Wolsey

published January, 11 2011

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Chapter 8

The Bible:

Book of Science, Rules, Facts, Myths or Life?


 

Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me!

The Bible tells me so!”   Jesus Loves Me, traditional American Christian folk hymn

 

There's nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible.  If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible."  Desmond Tutu

 

Everything in the Scriptures is God's Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.  2 Timothy 3:16

 

 

No book has had a greater impact on humanity than The Holy Bible.  It is the best-selling book ever published.[1]  Children receive Bibles as gifts.  They can be found in drawers in hotel rooms.  Evangelicals hand them out in public places.  People hold signs quoting from it at major sporting events.  Musicians and artists have drawn inspiration from them.  People have placed their hands upon them when giving oaths and pledging to tell the truth.  Families use them to keep records of their genealogy and stash special mementos.  And, from time to time, people actually read them.

Whether or not the Bible is understood as literally being God’s actual words; as a written record for how our ancestors in the faith experienced God and tried to live in faith; or even simply as beautiful poetic literature that inspires and comforts, the Bible is a primary component of Christianity.  The more literal approaches to this great book are troublesome to Progressive Christians.  The popular evangelical description of the Bible as “B.I.B.L.E: Be Instructed Before Leaving Earth” or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” coupled with the adage, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” rubs many of us the wrong way.

There are numerous ways to read and interpret the Bible, hence the many and varied translations of them on the market.  But before we get into all of that, let’s explore some of the basics of the Bible.  Most Christians agree that we have one book of sacred scriptures - the Holy Bible, which was written over many years, originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Christians often refer to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish Bible, as “the Old Testament” and the writings of the early Christians[2] as the “New Testament.”

The word Bible comes to us from Latin and Greek words that mean “book” or “books.”  The Bible is actually an anthology, a collection of many books.  There are 66 Books in the Bible.[3]  Some Christians read it literally and legalistically, while others read it with more nuance discerning allegories, metaphors, and symbolism.  Most of us view it as containing God’s truth, and as “inspired by” God, though we may mean different things by this.

            The books of the Bible are of various types and genres including: creation myths, law, history, geneaologies, writings/narratives, songs, poetry, wisdom sayings, apocalypitic visions; gospels, and epistles (letters).  Jews refer to their canon of scripture, 24 books, as the Tanakh (tan-ahk).  Tanakh is an acronym for the three parts of the Hebrew Bible.  The first part is the Torah (teaching/law).  Because these are the first five books of the Bible, the Torah is also known as the “Pentateuch” (meaning “the five”).  The Prophets (aka the Nevi’im) comprise another portion of the Hebrew Bible.   The “Writings” (aka the Ketuvim) make up the rest.

            That may be about all that can be stated that most Christians agree with about the Bible.  Everything else is debatable and controversial.[4] ........
               .......Progressive Christianity agrees with the Protestant assertion of “sola scriptura” – that the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation.  However, that doesn't mean it's the only vessel of God’s ways of communicating and conveying God’s grace and wholeness.  To say otherwise is idolatry – the sin of humans having the gall to limit God by making an idol of the Bible.  As John Wesley noted, Church Tradition, Reason, and Experience are also helpful means for coming to a sense of salvation, and there are a lot of other spirit-filled books out there to be fed by.   A protein, yogurt, fruit, and wheat grass smoothie, or perhaps a serving of quinoa, may contain all that is necessary for human life – but that doesn’t mean that other foods don’t offer many of the same sorts of things as well.   In fact, supplementing basic food stuffs with other foods actually enhances how those “basics” are utilized by the body.

Progressive Christianity emphasizes orthopraxy (right practice) over orthodoxy (right beliefs).  It affirms the classic saying, “Take care in how you live your life.  It may be the only Bible some people ever read.”  In other words, namely Maya Angelou’s, “Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren't, we should behave as though we are - cheerful, kind, loving, courteous.  Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.”  Gulp.  I don’t know about you, but that all makes me want to read my Bible for some guidance in how to live that way!


[1] ..and published in the most languages and dialects - http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/bestsellerFARQ.html

[2] Who were also Jews it should be remembered.

[3]  At least in the Protestant version of the Bible.  There are seven more books in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions.  Protestants consider those books to be less authoritative as none of the books in the New Testament quote from any of those books.  They’re referred to as “the Apocrypha.”

[4] Which goes a long way toward explaining why there are now some 38,000 different Christian denominations!  http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm

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