In studying various interpretations of The Bible including Bob Enyart’s “The Plot” which has inspired a couple of essays here, one question continues to nag: Do I trust The Bible to be “the word of God”? That is, how much of it is to be accepted as God’s message to us: 100%, 50%, 10%, none?
The problem I’m having is not unique to The Bible. I have the same skepticism of all religious works because they were — and here I need to include several words — recorded, transcribed, written by man. And while I do grant 100% that those doing the recording were inspired, deeply and profoundly inspired no doubt, it remains that the ink was applied to paper by a human being.
And human beings are fallible.
Let’s take The Bible including Old and New Testaments for a moment. This work was assembled from various sources and the early Roman Catholic Church eventually gave its approval to a particular collection. And while that particular collection has been translated into many languages, interpreted by scholars and lay persons for thousands of years, it remains a collection that was debated, argued and eventually voted upon by those with a strong vested interest, the early Christian church.
Life has taught me to give my trust sparingly, with much reservation, through a skeptical eye and, most essentially, with a clear understanding of the other person’s motives (where possible).
And the Catholics were assembling the books that would provide the teachings of the foundation of their beliefs as well as the core of their daily actions.
As such, I have no problem understanding why they have never considered including some or all of The Koran in the Catholic Bible. The Koran is from a different religion, contains ideas that are contrary to teachings in The Catholic Bible and, well, it’s in just plain in very significant conflict with The Bible. The two don’t belong together.
That same razor was applied in deciding what to include or exclude from The Bible when the Roman Catholic church assembled the work. What supported their ideas, their history and most essentially their faith was included. What contradicted it or was seen as extraneous was omitted.
So, when I read The Bible, it’s like playing with a stacked deck of cards: it is supposed to come out a certain way. That was the plan. That’s why it includes the books it does.
And who assembled it? Men — granted they were operating with profound inspiration, but it was still human beings that made the selection.
So today, when I think about Bob Enyart’s ideas and read the Biblical quotations he uses to support his conclusions, while I may agree that his conclusions are very interesting, I still have to question the material with which he begins, The Bible.
And perhaps worse, the more I read of the differing interpretations, the less I tend to trust the underlying material.
Stated simply, if scholars have been studying and debating Biblical issues for more than two thousand years — the Old Testament goes back well before Christ — and they still cannot agree, and in light of the fact that so-called “Christian” churches have fragmented into dozens of factions each with their own slightly different beliefs and practices, then I have to seriously question The Bible as a unifying work. Certainly it has not accomplished that. On the contrary, its ambiguity is why all these factions exist.
All of this ultimately boils down to a question of faith.
Do I believe The Bible is The Word of God, or is it inspired by God, or is it simply an example of humanity’s search for meaning and purpose?
Alas, I tend to the latter.
Insofar as The Bible teaches me about humanity and it’s yearning for meaning in the apparently infinite cosmos, it is a useful tool, a good speller, a valuable set of lessons.
But it teaches me therefore about humanity.
Does that diminish my faith in God?
No, not in the least.
I still feel God’s movement in my life. I know His interactions, His influences, the opportunities He places before me.
Some people of faith talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus, with God, with the Holy Spirit. Yes, I understand that and would have to say that is what I experience and believe. I, too, have a personal relationship with … I will say “God” because that feels most appropriate, but “Holy Ghost” is another very good term for what I feel because the interaction is subtle, very subtle. “Jesus” doesn’t feel like the correct noun to use for what I feel.
But I do have a personal relationship.
It’s something I feel on a daily basis, if I’m paying attention, or that I notice afterwards when I reflect on a certain situation and what possibilities were open to me and to others.
God is there, operating in the moment, and opening doors of opportunity.
It is then up to me to listen with my heart and, feeling His presence, choose the door He is hoping I will choose.
I’m sure He smiles when I make the right choice, or sighs when I do not.
But then He moves on to the next opportunity, as must I.