God is Bigger than the Church

September 19, 2006

SunriseWeek 2 of seminary.  Does that qualify me as an expert yet?

Of course not.  I just hope this one doesn’t come off as too boring and… well, seminary-like.  It’s a long one too.

One clear pattern is emerging in my studies, though.

The idea that a single point of view binds us together as a people is just plain wrong.  It never has, and probably never will be a single point of view that can define us as a particular people of faith.  Look at stanza 3 of The Church’s One Foundation:

Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed;
yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”
and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

We don’t even like to talk about differences– even singing about them apparently gives us the heebie-jeebies since this verse is typically “opted out of” by congregations when singing this wonderful song about the institution which binds us together.  Of course it doesn’t take the most hopeful view about differences, either. 

I knew before coming into seminary that the Old Testament gives a somewhat distorted picture of what life was like before the end of the Judean monarchy.  Reading the first dozen or so books of the Bible, we are given a picture of a life that matched a clearly uniform picture of a people rallying around a single rule of life; worship of one God (or punished when they didn’t worship one God); clear lines between what is perceived to be good and bad; and what one might even consider to be ‘orthodoxy’ of pre-Christian times.

Of course, what is not very often talked about from the pulpit is the fact that much of this history and narrative as documented in the Bible is a revisionist history.  It was not put into written form at all until after the fall of the Judean monarchy and the exile into Babylon.  Prior to this gigantic event in our faith history, the faith of Israel was much more fluid than is represented in the texts as we know them today.  There were no sacred texts; monarch and land were the important aspects of daily life (national identity was equivalent to their religious identity).  There was not a High Priest as such; priests were locally supported.  Perhaps most contradictory to the written text is that while a small minority of Israelites held to a “Yahweh only” view of the world, most Israelites saw local gods as manifestations of God and worshipped accordingly.  There was a plurality of views towards God manifested in multiple ways in pre-exilic Israel.

The exile to Babylon changed all that.  With virtually no national identity, exiled Israelites were forced to find new ways to articulate their religious identity.  It is in this period that we came to have the Torah written down in (close) to its present form.  The writers during the exile came to rearticulate their faith in light of their current situation, expressing the past events through their current lens.  As such, the entire first part of the Old Testament is skewed (or dare we say “spun”) towards their (maybe unintentional) revisionist doctrine.  That leaves us with the document we have today known as the Old Testament; at least what is known as the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History in the Old Testament.  The great diversity; the pluralism of the pre-exilic period was erased from the history books in order to accomplish the exiled priests’ intent of ensuring that their views were maintained into the new Israel/Judah.  It seems as though those who came back from exile took great pains to ensure that their views– the altered views– were imposed on even those who remained.  In many cases this meant even excluding those who had stayed in Israel through the exile.  Families were broken up if they had married between races, traditions were changed, and the will of the returning exiles was imposed on the people.

It doesn’t stop there.  In the early church- around the first century- there was a wealth of diversity in Christianity.  This is a new understanding that we have only learned in the 20th century, and some evidence is obscure even now.  Of course, most historical evidence from the canon is Pauline/Gentile.  Also extant were Johannine, Jewish Christian, Apoloyptic/Asiatic, and Syrian Christianity.  Isn’t it interesting that there were so many perspectives- a wealth of discussions and plurality of theological perspectives in this century right after Christ’s life?  No wonder we have so many now, 2000 years later.

Gnostic Christians in the first century, for example, had a radically different belief structure than we have today, focusing not on sacred texts but on the realm of the spiritual.  They also had an alternate creation story, believing that creation is bad- that all material things are bad, in fact, because we must shed ourselves of the material in order to reach the spiritual.  In this sense they believed that Jesus shed himself of his material body at the moment of death in order to free his spiritual-self.  This was not a sacrificial offering as much as an example to show us we have no need of the body- to show how worthless the body is.  As you can see, this is a very different idea from what many today would call “Christian.”

In first century Christianity, just as in early Second Temple Judaism (post-exile Judaism), we see people beginning to take pride in their religion.  It is no longer based in national identity.  Debate begins to occur.  It gets a little nasty.  Who is the true Christian?  What does it mean to be Christian?  What is the nature of God?  What does it mean?  And all of this before we even have a formalized Gospel canon in the picture.

It appears that humans, by their nature, in both these periods are uncomfortable with the pluralism that existed in the periods immediately prior to the emergence of the uniform doctrine that followed.  I’ve seen a lot of quotes in the past months from the Elizabethan era, noting Elizabeth’s attention to the divergence of opinion and paying special attention to how Elizabeth formed our great church around multiple theologies without requiring uniformity.  Of late, we seem to have started the same cycle again, trying to come to a uniform doctrine and forgetting that we come from a place of diversity.

I find this extremely interesting.  I believe we are at place where we need to plot a reverse course now.  We have a near singular (although one would be a little naive to say singular) viewpoint of God.  It is based in sacred texts.  It is based on Trinitarian doctrine, despite the fact that Jesus did not espouse the specific relationship of the Trinity.  It is based on Sacrificial Atonement.  It is based on a Miraculous Birth.  It is based on a resurrection and belief in facts from long ago.

Before I go on, let me be clear that I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the well-accepted doctrines of Christianity.  I am only stating them.  You as readers of my blogs already know where I stand on specific doctrines; we can talk about those things elsewhere.

Sacrificial atonement, or the idea that Jesus died in order that we might be forgiven because of some cosmic rule of order in the universe, for example, is a crux of modern and historic Christianity.  I believe that for many it is a necessary doctrine which leads to conversion and salvation.

For others, though, it can be an impediment to faith.  It can be guilt-inducing, bring out already low-images of self-worth, and humiliation.  As Groody said in my favorite quote that I keep repeating:

Preaching humility to the powerless is enslaving, while preaching humility to the empowered is liberating.

For an immigrant, who is already beaten down, feels worthless, and believes others (the empowered white man) to have more worth then himself due to the merciless cultural and explicit messages we give, the message that Christ died because he is so bad can be yet another pain of guilt; another burden on an already strained back.  Yet a view that Christ died in solidarity with the suffering of the world may be liberating- that Christ came to understand what it is like to be human, to see how awfully we treat each other sometimes, that God loves us so much that he wanted us to understand that he knows how difficult it is to be human and Christ is the incarnate message of that understanding– that may be a much more helpful path to salvation for one so already burdened.

This is pluralism.  To me this means that the doctrine of Sacrificial Atonement can both be true and not true.  Jesus comes to meet us where we are, not the other way around.  See my post on this topic.

I believe that Christianity is at a point now where we must make a conscious choice to move back into a state of conscious plurality.  We must find a spot to sit where we are comfortable with finding our own place in the journey with Christ and acknowledging that others may find a different place.

We must come to understand that we live in a world of 6 billion people.  We must come to understand that in the 21st century, this world is growing smaller every day thanks to technology.  We must understand that each of these six billion people are different; they have different needs, different experiences, different hopes, different expectations from God– and God has different expectations from them as well.  With so many different combinations, and with communication in the 21st century enabling us to be in conversation in a very different way than when our doctrine was formed, we must come to understand that living together in the 21st century requires us to come to a way to live in plurality.

A quote from an article in my Contextual Theology class by Don S. Browning (which is very academic sounding, but try to read it even if you are a non-academic type).  (Note:  In it he refers to James Fowler; see my post on Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development):

Fowler has shown that there must be sufficient freedom, pluralism, and diversity in our social experience for the cognitive tensions to occur which stimulate higher-level intellectual transformations.

I have a theory on this:  That the church has had benefits and drawbacks from eliminating pluralism and diversity of thought over the years.  Of course the benefits the church has received are that by eliminating criticism (and thus higher-level intellectual transformation), the church becomes potentially more attractive.  This was probably especially true in the formative years, and to a certain degree may be true today.  I would think that this would be especially true of the church where “higher-level intellectual transformations” are not the primary purpose of the church (e.g. the developing world).

Of course, the downside of the this has been that the marginalized, the outcast, and those whom the church is called to serve have often been the very targets of the unity view of the church to exclude, making them even more oppressed.  Uniformity comes at a price.  (Please don’t confuse uniformity with unity.  Unity is great; I am saying here that uniformity is not.)

Why do I think that the move away from uniformity to pluralism is required?

Primarily, two reasons.  First, I think that the cost I’ve listed above is too high.  The church can no longer afford the risk of the uniform position being wrong.  And it has been wrong.  The history of the church is littered with mistakes.  From the crusades to the inquisition to the burning of witches at the stakes, the church has been the perpetrator of injustice at least as often as it has been the liberator.  It is incumbent upon us as the people of God to change that.  As long as a uniform doctrine is required, those responsible for creating and interpreting the uniform doctrine will have an inordinate amount of power that can and will be used for inappropriate purposes, due to our inperfect nature as humans.

Second, as Browning mentions above, I do not think that the church can be a challenging place for all people without pluralism.  For higher cognitive and spiritual development, we must have the ability to witness divergent points of view and process them both critically and spiritually.  We must be open to other points of view and how the Spirit wants us to process that information.  Once we are locked behind a curtain there is little room for the light of the Holy Spirit to enter and yield to us new fruit to grow on our vine.  We will stale, whither, and fade.  We must open our doors wide, embrace all around us, and not fear divergent views but trust that if our view is the “truth”– if it is the right and proper place where God wants us to be– then the Holy Spirit will defend it.

(I suppose another, more simplistic way of thinking about this strictly within TEC would be to say that “conservatives” and “progressives” each have their own roles.  Conservatives have a role to play to ensure that any change proposed does not come too quickly, or is not made without being thought through with spiritual and thoughtful analysis; and progressives have the role of ensuring that we never get “stuck” in one place, becoming stagnant in still waters, and that we are always discerning how to move our doctrine towards one that is more in alignment with God’s will since by definition it is humanly created, will never be perfect, and there is always room for improvement.)

In other words, we must yield to the Holy Spirit and say goodbye to our fear that our way, the way of our tradition, the way we want it to be, or whatever, is necessarily God’s way, and trust that over the course of time the arc of history will bend towards justice.  By attempting to close the curtain on the Spirit– by trying to shut out divergent views– we are not doing the work of God, but only thwarting God’s will by preventing the wonderful diversity God has created on this earth from working together in harmony.  We are at a point in time where that can happen.  We no longer live in villages, incapable of communication with the next village over the hill.  It is now incumbent upon us to learn to live together.  Not in forceful uniformity, but in understanding that God is bigger than any of our own will or understanding.  We must learn to trust and accept that God is bigger even than the church.

I leave it to you to surmise what this might mean for TEC, the Anglican Communion, and the rest of it.  I invite you to post your comments and reflections here so that we can have a conversation about it.


Work Cited

Groody, Daniel G.  Border of Death, Valley of Life: An Immigrant Journey of Heart and Spirit.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Mudge, Lewis S. and James N. Poling, Ed. Formation and Reflection: The Promise of Practical Theology.  Chapter 5:  Practical Theology and Religious Education, by Don S. Browning.  Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1987.  p. 94.


15 Responses to “God is Bigger than the Church”

  1. Milton Says:

    Jeff, against my better judgment, I will comment on this post. Remember what Isaiah (as did all the prophets in OT speaking for the LORD to forbid the worship of local “gods”) said of most of Israel in warning: “Seeing they will not perceive, hearing they will not understand”. Somehow you have managed to miss the repeated and dire warnings against idolatry throughout the OT, whether deliberately (I think not) or by a mindset so ingrained that it is invisible to you, blinding you to things plain in Scripture that you would rather not acknowledge to be true or even present. Believe me, there are things in Scripture that I (in my self-will) also would rather not even be there, let alone be God’s word, but I try in Grace to live in submission to them all the same.

    You write:
    “Perhaps most contradictory to the written text is that while a small minority of Israelites held to a “Yahweh only” view of the world, most Israelites saw local gods as manifestations of God and worshipped accordingly. There was a plurality of views towards God manifested in multiple ways in pre-exilic Israel.”

    That “small minority” is the faithful remnant referred to over and over again in OT. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD your God is one.” “You shall not have other gods before Me.” “I have kept yet 5000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

    Look at Deuteronomy 29:10-29, spoken by Moses to Israel just before the LORD was to take him away and have Joshua lead Israel into the promised land, especially vs.24-27: “And all the nations shall say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ Then men shall say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought out of the land of Egypt. And they went and served other fods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book;'”

    Read Joshua Ch. 24 and find Joshua repeating Moses’ earlier prophecies that Israel would indeed turn away from the LORD God alone and worship the gods of the land and finally be cast out of the land just as the LORD drove out the pagan nations before them. Two of the major prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, spend a great part of their writings giving Israel and Judah their final warnings from the LORD to turn back from idolatry. Finally in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest and destruction of Solomon’s Temple and taking Israel and Judah away into the Babylonian exile the LORD’s prophecy through Moses was fulfilled:
    Deuteronomy 28:49-50 and following “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who shall have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.”

  2. Jeff Says:

    Hi Milton –
    Thanks for responding. This is actually one of my favorite posts and I wasn’t sure anyone was bothering to read it, so thanks for taking the time.
    I’m not sure what you mean in the first paragraph of your post. Are you implying that I am somehow idolatrous for taking a historical/critical view of Scripture?
    In fact, I love Scripture. And I think we are getting to yet another difference in theologies. My faith is not at all shaken– in fact is deepened– by learning more about the history behind the text.
    I am not sure, but the way you are citing text here you seem to buy into the author’s desire to have you take it on the surface of the text (Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc), as if it had been written prior to the exile. In fact most scholars agree that much of this text was written during the exile by the exiled priests; not by the “faithful remnant” in Israel who continued to worship in very different ways than is described in the text.
    The pre-exile notion was based in monarchy – that the monarchy would endure forever– Ps 89.28

    “Forever I will keep my steadfast love for him, and my covenant with him will stand firm. I will establish his line forever, and his throne as long as the heavens endure. If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, the I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges; but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips… I will not lie to David. His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun.”

    Well, given this (that Israel had been promised a neverending line of Kings) that was a little hard to get over when the kingship failed since the monarcy (and not the Torah) had been the center of life in Israel, and the people needed something new to rally around. Thus, out of the exile comes the new -and improved- Torah! And the book of Deuteronomy. Never mind that we insert it into the Pentateuch as if it came straight from the mouth of God into Moses’ hands when it was actually created hundreds of years later. Never mind that the rest of the Deuteronomistic (pre-exile) History was now to be re-written under the scrutinous eye of this new standard.
    It may be fine for you to look back and judge that time period through that lens- for all I know that is what God wants you to do; just realize that the people in pre-exilic times weren’t actually judging themselves that way.

  3. Milton Says:

    Jeff, every time I read “scholars say”, they invariably seem to say that black is white, that evil is good and good is evil, that the text NEVER says what any reader would take its plain meaning to be. Please name some of these “scholars” who hiss “Hath God really said?”.

    No, I am not calling you idolatrous. This is not about you or me personally, it is about Scripture being accepted as true, not blindly, but by historical and archeological proofs that multiply, not decrease, over time with new discoveries in those fields.

    As for the OT being revisionism written after the fact rather than prophecy written beforehand or description written at the time of the events described, observe Jesus throughout the Gospels. He quoted from nearly every book of the OT without qualifying any of it, and acknowledged Daniel as a prophet, not a mask donned by a later revisionist historian. Of course, the profs at the seminary you chose to attend probably confirm you in your low estimate (yes, it is a low valuation) of Scripture. Most seminaries do nowadays. By the way, the historical/critical method of interpreting Scripture on which you are sold was begun by “scholars” who were hostile to Scripture and wanted it ultimately devalued by the very people trusted to teach it.

    The Psalm 89 passage you quote is generally understood by “orthodox” Bible scholars as referring to Jesus as its fulfillment. Remember Jesus Himself told the Pharisees that David referred to the son who would succeed him on the throne as “Lord” and asked them, “If David calls him ‘Lord’, how then can he also be his (earthly, clarification mine) son?” Remember also the lepers who cried out to Jesus for healing, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

    The Pharisees also understood “Son of David” as a title of the Messiah, who would be the fulfillment of Pslm 89.
    Matthew 21:14-16 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,’Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself?'” (quoting Psalm 8:2)

    Jeff, just as much as you say I have bought into (as in being suckered) the OT authors’ desire to take them at their words’ face value, you have beforehand entirely dismissed the entire Bible’s message in its own words. Forcing the Bible through your grid of preconceptions and rather condescending sanctions, it comes out to you much as a perfectly good steak does being forced through a meat grinder, just so much sausage. No wonder Scripture seems to you such a contradictory, jumbled and ultimately useless (as God’s word to us) mess, to be discarded in favor of modern insights that supercede the faith that all the apostles but John died to preach, when they could easily have saved their lives by simply admitting they had made the whole thing up. Would you die for something you knew was a lie?

  4. Jeff Says:

    Milton –

    I’ve tried to be very careful not to attack you personally. Please try to afford me the same respect, as we are having a dialogue, not a war.

    Let’s work with something that is very clear to see without looking to scholars. Genesis, the creation story, clearly refers to the way the world was created. Now without even getting into a creationism/evolution discussion, if we take your approach and look only to the Bible for history and do not look to external sources we must assume that what is there is fact.

    Genesis 1:3 – “Then God said ‘Let there be light”.
    Genesis 1:6 – “And God said ‘ Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters”
    Genesis 1:16 – God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness.

    Clearly here if we do are to believe the literal text then we are to understand that the sun is not that which gives us light because the light existed prior to the sun, and that the sun is suspended from a dome which hovers over us in the sky. I know from my own reasonable reliance on science that there is no dome in the sky suspending the sun above us, and also that the sun is the source of the light– in opposition to the scripture.

    It is only because I take the historical/critical approach that I can understand that the exilic priests were trying to create order from chaos, and that is why this creation story is written. Of course we have the second creation story later in Genesis, which most likely originated prior to the exile, and that is more messy- less structured, and was not edited by the exilic priests.

    Two creation stories, existing side by side. Right there in the text. Pluralism at its best. Right there in the canon.

    Which one do you believe? They are contradictory. They do not reinforce each other. We have the same problem with Noah and all over the place.

    You can ignore it, of course. You can choose to believe that this is a historical document written in the time of your choosing.

    But then, in my view, you are choosing to turn your back on the purpose of God. You are choosing to take the easy way out.

    God is messy. That is one of Jesus’ messages to us. That is what he said to the Pharisees. They tried to do the same thing to Scripture as you seem to be doing– reducing it to something it isn’t intended to do.

    It is a tool for teaching, not a black and white law for judgement among humans.

    Lie is your word. You have taken your interpretation in front of the text and placed a value judgement on what is going on behind the text.

    I never said what happened in history– I never said that how the canon came about was wrong, was a lie. Those are your words. I simply said it is how it happened. I believe you are overlooking a great truth by closing yourself to the past.


  5. obadiahslope Says:

    A non-literal view of the creation account is common to many christians with a range of views about scripture. Only some christians adopt a view that the OT was written after the exile. The two are not linked. If you wish to argue that the OT was written/redacted after the exile, fine. But a argument about the creation account won’t stretch that far. At least from my point of view.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Hi Obadiah –

    The real point to the non-literalness of the creation story wasn’t developed fully in my post, I’ll admit.

    Probably the easier and shorter way to develop the point in limited space is simply to point out what I mentioned about the middle of the comment, which was intended to be the main thrust – it isn’t just about the creation story, it is about conflict within the text itself: There are two conflicting creation stories. One is pre-exile, one is post-exile. Which one are we to believe? There are two flood stories. There are multiple stories of the times under the monarchy.

    There are clearly different points of view contained within the Bible. That comes from the pre-exile voices and the exilic priestly writers, editing and inserting commentary after the fall of Jerusalem, trying to make sense of their condition.

    To say that the OT was written after the exile is stretching too far; it is an attempt to make something that is grey into something that is black and white– a tendancy which I find to be common in the orthodox world. It is neither wholly exilic nor wholly pre-exilic. It is both; it is nuanced.

    You make a claim that only some Christians acknowledge this nuanced form of the OT. I would state it differently; I would say that since much of the historical and scientific evidence that gives us this information has only been uncovered in the 20th century, the church simply hasn’t had time to incorporate the information into teaching, and thus the general Christian public hasn’t been educated yet.

    Orthodox, as we know, are slow to change. But the evidence is there. You can stand in the face of it and ignore it, or you can look at it and ask, What is God trying to say to us with this information? Why did God choose this time, this place, to reveal this new information about this very old history to us?


  7. obadiahslope Says:

    There’s also a third group, that have looked at the redaction theories and have swung back towards a view or views that focus less on the effects of editing the text. To take the academic theory you might favour about the OT and say “God has revealed this” is a very big call. Research or scholarly opinion on these topics is not a linear process.

  8. […] In other words, we all have different points at which we acknowledge that we might be wrong, or need to make adjustments in what we believe. In the thread on “God is Bigger than the Church” it is clear that some of us have a very high threshhold in order to change– I think that is also what I was talking about in my post on “Faith“. […]

  9. Jeff Says:

    Obadiah –

    Of course it isn’t linear. But then again, that’s my entire point, isn’t it? Neither is the OT.


  10. Jeff Says:

    Sorry, I was running out of the house for class and didn’t have time to write much before.
    The only thing I have to add is that I didn’t mean to imply that God revealed what the information revealed in the 20th century means about the OT; only that the information has been revealed.
    Each of us has a choice in what we do or don’t do with that information. See my post from today.
    Of course there are a small number of theorists who discount what most scholars believe. But most people who spend their professional lives immersed in these studies agree that the OT was built over many years, and the redaction and revision of the OT over the pre and post exilic Israel is very much a part of our canon.
    You can pick up just about any commentary written in the last twenty years and see that for yourself. That a minority report exists to provide another viewpoint does not make it right, nor does it make it wrong. It only makes it a minority report.
    I think it just begs the question again that I asked in today’s post– what does it take to make you change your mind? A tablet dropping out of the sky? Can anything change your mind? Or has your faith gone past the point of faith and turned into a kind of immutable irrational belief in something which you cannot prove? Because that is what it sounds like to me if things seen cannot be put in alignment with things unseen. I don’t mean that in judgement; I’m asking it as a question because I don’t understand it.

  11. obadiahslope Says:

    It seems to me that you are talking about two steps in logic not one. The first step is the question of redaction of the OT. The second is whether or not that mean that the OT is “revisionist history”. It seems to me that you have a tendency to conflate the two – at least in your opening post.
    What does it take for me to change my mind? In terms of the Bible – a closer reading of the text. For example i was once a five-point calvinist. I no longer am, because I believe that system of thought contradicts what the Bible says.
    I guess what I am saying that whether the OT was written, complied or edited over a short or a long period – I am committed to reading what the text says. I have room for a “hermeneutic of suspicion” but I am wary of making it the dominant way in which I approach the text.
    So for example I am less interested in establishing the date and exact authorship of Job, than in reading it and applying its lessons and ammending my life.
    Documentary theories rise and wane. We are probably past the high water mark for JEDP. It is inevitable that the theories you are learning today will be modified severely during your lifetime. that is not to say “ignore them”, but “keep them in perspective”.
    So in summary. I am open to the redaction theory of the OT. I am more skeptical about using “revisionist history” as the lens to read it by. (I think that expands my earlier post. i hope so)

  12. Jeff Says:

    Hi Obadiah –

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Frankly, I don’t think that position sounds too far from my own the way you’ve described it, in many ways- at least in Biblical interpretation.

    The only thing I would add for my own position is that I’m open to the idea that the author’s intent was completely different from that of the plain text.

    That doesn’t mean that the meaning which I am intended to take away from it is in any way diminished.

    For example, it may have been revisionist history to ascribe the success of David to following Yahweh alone when in fact David probably instilled no such practice.

    But that is not to say that I can’t take meaning out of the text as it exists today that God likes to be worshipped, and that God walks with us and enjoys having no other idols put before him.

    It is helpful for me, though, to know the history of the text, and what most likely actually happened as opposed to how it is recorded in the Bible (I say most likely because we will likely never know for certain all of the actual events that actually transpired 3000 years ago). As I said at the opening, it does not threaten my faith in any way, but deepens it.


    PS – I would suggest that you haven’t answered my question about what would change your mind. You’ve answered the question “how do I practice my current faith” and “why I changed my faith before” but not “what would change my faith now”. What would it take to make you believe that reading the scripture was not enough? I’m not saying it isn’t enough, I’m just wondering if there is such a thing that could cause you to believe that God is so big that Scripture isn’t enough to fully describe him.

  13. obadiahslope Says:

    What would change my faith now? I am not sure that this is an answerable question. If I think of something that should cause me to change my faith – then I change my faith surely? Or I decide not to – but that changes things too. Hard to deal with hypotheticals, here.
    Having a disabled child has challenged and changed my faith. Does that mean that experience modifies belief – of course. It is just as an evangelical the stool has one main leg. And the uneven stool is porbably the best brief answer I can give you.

    As to your statement about David – I am not sure there is enough evidence to form the opinion it was “revisionist history”. I think there is something of an “interpretive grid” being applied here. Is that something to condemn? perhaps. But it is certainly something to discuss.

  14. Jeff Says:

    It is a difficult question. But I think you’ve nailed it when you’ve described the difference in the “un-evenness” of our respective stools.
    If I can venture an observation, can I guess that knowing your boundaries, your limits, and working with the grey areas of your faith aren’t as important to you- for you they are hypotheticals not of great importance for time spent in your spiritual life (maybe of more importance are the ‘fundamentals’ of faith?).
    For me these grey areas are the essentials. For me the other stuff is easy, the concrete, the tangible– the grey areas are what makes or breaks it and what is worthy of time spent in thought and reflection in my spiritual life, leading to my spiritual growth and greater understanding of God, neighbor, and self. Of course I use Scripture as a tool in this endeavor, but it is for the sake of the pursuit of these grey areas that I do this. Not to seek black and white firm ground, but map the haze, knowing where the edges begin to fade one into another.

  15. […] I recently wrote a post on how God is Bigger than the Church. […]

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