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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Naked Truth about the Bible

the fifth page for Tues, Sept 14, 2010

Only God is God. Anything that is not God, is not God. If we substitute anything for God, or in our thinking or behaviour act as if anything but God is God, we are in danger of wandering into the territory of idolatry- the worship of a false god.

It is tempting to find God-like qualities in something close at hand. We crave answers, and reassurance, and security. It can be deeply unsettling to realize that these are hard to come by.

Part of a child’s maturing process is realizing that parents do not know everything. For the parent, this can be trying, as everything they say is challenged and tested. For the child, this is an exhilarating time, and a frightening time.

Some people are able to move from reliance on a steady stream of “right” answers, to a new kind of living that allows for ambiguity and mystery. Others find this intolerable, and quickly latch on to a new source of authority and rightness.

There are many refuges from the difficulty and discomfort of thinking for ourselves, and living with unanswered, and unanswerable questions. It might be loyalty to a cause, or an institution. It might be adherance to a religious perspective or philosophy. It might be an extreme attachment to another person, who seems to have all the answers.

I sometimes think that Christians use the teachings, the trappings, the institutions they have created as shelters from the storm of the unknown. The tendency to look upon the Bible as “inerrant” is a perfect example. The claim that this document reflects perfectly the mind of God strikes me as a desperate effort to hang on to “something” that is for sure.

As I preached on Sunday, there is so much that is beautiful and good and helpful in the Bible, and there is also a lot that we reject as racist, homophobic, misogynist, violent, and dangerous. Blanket claims that every word is “divinely inspired” require faithful people to accept, or give the appearance of accepting a lot of ideas we know are wrong.

I suspect that as an institution, the Christian church has been acting like the “yes men” in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, who can see the King is strutting around naked, but are afraid to tell him.