Monday, October 5, 2009

Some Assembly Required: Part 3- Extra Parts

James F. McGrath, Associate Professor of Religion at Butler University, Indianapolis, over at Exploring Our Matrix posted some thought-proving pictures a few months ago. Click on the previous link to check them out for yourself. What do you think? Did God put the Bible together himself or did God use people to do the work for him? What does this tell us about the Bible itself? Can the Bible escape man's fallible nature or does it contain fingerprints of man's highest hopes and dreams to our deepest fears and darkest issues?

As I've stated many times before, if I believe in anything with every ounce of my being it is that man is capable of making mistakes. With this humble approach to our fallibility how then do we reconcile the view that the "infallible and inerrant" Bible was penned, edited, arranged, and transmitted by the hand of Man? Should we even try to reconcile these two points or simply look at our freshly assembled Bible with new eyes?

A question arises for those who transcend the notion of an infallible Bible: what do we do now? For those who are open to the concept that mankind is fallible and that we might have made a mistake somewhere along the history of the Bible, what do we do with this man-made work?

  1. We could, as some have, toss the whole thing out and refuse to associate with the divine in anyway. If God can't hire decent secretaries to pen down his Word then there is no need to waste any more time.
  2. We could try to "fix" these errors by attempting to explain them away, harmonize the gospels, or even completely ignore the facts in front of us. (Ex. Out of the 5700 surviving Greek manuscripts, no two are exactly alike. How do we we pick out the most reliable copies?)
  3. We can keep the understanding that the Bible, as a man-made text, is capable of fallibility and continue to draw spiritual wisdom and guidance as citizens of the 21st century.
Bart Ehrman's work is an excellent guide to understanding that the Bible we have today is filled with all sorts of interpolations, additions, and other errors that clearly shows the handiwork of Man. But, I'm not going to toss it out because it may be theologically, politically, or even historically skewed (which seems like the direction that Ehrman is leaning towards). By realizing our own fallibility we come one step closer to walking a life of humility and love. And with that understanding we can grasp a deeper meaning found buried within the Bible. What does it matter if the Comma Johanneum was not added until centuries after the closing of the canon? Do we keep it in there for tradition's sake or just to support our theological views? Should we butcher the Bible like Thomas Jefferson did with his and take out what doesn't jive with our worldview? And what about the non-canonical texts that the church decided were not divinely inspired? Can we grow spiritually from non-canonical texts like the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Paul, or even the deuterocanonical books in the Catholic bible? If a text is not "divinely inspired" does it carry any worth at all? What then guides us to read, say for instance, the Bible as oppose to the Book of Mormon? Or even the Qur'an?

I believe that the Bible is a diary of humanity's struggle with itself and the Divine. It can be read as a reminder of who we were and even what we're capable of becoming (both good and bad). The Bible is NOT a user-friendly guide to life but we have to dig out and interpret the meaning behind the text and then struggle with that meaning. As 21st century Christians how do we interpret and apply that meaning to our increasingly interconnected lives? How do we handle 21st century issues that the Bible doesn't even touch? We should never be completely satisfied with the answers to our questions without having more questions spring up. It is the struggle to live in the mystery without being consumed by or driven away by it. What do we gain by all this questioning, challenging, and struggling? To understand, know, and love ourselves, one another, and God.


Don said...

Nice post. Again we are in agreement about the Bible.

captron52 said...

I have believed for quite some time that the Bible was written by men who were influenced by the mores of society at eh time of their writing. The Bible was also written by those who had their own beliefs and intentions present when they were doing the writing. Also much of the Bible were stories that had been handed down over the years by many different people. Therefore I think the Bible is a great book to try and draw inspiration from but at the same time it it should be taken as a work that is not infallible in all its writings. I feel if one can pattern their lives by living the principals in the Bible then their life will be rewarding and filed with much love and kindness. One big mistake I think a lot of folks make regarding the Bible is that they fail to see that the original arabic writings are completely changed when they are translated into the english language. Many of the teachings of Jesus are not fully understood because of this problem in the translations. I have found in my own personal life that most folks accept the Bible as it is written with no regard to the diferences lost inthe original translation. But all in all teh Bible is a great book even with the differences of opinion as to waht it really says or means. Thanks again for another enlighhtening entry!

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