Shuck and Jive

Monday, August 14, 2006

The B-I-B-L-E; Yes, That's The Book for Me!

Hi Friends,

What is the Bible? If the Bible is the "Word of God" what makes it so? What does "Word of God" mean? Is this a helpful metaphor? The following is part of a paper I wrote for the Westar Leaders' Seminar in the Fall of 2005. I am trying to find a metaphor for the Bible that progressive Christians can find credible. Here is the excerpt:

"What approach, lens, angle of vision, or metaphor might we take toward the Bible that will make it a helpful resource in the Sunday morning experience? I consider the Bible to be the family history of our spiritual ancestors. It is a collection of the record of human experiences canonized by various family historians. Our family history gives us rooted-ness. We have a story. We have a past. Our ancestors do have wisdom. I believe that they caught a glimpse of the fire. If we are wise, humble, and courageous, we can see that fire as well. It is out of respect for our ancestors, our need for rooted-ness, and our need to listen to the wisdom of the ancients that we “open and read.”

"The advantage of this metaphor is that it allows us to appreciate that there are other families on this earth. They have family histories as well. Telling our stories to one another (without the competition about whose is more objectively authoritative) will enable us to engage more positively and peacefully with those of other faith traditions.

"Also, family histories are never complete. Like the genealogist who discovers great Uncle Albert, who for some reason was not mentioned in the family history, so too, scholars of Christian origins have found remnants of communities whose stories were not told, or at least told positively, in the canon of accepted lore. These “Uncle Alberts” include communities reflected in the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary and numerous others. As we discover the great diversity of our Christian past, we who are charged with adding to the family history for our descendants, will now be obligated to include these voices as well."

So, I have mentioned family history as a metaphor. There are others. What is yours?



  1. John, thanks for the plug for the cartoon and restaurant. About the curses . . . when we first opened, quite a few people stopped to tell us they were praying for us and gave us blessings. After one especially depressing day, an older couple came by just as we were closing and prayed with us in a cosmic battle way. They cast out Satan and offered blessings. In general, I don't have much use for the cosmic warfare theology of unseen demons clashing swords with angels, but I have to admit that I do feel power and love in the words we have received from people who do believe that way.

    In seminary we learned the ancients believed blessings and curses contained inherent power that was to be taken seriously. Once given, they could not be taken back, thus the story of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau. I don't understand the physics of how that works, nor do I imagine it in the cosmic battle scenario, but I know it is true, now more than ever.

    One more quick comment before I get on topic. Blog sounds like a slow word. "I got blogged down on my computer." However, blogs seem to move faster than I do. I'll try to keep up though.

    Now for metaphors. (by the way John, if you ever talk about paradigms, I'll hit you over the head with a blog!)

    For me, the metaphor of "home" works. Not too different from your family history. A home is where I feel comfortable, where I feel that I belong. A home is where I can recharge to go out into the world again. A home is where I experience the deepest relationships in life. A home is where I can be messy (like the Bible gets) and yet if I dig through closets or drawers, find hidden treasures.

    There is a physical aspect to this metaphor in that my one particular bible that is taped, glued and marked up provides me with more comfortable and inspiring reading than a pew bible, for instance. The words are the same, but I feel a deeper spiritual connection with one special cloth bound stack of printed paper. Of course, I had a blanket, like Linus, when I was a kid, so it's no surprise that I have a "security Bible."

    A final aside. For some preachers, a metaphor for the Bible might be "hammer," suitable for hitting people over the head.

    Paul Peterson

  2. When we lived in Billings, my wife taught music in the elementary school at Crow Agency (on the Crow Reservation about a mile from where Custer stood his last). On the first day of school before students arrived an elderly Native American went into each room, chanted and "smudged" (I think that is right word) in order to cleanse and bless the room. Like you said, the power and love of ritual has a reality. I guess the reality is awareness of the sacred dimension to life. Sounds like your restaurant is in an energetic part of town!

    I will try to be senstive to your paradigmaphobia. My peeve is when administrative types use the word "piece." As in, "Now the dibblefluster is the other piece we will need to add to this scenario. Maybe we can flesh out that paradigm over lunch?"

    Back to the Bible. The way we think of it influences the way we use it. Hammer or even more graphically, baseball bat, is how many experience it.

    I remember reading an article a few years ago suggesting that liberals should not be too cool to read (and know how to read) the Bible.

    The reasoning went: "What you don't know can and will be used against you."