I had a wild dream last night. I dreamed that our congregation was connected with the ministry of John Hagee. He is the dispensationalist who figures out the end of time for us. The basic gist of my dream is that part of my job at First Pres. is to fill in for Rev. Hagee on his TV program when he is on vacation. Shocked, I couldn't believe my church was really in to this guy and that I was expected to continue his ministry. Apparently, his organization donated to the church. My duty as chaplain to the institution was to carry this out. My dilemma was how to do this. What do I say? Do I preach the Hagee line or what I really think? Either way I lose something, either my integrity or my position. Thankfully, before my first show I woke up.
My dream gave me the idea for my series of sermons on Lent. Here is the heading: "Beliefs Worth Giving Up in Order to Grow." It starts off this Sunday. Once per season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) we devote a service to one of the four spiritual paths of Creation Spirituality. This coming Sunday is the celebration of Winter and the spiritual path of letting go. My sermon is entitled, "Why Negative Theology Matters." This will be a nice kick off to Lent.
What are some beliefs worth letting go in order to grow? I suggest that one of the beliefs worth letting go is that the Bible is of supernatural origin. Don't misunderstand. I am not advocating letting go of the Bible, but letting go of a view of the Bible that stunts our growth. I love the Bible. I have read it since I was a child. Still do. I no longer read it through the lens of divine inspiration. To do so clouds our view of it and misrepresents the writers of it. Here is a quote from Robert Ingersoll in his book Some Mistakes of Moses:
Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature's night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is foced to raise the standards of revolt.
I found this quote in a book I recommend for your Lenten devotion, The Reason Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? by Robert M. Price. Price's book is a critique of Rev. Rick Warren's bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life. But much more than a critique, Price with wit and grace offers another way of creating meaning and joy in this life. For those who are becoming disenchanted with fundamentalism/evangelicalism, this one is a winner. The book is divided into 40 chapters (like Warren's book) and in each he responds to some bizarre and non-sensical statement Warren makes (like the doctrine of hell for example, or that the Bible is infallible) and offers a view that makes more sense of the Bible and of life itself.
Robert M. Price is one of the smartest and funniest guys I have ever met. To top it off he was a Baptist preacher. Do yourself a favor for Lent. Get this book and check out his web page. Click on his pic to see him in action in an interview.