Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 26, 2010

Meaning of Life, Part 48

It's a bit of a flimflam on the part of pastors, Bible teachers, and true believers when they urge us to "obey the Bible"--by which they mean trying to do what the Bible says. Although many claim to try, they are never able to succeed! Here is why. The Bible is an ancient book describing the origins, history, and faiths of two different antiquated religions, both of which are, in turn, quite different from their modern counterparts. I am not saying the Bible is without value, or that nothing can be learned from these antique religions. There are many valuable lessons for moderns to take from the ancient Judeo-Christian traditions that comprise the Bible, but directions from God on how life should be lived in the modern world are not among them....

....There are ways of reading the Bible other than as a collection of divine mandates. For example, the Bible addresses human issues with which modern society still struggles: guilt, fear of death, moral failure (what the Bible calls "sin"), acceptance (that is, "forgiveness"), wholeness (that is, "salvation"), life's purpose, etc. But one must pierce through the literal words to come to grips with the existential substance of the concepts. In the light of history their questions are frequently more helpful than their answers.
--Charles W. Hedrick, "Obeying the Bible is a Bad Idea" The Fourth R, March-April 2010


  1. You have to admit though that the Bible did pretty well with a few answers like: Love One Another; Love Others like you love yourself; Treat others like you want to be treated; Love your enemies; Feed the Hungry; Forgive 70 times 7; God is Love; Do not Judge.

  2. I do like those good parts, especially in principle. Tough to actually do though! : )

  3. "but directions from God on how life should be lived in the modern world are not among them...."

    I disagree. (Big shock that I would disagree lol!) Even from a perspective contrary to mine, say for sake of argument I accepted that Bible stories were mostly creative writing and that God was something other than a being using chosen people to relay specific instructions on how to live our lives. I would still say the wisdom of the Bible should direct us on how to live in the modern world. The direction to give at least 10% comes from wisdom that far surpasses my own. I may parse out the existential truth that it is better to give something to others than hoard everything for myself, but to determine that 2% might be a little to stingy or 30% might be overdoing it unless I have be incredibly blessed, is beyond my knowledge and experience. Jesus said to look on a woman with lust is committing adultery in your heart. That would be sin, and is wrong today as it was back then. What, am I going to follow the more modern teachings of Hugh Hefner? That's like me explaining to my 7 year old he isn't ready to drive a car yet, I talk to him about motor skills and decision making and he still believes he can safely drive a car. Well son, try this then, sorry you still have doubts, but obey me anyway, end of argument. I constantly battle with the desire that I know better than the Bible how to live my life, but when I'm honest with myself, I acknowledge that the wisdom of the Bible kicks the tar out of my own personal wisdom. (P.S. John, I sent you a facebook message, I'm not sure how often you get on and wade through messages from 900 plus friends)

  4. From Jennifer Hecht's great book, Doubt: A History:

    Al-Warraq also argued, this time citing a Brahman, that if the prophets' claims support human judgment--if we are capable of figuring out, say, that it is good to be forgiving--then the prophets' claims are unnecessary. If these claims are contrary to what God's gift of intelligence reports, then we should not listen to them. This rips the rug out from under the entire notion of revealed religion. p. 224-5

    The key part of the quote I made from Charles Hedrick in the post is this:

    In the light of history their questions are frequently more helpful than their answers.

  5. Idolatry is when you create an icon subject to your own imagination, then place the icon on an altar and make it an object of adoration.

    People who say "obey the Bible" really mean "obey ME".

    And yet the Bible records the very opposite message in the polemics of the prophets against the kings of Israel, and in Jesus against the Pharisees. As far as Jesus was concerned, these are the people who are going to Hell.

    It blows me away that the very people who hide behind the skirts of the Bible like little bullies hide behind their mother's skirts, these are the people who most fail to understand the Scriptures.

    The end result is that they worship the Scriptures as one might worship an inanimate idol, but fail to hear the voices they contain, again as one fails to hear the voice of an inanimate idol.

  6. I think I follow the idea. If "mystically revealed" guidance can be determined to be correct, the ability to determine that it was correct shows the capacity to know what is right or wrong even if you never received the "divine guidance". Assuming I got that part right, (perhaps a large assumtion) there would still be a value to the guidance because of when you get it. My son, driving a car at the age of 7, might learn on his own that I was right in forbidding him to drive, but he may not learn it till after he is injured or paralysed. I may learn the right path to live my life without the guidance of the Bible, but it may be late in life after costly mistakes. It may be different for others, but in my own life there are times when Bible instructions make perfect sense to me, the cause and effect might be quite obvious. But other times it counterdicts my own intuition or reasoning, it is during these times, the contradictions, when it seems to me that results tend to be better going against my own judgement and following the teachings of the Bible. I'll admit there are times when results seem to be worse for me for following the Bible, but I believe the key word is "seems". Joseph following God seemed to go from a bad situation of slavery to a worse situation of prison. But I discount these anomolies as only my lack of ability to see the very begining of things to the very end. I believe there will be a day when, pain, suffering, sin, and death will all end. Then questions as to why God ever permitted suffering to ever occur in the universe might be a little more managable for someone like me to understand.

  7. I like John Dominic Crossan's description of the Bible as the history of humanity trying to beat God.