Just Rodney...

I'm a 24, a teacher, and these are some of my thoughts. I'd love to hear your comments - hopefully their nice ones - but I'll take anything.

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Location: Tomball, Texas, United States

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A little help here...

I need some help. I've been wrestling with how one knows God lately. I'm wrestling with some pretty fundamental truths and it's a little scary for me. It's scary because I'm afraid that if I shake the foundation, there might not be anything left to believe in - or anything worth believing in. I'm also afraid that people will think less of me because I am wrestling with this. However, I'm committed to being real with my questions and trying to self-differentiate (this is what Ken said he thought my greatest need was when I first came to Texas - he said my self-confidence was low). So here are my struggles; I will lay a big one out for you. Hopefully you can help me. But first I want to preface it with a few things I just read from Brennan Manning's 'Ragamuffin Gospel':

"Freedom in Christ produces a healthy independence from peer pressure, people-pleasing, and the bondage of human respect. The tyranny of public opinion can manipulate our lives...What will people think?...The expectations of others can exert a subtle but controlling pressure on our behavior." (p.146)

"...a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitation. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully." (p.158)

With that I'll lay my struggle out for you (this is my honest struggle before God and I'm convinced that He's big enough to handle my questions - I don't think I can hurt His feelings, rather I can show my devotion to Him by pursuing Him with all the honesty my heart can muster) My intention is not to change your mind about what you believe, but to understand why and how people believe what they believe and to see if knowing that may help me believe:

The Bible

I'm having some trouble with some of the assumptions I have about the Bible: 1. It's inerrant 2. It's inspired (I believe it is inspired by God) 3. The Bible is authoritative because it says in the bible that it is Authoritative.

For the first one (inerrancy, spelling?), I would like to know if anyone knows of a verse that claims inerrancy? Otherwise I'm under the impression that inerrancy is a product of man - created to cope with the demands of concrete credibility modernity requires. I don't think the Bible has to be inerrant to be useful or to be inspired. I think they're could be mistakes in translations and things like that.

My issues with inspiration don't have to do with weather or not the Bible is inspired or not(I believe it is), but that it is the ONLY or MAIN source of inspiration available to people today. I tend to see the whole Bible as a foundation thing as a sort of idolatry - putting the good, scared text, above all else - included divine revelation in a persons life. I know that is a little shady, but it's hard for me to believe that God gave us a final code book that tells us how to live and never intends to really interact with people like He did in the early church. I mean Paul had an encounter with the risen Christ! Is it just me or does this not happen so often?

OK, so I know we have to have faith and stuff - but c'mon! The Bible is authoritative and full of truth because why? Because the Bible says it is?!?!? What if the Koran claimed the same thing about itself? What if I claimed my blog was authoritative and that God was using me as His mouth piece to speak absolute truth for the sake of the world? Would you bank on that? I ask this question because when I'm interacting with my friends that are not Christians but seem to be spiritual and seeking - I'm not sure what kind of weight the Bible will have from their perspective. So I really have developed this idea that no matter how truth-y the Bible may be, it may have no authority in my friends' lives - so all I can do is LIVE my faith in honesty before them - share my struggles with them - and hope that they would encounter Jesus. I mean really experience him like Paul did - like I'm sure many Christians have experienced him. Personal revelation. It's like it doesn't exist anymore - at least not in the States.

OK, that's enough for now - it's 12:47 am!!! I need to go to bed.

I'll close with this invitation: Push back. Let me know what you think about these questions. What answers do you have - or what struggles do you have with them? Let's engage in real conversation, let's push back, let's find the questions to the answers and follow the trail however deep it may go.


Blogger B. C. Lovato said...

Hmm. All good things to be wrestling with. And wrestling is almost always better than not wrestling (whether that's simple acceptance or just giving up). Although, Christ did mention something about the faith of a child...not sure what we're supposed to think of that.
Anyway, innerancy. Of course there errors in translation. Probably not a whole lot. But people suck. Even without translation errors, what are we supposed to think about historical and scientific errors? This leads us to the topic of inspiration. Yes, the Bible is inspired by God -- God-breathed, if you will -- but I don't think that requires us believing that every single word of the Bible is absolute truth and without error. I don't think it will point us in the wrong direction toward understanding God, but I don't think that it is meant to serve as a history or science text book. Regarding other sources of inspiration and the Bible as foundation, I think it is necessary to have some sort of foundation. If I claim to have some revelation from on high and it contradicts what has been previously given then we'd definitely need to sort some stuff out. God does not have multiple personalities, nor is He a liar. Now, He actually could be, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that that's not the case. Perhaps I'm clinging to some shred of certainty, but I'm okay with that. Another problem we encounter with a God that is neither a liar nor a "flip-flopper" is that people interpret the same divinely inspired text in multiple ways under the supposed guidance of the Holy Spirit. I'm all for different perspectives on truth and acceptance of multiple truths, but I can't reject the concept of a big T Truth if I also want to maintain belief in an absolute God. That God has to be that Truth, whether or not we can ever fully understand or know Him is up in the air, but I don't think we can have contradictory conceptions of Him and still agree that we are talking about the same thing at all.
Not sure if any of this is making much sense. It's a bit late and I should be sleeping.
I should also admit that it is very rare for these "contradictions" to occur. Those have got to be extreme cases, compared to the "grey areas" that we most often find ourselves in.
Regarding the authority of the Bible for non-believers of any variety -- it has none. It would be nothing but arrogance for us to think otherwise. This is not to say that it is without truth or that these people are incapable of realizing this truth and appreciating it. But as far as authority (moral, theological, or otherwise) I don't see any reason that it should have any over someone who doesn't believe in it. Are they going to hell? I don't know. But as long as they're on earth there's no reason to expect them to be swayed by arguments from a book whose basic assumptions they reject. In fact, if that's what we think the Bible is for, we might as well just throw it away right now. It's a useless book in that regard. Sure, it has some decent poetry and some good advice; but we can't claim for it to have any sort of binding on them. I suppose some people have become Christians by adding up some sort of evidence, but that's not what we see in the Bible, the early church, or most of history. And again this leads us back to the idea of personal revelation (whatever that may mean). It also leads me to bed. Goodnight.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Casa-del-Napier said...

Hey Rod. I liked reading your blog, although it took me several times. That was long and deep. In one of the quotes that we had on Sunday it said something to the effect that some people spend there life looking for the results of there hope. I think that I want to see the results of some of the basic foundational truths. You know, like I really want to know about death and that stuff and I think its eaiser for me to believe some ideas that are probobly not ideal to the evangelical world becuase there are "results" with some of the ideas. Anyway, the quote said that maybe we should look for the value in hope instead of the results of hope. I definatel pondered that. I wonder what I value and if its worth putting hope in. Anyway, none of this makes sense which is why I don't like to blog but I like reading yours.

3:39 PM  
Blogger juli said...

good stuff rod. i can't push back...obviously. i'm locking myself in a convent in order to try to answer some of this myself. sucks, but i'm glad you're asking too.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Matt Andrews said...

Rodzilla -

I think there are some innerant problems with assuming that the Bible is "inspired", but not "inerrant" or "authoritative," and I will attempt to list them here:

1)To be "inspired" by something is to be influenced by or given ideas from something. It has nothing to do with the party doing the inspiring, but only with the person being inspired. You're blog inspired me to write this response, but the result of this inspiration is dependant entirely on me and my mind and has nothing to do with you. The problem with applying that to scripture is that it immediatly disconnects God from the Scriptures. Saying it is only inspired by God implies that it is the work of a man and therefore fallible and untrustworthy. Which leads to point number 2:

2)I don't think you can logically hold a grey area with the Bible. The Bible contains so many areas where it is specifically stated in the text that "God spoke," meaning that the words recorded are the exact words of God (browse through the Torah, the books of the prophets, and the Gospels and see how much of the text is credited to the mouth of God). So, logically, we have two options:

a)The words recorded are true, and therefore much of the Bible is, in fact, the exact authoritative word of God, or

b)The words recorded are not true, and therefore if the words of God, the ultimate foundation of our faith, are lies, it destroys the credibilty of the author and renders the rest of the book untrustworthy.

What's interesting is to take a look at how the words spoken by God work within the Bible. The prohpets spoke the words of God, and many of their prophecies came true in the life of Chirst (http://www.carm.org/bible/prophecy.htm). Overall, it has been estimated that the odds of a person living and fulfilling the prophesies generally interpreted to be Messianic is about 1 in 10 to the 157th power. They may be just numbers, but I think sometimes we don't think about just how complex this book is, and how impossible it would have been to manufacture something this grandiose without the hand of God.

Basically, if the author lies about the recorded words of God, it destroys his credible, and would be grounds to question the whole book altogether. But it's just too big, too much, and too complete to seem untrue. Therefore, I have to assume that at least most of the book is authoritative.

3) Jesus seemed to think that the Bible was pretty authoritative. He quotes Old Testament books regurally (including against Satan in the temptation scene) and proclaims himself to be the continuation and ultimate fulfillment of the content of those books. I think if Jesus treats those books with authority, who am I to think otherwise.

4)The phrase "God-breathed" in 2 Timothy has some interesting connotations for me. Compare to this passage:

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" Gen 2:7

To be God-breathed is to be something special. Man, who is God-breathed, is created in God's own image. Thus, to say that Scripture is God-breathed is to say that the Scriptures were created in God's own image.

5)Ultimately, I could list all the reasons to believe that the Bible is the authoritative word of God, but it doesn't mean a thing. What really matters is faith. If we had to have all the answers to believe in something, we wouldn't have much to believe in. We have to have faith that God was behind the formation of these books and was there when they were canonized and has continued to provide us with an authoritative copy of His word.

Think about it - if we don't have the Bible, what do we have? Tradition? All you have to do is look at the pre-Reformation theologies of the Catholic Church to see that theology defined by tradition is flawed and subject to the agendas of those in charge. The Holy Spirit speaking to you? Keep in mind that you wouldn't even know what the Holy Sprit was if you didn't read about it from the pens of the apostles. God appearing to you in a burning bush and telling you what to do? That would be very authoritative, but I don't see a lot of burning bushes these days. If God appeared to me in a burning bush and told me to write down his word I would do it, but 2000 years from now there will people questioning whether or not my book is authoritative or not. And they will want God to appear to them in a burning bush. And we will become more and more like the Israelites in the desert, never satisfied, lacking faith and always wanting more.

I don't know if my unorganized ramblings helped you at all. If you're looking for an absolute answer to tell you that the Bible is authoritative, you're not going to get one. You will have to rely on circular logic, using passages in the Bible to support the innerancy of the Bible (On a sidenote, it's even stricter with the Koran. The Korna is, supposedly, the exaclt words of God as spoken to Mohommad, to the point where most Muslims believe that you aren't even suppossed to translate it out of Arabic because you will distort the word of God. With the Bible, you're at leats given leeway to interpret things). But there has to be some element of faith.

I spent an hour doing this, and now I'm off to bed. I hope all is well with you in Texas, and I promise I haven't forgotten to email you the pictures. I'm just scatterbrained.

Take care,


12:14 AM  
Blogger sarahclemz said...

I am at work and cannot respond lengthily (if thats a word)...but way to question and work it out! I was learning all about self-differentiation in my family therapy class yesterday and how necessary it is for each person to establish, and be their own person, and know what they know for themselves..so way to question and ask things...I remember being in a study with some Chinese friends at university who were asking these same questions because they are so scientifically minded and needed proof, and sadly-but luckily, to some extent is does come back to this element of faith, and saying dang I do not get it all but I choose to accept it because God is bigger and less fathomably then I try to make him be.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific work Rod! Great courage. Here's what I believe. Pursue the truth by asking the hardest questions you can and go where the answers take you. To use a slightly altered version of an AA quip, "If your God can't handle that, then you should fire that God and get you a new one."

11:19 AM  

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