By what authority


There is a phrase some people use in regard to the bible. A phrase – much like the different creeds – which is a statement of belief. And – much like the creeds – if you can’t recite it, or choose to question it, or say “no I cannot believe those words as presented” … does that make me a bad Christian?

This particular “issue” arose because of different bible versions. One bible version said “that”, and another said “this”. And the view was expressed that one must go back to the Greek instead of “teaching” from a particular version of the bible.

I cannot remember the particular phrase I was asked: “Do you believe that the bible is …” (the snappy phrase is essentially “do you believe the bible is God-given and perfect in every way?”) … And I had to answer “no”.

It is the “and” bit I object to (although there are so many versions of what and who “God is” – perhaps that also makes a yes/no answer less helpful).

I came this morning to the bible as usual. The same “version” held up as not a “good version” (in the discussion above). Today’s verses are these: Matthew 1:1-17 … Jesus’ family tree … the number 14 … which is 2 x 7 … and all the significance that carries.

And my “problem” with that … ?  Of “significance” to who exactly?

To me?  None whatsoever. To lots of folks I know – none whatsoever. To some – massive!  To some – the whole bible is one huge mathematical puzzle to be solved!  To some EVERYTHING has a numerical significance!  Formulae and sums and a blackboard full of numbers are presented proving this or that. Do I believe that is correct?  No idea – but I do know it gets in the way of my relationship with my living Father – it gets in the way of Love (for me).  And that is the reason I struggle with so much of “do you agree – do you believe?” – it gets in the way.

Yes and No.

Are you the Son of God?  Are you this – are you that – are you saying this – are you saying that – by what authority – are you God?  Always “yes or no” being the required answer. And how often did Jesus oblige (a bible scholar can provide the number)?

My Lord asks me to answer “Not many – if ever.”  Why is that? Why does Jesus avoid the “yes and no” game?

And if we teach Jesus as the role model – why do we ask so many times of so many things to do with “God Stuff”: Do YOU believe?  And always the only available options?  “Yes” or “No”.

Why is that?

And why is it that no matter how inclusive we try to be, how non-judgemental, how loving, there (almost always) comes a point where “that question” happens: “So do you believe?” with this or that.

Why is that?  Why is “what I believe” such a crucial issue?

Today I am very tired, very run-down, very distracted. Today I believe you are attacking me. Tomorrow or yesterday I was none of those things and I believed we were connecting. Today you are very tired, very run-down, very distracted. Today you believe I am attacking you. Tomorrow or yesterday you were none of those things and you believed we were connecting.

Today’s verses in Matthew have a numeric significance. Today’s verses in Matthew have a church calendar significance. Today Jesus’s family tree has significance. The bible says so because I am told that the bible says so.  Why?

Does my family tree dictate that I should be taken more seriously today in this post? Does my lineage add to my credibility in this post?

What I do think … sense … see in these verses … at this moment in my life is this:

Matthew was writing to a particular audience in a particular age for a particular reason. In the hope (the same hope I have in these words) that his words drew others closer to the living loving creator of all. That his words drew those who read his words closer in relationship with a living Father. That they draw each reader towards Love.

Whether or not you “believe” – that is YOUR choice (and that choice will change).

My “work” here is the same as Matthew. To allow my loving Father to breathe through me into these words. In the hope that His breath breathes through you as you read these words. And that He and you do whatever He and you will do with that breathing.

Which means I would never ask you: “Do you believe I am right?” That puts me in the way of my Lord. And how does that allow you to allow Him? And just how does that allow me to allow Him?  So just how does that draw you closer to Love?

Which is why I wonder why do we do it so often to each other.

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7 thoughts on “By what authority

  1. This post really spoke to me today. I struggled for years thinking that everything was to be taken literally…and because that’s what I was told, I never questioned it- until I really started earnestly seeking Him. When I ended up in the denomination that I am in, it wasn’t by accident. Once I began taking ministry classes, it’s like all the missing puzzle pieces came together for me. Our denomination says that the Word inerrantly reveals the will of God for us in all things pertaining to salvation…that it gives us a perfect picture of who God is, what God is like, and what He wants for us. I am slightly paraphrasing…but that really changed the way I read and understood the Word. I began to read it and ask God what He wanted to say to me through the Word. Now I am able to not get so hung up on little details and simply read to know the heart of God. Don’t get me wrong though- the details are fascinating!! But never something I would argue or convince others to think the exact way I do. We are all on a journey-

    • Julie – your comment has stirred a bunch of thinking. Thank you. The last “bit” of stirring reminded me how when I write a “how to manual” – explaining “how to” is the easy bit. Wrapping all the “but if you do this by mistake, forget to do that bit, type that in incorrectly, forget to ….” makes the whole thing mushroom and become unworkable.

      In the same way “following” God Soft Hands Jesus is the easy bit – now let’s talk about when … and for me (as you say so wonderfully) “it gives us a perfect picture of who God is, what God is like, and what He wants for us.” is how I have come to see the Word as well. And as we are different, and on different journeys – then arguing about “The Word” becomes a futile occupation.

      (and reminds me – which is the “inerrant version” of the bible we may be arguing about in a literal sense? It has been reworked and reworked so often – even from “the Greek” – it is not a static piece of evidence in my mind)

        • Hiya Ark – welcome! Your comment is the essence of the post (with a little more love added) 🙂

          The more I see “debate and argument” over belief and evidence, the less I see love and humanity on display. Which is confusing me more and more. If I went back to my early days, what I write now is not what I would haven written then. But also how I love and what I value is also different to my early days.

          Means the urge to “be right” on the detail nowadays is much mellowed!

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