Privilege through divine authority – who benefits?


One a long-time friend: “In fact, I haven’t been to church for the last four weeks.” One met for the first time: “Well, I used to go to church but I … haven’t … don’t … haven’t been for a while – but I still have a faith …”

The Building and Institution of Church.

Our little bus for young folk is known as being “Christian”.  And Christian means all “that church stuff” – reading the bible, going to church, being good, accepting as fact God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost/Spirit, accepting as fact all that “stuff” that is “church” that means one is a Christian.

>>> Each “Christian” would disagree (to a greater or lesser extent).  Yet someone meeting us for the first time … ?  All “that stuff” is real.

Do Muslims have the same problem?  Because the Koran was dictated as a transcript – whereas the bible was not even written as one book.  Does a Muslim have the same expectations from others as a Christian has from those who “still have a faith”?

So I started a conversation last night: Is the bible factually and historically accurate?

The kind of conversation one doesn’t have on a Sunday during worship … or drinking coffee before or after the service … or during bible class … or in a confirmation course … or anywhere in the building of church really.  Yet last night in a car park …

All agreed that the factual and historical accuracy of the bible was pretty irrelevant. That proving the factual accuracy 3000 years later was missing the point.  That arguing over the factual and historical accuracy of the bible again and again was not even about having a faith or not.  And I was left with this thought …

Is the Building and Institution of Church scared to have that conversation with people like me and you?

Because in the six decades of being around church I have only found that conversation on the internet in a forum like this.  And even here I was deemed by many to have gone “off message” and lost my faith.  It seems that saying aloud that the bible is (mainly) religious fiction (in the terms of “historical accuracy” we use today) is viewed as “going native”.

Ark and Mel are still going at it.  Ark lifted 10 minutes of an hour’s debate to prove a point.  I was curious and watched the other 50 minutes:  A UK television programme made in 2008.  A debate in a television studio which asked: “Is the bible still relevant today?”

And one piece stuck with me …

That when we ascribe divine authority to a text (any text) – that text becomes privileged. And with that privilege comes abuse.

That the bible and koran (and all sacred texts) are used to validate the behaviour not just of believers, but of societies.  Used to validate changes of behaviour.  Used to validate “bad behaviour” (and good) by extracting “bits” of the text.  A text given cultural privilege through divine authority – and with it those extracted “bits”.

Yet the reality is that cultural norms change – and using these privileged texts to validate those changes might be deemed abuse … Slavery was okay and now is not … Same sex relationships were not and now are … Genocide was okay and is now dressed up in different economic factors … And a second reality: That “recipients” of the teaching find more in common with those who “have a faith” (of any kind) AND those who have no faith at all.

Yet these “ordinary folk” still get uncomfortable when talking to a group of “believers” and admitting they haven’t been going to church recently.  Still publicly accept the bible as historically and factually accurate.  And the Institution and Building of Church continues to nurture that acceptance each Sunday.  And I wonder why.

More and more I wonder why.

.

Here is the full programme.

BTW – the debate below is NOT about “Richard Dawkins” – it is a “multiplicity of voices” being heard.

Which is refreshingly unusual

.

 

.

 

Advertisements

45 thoughts on “Privilege through divine authority – who benefits?

  1. Another interesting and thought-provoking daily gobbit!
    Like all things there are poor churches and good churches. I agree that too many institutional churches skirt around some of these profoundly important real issues – that stops those churches being able to relate fully to the real world. But there are some places within some churches that open up those Pandora’s box issues – for some of us that was on a Friday evening for some years.
    For me if we are not prepared to have open discussions of that sort in the church we are actually being dishonest (or a sham). Thank God that forgiveness comes into his equation for life in his family. And test, we need forgiving again and again.
    What is the bible? Well, as you say, it’s a host of things: a hymn book, poetry, history, teaching, testimonies (we often call those gospels or epistle). The common mistake is to think all is a historic textbook. It’s so common in court cases that in answer to the question “What colour was the car in the accident?” one witness will say ‘blue’ while another say ‘red’. Our perceptions of the simplest things often are different. It’s not that one is telling the truth and one is telling lies. But that we each have our perceptions. Luke had a different perception from Matthew, Paul did from Timothy etc. Moses might have had a different impression of God at the if his ministry from when he was a young Jew.
    Our problem is believing that ‘God inspired’ means set in quick-setting concrete. There are plenty of Christians who have conflicting views. Personally I don’t see that puts anyone outside of the church. I may not shop at Tescos but I still shop somewhere to get the food I need to stay alive.
    Ed of thought for the day! Blessings all round.

    • Lovely thought for the day! 🙂
      Glad my musings prompted yours. On of the stats in the video is that almost 50% of “ordinary” Christians think the bible is historically factual. While that was some years ago, I am curious whether that figure has changed much. And I remain curious why “mainstream Sunday worship” avoids the issue.

      • I don’t have data on how many Christians “think the bible is historically factual.” However, we do have data on how Americans interpret scripture through the PEW landscape Study see this link.

        33% of Americans overall believe the Bible is the NOT the word of God. Slightly higher than 31% who think the Bible is the Word of God. While 27% believe the Bible is the word of God, but not everything is meant to be taken literally.

        Christians fall strongly in the “its the Word of God” camp (If we add the Word of God: Should be taken literally + Word of God; not everything literally):

        Catholics: 62%
        Evangelicals: 84%
        Historically Black Protestants: 82%
        JWs: 87%
        Mainline Protestants: 59%
        Orthodox Christians: 61%

        Does that help?

        • Sorry consoled – was distracted with other stuff.

          Thank you for the numbers. And my initial thought is that we have many “cultural believers” born into a way of belief as children and accepted as so much else. I know I was. I now question.cultural belief because of the “privilege” assumptions. The privilege that breeds power that breeds the temptation of abuse that breeds the need to “manage” the deeds of abuse privately in order to maintain the institution.

          That is not a “Christian thing” (or any “faith thing”) – that is a cultural human thing. And just as we expect high standards of those in power, I think we should expect no less from those in the church (who seem to have a habit of crying that we are just “mere frail human sinner” when caught red-handed).

          Some interesting comments here.

  2. I actually used the 10 minute excerpt to try to show Mel the perspective of a genuine non- religiously motivated biblical historian.
    He, of course, will have none of it.
    Apologists such as Mel seem to be completely divorced from reality when it comes to such issues, and one can see his approach reflected in several of the responses of even the more liberal theologians in the audience who deftly moved to one side the rather unsavoury topics and tried to present a supposedly more balanced view of the bible.
    It never truly works and never will.
    The issues of misogyny Paul outlined, for example, and the thoroughly vile texts in the Hebrew bible – the genocide of the Amalakites for one – are nothing but heinous barbarism.
    And Dawkins, as brash as he can often be, was spot on with his assessment of the New Testament as well.

    The term Cherry-Picking was raised again and again.
    Such violence, vileness, immorality and revolting ethics would never in a million years be tolerated as sacrosanct were in not called the Bible.
    For goodness’ sake, it is not tolerated in the Qur’an and Yahweh turns up in both texts albeit with a name change.

    And as Francesca pointed out, there never was a ”bible” but rather a collection of religious texts that were put together to form a bible.
    Is it truly relevant?
    Take out all the Wisdom Literature, and the Song of Songs and in truth, what are we left with?

    • Depends what you mean by relevant. If I read works of Great Literature in the British tradition let’s say such as Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (which is what I’m currently reading) or Hard Times by Charles Dickens I’m guaranteed to find allusions to the Bible and characters who are Christian and view their morality as individuals in Christian terms. So it is clearly relevant in terms of understanding the vast majority of European literature and large portions of its culture, not only the specific references themselves, but their thought patterns (i. e. why do these characters think this way?)

      The Bible remains relevant in so far as it has had an obvious historical influence on Western culture for a thousand+ years. It wouldn’t make sense to study the Crusades without talking about Christianity. It wouldn’t make sense to talk about the Protestant Reformation without talking about Christianity. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan doesn’t make sense without talking about the Bible and Christianity.

      It also obviously provides insight into the thinking of the people at the time. So in that sense, too, it provides historical information (since history isn’t only a series of events, but the study of culture and the way people lived and thought in the past is a crucial aspects as well).

      As far as literature, certainly Genesis has many powerful and memorable stories. During the discussion of the Lot story, I was struck by how few people thought to question whether we are supposed to find what Lot does admirable or whether the Bible is showing us what NOT to do. Only the obnoxious priest guy bothers to point out that the Bible contains both proscriptive and descriptive elements.

      • Relevant from an historical POV, fair enough.
        I don’ t actually consider the bible great literature. Most of the bible is vile and boring.
        One can also see how it was used to legitimize everything including slavery, incest and misogyny.
        Not to mention genocide,
        But I think the core of the debate was to see if it had any moral relevance in today’s society and of course we can scratch that!

        Society would actually be far better off if the special status all such texts are given was done away with and the book placed on the shelf marked ”Geopolitical & historical fiction.”
        What a joy that would be to walk into a library or bookstore and see this!
        🙂
        However, I feel we may have to wait a while for this to happen …. but with patience and education, especially of kids, we’ll get there.

        As Mr Smith once said: ”It is the sound of inevitability.”.

        • In my view, the mistake of going from “vile” and “boring” to not great literature is the assumption that literature needs to be uplifting or moral. Literature is about the human condition. Who says the human condition is always pleasant?

          Boring, of course, is extremely subjective. There are plenty of people who find Shakespeare and Tolstoy boring too. Safe to say I would disagree with them on those two writers as well. There are great writers who I find somewhat boring, but I can still see what qualities they possess and why others would consider them great.

          On the surface pointing out that it legitimized all those things is an appeal to consequences. If it did “legitimize” those things, it tells us nothing about its value as literature in terms of its aesthetic merit nor does it automatically mean that it lacks positive influences as well. Likewise, the statement is somewhat questionable without further elaboration. Slavery can be found in all Ancient cultures: Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome. These cultures didn’t need the bible to enact those same institutions. You make it sound as if the Bible invented slavery, when it is merely reflecting its cultural surroundings.

          This doesn’t excuse the heinous practice of slavery. Yes, the Bible was sometimes used in later times to justify instituting the practice in the Americas (as well as used to challenge it), but I suspect if we didn’t have the Bible the slave-owners would’ve found other justifications. As they do now . . . it’s not as if slavery is gone from the earth unfortunately.

          It has moral relevance in so far as any ancient work has moral relevance. It helps us see what came before and sometimes how drastically different our own values are so we don’t take those values for granted, we can see where some values that we do still possess originated, we can sometimes see the problems of yesterday are still the problems of today (although sometimes in different forms), and we can still be inspired by individual parts and ideas. It’s really no different than any other literary work or moral philosophical essay. I would agree with this: nobody should be turning to single book for their entire view on life, but rather they should be turning to a lot of books and they shouldn’t just read these uncritically. They should consider the ideas being expressed (understand what is actually being said), consider what they agree with and how it pertains to our own life, and what we feel doesn’t (reflect on the significance for themselves).

          • In my view, the mistake of going from “vile” and “boring” to not great literature is the assumption that literature needs to be uplifting or moral. Literature is about the human condition. Who says the human condition is always pleasant?
            Boring, of course, is extremely subjective. There are plenty of people who find Shakespeare and Tolstoy boring too. Safe to say I would disagree with them on those two writers as well. There are great writers who I find somewhat boring, but I can still see what qualities they possess and why others would consider them great.

            ‘’Boring of course, is extremely subjective’’.
            As is: ‘’In my view. ’’

            On the surface pointing out that it legitimized all those things is an appeal to consequences.

            So what? How difficult would it have been for this god to have proscribed these things instead of embracing them – and commanding them in some cases?

            If it did “legitimize” those things, it tells us nothing about its value as literature in terms of its aesthetic merit nor does it automatically mean that it lacks positive influences as well.

            So … please tell us the positive influences of incest, misogyny and genocide that were outlined and commanded by a man-made deity? Can you be specific?

            Likewise, the statement is somewhat questionable without further elaboration. Slavery can be found in all Ancient cultures: Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome. These cultures didn’t need the bible to enact those same institutions. You make it sound as if the Bible invented slavery, when it is merely reflecting its cultural surroundings.

            Absolutely correct. Slavery is everywhere an in every culture. No argument from me. But the bible has been used as a moral guide and also as justification for slavery, and in South Africa, where I now live, as justification for Apartheid.

            It has moral relevance in so far as any ancient work has moral relevance. It helps us see what came before and sometimes how drastically different our own values are so we don’t take those values for granted,

            But it is claimed to also have divine inspiration. In the hands of some people this is a very dangerous combination, don’t you think so? Consider misogyny and the treatment of women in general across the globe and also homosexuals.
            It is the privileged status the bible (and other deemed-to-be holy texts) is given that makes it all the more heinous. If it were simply regarded as ancient text reflecting ancient cultures etc then sure, we could regard it the way you suggest. But it isn’t seen in this light, is it? And until it is … well it has no relevance and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
            This might seem a little untoward, but may I ask if you have any particular regard for the bible other than purely literary interest? You don’t have to answer if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

            • So what? How difficult would it have been for this god to have proscribed these things instead of embracing them – and commanding them in some cases?

              If said God doesn’t exist, I imagine extremely difficult. Indeed it would be quite the miracle! So your comment is irrelevant to my point. God may exist or may not exist. Either way, humans wrote the book. The statement in question reflect what those humans living during a particular time and place believed. Since I’m not advocating that the book is a product of God, your comment has nothing to do with what I actually wrote.

              So … please tell us the positive influences of incest, misogyny and genocide that were outlined and commanded by a man-made deity? Can you be specific?

              Strawman. Not suggesting those things are positive. I’m suggesting the book may also advocate other positive things besides those obviously heinous things. Like the Golden Rule or helping one’s neighbor or the prohibition of murder, etc.

              But it is claimed to also have divine inspiration. In the hands of some people this is a very dangerous combination, don’t you think so? Consider misogyny and the treatment of women in general across the globe and also homosexuals.
              It is the privileged status the bible (and other deemed-to-be holy texts) is given that makes it all the more heinous. If it were simply regarded as ancient text reflecting ancient cultures etc then sure, we could regard it the way you suggest. But it isn’t seen in this light, is it? And until it is … well it has no relevance and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

              I would agree that the belief in divine inspiration and the way people act on it can be a problem and lead to unethical behavior, mostly among fundamentalists.

              I disagree that it isn’t seen in that light. Depends who you ask. It would seem to me that while the majority might not view it this way, clearly there are plenty of people who do. Such as the very historian you were praising from the video. Along with other academics. Even many people who still identify with their religious/cultural traditions.

              I like the Bible as a literary object of my own culture (an ancient version of it), I think some of its values reflect my values today, so in that sense it holds a special place, but otherwise mostly just literary.

            • So what? How difficult would it have been for this god to have proscribed these things instead of embracing them – and commanding them in some cases?

              If said God doesn’t exist, I imagine extremely difficult.

              Well… naturally. But those who believe in its veracity consider this god does exist, which makes your statement seem a somewhat unnecessary point to make.

              Indeed it would be quite the miracle! So your comment is irrelevant to my point. God may exist or may not exist. Either way, humans wrote the book. The statement in question reflect what those humans living during a particular time and place believed. Since I’m not advocating that the book is a product of God, your comment has nothing to do with what I actually wrote.

              But humans have cited the book as justification to enact all the heinous things we are discussing. And in fact, still do in some cases. And it, (and other supposed holy texts) is largely responsible for much of the problems we have in the Middle East as a glaring example.
              Its value as a literary work as you noted is mostly subjective. I accept this. But to claim its relevance in any other sphere without recognizing how people attach divine qualities to it, and other supposed holy texts, is naïve, and, quite frankly, irresponsible.
              It is because of this that it is impossible to divorcee the good examples from the bad as all are considered by some to be ‘’God-breathed’’ (Timothy).
              God is not bad, merely ‘’just’’. (sic),right? Ask William Lane Craig about divine command theory.

              I would agree that the belief in divine inspiration and the way people act on it can be a problem and lead to unethical behavior, mostly among fundamentalists
              I disagree that it isn’t seen in that light. Depends who you ask. .

              Can be a problem? IS a problem, surely? And as long as it is seen in ‘’that light’’ by some, then it will always be a problem.

              I like the Bible as a literary object of my own culture (an ancient version of it), I think some of its values reflect my values today, so in that sense it holds a special place, but otherwise mostly just literary

              Offhand I cannot think of anything particularly positive that trickled down to my culture, certainly not for the price that was paid and is still being paid for any perceived value some claim for it.
              What positive values do you believe it has bestowed upon you as a human that could not have been gleaned from another ancient work. Maybe something from the opening chapters of Aurelius’ Meditations?

            • I think the conversation is starting to meander. Getting back to where we started, my major point is that no it’s not subjective in so far as the Bible has influenced and been central to the Western Canon along with other works such as those by the Greeks and later on Shakespeare. When I go to study literature, there is already an established tradition. Generally speaking it’s not a mystery which works tend to be the ones studied and belong to that tradition if I want a good sense of literary history. You seemed to agree with this, so great.

              I also agreed with you that the Bible has been used to justify some major atrocities. However, it’s also been used to justify fighting those audacities as well. To ignore that is to cherrypick. Likewise, I’m not convinced the Bible necessarily caused those behaviors; many of those evils could’ve been justified for other reasons and when we look at people who do them, they have been justified for reasons other than just the Bible said so.

              As for Aurelius and other ancient works. Again, not mutually exclusive. There is nothing stopping anyone (short of perhaps fundamentalists) from reading ALL the ancient works, medieval, modern, etc. they can get their hands on. People should read MORE, not LESS. The Iliad is just as bloody and violent as the Bible with equally questionable morals from a modern standpoint. Aurelius’s work has great ideas, but he believed in a kind of Divine Providence as part of his Stoicism. So that’s not a complete removal of the Divine either.

              To give one example, Genesis 1 reminds me that although life can be crappy sometimes, full of all sorts of evils (as you already described), that never to lose sight that the world is good and has the potential to be good. In other words, always look at the bright side of life and people, while not completely losing sight that sometimes things can go horribly wrong and sometimes people can do really bad things. Could I have gotten the idea from another work? Sure. But as I already pointed out it’s not mutually exclusive.

            • Maybe we are talking at cross purposes, here?
              It’s relevance as a literary work and a sort of ”referral” to Western Culture is not denied … well not by me at any rate, even though it is a subjective value in many cases.
              The issue of relevance as far as I am concerned is about any influence people want to exert using it as an authority.
              That it is seen as divinely inspired by a great many people elevates it above all other forms of ”classic literature” to the realms of some sort of imagined rarefied atmosphere where Divine Command Theory holds sway.
              ”See, this is what happens to sinners…. God is Just!”
              Sorry… fts.
              While this garbage is given any airtime there is always the chance such nonsense may happen again … oh, wait a moment it already does, doesn’t it. They just call the book the Koran,
              And the bible is still being used to vilify homosexuals and abuse women and put down certain aspects of feminism and to eat animals and tech geology and biology to name but a few examples. And you certainly wouldn’t quote Shakespeare as an authority if you wanted to justify why you thought gays were an abomination, now would you?

              That’s the rub and that is what needs to be dealt with.
              Whether you like it or not as a bedtime read or if if talks to you regarding your culture. I could care less.

              Its privileged authoritative status needs to be addressed and treated with the contempt it deserves.
              If we are in agreement on this, then there is no issue between us and we’re good?

              If I have simply grabbed the wrong end of the stick and beat about the burning bush then I apologize.

            • We agree that the bible can be used for negative purposes, especially when given a divine status. We agree it’s relevant for understanding culture and history as it actually happened.

              We agree (mostly) that all those things are bad. However, Shakespeare can be used to justify or support awful things too: link to NY Times article

            • Yes, it is a wonder how the vile religious attitudes derived from such ridiculous texts somehow believed to be sacrosanct manage to creep into almost every facet of many cultures.

              So you agree it is time to call ”foul” on its privileged status ( as with other holy texts (sic) ) and it should be simply regarded as a cultural piece of literature which should have no direct applicable relevance, especially regarding ethics and morals, to modern day society?

            • I agree we should treat it as a cultural piece of literature, which individuals can decide for themselves whether it has direct applicable relevance to their lives in modern day society, and people who derive bad behaviors from it should be challenged on those bad behaviors. If someone finds the Bible beneficial to them as literature or even as a spiritual guide, which leads them to positive behaviors, then I see no real reason to take issue with that.

            • Leaving such a margin for interpretation simply allows nutters to use it to discipline their children or marginalize their spouses, gays, and people who still want to mutilate genitals … for cultural reasons.
              The book should be called out for what it is and consigned to the oddities and fiction shelves of bookstores and public libraries.

            • I think based on what I said above, properly understood, most of those points are addressed when I wrote:

              “people who derive bad behaviors from it should be challenged on those bad behaviors.”

            • Of course, but that is true for any conversation about any topic. You challenge people to hopefully change their minds and reexamine their ideas or perhaps to reexamine your own. There is no guarantee either party will change their minds.

            • Some ideas need to be legislated against . Such as circumcision on religious grounds, thus removing them from the realm of religious or cultural relevance.
              I’m sure I could come up with numerous other examples, but you get the drift, yes?

    • Hi Ark and consoledreader- loving your conversation, thank you.

      And one small point: “Francesca” in the full hour takes issues with “Dawkins” re the relevance of the bible. Might be worth watching the whole thing. 🙂

      • At the end she states we can’t understand western culture or its history without the bible. I wouldn’t disagree, but we are discussing – I thought – the relevance of these texts today?
        She has a go at Dawkins for calling people of these ancient cultures ”Ignorant”. I felt was she was a bit harsh on him as he qualified what he said by stating it wasn’t a pejorative term but merely a lack of knowledge, which is perfectly correct.
        There were times I felt she may have been trying to please all-comers, though she clearly had no positive vibes for the bishop ( look at her body language, crouched posture, her legs crossed away from him) who came across as a pompous ass and …. a demonstrably ignorant man.
        The Bishop’s stating they were ”geniuses” is just plain silly. ( and he was leaning back in a vry cocky manner insomuch as to say ”I have God”… end of story.”

  3. I agree. Too many churches skirt around issues and don’t invite doubt. Not allowing doubt about the God they worship and the Book they abide by leads quickly to not allowing doubt about the church’s personal preference doctrines and leadership decisions.
    I find that inviting doubt makes Christians stronger, not weaker. Yet institutions are afraid to allow it – because people might start going elsewhere, might not bring their offerings, might not prop up the institution if doubt creeps in. But doubt is just asking questions. If you encourage people to find answers and not let the questions paralyze them, you’ve won – you’ve made them wise.

    • When you use the term ”doubt makes Christians stronger,” and couple it with honest appraisal the wisdom that follows will inevitably lead the average believer to walk away from religious belief and belief in religious texts.
      Discuss the motivation that caused most deconverts to leave religious faith and most will tell you, doubt precede a thorough and honest reading of their particular religious text.
      Once that has taken place a character such as Jesus of Nazareth can be seen for what he they was:
      At best, simply a human being who got it all wrong and was crucified for his efforts.
      At worst, a geopolitical narrative construct used by the Roman Catholic church to create one of the worst delusional worldviews in human history.

      Let the evidence speak for itself … and the truth will ultimately tell you its story.
      But are people ready to listen?
      Some , yes, but all? Maybe not yet …

      • Hi Ark –

        I heard the term “cultural Christian” used some time back. Which describes you and me as children. Brought up with God, church, bible, school, exams, family gatherings, Monday-Friday routines, weekend-routine – all of that living and life.

        I think a lot of adult Christians remain cultural Christians their whole lives. But as both of us have questioned and doubted – that does not inevitably lead to your conclusion. For some yes, for others no.

        Thank you for adding the 10 minute version of that programme in your post. The full hour showed me that those of opposite views are able to listen to each other with respect. Your bible expert even disagreed with your Mr Dawkins.

        Which raises her esteem in my mind, as Mr Dawkins seems immune from agreeing with anyone but himself (also demonstrated by others “of God” in the studio). And which – as your bible expert showed so elegantly of others – is totally irrelevant to the “truth” of a belief held and expounded.

        We could all learn from that. 🙂

        • I think a lot of adult Christians remain cultural Christians their whole lives. But as both of us have questioned and doubted – that does not inevitably lead to your conclusion. For some yes, for others no.

          I use the term Cultural Christian not so much to reflect any sort of religious belief but rather to align oneself to a ”tribe” .
          When you and I grew up in the UK there was little, if any, Muslim ”issues” and the only ”Indian” you were likely to see owned the takeaway we stopped at after an evening at the pub. ‘Vindaloo” was likely the extent of our embracing other cultures.
          It was ignorance or simply complete lack of interest that stopped any further inquiry into Christianity at that stage and the local Vicar seemed quite content about this.
          We were all believers, but at the same time all agnostic/atheist. And as no one ever pushed for an answer we never needed to provide one … or question ourselves either, did we?

          But the generation that carried this through … my folks and theirs, the War Generation – will soon be all gone and we are less inclined and our kids even less so.
          Which is why indoctrination of children is such a key issue to religious followers across the spectrum.

          People are just so afraid of change:
          ”What will you put in its place if you ”destroy” (sic) religion?”
          Heard this a few times … been asked it as well!
          What happened when we found out the earth was not flat?
          Shock, horror!
          And evolution. yeah, let’s embrace Creationism. That’s a good idea and will be marvelous for the kids!
          Er …. no.

          Do away with it, all of it, and see how much easier it is to bridge the cultural divide. One less barrier. Not perfect. Certainly tot a be all and end all. But a positive start.
          Put Yahweh where he belongs … with all his mates, Odin, Thor, Zeus, Hanaman Shiva etc. And the divine part of a certain Mr Pantera, too.

          Make the world a much better place.

    • Jared, thank you.

      I tried a reply – and found myself spinning off into the minutiae of church life and its unedifying underbelly. The short version being: “we don’t have time for this” as the standard answer – and “but where will this lead/conclude?” being the second.

      “Doubt is just asking questions”. And making time to ask questions is what I see the bible inviting.

  4. Pingback: Privilege through divine authority – who benefits? – Just me being curious | Talmidimblogging

  5. Hi Paul! I saw you linked my post so I thought I would see what’s going on. 🙂 Despite what Ark seems to think I believe, I actually don’t think that the early church treated the Bible text as inerrant or infallible, nor even “privileged.” They did see it as a sacred collection. The idea of inerrancy was a Protestant reaction to the authority the Roman Church put on the Pope. Later, the Catholic church reacted by making the Pope infallible. As Paul told Timothy, it was “inspired” in that its stories and principles are useful for instruction and for maturing spiritually, etc. They never elevated the Bible to god-like status. While she’s a bit too skeptical for me in her conclusions, as Francesca said in the video, the ancient people didn’t treat “facts” like we do today. That was not important. The “truth” that the story taught was far more important than analyzing the data itself.

    “That when we ascribe divine authority to a text (any text) – that text becomes privileged. And with that privilege comes abuse.”

    I actually would agree with this statement when it comes down to how privilege begets abuse. Of course, this can also be true with all forms of privilege, not just with the Bible. But the Bible, the Old Testament especially, has been used in history has been downright evil and in direct violation of the teachings of Christ.

    Again, Scripture has never made the claim to be verbatim from God and the ancient people would’ve never taken it that way. The problem we have in the Christian West is that we’ve elevated the Bible to god-like status. But we also don’t want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. It is a brilliant collection with deep and multi-layered wisdom and truth.

    The problem for modern Christians is that if we don’t understand these arguments, or worse, think that the Bible was dictated verbatim from heaven, we will be greatly confused by these arguments, possibly have our faith shipwrecked, as with some have. This is why it’s critical to know how to navigate these issues.

    As to the debate video, my position would probably be closer to that of Bishop Nazir-Ali than the others, even though I’m pretty much evangelical in other ways. Of course, you know my take on how we should understand the Old Testament narrative. I’ve written extensively on it.

    Btw, we drink coffee before, during, and after our services. 🙂

    • ”Despite what Ark seems to think I believe, I actually don’t think that the early church treated the Bible text as inerrant or infallible,

      I don’t recall ever stating that you considered the bible inerrant.

      As I said, the 10 min video was solely to show you how a non-religious historian treats the biblical text. Nothing more.

          • She obviously is skeptical about biblical events. I would say, prejudicial, when she claims David or Moses might not have existed at all (at least she was honest enough to say, “probably not.” She did admit that Jesus existed. Keep in mind, the farther back you go in history, the less we actually have for anyone. For instance, how much evidence is there for Heraclitus or Plato or Socrates’s existence? (other than fragments and what others wrote about them hundreds of years after the fact). Yet, we don’t question their existence. Again, a bit overstating the case and prejudicial.

            • Moses did not exist. That is a given. Even Noth’s version is no longer generally considered viable.
              The Exodus story as described is simply a piece of geopolitical fiction.
              David … well, the Stele is not considered watertight, is it?
              And the bible version of this huge kingdom is nonsense as we know.

              It does not matter as much about the other characters you list as no one is claiming they are supernatural and all. miracle claims and such like ascribed to such characters are dismissed by historians, as they should be for Jesus of Nazareth.
              Same criteria.

          • And I agreed with here when I said in my first comment….
            “While she’s a bit too skeptical for me in her conclusions, as Francesca said in the video, the ancient people didn’t treat “facts” like we do today. That was not important. The “truth” that the story taught was far more important than analyzing the data itself.”

            • ….the ancient people didn’t treat “facts” like we do today.

              Of course not. They did not have the technology we have now, and this tech. will be even more sophisticated in the future.

              So let’s apply the same criteria to the character Jesus of Nazareth, shall we?
              Surely, this is the only truly honest approach?

              Why not start with one of his supposed miracles and apply the same sort of reasoning?

  6. I may be biased, but I find Dawkins as narrow minded (and evangelical) as those fundamentalist Christians he criticises so much. He tars all Christians with the same brush. I guess there are quite a few Christians (probably more in America) who vote yes to ‘believing’ the bible. However that may be shorthand for many things. It is certainly true that insufficient time is spent by us on discussing such issues but I would say a worship service may not be the best place. Without artificially compartmentalising, a service is a time for response from me on what God is all about to me. We should make other space for sharing and discovering what we actually believe in meetings like house groups etc. where the dynamic is more appropriate. It really is absurd how little time so many of us are willing to spend on faith matters that are supposed to determine how we live our whole lives. An hour a week is just tokenism. We should take other opportunities to thrash out these matters – best done with others in the same boat. I suppose that’s what we call ‘fellowship’! On a related matter have you come across a technique called Appreciative Inquiry? It’s an approach being used in churches where,while accepting that things are broken, focus is on what works: that is built on rather than the normal problem solving method which focusses on the things that are wrong and tries to work them out. Googling it shows some interesting articles – well worth a read.
    The “Is the bible true?” is a complex question because if I say ‘no’ there is a implied criticism or thought that the bible is therefore of little worth. Decoupling those two issues would be an encouragement for such discussion which we do too often steer clear of. Perhaps we’d end up with so many more honest Christians! Heaven forbid! 😋

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s