Friday, March 25, 2011

Canon Fodder

After this piece, at least two of the three of you who read here will be mad at me...but, I have to write what I feel compelled to write, so please bear with me even as I delve into potentially controversial subjects. My goal since I began to write here on this blog has been to cause people to think and never, ever just accept. That's why I like to tackle sacred cows, and ask provocative questions, questions which often I haven't even settled upon my own answers to.




To begin, my position: My faith is in Jesus Christ as my Messiah, risen Lord, and reconciliation to my Heavenly Father. My faith in the biblical canon is limited. As I've said recently, many of my views on non-essentials have changed dramatically over the last three years or so. I've been an Imbibler. Five years ago I'd look at this very article I'm writing almost as heresy. I can look back even to the beginnings of this blog last year and see changes. I'm perfectly ok with that. I'm willing to put everything, short of a foundation of Christ, in play and on the table in the pursuit of what's real, lasting, and true. I LOVE the bible as we know it. I'd hope no one questions that. At the same time, if I have fear of critically examining words printed on paper and how they came to be, I've built an idol.


I recently wrote about how I find it disturbing that many Christians worship what I call the "Holy Quartet": Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Holy Canonized Bible. This is disturbing to me because, from my perspective, maybe the greatest downfall of the Pharisees was that they began to love and worship the Law itself (the "biblical canon", in a sense, of their day) more than the God that gave it and the Christ it pointed toward - and all humanity touched by their religious authority was made less by the encounter. In their defense, there was no question among those of the Jewish faith that the scriptures they held as Holy were in fact inspired by God as He moved men and prophets to speak with His Spirit. That didn't interfere, however, with their misuse of those scriptures to the detriment of the people.


I can only imagine the level of spiritual abuse the Jewish people would've experienced if "the Bible" had been in existence. 


I think most Christian people, if completely honest, would have to admit that they consider the Bible to be holy, in its current canonized form, because they've accepted the long held traditions of the Christian faith - and usually without question, i.e, "it is so because it's always been so." Now, whether they're right or they're wrong is immaterial to the point I'm making. I'm questioning the health of merely accepting it as so. Consider the fact that a "Christian bible" didn't even begin to take shape until centuries AFTER the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This means, for its first several centuries, the Christian church had no "Bible". (*gasp* How could they possibly be Christians?!!!!!!!!!!!! How could they possibly be Christians?????!!!!!!!!!!!!! *faints with back of hand administered to forehead*


Consider that many (maybe most) of the writings held dear by the early church, the writings which aided and encouraged them in their faith, if those writings still existed in full form, the modern church would consider you a heretic for reading or teaching from them. The "Gospel of the Hebrews", for instance, is considered by many to have been perhaps the MOST revered of the early church writings (many think it's the actual forerunner to the Gospel of Matthew), yet most of you reading this have probably never heard of it. Newer readers here may not realize that a sizable portion of the book of Jude is a direct quotation from the "Book of the Secrets of Enoch", or that there are Old Testament references to the Book of Jasher as a solid source. The early church, for instance, considered the books of our Old Testament canon (plus a few others of Old Testament nature) and the oral traditions of the sayings and teachings of Christ authoritative. And...that's the extent of what they considered "holy". The various letters written by the apostles (the epistles) were considered, well...letters. The epistles were used for encouragement, even teaching, but they weren't considered "holy scripture" until centuries later when various councils began convening and hashing out non-essential doctrine.


Personally, I can't simply consider something "holy" because some man (or some group of men), somewhere, at some point in time, decided as much for me. I've been to too many "1st Wednesday night business meetings" to trust most groups of Christian men to reasonably settle on a color for new carpet in the sanctuary, and I've also seen the national SBC proceedings, as well as a couple of state SBC proceedings. So, blindly trust groups of men from centuries ago, who may or may not have had the same sincerity of faith, who may or may not have had heavy Hellenistic/Greek mythology or Roman influences, and who often/usually had agendas, determine FOR me what is holy scripture and what isn't? No thanks. Many of the men (bishops/pastors/presbyters) who've had a say in the formation of the biblical canon as we know it (and much of what we consider Christian orthodoxy) forbade their congregations from reading certain "heretical" writings among the books excluded from the canon. Today, ANY reasonable Christian would consider this authoritarian, controlling, lording, and...spiritual abuse.


Many Christians seem to view the bible in the same manner they'd view a Stephen King novel - ONE book written by ONE author. You might say "But it DOES have only one author: God!" Well, SOME of it definitively has only one source (God), but as I said earlier, the early church would differ with the modern church about much of the New Testament being "holy writ". I think it's unhealthy to look at the scripture as one entity. The bible as we know it is a collection of 66 different books written by many different men. The authorship of some books (such as Job and Hebrews) is completely unknown. Proverbs doesn't speak for Philippians, Acts doesn't speak for Habakkuk, and so forth. When Christians today speak of things like "doctrine", the "noble Bereans", and private interpretations of scripture, they're tragically misusing the scriptures according to man-made interpretations of what is and isn't "holy", turning "the Bible" into a single, human contrived organism. I touched on some of these things in "Jesus and... ____"...


Concerning doctrine, I wrote the following...


In the various discussions of this around the interwebs, the word "doctrine" is used liberally - false doctrine, sound doctrine, orthodox doctrine, essential doctrine, non-essential doctrine, and just plain ole doctrine. I've nothing against the word, but I think we need to have a solid grasp on what doctrine meant for the Christian church in the bible. While the Greek and Hebrew words translated as doctrine generally mean "teaching(s)", we've given the word considerably more widespread weight than, let's say, Paul did. When Paul referred to doctrine, he was speaking of ONE thing - salvation through Christ crucified (1st Corinthians 1:1721-24Galatians 1:6-9). Everything else was ancillary and, quite often, simply a matter of opinion, culture, circumstance, what have you. Paul became distressed when people would change his simple gospel of Jesus into "Jesus and..._____."


Concerning the Bereans...


We often hear people speak of the "noble Bereans" (Acts 17:10-11). They were indeed noble. However, to use less than noble language, it bugs the crap out of me to see the account of the Bereans SOOOO terribly twisted and misused. The Bereans weren't searching the scriptures to find out if women should have a covering, remain silent in the church, men should provide umbrellas, tithes should be taken, et cetera. Not a single drop of the NT canon even existed at the time. They were searching the OT passages that dealt with the promised Messiah to see if Paul's simple message of Jesus Christ was true. No more. No less. But, strange things happen when people Imbible and their Godhead becomes a quartet - Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Holy canonized Bible.


Concerning 2nd Peter 1:19-21, which says, "19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."...


Another verse that I see misused, abused, and used to abuse, 2nd Peter 1:20It's talking about OT prophecy, people! Not scripture in general! If someone uses this verse to tell you that you can't have a personal or private interpretation of a particular passage, something in one of the NT epistles, or even of 2nd Chester 4:55, they're misusing the scripture - period.


Some may say, "You need more faith!" I don't see it that way, and I see that as a spiritually unhealthy mindset. I recently came across the following at Kristen's Guide under "Cult Methods of Control"...


A cult often teaches to not ask too many questions; just accept their teachings as truth, "Have faith," even if there is no evidence to support their teachings.


and...


A cult teaches that something bad will happen to you if you do not have faith in their teachings.


Ouch. No thanks. My faith in Christ doesn't require the surrendering of my mind. I'd hope it expands it.


I was asked recently, "If you don't consider the bible infallible, inerrant, and the absolute arbiter of truth, how do you even know who Jesus is?" My answer: The same way Simon Peter did.


I'll be writing some more on this.

20 comments:

  1. Actually, I've heard it's still a holy Trinity, Lewis: God the Father, God the Son and The Word of God (as in, the Bible). No room for the Holy Spirit to teach and guide; instead we're supposed to find the answer to every question in the pages of "Da Book" (to steal a phrase from a Florida pastor). It's all just Bibliolatry; worship of the Bible.

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  2. Lewis, it's amazing that you should write this. My husband just posted something similar on his blog a couple of days ago...

    http://runofthemillchurchinpensacola.blogspot.com/

    And I concur, let all the sacred cows be sacrificed and let's think about this. The whole point of scripture is to point us to Christ. And yes, I also love the scriptures and take God at His word, but the bible has definitely become something used as a weapon anymore in the Christian world today and I don't mean in the way God meant for it to be read and used...for sole purpose of pointing us to Him and His love and forgiveness and grace. And what about the Holy Spirit...the power to love and to be shown truth? What about how the Holy Spirit speaks to us today?

    He speaks to me daily and has very specific thoughts and plans for me to carry out. I sense it, I read it and I feel His presence guiding me and talking to me about and in everything. He is with me and I feel Him.

    Prophetic words are in all true, free believers spoken in us by the spirit of Christ.

    The bible is definitely a cherry on top in many ways for me. Keep writing, Lewis, and getting us all to think. Because Christ expects us to use our God-given brains.

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  3. Amen to what you wrote here, Lewis, and to what Question Everything's husband wrote at the link she gave!!!! Amen!!!!

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  4. I find it so fascinating to read this because this is exactly where I was at last year in re-evaluating and re-defining my faith. At least one of the three that read here is saying "Way to go!" :) Thank you for having the courage to tackle this and put it out there!

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  5. Not leaving yet! :D I have this trouble-making urge to post this to my fb account... but I think that would leave me in very hot water. :) I'm imagining some reference to "no jot will pass from the law" being referenced in response. What would you say to that verse?

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  6. Blogger keeps eating my posts. Maybe it doesn't like Google Chrome?

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  7. Rachel...Hmmm. Well, to that, I suppose I'd say that the early church and the modern church both agree on the authority of the OT Law and prophets (for their time), as do I, and I'd also point out the next phrase in that verse...and that Christ fulfilled it.

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  8. Our faith is pretty flimsy if we're afraid to ask questions and explore ideas about that very faith.

    But sometimes, who could blame people for not wanting to talk about those ideas? The same people that would flog you, Lewis, for your view on bibliolatry, are the same ones who are calling Rob Bell a heretic just for voicing the tough questions that many people are too afraid to ask in their churches.

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  9. I agree with Lewis on that Rachel..it was fulfilled in Christ..now ...we love.

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  10. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy crap this is awesome. A few days ago, I just had a yelling match with myself over this exact subject! My word, Lewis, thank you. I am indebted to your thoughts and hope to do the same in my life.

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  11. Yup, the more veneration of Holy Scripture, the less acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit in anything more than lip service. Still the Trinity: God the Judge, Christ the Avenger, and the Holy Writ. Bah!

    For most of Catholic history, the laity (and even the monastics) were actively discouraged from even reading the accepted Holy Writ for fear they might think their own thoughts instead of accepting the party-line interpretation disseminated by the bishops.

    God didn't declare the canon "holy" (even if a few verses can be pulled out as proof-text), committees of human people with pet projects, agendas, and political obligations did. If God oversaw the work of men with divine manipulation of events to miraculously preserve the righteous integrity of canon (as I was taught in my fundy childhood), God went to a lot of unnecessary work, IMO, because it still all comes down to whose interpretation of that Holy Scripture is the godliest. More bah!

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  12. I hate to see scripture misused, and one of the main ways is the way you're talking about, Lewis. First they treat the Bible like it was God, and then they treat their interpretation like it was the only way to read the Bible. It's a bad tree that bears nothing but bad fruit.

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  13. I think you will like my most recent post...

    I touched on the aspect of thinking vs. not thinking.

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  14. It's a great post, Katherine.

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  15. LEWIS!!! lol,

    i love you i love you i love you, ROFL, you know, I am So grateful for your COURAGE TO TELL TRUTH ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE, FEEL, THINK,

    and what you wrote, is SUCH, A HEALING BLESSING FOR ME IN WAYS I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE HERE, you WRoTE my story, lol,

    and I know Jesus led me here today...well in fact to several blogs, I've been deliberately avoiding reading anything Christian other than Mara's blog and the other day I read Hilary's--because I have for past year run into so many snags, deconstruction, reading yes even the ex-christian blog though I can't stand the evolutionary psychology misogynist garbage Harris and Dawkins spew [it's ironic how radical feminist Keeps me in the faith, rather than out of] but anyway,

    I don't believe the Bible is 100% true, I don't even know if the Bible is really God's Word, in it's Entirety, I know through research much of the OT was written post-exile, I know archeology has found some disturbing truths that reveal a lot about Solomon that is an entire different story, the Talmud is in no doubt a Babylonian influenced religion writings--not the Torah but the Talmud yes.

    The NT, there is just a lot there, 300 years later, Constantine and his men, the corruption and so forth, the LACK and I do mean TOTAL LACK of any mention of Jesus in history, it's all hearsay, third party,

    but HOW I reconciled this, in spite of all I found, and this sounds yes kind of New Age, maybe a bit of Gnostic, but after LONG prayers with Jesus over this...one thing I think, is that the Bible yes, IS inspired, on That I believe, but I believe it's also capable of human error...

    con't

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  16. con't...what I mean by that is, that man wrote much [Jerome, etc in translating, etc and HOW many docs left out, hundreds] that I believe [also the numerous men who wrote OT] was in no way proof evident that it was THE word of God, but what man Thought was God...OR that, it was Allegory, and Historical allegory of the People of Israel and in NT the people enslaved [because it's not just Jews] by the Roman Empire, the extension and survival of the Jewish People, in other words, God could also be 'man's government' or 'man's ideals',

    THAT doesn't mean however that God doesn't have His hand IN that...we know our brains work on electro magnetic waves, which work in space, [space there IS no sound] and so physics, it's very possible that God speaks through man's mind [and woman's though her voice was silence by MEN, I more and more Doubt it was God who silenced her] and so...to me,

    not a thus saith the Lord here but to me, the Bible is just ONE WAY in which God spoke to man, I think Nature is the other way, Paul refers to it, all through the Bible Nature is referred To [though men like to deny this fact because Nature didn't subjugate nor demonize women], so in that way, I do believe in the Messages or ALLEGORIES of the Bible.

    I do think it's meant to be taken as allegory, not literal, except in parts, and while I realize that causes problems let's face it, the Literalists are so divided that it's obvious literal interpretations do not work. Man's minds Still decide what it doctrine and truth--often using violence and force, kind of like Roman Empire, it never died...

    so I kind of believe what many of the athiest say about the Bible and it's means really to enslave the masses, on the other hand I think there is a mystery there, wisdom to be learned, through allegories, because the Bible stories are the language of the oppressed, both testaments,

    in Old we know the Jews were in fact, usually the oppressed, through out, even in Solomon's time it is been shown that Assyria was actually the power house, and in NT the people were slaves, brutally oppressed, so a lot of what is written in 300+ A.D. can no way be taken literally,

    how I found out? [con't]

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  17. Women, the whole thing about submission and being pure and chaste when in FACT the Jewish women were sex slaves to Romans, fact [only Roman citizens had any marriage rights during 60 AD including in Occupied Jerusalem], as were other Mesopotamian peoples, this is where you get the claim that the Bible stories are merely a co-mix of all the pagan religions of that time, very well Could be true, as slaves in households were not bio families but mixed by Purchase. This is just ONE example of many I found, especially Pauline Doctrines, the four gospels are no doubt parables of slave life, in many ways, I believe the allegories which were Dangerous then, WERE understood with the People of that time and yes I believe it was a type of Resistance through martyrdom, because the Jewish people would NOT have survived as a culture, without it. [this gets into a lot, there are a few theories out there, it doesn't Disprove the Bible, but it sheds different light on what the 'beliefs' meant]

    I believe Constantine took the Resistance, of the Jews, Jews-US, Jesus, and made it into a religion to form a one world Roman Empire religion aka Catholic church, to control...to maintain control in spite of the onslaught against the empire

    which borrowed from Egypt [Alexander, Hellenism, etc., keeping Caesar alive] I also believe that knowing these facts does not Disprove Jesus, just sheds a different light on AND that if anything gives richer meaning to all in the Bible,

    which sounds more gnostic however I looked into those readings, I find those to be more of Plato type, they don't go along with a lot of OT, so I don't concur with most of them...but know in that era there were Many cults, branches of belief

    fact is, most Christians were dispersed way before 300 A.D. or killed, so we don't really know,

    not really, all we have to go on is hearsay--but GOD is Spirit, and HESHE can work through all of that, this is why Jesus says, the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth, HE never said Anything, about a Bible or even a Book.

    anyway, there is just a lot to Beg for serious investigation and questioning...when I saw these facts, I did in fact, almost lose faith--I really did, AND REASON I AM SHARING THIS HERE, is because many ARE finding out these same things, and it IS shaking foundations and many are leaving the faith Because of, I'm here to say, there are other lens to this, that I don't believe one has to chunk the faith--but rather, look at it all with a different lens, that we have NOT been use to doing.

    IF there wasn't Jesus or God, then how horrid that would be for all those crucified, all those who have died needlessly, all the evil, That and I've seen some paranormal things, so I knew, there Had to be more--to this mystery, the message, of Love, in the Bible, is what I believe, the Evidence, that sets it apart from Every religious book in the entire World,

    that, and one more thing, it is the Only religion, book, that addresses Self accountability of sin. Rather than the us verses them...though That is also in there, I believe that is more Constantine/men than God,

    I don't know...all I know, is that there is way too much, to believe and take literal, is just to me, foolishness. It's a book, God allowed, to reach Hearts,

    and I think, just my own opinion, it has more to do with our Heart, than anything,

    to measure, I look at Nature, it is God's creation, it has LIFE in plants, all of it, atoms, etc., what WE create, speaks about WHO we are...so what is written by man that Conflicts with what we see in Nature,

    con't

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  18. I question...but I found, when I did, went back to scripture, God showed me numerous things, that did more to Confirm what I saw in Nature, not the other way around. And I have to say, a lot of the Native Indian beliefs, are right on the money--and I do think,

    there is reason for this. So, how bout that heresy? LOL

    it's scary, because it Shakes the very foundations of all we've been Indoctrinated by man's to believe about God--but I am finding, so much of what we've been indoctrinated with, is more the religion of Babylon, and totally opposed to what Christ taught,

    and the fruits, really show it. Some examples btw of Native Indian beliefs and Bible/Nature, Bear clan, bear allegory in story of Elijah, that's one example, another is Jesus, alpha and omega, we know these are also allegories to electromagnetic waves,etc., but they are also allegories to some of Native Beliefs of the wolf, the Mesopotamian wolf is actually a type of wild dog, in Native Indian a different creature altogether, with Alpha and Omega in the pack,

    white lamb, Native white buffalo, Moab desert here, Moab in Bible--remember at one time all continents were together, the caves, etc., there is Tons esp in OT that go right along with Native beliefs,

    now there are also in Hopi beliefs many Sumer beliefs, Totally different religion BUT that said, Abraham came from the land of UR, so I do believe there are some connections there, what they are, I'm not sure,

    but if you look Allegory, metaphors, then they make more sense. Is what I am saying...and they don't disprove the Bible, they just shed different meaning, not Totally different, but different, at least what I am seeing--

    Jane

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  19. To close on this [see my what five replies, yikes, Sorry], what I have found, in all this Deconstructing and looking at so much that for a while, really tore me up, faith wise,

    is that when I stopped being AFRAID of looking at possibilities, not saying embracing other belief systems like new age or any of that floating around, I DO believe in the inherit message of the Scriptures, don't get me wrong here, just NOT in the way we've been indoctrinated,

    I also Do rely more on OT now, allegorical speaking, not law wise, to help with NT, esp Pauline Doctrine, because that helps a lot. Understanding the Context of those times/cultures, and I don't think those who were Intending to use these beliefs AS a means really understood the Power of the beliefs themselves, maybe that's Part of the mystery,

    you know where Paul says, 'if they had known they would have never crucified our Lord', I think the Bible is same way...there are codes, at least I think, that Paul spoke of, John spoke, they SAID, the 'wolves' are at the door AS WE SPEAK,

    that was then...now whether that means those opposed religious OR those opposed to Rome, who knows,

    God can work through both. But what I did find, was that in letting go of Fear, not being afraid to see through other lens, that it actually Confronted more of my self, sin, life, the Seriousness of what Jesus spoke,

    not the opposite. Especially where idolatry is concerned,

    and spiritual adultery.

    So, following the traditions/doctrines did more to influence or Deceive me rather, into following false teachings--it was in Deconstructing them,

    that I began to get Truthful with God and HE with me,

    maybe That's the real mystery.

    Who knows...but I take the warnings much more serious now, than I ever did before.

    just saying

    Jane

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  20. i'm *panting* & *outtabreath* cuz i am sprinting trying to catch up to feb 2012 on this blog and some others. i may never catch up. i just wanna say i'm with ya lewis cheering you on!! you've done a great job pointing out the idols & pointing to truth. ""Consider the fact that a "Christian bible" didn't even begin to take shape until centuries AFTER the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This means, for its first several centuries, the Christian church had no "Bible". (*gasp* How could they possibly be Christians?!!!!!!!!!!!! How could they possibly be Christians?????!!!!!!!!!!!!! *faints with back of hand administered to forehead*""

    lol they had no bible cuz there was no printing press. so no printing press no bible. how were there christians. we don't need the bible.

    ""ONE thing - salvation through Christ crucified (1st Corinthians 1:17, 21-24, Galatians 1:6-9). Everything else was ancillary and, quite often, simply a matter of opinion, culture, circumstance, what have you."" yup!

    i have come to these very same conclusions on my own but am gladdened in my heart you have you and it's incredible for me to see you share, with the public these truths. you are very courageous and gosh darn it i like you.

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