Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rethinking Fundamental Literalism

In my last post, I touched on the chronically flawed reading of passages of biblical books dealing with hell and the afterlife, particularly the account in Revelation 20, and how some conservative fundamentalist pastors (Mark Driscoll) use this chronically flawed, and critically flawed, reading to bash other pastors (Rob Bell) who teach and examine things that threaten doctrines to which they've sold their souls. I left a few additional thoughts in the comment thread which I'd like to include here in a post of their own. I've written about some of these things in the past here, with a follow-up here. Some good discussion followed those posts. (*a disclaimer about the Book of Jasher mentioned in those old posts - most researchers and scholars believe that the current Book of Jasher has been proven fake, and I don't question their conclusion as the evidence of forgery seems very compelling...there are no known surviving manuscripts of the original Book of Jasher referenced in the OT)


Now, imagine you're on the isle of Patmos circa the late 1st century AD, and God reveals a vision to you of the distant future. How do you describe what you're seeing to your contemporaries? It'd be extremely difficult, wouldn't it? To go a bit further, how do you describe it in such a way that it'll still be remotely understood a couple of millennia later, or even 10,000 years later, if that's the time it represents? It's now getting darn near impossible.


The comments which I left after the last post...

So much of Revelation is symbolism, and so much of all text about the afterlife in the various books of the bible is symbolic, that I think it's dangerous for any teacher to become dogmatic about eternity. We simply don't know.

In Revelation, for instance, just about everything short of flying five-headed spiders with fire-breathing monkeys on their backs is used in the symbolism.

I think a good way to look at it is this...Imagine a guy from a couple thousand years ago suddenly seeing a couple of elementary school-aged kids from today playing a game of ping-pong on a Nintendo Wii...and then trying to describe what he was watching in the language of his day..."In that day, children will wave a wand of power, and the mirror of light that isn't a mirror will yield to them, and the harp will play, and joy will abound."



And then, take that description of two children playing Nintendo Wii...

"In that day, children will wave a wand of power, and the mirror of light that isn't a mirror will yield to them, and the harp will play, and joy will abound."


...and imagine how we'd interpret it today if it were in Revelation. We'd probably make it into something ultra-spiritual. Imagine what Driscoll could do with such a verse. And it's two kids playing Nintendo Wii.




It's this kind of disconnect, and the commitment of fundamentalists to literalism despite such a disconnect, that usually leads to the dark side of the Christian faith which I speak of in the sub-header of this blog. When you think about it that way, it should make anyone extremely cautious about jumping on the bandwagon of literal interpretation, and I hope it would inspire ALL of us to seriously and meticulously examine all that we've ever been taught (and have often merely accepted) about heaven, hell, and our relationship with and to God.


We want everything about the non-essentials of our faith to be tidy, easily understood, and all wrapped up in a black and white box with a bow on top. We need to examine our own hearts to determine why, because the non-essentials of our faith will never be black and white, and neither will our earthly understanding of eternity. We'll understand it when we get there, and not a moment sooner. It's one thing to pursue the truth as the Holy Spirit compels us, but altogether another to settle for the "truth" as determined by someone else - and often through narrow-minded literalism.


An interesting quote attributed to Christ from the "Gospel of the Hebrews"...


He shall not cease from seeking until he find, and having found, he will be amazed, and having been amazed will reign, and having reigned will rest.


Seek. Don't settle.  

19 comments:

  1. Lewis,
    When I gave my heart to Jesus back in the early 80s it was among a group of people who were hard core "Christians will go through the tribulation." And they held that we most likely would be told to reject Jesus or get our heads cut off in the near future.

    Later on I went to a church that believed in dispensationalism (sp?) and the preacher there said quote (as near as I can remember) "You folks can do what you want but I'm going up on the first elevator." He believed Christians would be raptured out BEFORE the tribulation.

    And I've had many other 'teachers' on Revelation and End Times prophecy since then all of them using scriptures and charts and graphs to prove, undisputabley, their view of the end times.

    Long and short. There is no preacher who can come along into my life and can convince me of something I haven't already been convinced of before. AND when anyone wants to come at me with their charts and graphs and scriptural proofs, all I want to do is run screaming in the other direction.

    And guess what? The Pharisees in the days of old had prophecys concerning the Messiah. They had it all figured out so that when the Messiah actually came and He didn't measure up with their charts and graphs and scriptural proof...
    They crucified Him.

    So I have a much more layed back attitude toward Revelation and End Times. I still read the confusing book, but more out obedience to the promise at the beginning that I would be blessed for doing so.

    Now, my favorite endtime scripture (which I will have to look up and give you the reference later) is Jesus speaking the disciples saying: "I tell you these things before they come to pass that when they come to pass you may believe."

    Note, He didn't say: "I tell you these things before they come to pass so you can make charts and graphs and get everything all figured out by the day after tomorrow."

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  2. [snickering to myself... laid back attitude, not layed back attitude. That's what I get for being in a hurry.]

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  3. These last two posts bring to my mind Martin Luther. I believe it was in the book HERE I STAND that it is brought to light that Luther did not believe the book of James should be in the Bible. Protestant scholars have said, "The great reformer Martin Luther...never felt good about the Epistle of James...Luther went too far when he put James in the appendix to the New Testament." He apparently didn't care much for Revelation either: About this book of the Revelation of John...I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. Moreover he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly-indeed, more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important-and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will take away from him, etc. Again, they are supposed to be blessed who keep what is written in this book; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. This is just the same as if we did not have the book at all. And there are many far better books available for us to keep…My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. For me this is reason enough not to think highly of it: Christ is neither taught nor known in it" (Luther, M. Preface to the Revelation of St. John, 1522). So much for sola Scriptura...

    This is kind of comical when you consider the weight of authority that many of the FIC/QF types put on Martin Luther's teachings.

    I guess you are a modern day Martin Luther, Lewis. :)

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  4. And I mean that in the most positive way. :)

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  5. I think it's a little of Both, literal and symbolic, and that through historical dialectics, it Repeats, but with each repeat the judgment/visitation/widespread generation gets Stronger --that the Revelation is both individual [symbolic] AND literal [as a societal whole] among a few other things,

    layers of time [time frames that we KNOW now through science, time lapse photography, etc], form the micro-to macro universe...and I DO BELIEVE there is another dimension/world outside THIS universe BOX...hidden with a black curtain, Just like if we were fish at the the bottom of the ocean--there is a World out of that ocean, to give you an idea/picture

    and that hell has many meanings...such as hell as a State of mind, the place of torment, that God uses to Correct us/our behavior, to Teach us,

    or hell as in prison-jail-captivity for either instruction or punishment-justice, Daniel mentions this, Jesus mentions this,

    hell as in a type of Being--that place where one has NO love, the rich man in hell and Lazarus,

    Jesus was the one who went to hell/preached/came back--rose from dead, aka OT hell, the grave

    Do WE go to Hell, to those Places over yonder to help/heal the Robbed Samaritan, poor man, do WE go to Hell, to those suffering prisoners, captives, those HELLS ON EARTH?????

    Jesus did.

    Jesus left Heaven, place of mind, being, place, to go to Hell to reach US--LOVE GOES TO HELL TO SAVE THE CAPTIVES,

    Revelations, what is thrown into lake of fire, hell and death,

    ever seen fire? It consumes till All gone,

    what is thrown in there, Fear [ear/notice that in Fear], opposite of Love, Fear brings torment, those who Fear are not Perfected in LOVE,

    unbelief [un--under belief], murder [m+ur+der/hate opposite of LOVE]

    whore monger [w+hore/bitter herb/to cause bitterness, soul assassinate, killing love, women, killing women, life, also Spiritual whoredom]

    those things that offend or cause offense, things that cut, hurt, take away or Chip away at LOVE

    in Other words, if you take the Opposite and Deconstruct the things listed of Hell, or Lake of Fire...fire also means to purify [Daniel, many will be purified], meaning hell can be Here or There, but if you take those things listed,

    they are the Opposite of LOVE

    Hell is what is US, what is inSide of US,

    and when we Get that--then the Holy Spirit can work to throw the things of Hell inside,

    to the Lake of Fire,

    the Kingdom of God/Heaven is inside you Jesus said, if the Kingdom is Inside of us, then that also means, the Kingdom of Hell can be inside of us too,

    war flesh [hell] spirit [heaven] flesh [hate] spirit [love]

    duality, choose One

    not erase the other...darkness is Blindness, without the velvet diamonds do not shine

    so it's not the darkness of space--without dark there is no Light--

    it's What is inside of us...be Born Again, to See--knowledge of good/evil = death, other tree of life = life

    death-life is IN natural life...

    without death there can BE NO 'LIFE'

    OK, off soapbox now

    :)

    when we worry more about Hell inside of us, when we worry more or concern not worry, about Loving the Lazarus placed at our Gate...OUR GATE, gates of what? Heaven or Hell,

    when we Do that--then it all has a whole different perspective

    at least I think...

    Jane

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  6. Which Afterlife?

    In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote "In God we all meet."

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  7. Ron [I'm Jane]

    on this,

    In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell seems to say that ""loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.""

    What if, Jesus Christ IS that Love, that the religious 'image' we have been indoctrinated with [that creating him in Human form as Apart from Spirit] is actually very much like what Paul warned of, that the Ancients did [Romans, when he says they worshiped the creature more than the creator and turned the image of God into image of Man-Beast, Insect, etc]

    and What if...like it says here:

    Matthew 21:22 ""Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?""

    Matthew 21:43 ""Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.""

    GIVEN--TO A 'NATION' BRINGING 'FORTH THE FRUITS' THEREOF

    I think it's kind of Clear here, what God is saying, that it's the Fruits, that HE sees, so Jesus, the WAY, would include I would think

    those that LIVE the WAY, TRUTH, LIFE

    rather than 'believing a Person Iconoclasm of Jesus existed'

    to Believe on Jesus--those who Love me Obey me, my commandments, Love one another,

    to Believe [also James, he talks about this too] is not believing something just exists--but to Believe upon

    in Rev, like I mentioned, one of the things cast out is Unbelief, to be Under...belief, which is Doubt, d ou b t or d out or devil out, devil as in D + evil

    evil as in opposite of Live [reverse it]

    some things that God showed me, that was inspiring.

    Jane

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  8. Just thought I'd point out that I was rejected as a Crisis Pregnancy Center volunteer because I was a vegetarian. I was accused of " worsiping the creature instead of the Creator." I live my life as a pro life person...I'm not perfect, but I do try to treat others as I would have them treat me.

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  9. Wow. They rejected you because of THAT? Crazy. Knowing of the Pearson guy who started CPCs years ago, and given some of the things in his original manual (which supposedly were like "the bible" to CPCs for at least the first couple of decades), I've always been more than a little wary of them, despite being a pro life person myself. I guess I shouldn't be terribly surprised that they'd be so touchy about someone being vegetarian.

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  10. And just for any readers who may be curious what I'm talking about with Pearson and CPCs, some info can be found here...

    http://motherjones.com/files/cpchistory2.pdf

    It should be noted that this particularly source has its own slant and probable bias on the issue, so take the information or leave it, but it's probably worth the read.

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  11. Triggered, so I'll comment, on CPC, when I was pregnant [one daughter and one on way/with precervical cancer BY a so called Christianese man fundie Southerner good ole boy Muslims would love him type] back in 90s, I went to CPC in my state...I had 50% chance of losing my pregnancy due to the cancer/and placenta abruption [severe, its a Miracle she made it]

    and the woman who worked there with me Was nice--but I remember having to FIGHT like tooth and nails their FORCED ADOPTION INDUSTRY, oh yes...I haven't forgotten THAT one [yea why I HATE and I do mean HATE right to lifers/sorry--but I'm going to Tell it all here and I'VE EARNED THAT RIGHT...]

    so yea, it wasn't like I got any help for my already born daughter from her druggie father, who was too busy cocaining-hemping-dealing it up when I was pregnant and dealing with That abandonment/to where I had NO medical and gave birth to her at Home, only reason I had a midwife at last minute was someone Told her my situ/worked in bar and lived barely, but Did qualify for food stamps, good ole South, yea...good ole Bible Belt South--if you leave em for beating ya while ya deserve to be caned and raped and stoned to Death.

    So--I had already bad experience..but I had moved, left Another abusive man [this Christian, puke] and found I was pregnant [think it's in the water I finally got my tubes tied after fourth/married by that time] but anyway, Italian joke there, so like--I remember them literally trying to FORCE me to adopt my unborn child out Because gee, I don't know, poor single mother just COULDN'T love her child, oh HELL NO, why it's JUST a carrot,

    I can just Pop out another one right? And then, no medical, didn't qualify for help because I made a whopping 50.00 TOO much, ya cuzz I was sooooo rich, no help from the Praise Jebus father, [sorry do I sound bitter] and then...the Pressure,

    I finally had to GET in the face of the adoption agency-CPC and go off, Literally.

    funny thing though, once my FETUS was born--she could have DROPPED DEAD, she lost her LIFE value then,

    yea, I have ZERO RESPECT for the whole right to control wombs Taliban movement of USA, and I have gotten Better treatment From Planned Parenthood, just on advice,

    WHO, BTW, told me, NOT TO ABORT if it was against my values, when I was having hard time with the pregnancy [first tri],

    so, and I'm a Proud environmentalist, so bravo to your Vegan, Trust me, you're better off NOT working with them, Oh, that pregnancy [and the homelessness as a result/SHE's 14 now, and Very anti-neocon] was THE reason I got into Marxism,

    back during Those days. I haven't forgotten it, Never will either...

    end of vent

    Jane

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  12. That was to Dorothy btw, yea, Seriously, you are So better off NOT having to deal with their we save fetus's [while hating women/and God forbid, women have Sex/men though, never see THEM FIGHTING for CHILD SUPPORT, yea I hate them, I do mean I HATE THEM with Everything in me] and then of course, fetus born/now a child, if the child dies of starvation or is on streets being Pimped out--SO WHAT,

    that's a MAN'S RIGHT TO SEX, yippee

    oh, yea, it just Triggers like NO other, and I'm not Pro-Abortion but IF I could drive a car over them at Every protest, BELIEVE ME I WOULD

    and I would do so slowly. [OK I wouldn't but THAT's HOW MUCH I DETEST THOSE MISOGYNIST HYPOCRITES rape coddling supporters]

    And Yes, you are correct, why Don't be for animal rights [I am] or Don't you DARE be for Human Rights, yea I nearly got into a fist fight with some right to life fundie Bimbo at a protest over Human Rights-- "why they are Commies" she said, who CARES if they torture Christians and women and children, as long as it pays for our cheap labor/cheap goods

    but now WOMAN, don't you DARE use birth control, don't you DARE say no to forced marriage, don't you DARE complain if raped, and by golly, YEEHAW, a man is entitled because GAWD of BC says so

    yea, they make Taliban, look Liberal, because Taliban many are warlords and illiterate, not These types,

    they just simply

    HATE WOMEN

    and from this end, the Feeling is mutual, I hate them Just as much.

    strong words, I know, but they are the ONE lying pieces of child raping supporting starving TRASH that make my Blood boil,

    and I tell people Every chance I get. They are Dangerous, I don't like the relativist Left either--but THESE fundie types, are Dangerous.

    Jane

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  13. Hey Lewis,

    I just wanted to say that the new font that comments show up in makes it harder to read them. I prefer the previous font used.

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  14. I'm gonna play around with the font a bit this afternoon to find one that works a little better. Bear with me for a spell.

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  15. Okay, I wrote a wonderfully funny reply, only to have it sucked off into the mobile web somewhere. So here we go again:

    @Lewis Yes, they really did. Oddly enough, it was my vegetarianism that made me pro life. I was kind of sheltered, and was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to dating. In the weeks up to my leaving for college my best friend at the time (a boy) and I spent our time doing tricks on our bikes and repeatedly punching each other in the head. What can I say...I've never been "girly."

    But I digress. A girl at school asked me if I felt so strongly about animals, what was my position on abortion. My initial response was, "You mean people really do that?" What can I say, maybe my brain was addled by falling off horses, bikes, trees, etc, not to mention the head punching and other rambunctiousness I was always up to.

    I digressed again. There were other weird things about the pregnancy center besides the woman telling me that a Christian can't be a vegetarian. For example, married women wanting info on contraceptives were to be referred to their pastor. I could respect their position on single women and abstinence, even though I disagreed with their one size fits all approach. But married people? WTF?

    TBC...

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  16. Part 2:

    I could maybe see if your pastor was also a doctor or a nurse....my current best friend is a pastor and a nurse and she gets asked things all the time.

    I could even see some pastoral counseling to decide about having children and other big issues, but holy handbells batman - at first I thought the woman was kidding.

    For the record, my husband and I have two children, spaced a little less than four years apart. When asked if we were having more, we always said that we had decided not to have more of them than there were of us.

    Also for the record, I don't think the women at our local pregnancy center are bad people. But I also don't think a mature sensible person would tell a fellow Christian that she isn't a Christian due to her dietary choices. Not a mature or sensible thing to say, and it made her look silly.

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  17. Wow. Just wow. This is an article from the Pearls' website on vegetarianism.

    http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/articles/bible-teaching/article-display/archive/2003/november/01/eating-meat-the-doctrine-of-devils/

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  18. Just a thought ... what if Revelation isn't even about "the end times" (at least not all of it)? Daniel's prophecies, the "Olivet Discourse", and the majority of Revelation could easily be simply describing the rise of the Roman Empire, the reign of Caesar Nero (which, btw, is what 666 spells out in Aramaic gematria*), and the fall of Jerusalem. Most of the imagery used in Revelation is typical Biblical imagery of destruction and the wrath of God. (Swarms of locusts aren't supposed to symbolize Apache helicopters ... just the worst nightmare of any agrarian society....)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_the_Beast#Nero
    The Greek spelling, "Nerōn Kaisar", transliterates into Aramaic as "נרון קסר", nrwn qsr. The Aramaic spelling is attested in a scroll from Murabba'at dated to "the second year of emperor Nero." Adding the corresponding values yields 666, as shown:

    Resh (200) Samech (60) Qof (100) Noon (50) Vav (6) Resh (200) Noon (50)
    Sum: 666

    Just my 2¢....

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  19. Scottie,
    I'm one of those who believe exactly what you stated. I believe that Revelation, Daniel, and Jesus's "end times" prophecies were fulfilled in that generation, just as He said they would be. But this isn't a popular belief among evangelicals so i don't usually talk about it. :P I'm getting more bold, though. ;)

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