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Monday, May 24, 2010

A Long List of Questions and Still Just the Beginning

It's Monday morning, which means going out for a 3-4 mile run is mandatory in order to start the week off on the right foot, so to speak.  Running is so important to my mental health.  It's my solitary time to be alone with my thoughts, work through issues, sweat-out frustrations, and try to recapture peace.  Things almost always seem clearer after a good run.

This morning's topic is inspired by a new favorite book of mine: A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, by Brian Mclaren

Today's obsession, a long list of questions of my own: What would I take away from the Bible if I were reading it for the first time, without any influence from the church, my family, or dogma that I've been exposed to?

What if I didn't bring a whole list of assumptions to it?  What if I didn't have to believe in (or had never been exposed to) the notion of the Bible being The Word of God?  What if I had never heard about Divine Inspiration?  What if I considered it a collection of stories?  What if I didn't have to believe in literal or historical accuracy and could consider metaphorical meaning?

Unburdened by any preconceived notions, could I learn something new about humanity and our spiritual history?  Might I see an evolving narrative of mankind's struggle to understand their world, their place in it, and spiritual things?  Would I be able to accept that perhaps some of these people had different perceptions than my own?  What if some of them "got it wrong"?

Could I understand how a person might pray for the destruction of their enemies, given their circumstances, yet not be compelled myself to believe that God hates anyone or would grant such a wish?  Could I see the books of the New Testament as different points of view, grappling with what each writer experienced and learned from Jesus; as independent accounts and perspectives without being troubled by conflicts?

Could I use these stories to learn more about myself and my own struggles along the way?  Would they help me understand that others have been where I am, whether crying out to God in despair or rejoicing in victory?  

Is there a view of the Bible that illustrates how connected we are, despite our different cultures and belief traditions, Gentiles and Jews?  Might I be able to move beyond my own self-centered issues with atonement, improvement, and acceptance to a view of myself as a world citizen?  Could I see Jesus' teachings as practical regarding His wishes for us as a citizen in this life and not merely about the afterlife?

Is it possible that every attempt to understand, experience, speak or write about God, the original "uncaused cause" of the universe and creator of us all, will always be a flawed human endeavor that falls short in some way?

Run complete, watch stopped.  The answer: Yes.

Blessings my friends.


  1. There are books on the theme of Reading the Bible as Literature.

    I think the trouble is we tend to buy translations for their "study guides" which fosters an environment where you can't read the word "Then" at the start of a sentence without looking down to the obligatory footnote to see whether it was Greek: /kai/ or not. Too much emphasis on minutiae.

    What I'd love to do is take the text of the NetBible[0] as XHTML, and just strip out all the numbers (verses in particular), passage-titles, and especially all the footnotes,... then reorder it in approximate order of authorship (OK, that's not meaningful, given all the redaction) and then just sit back and read the thing just like I would read _Lord of the Rings_[1].

    [0] It is the best translation I've met: proper modern+respectful well-balanced English, choosing its words for straight-down-the-line meaning. And it's chock-full of insightful enlightening footnotes, both translation and theological. Plus, I have a version that's a little old, when they were honest enough to write "BETA EDITION" on the cover. Now *that* I approve of!

    [1] Wouldn't you just love to take a far-South preacher and substitute the book on the podium mid-rant? ;)

  2. Tim,

    Yep. The original text did not include chapter subheadings like "The Fall" and leads many to a conclusion the translator holds that is not objective.

    Thank you for your comments!


  3. Wouldn't it be interesting to just have someone tell it to you - the way it was originally passed around - as stories around the fire or at dinner or in the market place - wherever 2 or 3 are gathered - there, a piece of the story is told. Definitely no chapters or verses, no pericope headings, no ascriptions in the Psalms - just music, poetry and storytelling at its finest. That's the naivete I wish we could all attain. Whew! a tall order, I think, for preachers like me! Thanks for making me think.

  4. Wow Debra...that really would be fantastic! I was moved through Marcus Borg's book, The Heart of Christianity, when he discussed that Native American tradition of storytelling; how the storyteller would often start with a statement like "Now, I don't know if it happened exactly this way, but I know this story is true."

    I had a history professor in undergraduate school who was a fantastic storyteller - a lecturer, not much for class discussion. But he was so skilled at filling-in the surrounding context that the stories came alive like nothing I had ever experienced. I was transfixed for 3+ hours, one night a week and hated for each session to end. If only I could experience the Biblical narrative this way.

    Thank you for your comments. I enjoy following you on FB.