I’m taking an Introduction to Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament) class this semester, and it’s really fascinating stuff. As I’ve been preparing for my first exam (tomorrow! eek!) on the first five books of the Bible, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the role that the Bible plays in our understanding of our faith. Depending on how each of believes the text was originally written—its origin, the date it was produced, the intent of the author(s)—dictates the degree to which it should be taken literally, how we interpret its meaning, how we react to written texts of other faiths, and how we apply it to our lives today.
This week’s set of links are ones that I’ve recently come across that address some of these questions. Each one addresses a slightly different aspect of this question, but each one has provided additional food for thought as I’ve been pondering these things.
The first link I came across is now over a month old, but it framed an approach to interfaith understanding that is one of the simplest and most profound ways I’ve ever seen. I have found myself coming back to this statement over and over during different conversations in the last few weeks. This post is by Dr. Bruce Arnold of Letters from the Street and is called All the Truth that Can Be Said. His post will only take a moment to read, but I would be willing to bet you’ll be thinking it over longer than that!
Merry Stanford recently wrote a piece called I Am Who I Am for Friends Journal. She is a Quaker who shares her journey through defining her religious identity for herself as she incorporates different traditions into her beliefs and practice, including both Christianity and shamanism. Similar to Dr. Arnold’s statement, she finds truth in more than one place even though it is expressed in different ways. I was inspired by the story of her own journey through these questions as I continue to work through my own self-definition in this area.
James F. McGrath wrote a post called The Bible’s Authors Were Inspired by God on his Exploring our Matrix blog on Patheos last week. In it, he explores the idea of inspiration. The concept that the Bible’s words having been inspired by God means that God dictated the text word-for-word to the writers is at the core of the fundamentalist belief in the inerrancy of scripture and tends (in my experience) to lead toward a more literal reading of the text. Dr. McGrath point out, however, that this is not the normal way that we understand the idea of inspiration. (Note my use of the word at the end of the last paragraph as one example.) He does a great job of considering how we normally use the word and how this common meaning can enhance the way we look at the Biblical text. This was a powerful re-framing moment for me!
Peggy Sanger Parsons of A Silly Poor Gospel posted Empathic Exegesis earlier this week as an introduction to her message for this week at her Church. She talks about a way to approach scripture that steps outside of the literalist approach to embrace it as story so that we can place ourselves inside the story to experience it in new and different ways. This approach sounds very much like that of the Jewish midrash that I wrote about recently, but it’s described in a language that is more familiar to me as someone who did not grow up within the Jewish tradition. It brings a new depth to the reading of the texts because it is more experiential.
My last link for this week is one that appears on the surface to be a bit of a departure for this week’s topic. It’s called What do you worship? (my answer is embarrassing), and it’s by Fiona of Writing Our Way Home blog. In it, she explores the fact that we all worship something whether we are aware of it or not; it’s part of the human condition. The challenge is being aware of what we worship so that we can choose our object(s) of worship consciously. I include this one in this group because when it reminds me that we do all choose what we believe about the Bible and about God. We choose what we believe to be worthy of worship. The key is whether we have made that choice consciously.
What have you chosen to believe about the Bible and other religious texts? How does that influence who or what you worship? Do you know what you worship?
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.