The 'Good' Book?

The following is a response to a thread elsewhere, I thought it would be profitable to post it here:

Helen asked: "...how do you know it is 'the correct version'of Christianity?"

It seems like this is an unintentionally misleading way of approaching the subject. If you asked a scientist if they were 'staying true' to Darwin's theory of evolution, or Newton's on gravitation, they would respond, "That is not the goal, the goal is to accurately describe reality." I don't really desire the correct 'Christianity,' but rather the correct version of reality!

For this reason I hope to use other 'versions' of Christianity as aids to understanding reality, but not as definitions of reality. Just as a scientist will take advantage of the work of others while simultaneously proffering her own. I don't attempt to stay true to Luther or Augustine, Billy Graham, Pope John Paul II, or Benny Hinn.

Helen also stated: "I respect your opinion but with all due respect, that's all it is, right?"

Most assuredly, that is all that it is. I don't pretend to be anything other than what I am; a scientist will speak of things she doesn't begin to fully comprehend, and so too humans speak of the even greater reality that is God. However, that is not to discount all attempt to understand. I would hope to dialogue about the matter in question, how else are we to do this if not first by stating our own position?

You (and others) had stated that the Bible was full of contradiction. When I asked for a particular incidence, you offered that of Paul v Jesus on the question of 'salvation by faith.' If my response is to be discarded as 'mere personal opinion,' than what is to be the point of our dialogue? I would love to hear why you find them to be contradictory on the subject, and assume you would want to understand why I find them to be complementary.

Which gets us to the point of contradiction itself:

I fully appreciate that 'arguments between Christians who are very familiar with the Bible, over what the Bible teaches, are alive and well,' I don't think that this is problematic for what I am trying to say. There are certainly some things that are taught by Jesus and His followers that are difficult to reconcile, but many of these are intentional paradoxes akin to the article linked above. Most contradictions, however, are simply failures to aproach the text on its own terms.

You said, "...if the Bible was clear and non-contradictory, Christians who all say they believe it would not have unresolvable debates over what it says." But I think that this places to much trust in human ability to set aside personal desires and perspectives. On top of this, I think this highlights the main problem with talking about 'contradictions.' It forces one to approach the Bible in a way that was never intended. If I read Psalms as a manual for understanding the physical construction of the universe, then I am quite simply and willfully ignorant.

I did get around to the list of contradictions, some of the 388 are outright deceptive (proverbs 26:4-5), (I only looked at maybe 30) every single verse was provided in an archaic translation, without context, and without an attempt made to understand the point within the larger context of the writing. Perhaps if I spent time sorting through I could find something a little more 'intellectually cohesive' but that list is precisely the reason why I ask people for personal examples...

You referenced 'key texts,' it is exactly this that I find problematic. What are the 'key texts' to Dickens' Great Expectations? ...or Handel's Messiah? ...or the U. S. Constitution? ...or U2's Helter Skelter? ...or MLK Jr. Epistle to the Americans?

Also, I think I was unclear (it seems such a common problem for me!!) when I mentioned the author's intent...

I was not refering to God, but to the author. That is what I mean by taking something in context. If I am trying to understand what the person who wrote it meant by what they said, (instead of taking a phrase and using it as a 'key text') then I will be in a position to ask the deeper (and faith inspired) question, "What is God saying through this?" An even better example of contradiction (although on the same topic) is "justified by faith" in Galatians and "justified by works" in James; here the actual words directly contradict each other, but this 'contradiction' requires that we assume it is proper to approach these letters with an 'atomistic' dissection. My humble assertion is that this assumption is incorrect; language doesn't work that way.

(I will be the first to admit that often American Christians approach the Bible in exactly this rigid, 'reductionistic' and scientific way...)

I don't want to be seen as advocating 'special insight' but rather a different approach. Instead of approaching the Bible as a compilation of absolute truth statements, approach it on it's own terms...

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