liberal vs. literal Christian

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by wil, Mar 14, 2006.

  1. didymus

    didymus Well-Known Member

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    Good question Bandit. In all honesty I still like reading the Bible. I take the Bible literal in the sense that what I read I believe was truth to the individual that wrote it and the audience he wrote to. I think that the Bible is a beautiful piece of work that puts into words the feelings and emotions that people at that time had for Jesus and God. I don't believe the virgin birth story and I don't belieeve that Jesus is God. The fact that Jesus, whether only Son of God or not left such an enormous impression on people after his death is a statement in itself. He must have done something amazing to create such a legend. I think Jesus, if alive today would be labled a mystic. I imagine he had all sorts of healing remedies that he used when he did his work. I even think that if known some of those techniques would be controversial today.

    As for Paul I think he had a different view of Jesus than did the apostles and today's view of Christianity,. In church you hear more of what Paul said than what Jesus said.

    I'm reading a book right now entitled "Why Christianity must change or die". The author calls Christians today who profess the right to think and still believe in God as Christians in exile.
     
  2. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    O.K., here it is. I apologize for the lenght of this quote, but I couldn't cut it down and preserve the author's intent. I'm also sorry it took me so long to post, but I had to transcribe it from the book and my typing is painfully slow.

     
  3. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Thank you for the long quote Chris. From what little I know about Spong he tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I think this particular passage does capture some of the reason for the turmoil around literal interpretation of the Bible. That's why I like to say that I view the Bible as Sacred.

    2 c,
    lunamoth
     
  4. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    In my experience a great many people have difficulty understanding what the worth of the Bible is if it cannot be taken literally. I get this from both mainline Christians and those on the very opposite extreme whose only interest in the Bible is debunking it. I've read most of Spong's books, and I really like what he's saying. I think many people's opinions of Spong are formed without actually reading him.

    Chris
     
  5. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    I've read Spong's "Liberating the Gospels" and appreciated the content regarding early organization of scripture and the liturgical year in Judaism, and what some of the content of the Gospels could mean in light of Judaism.

    I do agree with Spong that the message and meaning of the Bible is the main point, and that it is pointless to explain the sacred and the supernatural, or to debate about whether or not all these things literally occurred.

    Yet at the same time, I think there is a problem, at least for me, with Spong's argument that he cannot accept miracles and supernatural happenings- that he cannot bend his mind into a first-century pretzel. As a scientist and a mystic, perhaps I'm just different from Spong, but I would say that part of growing in faith in Christianity is learning to accept the miraculous. Of not needing to have a natural explanation for everything. Of accepting that God has no limits, and that Christ could have been bodily resurrected, that He could have raised Lazarus from the dead, etc. I do not base my faith on miracles, but an outgrowth of my faith is the belief that miracles can and do happen.

    Does that mean that I believe everything in the Bible literally happened? No. And for me there is no need to, for the message/meaning of the events is that for which I am looking. But I do think part of trusting God is being open-minded. I think part of what the Bible does, if we allow it to, is not to bend our minds into a first-century pretzel, but rather to open them up to ways of thinking beyond our cultural, historical, and material mindset. Rather than feeling the Bible challenges me to accept or reject literal events, I feel that the Bible challenges me to open up my heart and mind. The mystery of it all is like a series of koans, getting me out of rational, ordinary thinking, so that I can grow in spiritual, supernatural thinking. I do not think faith is supposed to be entirely rational, or it would not be the "evidence of things not seen," and would simply be philosophy, social theory, or science.
     
  6. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    Well, what's wrong with that?:) I don't entirely agree with Spong on everything either, but like you I got a lot out of reading his thoughts. It helped me appreciate the Bible in new and interesting ways.

    If it's not necessary to take the Bible completely literally, then it's not necessary to take the Bible completely unliterally, right? If, as Spong says, the authors of the Gospels were giving a mystical experience legs, as it were, by transferring the reality of a transcendetal experience into narrative form, why can't we do the same? Why can't we put our mystical experience of the Christ in us into a form suitable for us as individuals? If the reality of your Christ experience includes the miraculous what's wrong with you having that in your narrative? If I see it differently I can place the emphasis differently to suit me. But there's no reason for me to say to you "you're wrong, I alone am right", is there?

    Chris
     
  7. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    OK, so there's nothing wrong with that except...

    The Body of Christ in the world is communal, not individual.

    lunamoth
     
  8. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    Luna,

    So we all have to see things the same way?

    Look, I don't understand the rules of this board and I really don't want to harsh anyone's mellow again, so I'm just going to stop right here before I "attack" anyone's religion.

    See you around...

    Chris
     
  9. taijasi

    taijasi Gnōthi seauton

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    That Community can and does speak through each and every one of us. ;)

    pentecost.jpg

    andrew
     
  10. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Here are some passages from 1 Corinthians Chapters 12 & 13, {which shouldn't have been separated into two chapters, IMHO}
    We are both the communal body of Christ and individual members. As Paul demonstrated, the way to optimize this system is through the application of love. JMHO.
     
  11. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Excellent and perfect seattlegal.

    lunamoth
     
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Hi Chris, no I did not say that we all have to see things the same way. Boy, something about me or my posting style must hit you quite the wrong way! If I have offended I apologize. Yes, I do consider myself a 'traditional' Christian (for lack of another term), but I am far from conservative and far from literal in my interpretation of the Bible. Perhaps once we've conversed a bit more this will come through.

    I also went through a religion in which the thoughts and actions of the membership were highly controlled for the sake of unity, and I would never say that is a good thing. I have my own unique way of understanding the Bible and I expect anyone else would, or should, also have that opportunity.

    I did not say I don't like Spong--you are right--I have not read a lot of what he has written! For example, I like this line: "I do believe that the God met in Jesus is real,..." because it emphasizes the experience of the early Christians. In fact, I like pretty much all of that passage. What I said about Spong is that he seems to throw the baby out with the bath--that he does not believe that Christ was God or buy into the Trinity. That's where we part ways. But again, even asking these questions as literal, rather than as sacred or as a Mystery, is barking up the wrong tree.

    People also criticize dogma and doctrine as if these things are dirty words. Well, when they are used to justify things like burning heretics I would absolutely agree. Should we all think alike? No. But I think it's good to have a common framework from which to begin, against which to compare our own thoughts, be they acceptance or rejection, especially if that framework has been honed over a couple of thousand years by the work of the Spirit. That's a lot more wisdom than I could come up with on my own in one short lifetime. Further, if all my beliefs begin and end in my own thoughts, then the whole purpose of religion, transformation out of my limited false self, has been subverted. I've begun and ended in myself; I've made myself the center.

    Also, dogma may indeed be rigid, those final lines in the sand that when you cross you might no longer be considered Christian. But, really, if you've crossed those lines what is to be gained by keeping the title Christian? Unless of course you want to somehow identify with the community.

    Doctrine, on the other hand, is more fluid I think. It is a teaching or instruction. I suppose if you look up doctrine and dogma in the dictionary they will be almost interchangeable, so just to be clear, I'm using this to indicate that there are core beliefs that when you throw them out Christianity is no longer a meaningful term. 'Course, we all do tend to disagree on what is rock solid rigid and what is more fluid, and thus we have all these different denominations. I'd say that for now, so, what's wrong with that? Lots of different flavors of Christianity out there.

    I am an Episcopalian, born into it, left it and came back. I love being an Episcopalian because the doctrine, while there, is treated as quite open to questioning and interpretation. There is of course a wide range of Episcopalians too, from quite conservative to Spong! But, the great thing is that I don't worry about either end of the spectrum. They can believe what they want--the important thing is that we worship together and work together.

    And that is where the liturgy and the Eucharist come in. That is where the communal aspect is strengthened.

    Well, this is quite long. Ask me tomorrow and I'll express it differently. I'm not going to keep begging you to stay and talk. I don't know what you believe and I don't care! I'm here for the discussion; honest discussion where I don't have to apologize for my views either.

    peace,
    lunamoth
     
  13. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Nice post path. I especially like this part about the koans--I view the mystery in much the same way.

    cheers,
    luna
     
  14. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    I agree. :)

    lunamoth
     
  15. InquisitiveInHalifax

    InquisitiveInHalifax Established Member

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    I don't think that it's fair to say that someone has missed the plot because they interpretted things differently.

    my 2c

    -R
     
  16. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Before you lambaste me over this, I'll apologize as this did come off harsh in tone. Was a bit het up there. :) For the record, I am here at CR because I am interested in learning and hearing other people's ideas, not for shutting down every idea that I don't happen to agree with 100%. So, let me express it a different way, I'd like to know what you believe and think, but I'm not going to judge you on it. Disagreeing is different than being intolerant, I think.

    Anyways...

    lunamoth
     
  17. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    No, it's not you or anything you said. I posted the quote from Spong, and then I started talking about how I see the Bible and how I don't think it's necessary for us all to read it the same way. But then I realized that I was again breaking the rules, since my beliefs don't exactly line up with mainline Christianity I'm not supposed to express them here. Now I've broken the rules again because that last sentence can be construed as a criticism of this board. I consider myself a Christian, but I'm not a Christian according to the criteria of this board. Since you've declared yourself a member of an established Christian group you can discuss your beliefs, but I can only ask questions, and I can't come up with meaningful questions if we can't have a conversation, and I can't have a conversation that I can't participate in. This just leaves me hamstrung and sputtering.

    Believe it or not I'm one of the nicest people you could ever meet. When I said, "see you around", I meant on another board, not that I'm leaving.

    Chris
     
  18. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    You are not breaking rules. You pointed out (quite clearly) that the Bible is important to you and your relationship with and understanding of God (as is humanly possible), but that you find the importance in the Bible to be that of the message to you and how to live your life before your Creator, as opposed to determining the literalness of each story as historically accurate, being the most important issue.

    What I find ironic is that you pointed out a role reversal between the jewish authors and the western modern contemporaries who call themselves the faithful of the Jewish teacher that the originators were writing about...

    Jews who tended to remain faithful to the letter of the law, changed tactics and wrote about a savior in such a way that they were insuring the future peoples remembered the spirit of the law that is the Bible. Yet today, Western Christians are struggling with whether the Bible is the letter of the law instead of embracing what the forefathers hoped for us...the spirit of the Law of the Bible. :rolleyes:

    Instead of agreeing on the hope and message of the Bible, we're arguing over the semantics and historical reality, which means we get nothing out of it but frustration, anger, disillusionment, and confusion.

    I do not (for the most part) agree with Bishop Sponge's supernatural view (or lack of, and yes I get his newsletter regularly), but I tend to nod toward's his view that we are bumping into trees instead of reveling in the magnificence of the "forest".

    I must also point out that for the first several hundred years, Christians did not have a Bible, nor knew of all the stories of Jesus, yet they had no trouble believing in His message, and in his offer of salvation, and passing it along.

    Because of them, we have an opportunity to accept that salvation as well.

    That is the "miracle" of the Bible, and the ultimate truth and hope it brings us, who believe.

    Besides that, it is the best "operators" manual for Human beings that has ever come down the pike (not to mention the oldest). ;)

    my thoughts

    v/r

    Q
     
  19. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    Dang, now I've lied twice and said I wouldn't post on this board. But the conversation is good and it interests me. I just want to get along and not detract from other poster's experience here.

    What really interests me about the Bible, other than the historical ramifications, is trying to figure out the authors' original intent. I'm most interested in what they were trying to convey to their contemporary readers, and what we can glean from that about what that ancient world looked like. I'm trying to figure out what it looks like over the author's shoulder and out the window. How is what he's saying a reflection of that historical reality. So, while a great many readers of, say, Daniel and Revelation are seeing prophetic words for our time, I'm trying to figure out what it meant for the author's time. It doesn't make sense that such an effort would have gone into preserving a manuscript that had no immediate meaning.

    When I read the Gospels I find lots of little clues about the stress and strife of the aftermath of the Jewish Roman war of the first century CE. In the Gospel of John I find the seeds of dissent that grew into the schism between the "Church" and the Gnostics. When I read the Torah I see a fledgling state of Judah trying to establish a unique cultural identity and shake off it's jealousy of the former glories of it's richer northern neighbor Israel. When I read the creation story in Genesis a see a foundational myth that attempts in a very sophisticated way to put forth an allegory of the evolution of the human psyche.

    I find extraordinary richness and meaning in the Bible. Every time I read it I find something new and interesting. I'm not interested in debunking the literal view of the Bible. I expect people who subscribe to that view to say the things and hold the opinions they do. But to me the Bible is an explosion of technicolor and Dolby surround sound, not a monochrome, monoraul experience filtered through rigid dogmas that "must be or our theology is destroyed."

    That's all.

    Chris
     
  20. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    ;) Every "myth" has a kernel of truth as its foundation...
     

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