Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Bathwater, Babies and Bundles

FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

Chapter One, Article 3, Section II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”
106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”
107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”
108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”. Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, “not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living”. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures.”
IN BRIEF
134 “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).
135 “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God” (DV 24).
136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf DV 11).
137 Interpretation of the inspired Scripture must be attentive above all to what God wants to reveal through the sacred authors for our salvation. What comes from the Spirit is not fully “understood except by the Spirit’s action’ (cf. Origen, Hom. in Ex. 4, 5: PG 12, 320).
138 The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.
139 The four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their centre.
140 The unity of the two Testaments proceeds from the unity of God’s plan and his Revelation. the Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfils the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are true Word of God.
141 “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord” (DV 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” ( Ps 119:105; cf. Is 50:4).

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Is that even a valid argument when speaking about Jesus the Christ and the Sacred Scriptures? I think not.  Here is why:  Scripture cannot be compared to bathwater.  You put the baby in, you take the baby out.  They are two completely separate entities.  Christ cannot be separated from the scriptures.  According to the Catholic Catechism All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book IS Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).  [Emphasis mine]

What does the phrase “All Sacred Scripture” mean? Also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

 Chapter One, Article 3 – Sacred Scripture, Section I. Christ – The Unique Word of Sacred Scripture 

104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God”. [Emphasis mine]

Chapter One, Article 3 – Sacred Scripture, Section IV. The Canon of Scripture

121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked. [Emphasis mine]

123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as TRUE Word of God. the Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism). [Emphasis mine]

Am I tying the baby to the bathwater?  It is my experience that you can’t tie anything to water. It is fluid. Much how some describe the faith.  This is how I picture the analogy of a fluid faith.  Fill a bucket with gravel, that would be reason.  These are the concrete things we experience and know to be true because we’ve seen it with our own eyes or they are ways of making sense of our perception of reality.  Now fill that bucket with water.  That is God.  He only fills in the parts we don’t already have figured out.  He’s the God of the gaps.  When our perception of reality changes, our God changes with it.  But scripture says that God does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

No, I am not tying the baby to the bathwater.  Scripture cannot be compared to bathwater.  It is fallacious to do so.  ALL of scripture is, according to church tradition, a solid foundation of the truth – the truth of Jesus Christ and of God himself.  Inseparable. Bundled tightly together.

I am questioning that solid foundation.  In fact, I doubt much of that foundation.  It is cracked.  In chipping away the loose pieces so that I could get a clean surface to repair, I’m beginning to wonder if the foundation is faulty.  I’m not sure it can be repaired.


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Church Tradition or God’s Holy Word?

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.[1]

For those who have not come from the Catholic tradition nor any sort of liturgical tradition, like myself, it can be difficult to understand when someone speaks about holding “oral tradition” or the “tradition of the church” as elevated along with scripture.    It is also difficult when folks of those traditions speak of the writings of the church fathers as having equal weight with scripture.  Sometimes they use these as examples of reasons why we shouldn’t worship the Bible.

Having read the Nicene Creed I see nothing that contradicts scripture.  In fact, quite the opposite. The early church fathers upheld the scriptures as the means to come to salvation.  Not only as the means to come to salvation, though.  They considered obedience to the scriptures, and not just the red letters, to be the means to “work out your salvation with trembling”.  The mere confession of Christ as Lord of Lords cannot be all there is to salvation.  No, it is belief unto repentance.[2]  Repentance of what?  Sin.  How do we know what sin is?  It is in the Bible.  If we can decide for ourselves which commands to follow and which ones not to are we following the Lord or are we following our own desires?  Scripture tells us the heart of man is deceitful above all.  We can fool ourselves.

Why do we have a canonized Bible?  What does it mean for scripture to be canonized? The basic factor for recognizing a book’s canonicity for the New Testament was divine inspiration, and the chief test for this was apostolicity. The term apostolic as used for the test of canonicity does not necessarily mean apostolic authorship or derivation, but rather apostolic authority. Apostolic authority is never detached from the authority of the Lord.[3]

It appears to me that oral tradition, tradition of the church and authority of the scriptures work together.  Nowhere is it suggested by any of the early church fathers that oral tradition or church tradition should replace the authority of scripture.  While man’s interpretation of scripture may be fallacious, the early church fathers affirm the infallibility of scripture.   To deny the authority of scripture is to deny the authority of Christ. That is not worshiping the Bible, that is taking the authority of Jesus seriously.  I’ve come to a place where it is difficult for me to accept the authority of scripture thereby eschewing the authority of Jesus as the Christ.

Do you deny divine inspiration?  Do you deny apostolic authority?  Why are the writings of the early church fathers not in the canon? 
________________________________________________________________________________
[1] Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics

[2] Luke 3:8, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Luke 24:47, Acts 11:18

[3] New World Encyclopedia (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Biblical_canon)


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Inspired, Infallible, or Human Construct?

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what it is that I believe.  I’ve given up the notion of an inerrant Bible.  I’m done with pastors holding it up high and declaring that it is God breathed and inerrant from cover to cover.  There are too many problems with that view.  There are too many things to reconcile.  I’ve spent my last days defending genocide, slavery and oppression of women.  No matter how you spin it, slavery as a cultural norm, genocide as a holy war, oppression of women somehow for their own good, it all comes down to God condoning those actions by not instructing against them.  So there, inerrancy gone.

What, then, we are left with are inspiration, infallibility, or human construct, or some combination of the three.  I keep hearing the call of some not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Okay.  Let’s talk about that then.  I’m going to do my best to summarize these views without misinterpretation of them. 

What exactly is meant by inspired but not inerrant?  My understanding of inspiration would be that while the Bible is not textually inerrant is is God’s inspired word in that the writers have relayed God’s message correctly.  It is trustworthy in all that it intends to teach.  It is doctrinally correct.  It still reveals God’s plan, God’s message, and God’s purpose to us.

Infallibility carries a wide range of meanings. It usually means the inability to err in teaching.  Whether that means the Church authority, the scriptures as a whole, or the doctrines and teachings within the scriptures is up for debate depending on the denomination or tradition.  When in relation to the scriptures as a whole this comes dangerously close to inerrancy, which I’ve decided to let go of.

Next we come to human construct.  This would mean that fallen man simply wrote of his limited understanding and experience of God with no inspiration other than his relationship with and to God.  In other words, his love or respect or fear of God inspired him to write about his experiences as he understood them to relate to God.  God did not physically or spiritually tell the writer what to write.

There could possibly be some combination of the three.  The Bible could be divinely inspired to some degree or another, with God actually breathing the words into the writer through the Holy Spirit.  Some portions could be correct in their doctrines while others are not.  It could be that man’s understanding is not correct.  Taken as a big picture book instead of snippets the doctrines and teachings could be infallible though written by fallible man.  So while not completely without error, textually speaking, sufficient and trustworthy for knowing God and learning his doctrines and message. Maybe fallen man didn’t get it all exactly right, but enough for God to get his point and his gospel message across.  The Holy Spirit then equips the believer for all that is necessary for righteousness.  Essentially the Holy Spirit reveals to the believer what was before hidden to the unbeliever.

Regardless of which of these or the combination of them it is understood that the Bible is sufficient to know God, and understand his plan and purpose.  If I have gotten anything wrong, misrepresented in any way,  left anything out or if you have something to add feel free to comment.


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To Believe or Not to Believe

Having perused a number of blogs of formerly devout Christians who have deconverted it is apparent that much research, thought, and agonizing went into the decision to believe or not to believe.   There are many aspects to consider – cosmology, evolution, the historicity of Jesus, the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible, and the list could go on.

Knowing that deconversion is a process, I’m sure there were a number of things that went into your decisions of whether to continue in your faith or not.  Having said that what I’d like to know is this:

Was there something that tipped the scales for you?  Was there an aha moment that finally pushed things over the edge to unbelief or agnosticism?  If there was, what was it?

If you decided to continue in faith, what was it that kept you from falling over that edge?


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Monday, Monday

The weekends fly by way too fast.  I blinked my eyes Friday afternoon and missed something, I think, because Monday got here before I could blink again it seemed.  So since it’s Monday I thought I’d have a little fun.  Aletheia over at Sunshine & Starlight provided me with a little inspiration.

Courtesy of Jesus Needs New PR she posted a youtube video of a couple kids doing a Christian, sanitized version of the Black Eyed Peas song My Humps.  We won’t get into my thoughts on that because….well, we just won’t.  Anyway, that made some of us who watched start singing the original version.  And here it is:

Confession time!  I love this song.  I have it downloaded to my iPod  and I jog to it.  It’s got great cardio beat and it’s catchy.  Not a lyrical masterpiece by any stretch.  It’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Aletheia also posted this version by Alanis Morissette that I equally love, just a little too slow paced to jog to.  The video is great, though.

 

Here’s the fun part:  What’s your guilty pleasure?  Is it reruns of Friends? Sex and the City maybe? A song that’s NFBSK? Eating ice cream for dinner right out of the container?  Come on, play along!  Confession is good for the soul.


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The Restaurant from Hell

The crazy restaurant experience where nothing turned out quite the way it was supposed to was obviously a tongue-in-cheek attempt to find a parallel experience for what happens every day, every week all across the globe.  For me this was a fairly apt metaphor for the church experience.

All of us have been to the restaurant from hell.  The one all our friends recommended that turned out to be a disaster.  You wonder why anyone would go there. Deciding that anyone can have an “off night” you even give it another try only to find the same thing happens again.  Maybe it’s just you.  The place is packed and everyone else seems to be oblivious the the chaos.

The answers to the question, “what would you do?” were pretty interesting.  They, too, parallel the the reaction of people who become disenchanted with the Inerrantist Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalist Literalism.  

Michael Mock’s response was to just go down the road to a different restaurant which most likely served up completely different fare.  As some disenchanted Christians do when they’ve become disillusioned they go down the street and find a church more to their personal taste, more palatable and continue to have faith.  

The Wise Fool’s response was to become skeptical of all restaurants.  Keeping an open mind and exploring all the possibilities, but with a critical eye.  This is the route some disenchanted Christians choose.  They want to learn all they can about different religions and different denominations within Christianity.  They’ve become skeptical so maybe they adopt one of those possibilities but maybe they don’t.  They need some rational reason and some concrete evidence to believe something. 

Zoe said, “I’d start to wonder why I didn’t get up and leave in the first place. Why was I willing to put up with a “lie” and try and minimize the “lie” and make it not such a big deal.” And Lydia agreed.  This is where many disenchanted Christians end up.  They doubt, they question, they research, and try to find answers.  When the answers turn up empty they wonder why on earth they waited so long to ask the questions.  Why did they make excuses?  Why did they try to bury their doubts?

Except for our faith we expect truth in advertising. We would have long gotten up and left the table at any other establishment that operated the way that faith does. All of this begs the question why do so many of us continue to belly up to the table week after week,  make excuses for the manager, and minimize the discrepancies and inconsistencies? Why do we put up with the lie?  Why did it take so long to ask the questions? 

H/T:  Zoe for the creative new fundie name


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The World is Watching, Are They Paying Attention?

The tiny nation of Japan is displaying remarkable strength and character in the wake of their disaster.  They are reeling from the effects and yet nowhere have I seen civilians nor government officials pointing fingers and demanding explanations.

Unlike the natural disasters we’ve seen here in the United States, their citizens are not blaming their government.  They are not screaming into television cameras demanding to know where the aid is.  No one is questioning the government’s commitment to it’s people. They are coming together, crying together, and figuring out where to go from here. Together.  I am in awe.

The world is watching you, Japan.  I hope we are paying attention.  I hope we are learning that this, this is the way to respond to natural disaster. 

“We will rebuild Japan from scratch. In our history, this small island nation has made miraculous economic growth thanks to the efforts of all Japanese citizens. That is how Japan was built.”- Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

“The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans.  In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster.”  Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano

As Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director, Akio Komiri, leaves a press conference he breaks down into tears.  The tears are over news that the nuclear disaster has reached levels that they now admit will kill Japan’s citizens.  I cannot imagine the level of stress, fear and guilt that this man feels.  As I look at this picture tears stream down my own face.  My heart breaks for him. No matter how well prepared you think you are, you can never be prepared enough.  When nature collides with man it is an uncontrollable, unpredictable force. I cry with you Mr. Komiri. You and the Japanese people have my deepest respect. 

Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri