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Monday, March 30, 2009

Does the Bible Rot Your Brain?

I'm getting a little tired of being talked down to by people who think that if I believe the Bible is a reliable document and guide to life that my IQ must be down there with those of fans of "Cops" and the developmentally disabled.

I'm sick of hearing diatribes about how the Bible is full of errors and contradictions and you couldn't get all those animals in the ark and besides, I don't believe God really wants us to do all those things it says we have to do anyway.

Okay, I get it. You think the Bible is too restrictive and you've fortunately found enough hooks to hang your doubts on that you can reject all those "thou shalt nots" without feeling too terribly guilty. Besides, a God that's kind of ethereal and impersonal will pretty much let you do what you want and doesn't really care about your behavior.

As the church lady used to say, "How convenient!"

Look, I know a lot of folks who take the Bible and turn it into a hammer to pound people on the head with. I've been the poundee enough times to know how that feels, so I get it. I went through my own period of comfortable agnosticism and used to criticize things about the church to make myself feel good about my decision to relegate God to the second or third tier of my priority list.

Then one day I had my own experience on the road to Emmaus. I met God - at least I got a little peek at his face. I was so stunned that I went to my knees and said, "Okay, God I want to know more. I'm not sure I believe in you, but you make perfect sense to me. I want to believe and I'll study and pray and all that, but you have to show me yourself. I can't go any farther if you don't."

I bought a pocket Bible and began reading it. I walked everywhere back then in my college days. I read it while I walked. Since then, I've worn out about 6 or 7 Bibles - literally had them fall apart from use.

Do parts of scripture confuse me? Yep.

Do parts seem contradictory? Yes, they do

Do parts seem to contradict science and history? I thought so at first.

I didn't read the Bible exclusively. I read extensively in history, mathematics, philosophy, religion, science and art. I have a pretty thorough-going liberal arts education and an IQ that is (I was told by my high school guidance counselor) more than adequate for advanced studies in those areas.

What I found was that as I read the whole Bible as well as history, science and the rest, I found there the face of God. I could, through all of it, trace God's dealings with mankind throughout the ages and see how his purpose is worked out time and time and time again.

When you see that Scripture was written by ordinary men in their own words (they did not take dictation from God - I don't believe it was anything like automatic writing), then you begin to see what they saw. It was the hand of God time and again in the affairs of fallible and often wicked men, working out His will for us all. Even if you accept the skeptic claims that much was written long after the fact, still the prophecies are stunning in their accuracy. The philosophical underpinnings of the Hebrew religion is so impossibly advanced over the primitive animist religions of those who surrounded them, you have to wonder how that happened. No one in those days had anything like a "golden rule", but there it is in Deuteronomy. The stories and so-called fables of the Bible appear in other places in the ancient world - much as you would expect them to if events told were witnessed by many different people throughout the ancient world. Scraps of archaeology reaffirm Biblical accounts that a few decades ago were dismissed as foolish tales with no basis in fact whatsoever. Then, oops, we turn over some rocks and earth and find confirmation. Physicists have to posit an almost infinite number of multiple parallel universes in order to explain how the cosmic crap shoot came up with a perfectly constructed universe that supports life as this one does in order to avoid admitting there might be a God behind it all.

Can I help it if some foolish people use the Bible as a club or a book of magic or twist its words to their own purpose? That's not my fault and it's certainly not God's. It's what you would expect an enemy to do, if there were such an enemy, especially one of the horns and tail and pitchfork variety. He'd first want to discredit the book upon which the Judeo-Christian faith is based. Best way to do that is to smuggle his own people into the faith and get them to confuse the faithful. Are we surprised then that Satan has his own terrorists out there wearing priestly robes and fondling the choir boys?

You would expect that if there really were such a person as Satan.

Scripture itself is a rather powerful indicator that God has a hand in things. It's a wonderfully versatile document. It can act as a book of spiritual incantations for those who need a simplistic faith that relies on magic ideas, repetition, familiar ritual and reassuring symbolism. It can act as a book of deep philosophy challenging the mind of the intellectual and inviting one to think deep things. It can comfort, cajole, threaten or plead. It can educate, guide and break your very heart.

At least that has been my experience. Was the earth made in 7 literal days? Did Noah actually take all those animals on his ark? To me it doesn't matter. I have no need to prove that God exists. I have met my Maker myself on the road to Emmaus, out upon the wide waters, among the poor and the wealthy. I have seen his hand in a million miracles every day and experienced some very profound personal miracles - witnessed live and in color.

So do I care about the supposed errors and contradictions and problems with the Bible? No!

I know the editor! I've read it enough times to understand what He wants me to know and what he wants me to do with my life. What I don't yet understand, it's my experience that one day I will understand it perfectly. I am content as one who walks a road, knows where he is going, but cannot see his destination clearly yet because there is still some distance to go.

So I do not care to hear your account of how you figured out how not to feel guilty over your pet sins anymore by picking apart the Bible. I've heard it. In the end, you're only kidding yourself, but then that's between you and God isn't it.

Yours in Christ,

Tom King

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