Who’s Right? It Depends…

We are all valid.  We are all wonderful.  We are all unique.  God made it so.

I came across this fascinating video yesterday.  It was created last year by Hillary Diane A. Andales, a teenager living in the Philippines, to provide an easily understandable explanation of the theory of relativity.  Her video was the winning entry in the “Breakthrough Junior Challenge” of 2017.

What I find most fascinating about this video is its relevance to many of the battles we see being played out in the media and other forums within this country, and around the world, every day.  The focus of these battles always seems to center on the question of “Who is right?”   Ultimately, they are battles over the question of who’s reality is THE Reality.  But, Ms. Andales’ video forces us to ask ourselves whether such battles are worth fighting at all.

Continue reading “Who’s Right? It Depends…”

Believe!

Belief is not dependent upon conformance to the Law. Belief is the process needed to make God’s command to Love a reality in our lives.

Believe!

PopeFrancisAndManWithBoilsBelieve what? That there are angels? That Jesus died on the Cross for our sins? That all the miracles in the Bible actually happened? That the tribulation is coming? That abortion is a mortal sin? That marriage must be a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman? That only men shall be ordained into the ministry? That God somehow anoints the beliefs or agendas of one person or group over those of another? That our particular understanding of our faith excludes all other understandings, especially those we don’t understand?

Really?

We all are constantly confronted with the choice of what to believe, and how. Do we believe literally all that the Bible says? And, what does “Literal” mean? Literalism presents us with many challenges and contradictions that are impossible to resolve; so, do we instead believe the scriptures through viewing them as metaphor and allegory? Do we ignore the passages that we see as outmoded, focusing on those that seem more relevant? Or, should we go even farther, perhaps picking and choosing what seems nice from the smorgasbord of other beliefs, traditions, and wisdom that we encounter everywhere in today’s world?

I love what the Author of Hebrews has to say about all of this in this morning’s reading. “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets.”  So, it seems plain that there has never been a single voice deciding what is or is not to be believed as part of our faith. The Author of Hebrews is acknowledging that the prophets don’t all agree with each other, often speaking in ways that seem contradictory, or at least are hard to reconcile with other sacred writings, especially when taken literally.  And this is in fact deliberate; since the goal of the prophets was to disrupt conventional wisdom and accepted practice, the very purpose of their words was to challenge our understanding.

Every author of the 66 books in the Protestant Bible see and portray God’s word in different ways, and then there are the 73 books in the Catholic Bible, and the 81 books in the Ethiopian Bible. So, not only is there disagreement between various scriptures within our Protestant Bible, but disagreement between various branches of Christianity as to what scriptures are part of the Bible at all – not to mention the tens of thousands of variations found within the most ancient scriptural texts we have at our disposal. There is no single “right” Bible, and never has been. So, how can there be a single “right” reading of scripture? Therefore, there is no single universal scriptural standard by which we can judge what is “right” to believe, or not.

But that’s OK, because belief is not about believing the right thing!  We will not be condemned to hell for believing the wrong thing.  Belief is not a certainty that there is a perfect, eternal and unchanging truth upon which all knowledge and all reality depend. (In fact, that belief is a teaching of ancient Greek philosophy, not Judaism.)

Continue reading “Believe!”

“Bible Mindedness”

bibleI find a recent survey done by the “American Bible Society” quite troubling, not just because of the conclusions the survey’s authors present, but also because of the criteria used in evaluating where people stood on what the ABS termed “Bible Mindedness.”

The authors of this study evaluated “Bible Mindedness” using the following criteria: “Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible Minded…’”

I take strong exception to this, as I find just as many devout and thoughtful Christians here in the Boston area (which was near the bottom of the study’s rankings) as I do anywhere.  The criteria used here heavily skew the results towards a very narrow and slanted view of what “Bible Mindedness” means.

For me, reading the Bible on a nearly constant basis should not equate to “Bible Mindedness” because such a practice assumes the Bible can be relevant and useful to us in our daily lives entirely without reference to the world in which we live, an assumption that is deeply flawed.

Reading other works that reflect upon the Bible and our faith, such the writings of various theologians, works of poetry, histories, science, novels, the Talmud, the Koran, etc; all provide new insights about how our faith impacts us and impacts the world around us.  Such readings help us gain a greater appreciation of the variety and magnificence of God’s Creation.  And, they provide new and deeper revelations of what our faith means to us, and how we can apply that faith to the challenges of life, as well as helping us attain a broader perspective of what it means to be a person of faith.

Since God is infinite, God must encompass an infinitude of perspectives.  Therefore, limiting ourselves to a single (and literal) perspective of the Bible limits us in our understanding of Creation and of our relationship with our Creator.

So for me, being a person of faith – being “Bible Minded” – means using the Bible as a starting point – not an end point.  A view shared by many who were dismissed (by the criteria used in this survey) as “not engaged with the Bible” and not using the Bible to make sense of [their] life.

Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or gaining) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site).