Why I am liberal, but not LIBERAL! [pt.4]

3. Stereotypical Liberal Assumption: The Bible is not “Inerrant,” or (more extremely) the Bible is flawed and without value.

The Bible is precious to me – New Testament and Old. And there are lots of things in the Bible that piss me off.

Bishop John Shelby Spong is a classic example of Christian liberalism, where frustrating verses are simply thrown out. And I emphasize simply. I find his “solution” incredibly simplistic, and not very thoughtful. Spong lists “immoral Biblical text” in his book, Sins of Scripture. My concern about this sort of judgmental or editorial activity is that it relies on the moral compass of the particular writer/scholar/editor/human who is making the “cuts.” It suggests: “I understand better than the writer(s) of this passage, what God actually wanted or intended… my morality is superior to this morality.” To me, it feels very arrogant and very elitist. Even ethnocentric – a modern, Western white man judging ancient, tribal Jews.

Instead, I prefer to pray like this:

“Lord, I don’t like this verse. I don’t understand how a loving God – as you have been in my life – could order the extermination of an entire people group. Or how you could fire-bomb an entire city. Or identify women as second-class citizens. I trust that you are good, through the model of Jesus Christ, your son. I trust that you are good through the convictions of my heart, and the personal experiences I have had through your Holy Spirit.

Because of that trust, I will not tear these pages out of my Bible. But neither will I pretend to understand them, or choose to live by these specific, non-contextualized words, or defend them as good when I do not believe they are. They obviously meant something to your people long ago, so I will wrestle with these words. I will hold them in tension, and I ask you to illuminate my heart and mind. If there is something I can learn from them, help me to see.

In Christ’s name, amen.”

I enrolled at George Fox Seminary because it was the only seminary in Portland that did not use the word "inerrant" in its Statement of Faith. I want room to ask questions. Room for a little disbelief. Room to acknowledge that science is not an enemy of faith. Faith entails believing in something that can't be proven. I have no problem with that! But I have a real problem with trying to forcefully conform science (or history) into a religious worldview that makes certain demands of God - of how God functions.

And therein lies my deepest frustration: trying to force GOD into a box. Suggesting that our theological needs or expectations must take precedence over the universe God created and blessed us with. Denying reality for the sake of an overly-controlling dream.


Existential Punk said...

Pete, you bring up good ponts here. I found that Spong book helpful in my coming out journey, but i do find him to be a liberal fundie! i find Marcus Borg mor balanced and get much more from his writings.

Nowhere i have read in the Bible does it say it is inerrant. Where does this concept come from? Can you talk more about this?

Your prayer is beautiful and honest. i wish more believers followed this!


camsview said...

Denying reality and putting God into a box...I think I'm continually guilty of this one.

Is faith a matter of things that only cannot be proven?

Peter said...

Adele! I can totally understand an affinity for Spong. That's how I feel too, though - a "fundie" on the other side of the coin!

I prefer Borg, too.

Hmmm... thanks for the challenge on inerrancy. I promise I'll tackle that more head-on, at some point.


Peter said...

Cam, I'm guilty too! And we are all, particularly when "the box" is called "Human Perspective." God's an awful lot bigger than that.

Cam, you said:
"Is faith a matter of things that only cannot be proven?"
No, probably not. There are lots of things that CAN be proven, that we have faith in because we simply don't know or aren't aware (like quantum physics/mechanics - we take their effects by some modicum of faith) Or some things that CAN'T be proven, but we have no faith because we take them for granted as given (like a literal 6-day creation, or an inerrant canon...).

I think the HEART of faith covers our entire lives and worldviews - so that faith does indeed permeate things without question. But my hunch is that as soon as something is "proven," direct or contingent faith becomes meaningless or impotent.

On the other hand, Augustine, Kierkegaard and modern/postmodern existentialists would suggest we take EVERYTHING by faith - reality itself - because everything is personally subjective.

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