This quote is from an interesting article on a website called Faith Street, a site that helps people locate faith communities (including DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church) when they move to a new town. Peter Eric Enns, a biblical scholar, theologian, and writer, was asked to list ten things he wishes everyone understood about the Bible, and this is one of those ten things. You can read the entire article at http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/10/06/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-the-bible.
As I read this article, I thought about how many Unitarian Universalists experience the Christian Bible. We certainly don’t accept it as an authoritarian God-given “Terms and Conditions” agreement. I realize that some Unitarian Universalists see the Bible as relating to some other religious tradition, but not ours, and some Unitarian Universalists believe the Christian Bible has no place in our churches. Yet, the Bible and the Christian religion are part of our history. So how do we discuss the Bible and Christianity (and even god) if we don’t at least look at this part of our history?
Going back to the quote above, some Unitarian Universalists would have trouble with the sentence “The Bible is more like a grand narrative that reorders our imaginations and holds out for us an alternate way of seeing reality—with God at the heart of it rather than ourselves.” I don’t think some Unitarian Universalists would have trouble with the first part of the idea that the Bible is be a grand narrative that has the potential to reorder a person’s imagination and/or holds out an alternative way of seeing reality. Though many of Unitarian Universalists might not be attracted to that particular alternative way of seeing reality; my experience of Unitarian Universalists is that many would not find that statement deeply offensive. I do think that the last part of the sentence “with God at the heart of it rather than ourselves” would give most Unitarian Universalists some trouble.
Many Unitarian Universalists have trouble with this word “god.” Many Unitarian Universalists have come from a faith-home where that word was used to manipulate, abuse, control, and harass others. And many Unitarian Universalists have a difficult time finding a new way to understand the word god that can make sense to them. Certainly those Unitarian Universalists who understand the word “god” as representing supernaturalism would say the word has no meaning. But words do have meaning. And we, individually and collectively, decide what that meaning is.
For me, the word “god” means that there is a life-advancing force within the universe, within all things, that connects us to one another and all creation. This meaning is not based on Biblical writings, but I guess I would also say it not in conflict with Biblical writings either.
If we look at the last part of Enns’ sentence and keep in mind my definition of god, I wonder how many Unitarian Universalists, how many people who see themselves as spiritual but not religious, and how many humanists would reconsider the Bible as useful in their spiritual journey: “The Bible is more like a grand narrative that reorders our imaginations and hold out for us an alternate way of seeing reality—with a life-advancing force within the universe, within all things, that connects us to one another and all creation at the heart of it rather than ourselves.” I believe that the Bible was written by people of faith for people of faith to use as a narrative to aid them on their life journey. So consider this: the Christian Bible is a grand narrative of stories: stories that might open up our imaginations, stories that might help us see the world in a different way, and stories that might help us find new ways to connect with one another and all creation. Sit with those concepts for a little while, and notice what meaning percolate up through your mind and spirit. Words do have meaning and our Unitarian Universalist congregations offer a place where questioners and seekers can not only explore the Upanishads, the Koran, and the Torah, but also the Bible in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
Biblical literacy is good: so is reading as broadly as possible. The frame of reference for the Bible is theistic and philosophically it looks to the past and demands dependence on a supernatural. Once replaced by a naturalistic philosophy and a scientific world view, our perspective can be informed through our understanding of Evolution and that which can be verifiable thorough the scientific method. Now, unencumbered by faith based views, we are free and necessarily responsible to work out our ethical stance to promote the well being of others and ourselves and to modify the institutions that contribute to our well being. The free and responsible search for truth and meaning can not be tethered to the past and be free.ReplyDelete
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There are some beautiful literary sections of the King James bible, and some often-dubious but not completely valueless history regarding middle-eastern peoples and cultural clashes. There is nothing novel, revelatory, or particularly useful in the way of morality (nothing like a little heathen-slaughter and subjugation of women). I have no room for bronze-age philosophies espoused by intellectual tyros and tyrants. I also find no merit whatsoever in such philosophies as recapitulated by modern apologists, theologians and people of faith. Those who do in fact find great value in the Bible have become distracted and enthralled by a work of rude merit in their otherwise laudable journey toward enlightenment.ReplyDelete
“The Bible is more like a grand narrative that reorders our imaginations and hold out for us an alternate way of seeing reality—with a life-advancing force within the universe, within all things, that connects us to one another and all creation at the heart of it rather than ourselves.” I believe that the Bible was written by people of faith for people of faith to use as a narrative to aid them on their life journey. So consider this: the Christian Bible is a grand narrative of stories: stories that might open up our imaginations, stories that might help us see the world in a different way, and stories that might help us find new ways to connect with one another and all creation...
These statements are bold and grandiloquent, but groundless. I challenge anybody, including Tom or some randomly selected religious philosopher, to show us something novel regarding enlightened morality in any holy book. Do we learn to be kind to others from a holy book? Do we learn to appreciate nature by being presented her wonders in a religious tome? Do we discover that letting go of anger and selfishness is beneficial by chapter and verse? No, we may reinforce such notions when we read of "holy men" who also find such truths; but they are not novel or new or surprising. Such insights are innate to our humanity and it does not surprise me that other introspective or thoughtful persons, even those bereft of education, might voice them.
Does liberal philosophy, which holds that all persons are and of rights ought to be equal under the law come from holy books populated by slave-holders, misogynists, kings and princes, anointed few, shamans and the sanctified? Do we learn the merit of universities, of democracy, of libraries and health-clinics from holy books? Which scripture points us to the germ theory of disease, or tells us the stars are other Suns? From which verse do we learn that the introduction of invasive species can be problematic, or that crop rotation promotes sustainable food-stuffs? Is amity between nations and tribes espoused in some holy book? Did the idea for a United Nations come from on high? Do we ignore race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity in our laws and our most venerated moral codes because of bronze-age prophet? Do we insist on clean water, clean air and controlled fisheries because Mohammad or Jesus tells us? Are the considerations we make for the disabled derived from holy law? Exactly which insights into an ethical life and the nature of the universe come uniquely from scripture?
Asserting that the Bible helps us find new ways to connect with one another and all of the universe is unsubstantiated piffle. The few things it presumes to teach we already know and largely reject. What it leaves out can fill a lifetime of curious discovery. Some may rightly be impressed with the Bible and such holy books. For those of us who have moved beyond introductory philosophy or science, it and it's competitors are, excepting occasional poetic expressions of universally known truths, full of hackneyed and generally offensive drivel.