Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Inspiration of God

I believe the Bible was inspired, but that is not really what this post is all about.

You see, I believe there is inspiration of God amidst us at all times. I believe whole-heartedly (though at times I strain to) that God is activly at work in this world, redeeming a world that is his/hers. I believe that history is headed somewhere... and that somewhere is not self-destruction and violence and hatred. I believe that when Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a tree planted and growing tall that even the birds can perch on its branches, he meant it.

And that is what Passover meant to me yesterday. That throughout human history, God has intervened, and has completely changed the direction of humanity. I believe he still does intervene and still is changing humanity.

But that is not even all of what this post is about. I think most Christians who try to defend the Bible as 'the only rock solid foundation' in their religion might be deceiving themselves. I mean, if there should be any foundation in Chritianity, it would be Christ himself, wouldn't it?... or even the God behind that Christ, you know? And of course, we need the authors of the New Testament to get good pictures of that Christ, but deifying the accounts themselves?

So, I have heard the question: "Don't you believe God is in enough control of the world that he could choose what books are in the Bible or don't you believe that he could make sure they are 'infallible' and authoritative?"

And to that I would have to say "yes"and "no"... and I would ask you, "Do you believe in a God that would guide church history in such a way that it could be seen as an infallible and authoritative force in the world?" I mean, Jesus did say that hell itself could not overtake the church and that it would do greater things than he. Do you see that? Hmm.

And when did we begin to use words like "infallible" and "inerrant" anyway? In recent history, that's when.

So, in defense of the Bible, yes, I believe it is inspired and that it is what it says about itself: that it is God-breathed and useful for living in the way of God, in rhythm with God. Useful. Wow, that's kind of a humble word.

So, may you be inspired today by the living God who is in our midst.


joey said...

I browsed your blog and found your piece on gandhi fantastic. Truly a human that I aspire to be like. I read futher at some of your other posts and found them eloquent and inspiring. However I was disappointed with your latest. The christian bible inspired by god? i find that disheartening. What does the christian bible condone? slavery, war, genocide, the slaughter of animals. what does it condemn? homosexuality, tolerance, open-mindedness... it saddens me.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Hi friend. Sorry you took offense to my latest post. I can understand your thoughts on the Christian Bible. I would, however, challenge that the Bible shows an evolution of humanity, and man’s understanding of God. Written across thousands (or at least 1500) of years, it has several different peoples different encounters with their world. I don’t think it necessarily ‘supports’ or ‘condemns’ those things in a Universal Law sort of way. I’m not sure...

Jesus himself? He condemned war, any sort of violence, said his Kingdom would be advanced through Love, said all people are children of God, condemned the over-righteous and the oppressors, said nothing about homosexuality, was incredibly inclusive.

I encourage you to re-read one of the Gospels in a newer translation some day and try to rescue Jesus from the Christians (if you know what I mean). Gandhi said, “I love your Christ, but you Christians, I do not understand.” I actually think that Christianity and the modern understanding of the Christian Bible that most follow today have little to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

Understand that for my Christian brothers and sisters, the leap I made in this post (that God’s inspiration does not mean, ‘thus saith the Lord’) is going to be a big step for them. I will most likely receive critique on both sides, but alas, such is the way.

Glad you check out the blog from time to time.


joey said...

Thanks for your response and suggestions. I have in fact studied the life of Jesus. I have always admired his life. However I cannot say that I can follow him after recent study. Jesus clearly states that he is the only way to god. Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me." He is the road? NO ONE gets to god apart from him??? That is very exclusive. Jesus once told a samaritan woman "God's way of salvation is made available through the Jews." Also exclusive.

Jesus exemplefied hostility by the use of aggresive force. People were misguided and greedy and thus were using the temple for selfish gain by selling animals for jewish sacrafice. Were they wrong? Of course. But what did Jesus do? He made a whip and ferociously punished those people. Not very peaceful.

I believe god is in every one of us and in every living thing. But Jesus not only claimed to have god in him, but also said that he was the ONLY son of god.

You stated "the Bible shows an evolution of humanity, and man’s understanding of God. Written across thousands (or at least 1500) of years, it has several different peoples different encounters with their world"... but i see not only man's understanding of God in the christian bible, but also God speaking to man. The christian bible says that God told Saul,
"Go to war against Amalek. Put everything connected with Amalek under a holy ban. And no exceptions! This is to be total destruction--men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys"
It also says that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin, slaughtered the firstborn child of every egyptian household, and commanded the jews to destroy cities of people during their invasion of canaan. Was this god?

Please, friend, help me understand. I believe you are very knowledgable. But i find this rather hard to grasp.

thanks for posting.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Good thoughts... Seriously. There is so much in the Bible that disturbs me. My wife was just reading last night the story where Jesus makes an off-handed comment to a woman basically calling her a dog. I don’t get it...especially on first glance.

Many of us are struggling with trying to read Jesus in a first century Palestinian context and see how that changes things.

I do not understand the genocides of the Old Testament. I have heard many takes on Soddom and Gomorrah, but they all still end in God blasting them...for whatever reason. I don’t get that. But I do know that the Jews developed their religion (which later birthed Christianity) in an area where the worldview contained violent gods that were just downright capricious. I know they borrowed from other traditions in forming their own views, perhaps here is a case.

Jesus’ unique relationship to God I don’t have a problem with. Him being the “only way to heaven after you die” seems a little ridiculous to me...not because it is too exclusive, but because I don’t think that was his point. His reference to ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ is a saying about the Torah, the Jews way of living in harmony with God and creation. I understand Torah to be in several ways the laws of the Universe. Just now are some people coming to grips with eating pork being a bad thing nutritionally. They were very advanced laws (and again, I don’t necessarily get all of them). So, he is saying that he is the way of living in harmony with God. I think that John echoes these thoughts later in several of his writings saying that Jesus’ way is what was important... “Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

The issue of the temple and Jesus getting pissed off is one that is of great interest to me: It wasn’t just a matter of them selling things there, it was a matter of the exclusivity of their religion. He said this was to be a house of prayer for all nations (read: all religions, all traditions, all peoples). The sons of Abraham were called to be cities on a hill, blessings to the world, but what happened? They hoarded God for themselves (much like Christians do today) and Jesus came to ‘set things in their proper place’ and put them in their place. Violent? I guess it was. His command to Peter later? To put down his sword because the Kingdom of God will not be advanced by violence.

Okay, I have a session in a few minutes, so I oughta get. Would love to hear some thoughts back. I do not claim truth, just a seeker who has found ‘truths’ I have been presented in the past not enough. I believe Jesus is the way to go, but I am still discovering what that means...

Anonymous said...

I probably feel like saying this here because I'm to scared in any blog of my own, but I would (at this point in my searching) say that I agree with you on most points Ryan. I am still struggling to accept the whole bible as we have it today as inspired. The first 5 books, torah, yeah, writings of the prophets, yeah, and psalms, yeah... but I'm with dj l.a. when it comes to understanding how the same God embodied by Jesus 700 years earlier said kill all the women and children. I trust them as histories, and believe that the writers and/or perpatrators of genocide believed that it was God because of the culture and society and time that they lived, but I can't yet swallow the pill that it was the voice of God. So why do I like the "law," "prophets," and "psalms"? Cause Jesus did (he said something about it somewhere), and I think he was right on about everything he said. I know that there is probably some bad stuff in those parts of the jewish writings too (sorry, I can't lump it all into the same "christian bible" category that you all are using, but i understand what you mean). I love the stories of Jesus life too, and think that at leas his life was inspired by God, so for me that is the stuff he said too. As for everything else...well I'm not going to say it's not inspired, I'm just not sure at this point. Don't tell my church, I'd probably get fired!

Anonymous said...

Is Jesus really exclusive when everyone is invited to get to know him? Exclusivity (is that a word) is when no one is invited to share, learn, partake, but this is not the case with Jesus. Everyone is invited to get to know Jesus. Jesus nor God would turn anyone away who wants in. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a fundamentalist and I too struggle with the thinking that non-Christians won't be in heaven. It's hard for me to think truly great people, whom don't believe in Christ will not be in heaven. But, I do think Jesus is inviting. Christianity and Christians may not be, but Jesus is.

joey said...

Friends, thank you for all continuing the discussion. I see that you all trust in Jesus very much. I think that it is admirable. However, you cannot overlook or turn a blind eye to what Jesus taught sometimes. Jesus not only affirmed the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah for them being "Wicked", but in the same statement, instructed his students to reject those who rejected his teachings and promised that they would be punished in a greater way than Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus said "If a village doesn't welcome you or listen to you, shake off the dust of that place from your feet as you leave. I assure you, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off on the judgment day than that place will be." Wow. What are your thoughts?

Duncan said...

Thanks for your post Ryan. To talk about something being inspired is not to say it is word for word out of God's mouth. Like you I'm disturbed by much of what I read in Scripture. I found it helpful to see the Bible as an evolving document, journalling the emergence of a people who follow God. I'm not convinced that the Pentateuch was an accurate reflection of God. The actions and laws of a warring nation were certainly inspired by their relationship with the God who created the universe. But they were fallible - they made many mistakes - as the prophets kept pointing out.

I choose to talk about Jesus being the Word of God, rather than the Bible being the fourth member of the Trinity. However Jesus himself was on a learning curve. His sense of mission seemed to evolve as he engaged in conversation with people in his culture and on the edges.