Liberal Christianity vs. The Bible: Why a “Bible” at All?

I’m going to pose a question here, and hopefully not in the spirit of impertinence, but rather in sparking discussion and illumination.

My question: why would so many liberal Christians and their denominations (very broadly defined to include those Christians who do not acknowledge there being any unified canon of beliefs about God or exactly how God communicates textually: even those Christians that reject the idea of a traditional theistic god entirely), continue to retain and use the Bible in its (relatively) traditional form as a centerpiece of worship?

I’m not asking this rhetorically, quietly snickering at the idea or accusing liberal Christians of being inconsistent. But I do want to present it as something of a challenge, because I think there is a real choice to be made here, and not an easy one. Having the Bible as the Bible remain unchanged and/or at the center of worship inevitably means giving up other spiritual options, other theologies.

Let me try to explain what I mean in more detail, and indeed, make a sort of case for “breaking” the Bible:

The Bible, as it is, is an artificially freeze-framed slice of spiritual speculation. Those texts are, by intrinsic implication, held as superior not only to others that the early Catholic Church rejected or never even knew of, but every single insightful thing that any Christian has thought or felt since. Heck, even the act of writing down what were likely once oral stories told and retold again with each generation is a sort of artificial freeze frame. The use of the Bible, by it’s very nature, is an act favoring routinized text over flexible oral traditions and particular selections of texts over all others. Is that bias (one that seems, in some sense, an arbitrary one amongst all forms of human understanding an expression) something you think your beliefs should support? Does the very existence of a Bible, as a religious practice, really make sense?

If you’re a modern fundamentalist who believes that the Bible is the be-all and end-all, of course, it does. But if not: if you are more inclined to see spiritual searching and inquiry and even God’s temporal expressions as ongoing… if you see scriptures as the works of human searchers like yourself… guideposts but not rigid train tracks…

Well, what do you do with the suggestion that the Bible, as a singular and special guide to human insight on morality, ethics, and so forth, could quite obviously use some improvements and/or updates, small scale or even radical?

As Sam Harris has pointed out, with little serious rebuttal other than the usual mutterings about his impropriety, it’s quite easy to imagine moral or even factual improvements on the Biblical or Koranic texts. If the version of the Bible we all have today was, unbeknownst to us moderns, actually a slightly different version than the true original: if the one today, say, condemned rape more specifically (thanks to a clever female scribe in antiquity)… would anyone then think less of the modern version than they now do of the rape-ambiguous version we actually do have? No: instead, even the literalists in our hypothetical scenario would, unaware, be busy celebrating the phony anti-rape passages as an element of the Bible’s full perfection.

Wouldn’t that be a better state of affairs? So why can’t you have it now, knowingly? Why can’t that be a matter of course? If you are going to hand this tome to children and tell them “here is wisdom,” why not make sure you’ve edited or updated that wisdom to modern standards? If these ancient stories are illustrative of important moral and spiritual points, surely they could be reworked so that their message is clearer, or even more moral period.

Or why not simply add some further chapters of scholarly analysis or liberal theology appended to the end to codify just how your particular sect or creed understands those ancient stories? At the very least, this further codification wouldn’t be any worse than the codification that came before, especially if it opened up the possibility of yet later revisions as needed. And heck: it would add a lot more variety to the “Bible reading” sections of a church service if we could include Schleiermacher amongst the official verses and stanzas available.

So what’s the holdup? Surely not a respect for history, because it is history that tells us just how much more there is beyond what the various 4th and 5th century scribes would allow as canon: why respect their veto and theirs alone for all time on what ancient insights are the ones deserving special place in our special compendium? Why should liberal Christians have more faith in the accuracy of that particular selection of books than they necessarily do in the direct assertions within the text itself?

Indeed, if the Bible is to be the ultimate text of human understanding of a living God’s will, it’s very, very odd that it should be frozen at a very arbitrary time in history, with no further chapters ever to be added, or subtracted, or retold for new generations. Has no theologian since the various missives and letters in the New Testament even had an insight into, say, the Trinity, that measures up to the previous material? I’m not a huge fan of theological work, but even I find that very hard to believe. Do the banal and absurd kvetchings found in many of the more forgettable Epistles really deserve a greater ceremonial place in the Christian corpus than the thoughts of Aquinas or Augustine? Has God really never spoken or acted since in a way that would demand inclusion?

Of course, on hearing these musings, many traditional believers would be shocked at the very idea of changing, updating, or adding to the Bible: making it one part of a much larger collection. Sure sure, they’d argue: many subsequent documents are important (Popes surely have had much to say to Catholics of great religious import). But this is the Bible we’re talking about: it is and ever shall be THE BIBLE. To open things back up, to return to the days in which the various books of the Bible were written individually, where there was a maelstrom of ideas but no definitive, final compendium of THE books… that just feels wrong to many modern believers. Absurd. Presumptuous (though, any less so than the original writers/editors, and why?) Sacreligious.

But what is this feeling based on, exactly? And why should liberal Christians in particular pay it any homage? Really?

Nothing about the the Bible is central or inevitable to any core Christian doctrine. Despite supposedly containing countless prophecies both fulfilled and yet to be, the Bible rather conspicuously does not predict or anticipate itself. It thus does not recognize, let alone celebrate, its own central importance to the Christian faith. As Catholics have long rightly chastised Protestants, the belief that the Bible is in any way special is really a sort of specific faith tradition… and an inherently extra-Biblical one. If that tradition, that insight, can be important, why not further ones? Old ones (like Catholic traditions, many of which pre-date the Bible itself, or those of the countless subsidiary documents in Judaism)? New ones?

Nothing I’m saying here is merely hypothetical of course. The Bible itself has never been quite as set in stone as many believe: some books have rotated in and out of various denominations. Even after the canon was fully formed, scribal errors and translations changed and shuffled the texts. And plenty of religious sects and persuasions take the idea of further revelation and sacred texts to heart. Mormons and Muslims do have post-Biblical texts of claimed equal or greater import. And many liberal Christians and/or Unitarians really are prepared to regard the Bible as simply one text amongst many in a much wider bookshelf of religious devotion and tradition.

But even most of these (aside from perhaps the Koran, which retells many biblical stories in ways that can, I have to say, only be described as more absurd than the originals) still have a Bible on their bookshelves: a “definitive” collection by its very construction. A never updated textbook with no forthcoming editions. Even for someone who views the books of the Bible as purely historical records of what ancient peoples believed, it still seems odd to have so much emphasis on the whole, rather than the individual books and all the rest which were, by historical chance, not bundled into that whole. That these texts are collected in such a way is certainly of historical interest itself, but why should it have any further influence on the issuing of new editions of religious insight?

To a (now) outsider, it all seems profoundly peculiar.

And believe me: I’m not one to simply dismiss tradition or even habit as a reason to respect the state of some social practice or scribal ritual. But at some point we do have to ask how it is that we ever got the traditions we respect at all, if we are to cherish such a strict policy on never inventing new ones. Christianity itself was a decidedly rebellious invention: the product of a major culture clash, theological synthesis, and just the plain working out of new doctrines on the fly as the various letters of Paul demonstrate. And forgive me if I’m wrong: but I don’t see many liberal Christians as people who generally celebrate tradition or routinization or any form of definitive cannon-making in any case.

You might also say that the Bible, as it is, is a symbol. Again, I won’t poo-poo the power of symbols. But there are lots of possible powerful symbols, and some are mutually incompatible. Are you really sure that the symbols you have now fit what you really want to express? Why not break and begin to remake the Bible itself as a symbol of renewal and spiritual innovation? Why not break this symbol of central, canonical control so that one of continual grassroots religious revolution can take its place?

It’s not my call, of course, and I again fully admit that there are many reasons people could give to answer my question that would be perfectly sufficient: perhaps not entirely enough for me, but certainly enough so that I could understand how it would satisfy someone else’s take on things. Even “this just feels right” could easily brush off my objections here.

Still, as a sort of expatriated tourist to Christian thought, it’s something I can’t help but ponder, and I’d be interested in where this sort of musing takes others.

32 Responses to Liberal Christianity vs. The Bible: Why a “Bible” at All?

  1. mantecanaut says:

    I’ve often thought the same thing. In the UK at least, the Church of England is a particularly watered down version of christianity. Listen to this interesting podcast with Dr. Brian Cox and Rev Victor Stock, ostensibly about the Cern LHC:

    http://www.cernpodcast.com/?p=21

    The Rev comes across as an alright bloke, but the whole time I’m thinking: why still align yourself to this ancient book of superstitions if your beliefs are so far divorced from it? Does it just represent a ‘base’ of sorts?
    Interesting question…

  2. Bad says:

    Don’t get me wrong though: I’m not really saying that liberal Christians have any need or reason to toss out the stories and ideas in the Bible per se. It’s more a question of having a “Bible” that reflects their broader horizons and the ongoing development of ideas in Christianity that didn’t simply stop dead in its tracks when the last book included in the Bible was written… or not having any central “Bible” at all, but rather just all the texts that are most important individually (with lots of varying opinions on which are most important).

    I’m really trying not to get into the usual “liberal Christianity is cafeteria-style belief” accusation. It’s just that the Bible reflects a very specific and very non-necessary way of doing things in terms of sacred texts, and while we take it for granted when we think of Christianity today, a singular canon compendium is not at all necessarily fundamental to Christianity (certainly not as practiced by the early Christians!). So it’s a real and open question, I think, as to its continued utility or necessity.

  3. David says:

    Dear Bad,

    I had responded to one of your posts over at Ross’ place and wanted to give a go at replying and also apologize if you think I was being to flip or hostile (wasn’t trying to be, but internet tone can be hard to gauge).

    Anyway, I’m afraid I’m not a liberal Christian, but I’m also not a literalist who believes that the Bible doesn’t require careful interpretation. I think there is the practical problem that reconfiguring scripture according to a particular time’s sensibility would basically make a hash of any continuity in faith or practice. It seems no more arbitrary for us to decide we need new scripture than for us to stick with a cannon developed at a certain time. Think about the kinds of scripture that the people who gave us disco and pet rocks would have looked like (or grey flannel suits and Leave it to Beaver for that matter – or worse, as some on the other site have reminded us, such jems as “the Jews and their lies” or the Syllabus of Errors). We would be so busy revising all the time depending upon intellectual and cultural fashions that we wouldn’t be rooted and deepening our understanding. But then, as a historian I’m drawn to continuity.

    Also, I wonder how much of the problem is that we need new information. Something as basic as Jesus telling his disciples “love one another as I have loved you” isn’t hard because its not spoken in a contemporary context, but for different reasons. It seems to me our need for novelty is a fairly modern need, and maybe one in which we need to be contradicted? Just because a certain age wants x, do we always need what we think would be neat? What if what many ages have needed is the discipline of attending to a broader range of human experience across centuries? By meditating on the same text for over several millenia Christians and Jews have a rosetta stone into human spiritual experience that can help us decode the spiritual insites of other times and places.

    Finally, a large part of the reason for the canon is that there were gospels whose vision of Jesus and Christianity was so different as to undermine unity of faith, and most of the early Christians wanted that even if they didn’t first hit upon a canon as a way to get it.

    That’s my approach – hope it helps.

    Take care,

    David

  4. Bad says:

    I think there is the practical problem that reconfiguring scripture according to a particular time’s sensibility would basically make a hash of any continuity in faith or practice.

    I’m not sure that’s so though. If anything, I think it would improve continuity, because instead of the core textual record of faith stopping dead in its tracks at the 3rd century, it could now better reflect or include all of the theological developments that have happened since that time, beyond the text. This is a solution to a disconnect between the text and the current interpretations of it, which are not the same as the text itself.

    Your fears of things changing on mere whim are certainly valid, but also not entirely insoluble either: serious Biblical scholars and theologians are not quite the same as disco queens. And in any case, we’d again be reflecting what is already an actuality in the faith. I don’t see why the gain in clarity wouldn’t be worth the possibility of error, whose price is merely future correction. In any case, you wouldn’t be creating those errors, because they exist already with or without the Bible being altered. It might deepen those errors, true, but it might also help correct them as people are forced to work out what really matters in the debate over what to include.

    By meditating on the same text for over several millenia Christians and Jews have a rosetta stone into human spiritual experience that can help us decode the spiritual insites of other times and places.

    This might inform the changes or additions in question, but I’m not sure it’s a real objection to making them. People have pondered Augustine too, and he’s certainly of another time and place. And I don’t think it’s fair to keep reducing post-Biblical insights to mere “fad.” Remember, you’re including in that things like strong stand against marital rape, a strong stance against slavery, and so on: all of which have become core values for many Christians but which are not well reflected in their core text. I’m really not sure that including a powerful letter from a Christian abolitionist is fairly classified as mere narcissism of the present. It certainly can’t be any worse than the original construction of the canon.

    Finally, a large part of the reason for the canon is that there were gospels whose vision of Jesus and Christianity was so different as to undermine unity of faith, and most of the early Christians wanted that even if they didn’t first hit upon a canon as a way to get it.

    You and the central church see that as a problem, but others might see it as a strength. Early Christianity was, indeed, both innovative and diverse. But it is not exactly a track record of Christian charity that brought about later “unity”: it was bloody struggles, the use of Roman power (both by betraying other Christians to the Romans to become “maytrs,” as well as the later outright power of Roman Christiandom), and the use of persecution and “book” burning.

    And in any case, we already have some measure of theological diversity again in practice regardless: it just isn’t reflected in the Bible in particular. (Though partly even there I guess, in the form of different translations/editions of the Bible). And again, the resistance, based on the idea that Christians have to all come back to a single textual “canon” is a very particular view of how a religion should work that I’m not sure is universal or necessary or even inherent to Christianity. Many believers think that God is still speaking, and has spoken to particular movements and people in the last 1700 or so odd years in ways that are quite important.

    Thanks for commenting: your objections are all, as I noted, reasonable ones, even if I’m drawing them out further by quibbling with them.

  5. David says:

    Dear Bad,

    My apologies for being less clear yet again on Ross’ blog and I will try to develop a more coherent response to theodicy, but as I have said a couple of times, it is hard for me to feel the force of this particular set of problems. It is a little like being blind and trying to empathize with those who see about the problem of visual overstimulation. I can get some of the concepts but this problem is hard to engage for reasons I’ve underlined in Ross’ site.

    Czesc,

    David

  6. mantecanaut says:

    Bad:”…a singular canon compendium is not at all necessarily fundamental to Christianity…”

    Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t that taking it ‘a la carte’. Isn’t this the reason christians have to ally themselves to the old testament, even though many now profess not to? Augmenting/adjusting the bible and thus the word of god, removes the keystone ; it doesn’t take much pushing for the whole house of cards to fall.

    “it could now better reflect or include all of the theological developments that have happened since that time, beyond the text.”

    You’re asking them to jettison parts of a sacred text. The most they will do is admit to a different interpretation.

    “you’re including in that things like strong stand against marital rape, a strong stance against slavery, and so on: all of which have become core values for many Christians but which are not well reflected in their core text.”

    Yes, they are influenced by social progression but cannot remove these elements. Without the ‘base’ of scripture why not wipe the slate clean and start again, with Jesus quoting Confucius as per the original, then just add current societal ethics. Christians are bound by the iron maiden of the past in this sense, to relinquish is to extinguish.

    Big love x

  7. Bad says:

    mantecanaut: Augmenting/adjusting the bible and thus the word of god, removes the keystone ; it doesn’t take much pushing for the whole house of cards to fall.

    But most liberal Christians do not believe that the Bible IS the word of God, per se: that’s the point. They DO believe that it’s a source of worthwhile insight and inspiration from spiritual people with a connection to God: it’s not a matter of a “house of cards” because they believe that there is something there to find, It’s just that finding it requires searching and interpretation and prayer, and other sorts of activities. This is not a bizarre or non-Judeo-Christian view by any means. Judaism, for instance, is all about scholars trying to understand and debate the meanings of both the original holy scriptures and all sorts of scholarly work that came before. And many Christians believe that their understanding of what God wants is illuminated by prayer just as much as by texts.

    I think you’re by and large confusing liberal Christians for literalists and more traditional believers, who do believe that there is some sort of magic in the exact specific collection of texts and words, rather than a texts being a means to tell and understand core spiritual lessons and ideas.

  8. Glazius says:

    The thing is, whatever replaces the Bible is going to have to be just as universalized as the Bible was, and it’s going to have to be denomination-specific to some extent. You also lose whatever common cultural referent you had in the “the Bible” if every denomination gets to roll their own. (My own edition has more commentary than original text in it, but everybody’s talking about the same original text.)

    I’m just getting the idea of Bible 2008, now with more anti-rape comments, and then comes Bible 2009 with the Internet and Bible 2010 with genetic engineering and Bible: The Original Extended Director’s Edition, and while this may solve most cash flow problems, it raises the uncomfortable spectre of required monetary expenditures to continue being faithful.

  9. mantecanaut says:

    Bad:”I think you’re by and large confusing liberal Christians for literalists and more traditional believers…”

    Perhaps you’re right there.

    “But most liberal Christians do not believe that the Bible IS the word of God, per se”

    I don’t really recognise your description of liberal christians ; I think at the very least they say that the bible is ‘inspired’ by god and thus granted special status. Perhaps I’m just have trouble sympathising with anyone that could have such amorphous religious concepts, yet still anchor them to a specific ancient viewpoint. If it’s not the specific text that is important why not study the greek myths for their hidden spiritual truths? It’s an outlandish mentality to me.

  10. Bad says:

    Glazius: Well, aren’t denominations themselves already denomination specific? And remember, the answer to my question isn’t just a rhetorical no or a hypothetical yes.

    There really ARE some believers and sects that have additional holy texts, or holy texts (like the Koran) that retell Biblical stories in their own fashion for their own ends. They may well have lost some degree of unity with other sects, but I’m not sure unity at the price of error or possible neglect of superior truth and clarity is necessarily worthwhile.

  11. Bad says:

    mantecanaut: the point is that these texts are inspired, but not perfect: still the work of human thinkers who just happen to be dealing with holy insights and encounters, and hence people who we can learn from, but cannot necessarily trust to the letter. The obvious question though, is whether there are other thinkers who are likewise inspired and important, or other insights on those texts as important as the originals.

    And I think calling it necessarily amorphous is a mistake. I’m not suggesting that people decide what matters on a whim: they could decide on what matters for all sorts of very good reasons that they can explain. After all, that is precisely what the original compilers of the Bible had to do in the first place: explain why this copy of this text and why not these others, and so on. So again, it’s really nothing new or unique to the faith: it’s simply a practice that, rather oddly, seems to have been important during the key eras of the faith, and then was suddenly and abruptly quashed for good.

  12. mantecanaut says:

    Again, what about this isn’t having it a la carte? Either one believes in the tenets of christianity, or …why bother calling it christianity?

    “I’m not suggesting that people decide what matters on a whim: they could decide on what matters for all sorts of very good reasons that they can explain.”

    As has been noted before by many: religion has been forced to change from the outside (Harris’ “hammer-blows of modernity”…the shifting moral zeitgeist). Liberal christianity has evolved because it has been forced to, by pressure from without rather than a growth from within. This is the ‘retreat’ by religion from areas now occupied by rational, scientific thought. All that is left to them is a fuzzy metaphorical moralism.

    “It’s simply a practice that, rather oddly, seems to have been important during the key eras of the faith, and then was suddenly and abruptly quashed for good.”

    Well, it’s not that odd. It has to exist in a historical bubble because science made biblical explanations of reality a nonsense.

    “The obvious question though, is whether there are other thinkers who are likewise inspired and important, or other insights on those texts as important as the originals.”

    The obvious answer has to be no, if you mean ‘inspired’ by the creator of the universe. That would indicate a psychological problem. As to ‘insights’ on those texts…you have to accept that those texts weren’t written as metaphors or ciphers but were myths attempting to describe reality. As such, they should be treated the same as the Norse myths, Greek etc etc etc. Why should the bible be treated any differently to those other mythological works simply because today’s delusional followers can no longer believe them or reconcile them with the modern world without alteration?

    Anyway, your original post was not directed at me, so I’ll bow out.

    Tinkerty tonk !

  13. Bad says:

    I’m not sure what you mean about the tenets of Christianity. What does the Bible have to do with that, at least directly? Did Paul have a Bible? Any of the Apostles? Any of the countless people that made up the early church? And yet, they all seemed to have ideas about the tenets of Christianity just fine.

    And I don’t know that you characterization of how Christianity has changed is a fair summary. Plenty of external influences have had their effect, but so too have lots of natural evolutions in thinking over time. And I don’t see how science had anything to do with the decision to make a Bible canon and keep it the same from then on. Science as we know it didn’t come into being for nearly a thousand and some years after that point.

  14. mantecanaut says:

    By tenets I mean the core ‘malarkey’ of christianity i.e. that this chap Jesus was in fact a manifestation/avatar of god who arranged for himself to be murdered so that the rest of humanity would be expunged of ‘original sin’. Then he was resurrected. Also, importantly, that he fulfilled various prophesies from the earlier Pentateuch (virgin birth, miracles etc). If these ideas are to be discarded ( as any sensible person must ) then there is no reason to talk about christianity at all.

    Of course, the pope has been inventing from whole cloth for hundreds of years eg the recent abolition of limbo, confession able to be taken by laymen during the Black Death…but these were inventions in the first place regardless of scripture…so, I digress.

    Ultimately, the idea of removing parts of the bible correctly shows how arbitrarily it was composed in the first place and so : why regard any of it as truthful? Sure, it’s of anthropological/historical value, as are the works of Homer, but religion talks of “truth” specifically.

    You say : “Plenty of external influences have had their effect”

    Hmm, by external influences perhaps you mean ‘society’, specifically the re-examination of greek thought at the Renaissance. Before that, it was known as ‘the Dark Ages’ for a reason?

    “but so too have lots of natural evolutions in thinking over time.”

    Interesting that you say religious thought ‘evolved’ over time. I agree. It had to ‘adapt’ to survive after the rediscovery of older philosophies and in the competition of ideas liberal christianity had to cede certain ‘truths’ : geocentrism, flat-earth etc *this* is where science came in…many of the first astronomers and scientists were priests attempting to reconcile nascent mathematics/logic with their mythological beliefs…hang on, I’m getting carried away here. Suffice to say that there has been no improvement/distillation in religious thought, only a movement towards scientific thought and the attempt to reconcile both. Hence today we have members of the Church of England that don’t really believe anything in the bible! In which case, why hold onto the ‘brand’ of christianity? It is a form of cognitive dissonance.

    Anyway, I’m rambling again…I think I’m trying to say that the fact that religions ‘evolve’ to suit their environment ably shows how false they are. They cannot alter the texts however as they operate as an interface with an ‘original truth’. Interpretations change all the time…

    Apologies for the ramble.

  15. Bad says:

    But none of those ideas have to be discarded, because none of them required the Bible to begin with in the first place.

    Now, of course, some liberal Christians do discard some of those things. But then, they think they have good reasons to do so. You or I may not agree with those reasons, and if the basis of the reasons are things like faith and prayer, we might not even agree on the basis. But the point is that, at least within the context of their religion, they aren’t just picking things willy-nilly.

    Plato, and philosophy, are good examples. If we wanted to compile a book of the best of philosophy, then we’d have to have all sorts of debates over what to include and what not. We might never come to agree. But that wouldn’t mean that the debates are utterly arbitrary and our choices aren’t based on anything.

    And I still think you are putting far too much emphasis on science and natural understanding. Certainly that played a part, but if you look at the history of Christianity, it’s far from the only or most prominent one. Martin Luther didn’t ditch the Catholic Church over it’s position on star formation, for goodness sakes.

  16. mantecanaut says:

    “But none of those ideas have to be discarded, because none of them required the Bible to begin with in the first place. ”

    That doesn’t make any sense. What sort of bible are you talking about if it doesn’t involve Jesus?

    “Now, of course, some liberal Christians do discard some of those things. But then, they think they have good reasons to do so. You or I may not agree with those reasons, and if the basis of the reasons are things like faith and prayer, we might not even agree on the basis. But the point is that, at least within the context of their religion, they aren’t just picking things willy-nilly.

    What are these reasons? Why are they good? Getting it? The point is that they ARE ‘picking things’, not willy-nilly but in accordance with current societal thinking. Why change moral laws handed down by god if they haven’t been found wanting? Talking about vague notions of ‘faith’ and ‘prayer’ just throws all rational argument out of the window. Either you have good, demonstrable reasons or you don’t.
    If you don’t like the word ‘science’ in this instance, let’s just use logic/rationality. Having reasonable evidence. If human society is a homogenous conversation then it has led us to a rational understanding of the world regardless of dogma. Important word there : “dogma”. The conversation changed when the rational argument was re-introduced. No-one ever changed their mind by believing something was true by faith. Faith and dogma are diametrically opposed to change…this is why science had such an impact, and why the two are irreconcilable. Rationality/science provides evidence/reasons ; faith is just…blind belief.

  17. Bad says:

    That doesn’t make any sense. What sort of bible are you talking about if it doesn’t involve Jesus?

    I’m not saying that the Bible wouldn’t involve Jesus. I’m saying that the worship of Jesus does not require a Bible. No Bible existed in the days of early Christianity, but plenty of Christians.

    Why change moral laws handed down by god if they haven’t been found wanting?

    Because liberal Christians are not wedded to the idea that every command in the Bible really came down from God, and they DO feel that things like slavery and rape have been found wanting.

    Talking about vague notions of ‘faith’ and ‘prayer’ just throws all rational argument out of the window.

    Well, sure. We might think that. But we’re not Christians.

    No-one ever changed their mind by believing something was true by faith.

    Nonsense. People’s faith beliefs change all the time for faith-based reasons like experiences that they interpret in new ways, prayer, and so forth. Believing, even in dogma’s, isn’t always easy, and some people do change their minds, for all sorts of reasons.

  18. mantecanaut says:

    “Nonsense. People’s faith beliefs change all the time for faith-based reasons like experiences that they interpret in new ways, prayer, and so forth”

    Ha! What does that even mean..!! Faith-based reasons is an oxymoron for a start.

    ok {holds hands up} this is going nowhere except in circles. Thanks for the chat.
    x

  19. Bad says:

    I don’t think faith based reasons are oxymorons. Again, you might not find the premises sound, but that doesn’t mean that believers who take certain religious ideas seriously can’t then have discussions and sensible arguments about what they imply.

  20. mantecanaut says:

    Yeah it does. You can’t have a ‘serious’ discussion that has, as it’s base, imaginary conceptions. It’s like trying to build structures out of smoke…it melts into the air.
    As for oxymorons : faith, ie believing without evidence is contrary to having good reasons for what one believes. Hitch somes it up :

    “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

  21. Bad says:

    Of course you can: it’s a very basic logical principle. You don’t need true/sound premises to have a rational discussion or argument. Even if the core beliefs about God existing are false, believers can still have all sorts of debates about where those core principles logically lead. Those discussions will be rational. They may not be sound, but that’s a whole nother matter.

  22. mantecanaut says:

    Ok, you’re right in the sense that you can have a rational conversation about concepts, imaginary or otherwise. But religions claim a specific, factual knowledge of reality. That claim is baseless. There just isn’t a line that you can trace back from current liberal-christianity to biblical origins.
    So my point still stands : that change was imposed from without. There was no theological conversation that realised that the earth is (roughly) spherical, or that the heavens are not a firmament but stars and galaxies in motion. Those beliefs were forced to adapt to emergent evidence-based thinking.
    Now, if you’re talking about ‘moral’ ideas, the ‘golden rule’ as described by Confucius preceded the bible by hundreds of years. So what does the bible have to offer other than a particularly unsophisticated mythology?

    I must admit I have lost track of what the argument is here.

  23. Bad says:

    So my point still stands : that change was imposed from without.

    It was, but it was also from within. People get new ideas, new spiritual interpretations, new reads on the Bible, and they run with them.

  24. mantecanaut says:

    I can’t think of any. Care to give some examples? … theological lines of thought only…not influenced by societal progression.

  25. mantecanaut says:

    I’ll take that as a “no”. Please mark this thread [ SOLVED]. x

  26. Bad says:

    Um, I already gave an example. Martin Luther.

  27. mantecanaut says:

    [cough] Luther? Is that really all you can come up with? “a drunken German” who had read Aristotle? I confess, he did a lot for the german language but by Odin’s Beard, did he really increase knowledge or was he politicking?

  28. Bad says:

    It’s the example a I already selected, yes. And your answer is incoherent in the context we were discussing.

  29. [...] 5. The Bad Idea Blog presents Liberal Christianity vs. The Bible – Why a Bible At All?  [...]

  30. zxvasdf says:

    The Bible is very relevant to today’s people, as addicted as we are to the quick fix, for it does the thinking for its followers.

    Simplicity reigns in this fakebook’s function: a system of belief and its stipulations listed and defined in a tome perused and enforced by a horde of like-minded individuals to form a generic mass hell-bent towards reforming everyone else. It clearly (not so, but to most of its enthusiasts black and white do not make a gray) defines ‘morality’ for the majority, allowing the individual a relatively simple time of cruising through life without really making an effort towards devising his/her intrinistic moral map of reality and its constituents.

    A Belief System is a Positive Feedback Cycle, and the Bible is, in particular, for Christianity, is the slender originating loop that holds it all together.

  31. [...] Now, Carse is welcome to think that his own critique of modern religion is “deeper and much more incisive,” but that’s clearly in part because he happens to be very interested in religion (nothing wrong with that), and wants people to get more out of it (good for him). In fact, I think there is plenty of synergy between his feelings and mine in regards to even liberal theologies not taking things far enough, not leaping full bore into the sort of poetic innov…. [...]

  32. Jason says:

    Its amazing to me how many people can put faith in, and trust the research of a scientist but cant seem to put trust in or faith in what was written in the bible. In some ways I dont blame you. But you trust in the studies of man, do you not think that God can cause a man to write a message down without mistake? That is not hard for God. You say, Well I dont know that there is a God? The bible is full of prophecy most of which has been fulfilled. Shouldnt that be proof enough? God has foretold hundreds of events in the bible, all have come true except the second coming/rapture and the rebuilding of the temple. So God/authors of the bible got hundreds of them right and we are waiting on 2 or 3? And you say there is no God or the bible is folk tale? Take Jonah and the whale. Jonah disobeyed God and went to ninevah against the will of God and he was swallowed up by a whale. you say that was an old fairy tale. Maybe just maybe if you look deeper you will see more clearly. Maybe the whale was Hell? The bible speaks of the outer darkness as hell, the pit, gehenna,sheol,and utter darkness. Maybe that was the belly of the whale. Jonah said it was so dark. Maybe God showed him what Hell was to turn him from disobedience? Then the whale spit jonah on dry land after 3 days and three nights? humm… 3 days and 3 nights? That sounds like the same number of days that were between the death and the ressurection of that man named Jesus
    of Nazereth. Jesus was told to have taken all the sins of the world on his shoulders and suffered our punishment. Maybe just maybe he went to the outerdarkness too and carried our sins with him? also when Jonah was spit on dry land maybe Jesus was too? When he was first seen by Mary Magdelene he said dont touch me because I have not ascended unto the father yet. Maybe that was the dry land? Jesus is called the living water so how can the land be dry? Humm? Maybe because the Holy Spirit hadnt been released to dwell in man yet? That wasnt until the first pentecost? Jesus says ” out of you belly’s will flow rivers of living water” The grocery store dont sell this ” living water”? Maybe this is the water Jesus spoke of at the well of the samaritan woman? Jesus said to the woman ” if you knew who I was you would ask me for a drink and If you drink this(well) water you will thirst again. But if you drink the water that I give you shall never thirst.” Wow maybe there is more to that bible than we all thought. Jesus healed many people in the Bible He gave sight to the blind he healed those who couldnt walk and told them to stand and walk, He opened the ears of the deaf so that they could hear… Humm.. Maybe those miracles wernt so much about healing physical health problems as they were about showing us what he will do for all of us spiritually. I once was blinded to Gods word but Jesus gave me sight. Jesus did say he was the light of the world and the blind cant see the light. Jesus said the Pharisees leading Isreal was like the blind leading the blind. I once could walk no more because I was lost and tired but Jesus found me and gave me rest. I have had people tell me about this Jesus guy but I never really understood them… Humm.. Till one day Jesus opened my deaf ears… Maybe we should ask Jesus to give us sight so that we can see His guiding light, and maybe we should ask Jesus to open our deaf ears so that we can hear Him calling us home, and maybe we could ask Jesus to heal our lame legs so we can pick up our beds and follow Him to a place of rest? Science has never offered this much to me maybe I should put my faith in the God of creation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers

%d bloggers like this: