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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Not everything Biblical is Christian. Part 1 - Devil Talk

I am beginning a series here called, Not everything Biblical is Christian. I need to identify the key terms, "Biblical" and "Christian" and my intended audience, the younger me an American Fundagelical.

Fundagelicals are the conservative wing of American Evangelicalism, the tribe I grew up in and still belong to. I know some of the most generous, compassionate people on this planet among my tribe. I have learned generosity and compassion from them. But I also know fear among my tribe, fear of other tribes, of other political tribes, of the end times, of being raptured while still a virgin, even fear of God. I have been learning the truth of perfect love which displaces all fear. I wish my younger self began learning that much earlier.

Here are my fundagelical credentials. I grew up in a Plymouth Brethren church and raised my children in a Calvary Chapel. Each sub-tribe is closer to the center than the tribes at large to whom they belong. This means that head coverings on women are not required, though not discouraged either, a woman's voice during the communion service (1) was not approved,  and young earth creationism is the norm. Both of these examples reflect the tension created by a commitment to biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy is a method of biblical interpretation that assumes the Bible in our hands today has minimal errors, only of transmission without affecting any essential doctrines (since it was inspired and preserved by God himself), and it's plain and simple reading is the best way to engage the text.

My intent in this series is not to argue against inerrancy, but to let the Bible disagree with itself where it does but let the author have the final say on these disputes. This series is about a handful of Biblical things I wish I learned, that my children as well had learned, along with the generosity and compassion. I'm not saying I was not taught these things, but some things get overly emphasized which can drown out other really important things.

"Biblical" means that which is derived from the Bible, usually proof texts in my tribe requiring minimal investigation. For example, snakes and donkeys have spoken human language at one time because the Bible records them doing that very thing.

"Christian" is the name for those who follow the way of Jesus, because they believe in him as the once crucified, but subsequently resurrected and glorified only Son of God.

According to John the beloved apostle the Word of God is Jesus, not the Bible. Growing up I heard the two halves of the Christian Bible described as Jesus revealed in New Testament and Jesus concealed in the Old Testament. This completely aligns with the writings of the apostles of Jesus and the method of Old Testament interpretation used by the church fathers. The method of allegory is a rich vein of theology the church has long mined for insights into Jesus from the Old Testament that my tribes have refrained, even though Paul's and Peter's letters are full of allegorical insights from the Old Testament and Jesus himself says the scriptures testify of him. Jesus also tells his disciples when they see him they are seeing the Father. He is the full revelation of God. As God, he gets to ignore, overwrite, reinterpret everything that came before and after him. And Jesus does. Not all verses in the Bible are of God. They are part of the story but they are not God's words.

I have two easily acceptable examples. In the New Testament, when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan, the demonic suggestions in those verses are wrong, and not from God. They are essential to the story, but are not words of truth and light, but of falsehoods and darkness. The temptation is a parallel of a similar story in the beginning of the Old Testament. Another perfect and innocent man, a couple actually, is tested by Satan in the wilderness with false assertions. Those words are false and dark, and resulted in a turning from God, away from truth, light, and life, to selfishness and death. Those are not God's words. They are essential to the story, ultimately to reveal Jesus' recapitulation, successfully resisting temptation, as the progenitor of a new humanity. (2)

The Bible has many obvious lies and falsehoods in it. They are easily seen when put in the mouths of the villains. Some things are not so obvious without the beacon of Jesus to provide the contrast. But I think the ones above are simple, literal, non-contentious examples showing some things in the Bible, Biblical things, are not of God, who is fully revealed in Jesus, are not Christian.

Next time I will look at one non-villainous beatitude, the blessing of the baby killers.

Footnotes:
1- Women speaking during the communion service violated one or two literal readings in the New Testament.
2- Jesus' struggle in the wilderness is also a recapitulation of Moses and the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. Where Moses and the people failed and died before reaching the promised land, Jesus succeeded and is the new Moses who leads a new people to be part of a new kingdom not restricted to land or genetics. I just did some allegory there.

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