Intersect 1-6-15

Laying a new foundation, sildenafil part 2

For thousands of years the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, tadalafil Christianity and Islam) has been scripture. From the Hebrew Bible through the New Testament to the Qur’an, the words of our ancestors inform how we view our concept of God, our relationship to God, and the structures we create to experience God in our midst.

Unfortunately, over time these philosophical ponderings have come to be known as “the Word of God, infallible and inerrant.” Generally speaking, what this means is that “if you don’t accept that these stories mean what I say they mean, then you are condemned to a lifetime of ruin.” When I say this is a modern concept, it’s because the people who wrote these stories thousands of years ago never, ever would have said such a thing.

Remember: In the ancient world, most people could neither read nor write. They were not stupid or ignorant people. They were busy providing for their families and their neighborhoods. The only people schooled in reading and writing were members of the priestly caste or aristocrats. Most of the priests saw it as their duty to explain their beliefs to the members of their villages and towns. They also understood that if their ancient texts couldn’t be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of their time, that the texts were useless. In The Bible: A Biography, Karen Armstrong writes “a text that could not be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of the day was dead; the written words of scripture had to be revitalized by constant exegesis.”

Today exegesis has come to be the study of what the texts meant in their historical context. This is not the way our ancient Jewish rabbis (like Jesus) thought about Scripture though. For them, exegesis wasn’t about figuring out what their ancestors intended the text to mean—it was reconfiguring the text so it meant something in the present era.

Our task as a 21st Century church is to do the same thing. If scripture is to remain relevant to us today (and it is possible it is no longer relevant, something we also need to discuss honestly), then we must find meaning in it for our modern era of science and reason. How do we do this? It’s pretty easy, really. Consider the first few verses of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. This sounds very much like the Big Bang, which we now understand was the beginning of our universe. The ancients couldn’t have known this, of course, and the idea that God created the heavens AND the earth betrays their dualistic mindset and their idea that the universe was a three-tiered system. For them, heaven was above the earth, which was above the underworld. They also thought everything was surrounded by water:

One of the benefits of space travel and giant telescopes in space is that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the earth is simply a small planet in a sea of billions and billions of planets. This knowledge must inform our ideas about God and the way we read scripture.

Is it possible to use a postmodern, scientific worldview and still garner meaning from these ancient and beloved texts? I think so. It just takes the will to let go of centuries—perhaps millennia, of bad interpretation and the idea that the things we read in the bible or the Qur’an are somehow infallible and never-changing. In fact, reading our ancient texts that way is an affront to the people who originally wrote them, intending them to be rethought, reworked and reinterpreted.
Science and history—real history, not mythology, are the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith foundation, and must be one of the important lenses through which we read ancient literature like The Bible.

Prayer: Enlighten me, Infinite Oneness, the way our entire universe was and is brought into being by your Infinite Light. Amen.

Intersect 1-5-15

Laying a new foundation, ed part 1

People of faith are at a crossroads. Advances in science and archaeology are reshaping the way we think about our past, viagra sale our present, thumb our future, and our concept of God. Stories we used to read, presuming they were somehow grounded in truth, turn out to be more literature than literal. Rediscovering the allegory of the stories in the Bible, understanding them the way the original audiences likely did, requires diligence. The hard work pays off in a deep and unshakeable faith. Rather than having to defend the Bible as fact, we can concentrate on the meaning of the stories, the way the ancient people who wrote them and told them to each other did. Nobody in the ancient world thought God literally created the world in seven human days. Rediscovering the metaphor of these creation myths and juxtaposing them with modern cosmological concepts, reveals a God that is even more extensive and intricately woven with our being than interpreting those stories literally could ever allow us to imagine. It’s powerful stuff.

It’s my hope that Intersect will help people of faith form a new foundation for belief in God—one that is divested of literalism, yet gains something even more powerful in its place: a healthy understanding of historical context, allegory and metaphor, all enveloped in a deeper understanding of modern cosmology, astrophysics and quantum mechanics. The ideas the ancients hinted at using the only language they understood thousands of years ago are being played out anew with the language of historical criticism and science. The quantum world is stranger, more mind-boggling, and more inspiring than anything Mark, Mathew, Luke, John or Paul could convey. Using the best tools at their disposal, I believe they were trying to get at the same idea: God is everything, and everything is God. Oneness is the key to changing the world, and God is constantly inviting us into Oneness.

The church is failing. People are leaving organized religion in droves, and most churches are so concerned with self-preservation that they have abandoned their commission to serve the needy and speak for the oppressed. We don’t necessarily need to save organized religion, but if we are to call ourselves people of faith—whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or anything else, then we do need to reclaim the idea that we are all beings created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–28, Gen 5:1–3, 2 Enoch 44:1-3, 2 Enoch 65:1, Wisdom of Solomon 2:23, there are similar ideas presented in the Qur’an). Therefore, it is our duty to God and our fellow human beings to act with compassion, to fight for justice, and to tear down the systems of oppression wherever they are found—even and especially if they are found in the church, synagogue and mosque.

I hope you’ll join me, and invite others, on this journey as we explore a new, stronger faith foundation built on ancient ideas, but informed by 21st Century wisdom.

Prayer: Infinite Wisdom, God, that is and is within all things: Guide our thoughts and actions. Make your presence undeniably known to us. Use us to make the world more peaceful, loving, tolerant and reasonable. Amen.