Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rami: Response of Mike 1/18

I understand that Christians believe that the Holy Spirit inspires the Bible, but that doesn’t tell me what you believe. Officially Jews believe that God dictated the Torah to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, but I don’t believe that. So, if you believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would like to know that, and how you think that worked.

I am also wondering about your personal standard of interpreting the Bible in light of Jesus. Given all the conflicting studies on the life and teaching of Jesus, I suspect that Jesus has become a Rorschach blot where we project the Jesus we want into the text. So I need to know whom you think Jesus is before I can understand your standard.

And then there is the problem of using the canonical Gospels. Is the Jesus of Matthew, say, the same as the Jesus of John? And, given what we know about the evolution of the Gospels and how they have changed over time, can you really trust them? And then there is the question of discounting the noncanonical gospels, especially the Gospel of Thomas and even the hypothetical Q Gospel. As a pastor you may have to limit yourself to the Official Text on Sunday, but as a scholar you are not so constrained.

In a sense we are both wrestling with the same problem: What to do with all the violence and hate in the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. I understand and envy your ability to dismiss the violence in the Hebrew Bible by assuming that Jesus would reject the violent God who visits such destruction on humanity. I do the same thing when I say these texts reflect the Voice of Fear. But I suspect that you have a problem that my more humanistic approach avoids.

Because I claim the Bible is a human document, I can explain the Bible’s violence, misogyny, homophobia, etc. as reflecting the mores of its time. I can note these as historical artifacts and ignore them as ethical or moral guidelines for the present. But if I argue, as you seem to do, that the Holy Spirit inspired these texts, I have to ask “Why?” Why teach me about Noah and a god willing to destroy almost all life on earth, when the real God would never do that? Or would he?

If Jesus is your standard you have to deal with the Little Apocalypse in Mark 13. Jesus says, “in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be” (Mark 13:19). So Jesus’ God is as mad as Noah’s. And then there is the Book of Revelation that paints a picture of Jesus himself as a bloodthirsty warrior. If the Holy Spirit inspired these teachings, then the mad God of the Hebrew Bible is still wrecking havoc in the New Testament.

So, help me out here: If Jesus is your standard, paint me a picture of this Jesus and show me how you manage to escape the other images of him that don’t fit your picture.

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