2000 years of Jesus.
From the beginning, Christians put their teachings, their beliefs, into writing. The Bibles that modern Christians use all trace their authority back through history to Christian writings dating from the late first century forward. (speaking only of the New Testament in this post) The original writings, the first edition writings, do not exist. (any claim of inspiration for the “original” writings is nothing more than a wishful, fanciful claim that cannot be proved) Every claim ever made by the Christian church rests on text of the Bible and how the church has interpreted it. I am well aware that, over its long history, the Christian church has been influenced by Gnosticism, but, for the most part, Christianity is a text based religion that places the text of the Bible above personal experiences and revelations. Even when personal experiences and revelations are given weight they are almost always expected to conform to what is found in the text of the Bible.
Most Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. They believe the words of the Bible came from God or at least represent,in fallible human form, what God wants humankind to know about God, life,salvation, death, judgment, and the afterlife. Some Christians believe every word is inspired by God and some Christians even go so far as to say that a particular translation, the King James Version, is inspired by God. Christians who hold this extreme view believe that God has preserved his Word through time and that every word of the King James Bible is from the lips of God himself.
Most Christians believe the Bible is truth. While they may not believe ALL the Bible is truth, every Christian, at some point or the other, says THIS is truth. A person who does not believe the Bible is truth is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.
There is a silly form of Christianity floating about these days that suggests a person can be a Christian and not believe the Bible. In many cases these kind of people are what I call cafeteria Christians. They pick and choose what they want to believe. Most cafeteria Christians believe in Jesus since they DO want their sins forgiven and they DO want to go to heaven when they die. (I am sure Thomas Jefferson would be proud of them) But, when it comes to the hard sayings of the Bible, the teachings that get in the way of the American dream and living the way they want to live, the cafeteria Christian dismisses such sayings and teachings as old, outdated relics of past that have no value or application today. Simply put they want a Jesus divorced from anything else the Bible says. Cafeteria Christians become quite adept at explaining away anything in the Bible they disagree with.
This brings me to the point of this post. Who determines what the Bible says? Who decides what this verse or that verse says? Who is the truth arbiter? It boils down to authority. Who is the final authority?
Some Christians says GOD is the final authority. The Bible is God’s Word…..THUS SAITH THE LORD!! These well meaning Christians think that the Bible is clear in what it says and that any person can know what the Bible says. Why then do they go to church on Sunday and listen to a man tell them what he thinks the Bible says? Why do they read books and commentaries written by people telling them what they think the Bible says? If the Bible is a self-attesting, self-explanatory text why all the middlemen?
Some Christians say the HOLY SPIRIT is the final authority. God gave New Testament Christians (Old Testament believers only got a part-time Holy Spirit) the Holy Spirit to be their teacher and guide. The Holy Spirit teaches them everything necessary for life and godliness. It is not hard to see the gnostic influence in this kind of thinking.
If there is ONE Holy Spirit who teaches and guides every Christian, why is there no consensus on what Christians believe? Why does the Holy Spirit give contradictory instructions or lessons? Why are there so many Christian sects? Surely, if the Holy Spirit is on his game, every sect would believe the same thing and they would become ONE body with ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism.
Some Christians are what I call red-letter Christians. They give great weight and authority to the “words” of Jesus in the gospels. With great passion and commitment they attempt to walk in the steps of Jesus. (WWJD) Unfortunately, they rarely consider whether or not the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels are actually his words. Jesus didn’t write any of the books found in the Bible. (which is odd) Many modern scholars question who actually wrote the gospels and some scholars doubt that the actual writers were Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The words of the gospels were not put on parchment until decades after the death of Jesus, the Christ, so the best a modern-day Christian can say about the gospels is that they are words written by an unknown person who recorded what someone told the writer Jesus said.
Believing that God or the Holy Spirit or Jesus wrote, spoke, or guided the writers of the Bible text requires faith. Such claims cannot, outside of the text itself, be proved. Either you believe the Bible is truth or you don’t. I am an atheist today primarily because I no longer believe the Bible is truth. It’s all about faith.
Every Christian belief rest not on God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, but on the authority of a human being or a group of human beings. It is humans who decide what the Bible says. It is humans who decide what this or that verse means. Whether it is a denomination, the Pope, theologians, a pastor, or an individual Christian, it is a human who is the final authority. At best, the only thing a Christian can claim is THUS SAITH THE POPE, MY DENOMINATION, MY PASTOR, MY COLLEGE PROFESSORS OR MYSELF!! Any claim that it is God speaking of leading is a matter of faith, a matter that cannot empirically be proved. In other words, you are just going to have to take their word for it…….or not!
Christians need to get off their Bible High-Horse and admit who the real final authority is. The fact that there are thousands of Christian sects shows very clearly that humans are the ones with the final say on what the Bible does and doesn’t say. It is humans who preach, write books, teach theology classes, blog, and debate.
God may have said, but it is humans who get the final say as to what God actually said or what he meant to say. Every Christian statement of belief is an interpretation of the Bible. It is that person or group saying this is what the Bible says. In other words, the person is saying I know what God said.
Name one Christian teaching that ALL Christians agree on? That Jesus was a real person……and that’s about it. Every other teaching of the so-called “faith once delivered to the saints” is disputed by some Christian sect or the other. If the Christian church was a married couple they would have long since been divorced for irreconcilable differences. Oh wait, that is exactly what has happened. The Christian church is hopelessly splintered with no hope of unity.
Children in Evangelical Sunday Schools learn to sing the B-I-B-L-E song. In light of what I have written above, the lyrics of the song should be changed:
The B-I-B-L-E, yes that MIGHT be the Book for me, I SOMETIMES stand alone on the WORDS OF MEN, the B-I-B-L-E.
Until God shows up in person and says YES, I wrote this convoluted, contradictory book that makes me out to be a hateful vindictive sadist, I am not going to believe the Bible is God’s Word. If God really wrote the Bible do you think he would have written what he did? If God had control of the writing process do you think he would have included his unsavory side? If God was involved in putting the Bible together don’t you think he would have proofread it and made sure that there were no mistakes and that the text was internally consistent?
Instead, Christians spend countless hours trying to harmonize (making it all fit) the text of the Bible. They put forth laughable explanations for the glaring errors found in the Bible. Well, you know Bruce, Jesus cleansed the Temple at the start of his ministry and the end of his ministry! Sure he did. Sometimes I wonder if Christians know how foolish some of the harmonizing attempts sound to those on the outside of the church. (or someone like me who has been on both sides of the fence) Of course, according to the Bible, the harmonization’s sound foolish because the non-Christian doesn’t have the Holy Spirit inside of him teaching him what is true. And so ‘round and ‘round the merry-go-round goes.
If Christians want to believe the Bible and worship God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit I have no beef with them. If they want to believe the Bible and its teaching who am I to say they can’t. However, when they insist that everyone believe the Bible and believe in their God and that the Bible and their God is the only one, true religion then I have a problem. When Christians insist that the Bible and its teachings be taught to public school children I have a problem. When Christians try to make the moral and ethical code taught in the Bible (or their interpretation of it) applicable to everyone I have a problem.
Here’s what I am saying…..take the Bible, go to your houses of worship and believe and worship as you will. It is your business and I have no grounds for complaining about it, However, I expect you to keep your beliefs to yourself. If I don’t ask, you don’t tell. Stop all the theocratic, God-rule talk. Stop trying to turn American into a Christian nation. Stop demonizing everyone who disagrees with your beliefs. In other words, be a good human being, and not a prickish religious fanatic who thinks everyone should hear about the Christian God whether they want to or not.
Do you think American Christians can do what I mentioned above?
Not a chance.
So we fight on……..