439: THE BIBLE – A STUMBLING BLOCK FOR CHRISTIANS?

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, (which isn’t a creed at all.) Check out the 17 points of the Zingcreed manifesto though – and write in and tell me what you think of them. (Zingcreed@yahoo.co.uk)
This slogan summarizes the current position:-
“God is dead, ‘Christ’ is a human creation, so it’s just the historical and metaphorical Jesus.”
I keep getting letters from someone called Paul who wants to challenge what I’ve said  about Christ! (Joke)
Our tag is “A Christian atheist polemic”; but a more accurate way of expressing it would be “a Jesusite/non-theist polemic”. It’s all explained in the earlier Posts, findable through a comprehensive index which is accessible from the title page.

Very little on Zingcreed is original. I get my ideas from books and the media – I read a lot. Today’s source is the late great Marcus Borg, teacher of Progressive Christianity and Master of Metaphor. Like most theology scholars worth reading, he is/was American. As are most of the 10,000 viewers of this site (Hi guys! and an especially warm Hello to any NYU students who are still with us.)

I hope you get something from it!”
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

The Bible, a stumbling block for Christians?

Borg reckons that although the Bible is the sacred book of the Christians through which they find God, it nevertheless creates some problems as well.He thinks more people have left the church because of the way the church uses the bible than for any other cause. Current notions of the book’s infallibility, and moral and doctrinal absolutes are an obstacle for millions.
Of course, as a liberal he has to attack the evangelicals; it’s all part of the game theologians and clergy like to play. But it’s a game played in deadly earnest, a game with very high stakes.
According to traditionalist apologist Dinesh D’Souza, Borg’s side are loosing. Church attendance in (American) liberal congregations is plummeting while what Borg calls the ‘earlier paradigm’ of old-fashioned gospel-based churches are expanding fast. Borg may support what seems most logical, reasonable and believable, but sadly that’s not what people want in their religion!

Borg is still right that many people find traditional church assertions about , for instance, the historical factuality of certain passages impossible to swallow. Here’s a list of the kind of claims that people find difficult when understood literally:

  • That the earth was created in 6 days, and not very long ago;
  • That Adam and Eve were real people and that ‘the fall’ brought death into the world;
  • That God sent a flood that destroyed all life except Noah and pairs of animals that were saved in an ark;
  • That all people originally spoke the same language and only later were divided into different language groups;
  • That God ordered the slaughter of the Amalekites, men, women, children and infants;
  • That God regulated and legitimated slavery (in both Testaments);
  • That God cares about whether we wear garments made of 2 kinds of cloth;
  • That God ordered the subordination of women;
  • That Jesus is the only way of salvation, and that people can be saved only by believing that he literally died for our sins;
  • That unbelieving Jews are children of the devil;
  • That the second coming of Jesus will involve the destruction of most of humankind.

So how can the bible be a divine product – the infallible and inerrant Word of God? I think if you put this list to traditional Christians, one point at a time, they’d have difficulty justifying belief in their literalness. I must try that out next time the JWs call! Promoting his ’emerging paradigm’ as an alternative to a literal interpretation, Borg describes a historical, metaphorical and sacramental understanding. This is what mainstream scholars and church people have been thinking for some time. They understand the Godly inspiration of scriptures in a different way.

  • The bible is a historical product of ancient Israel and the early church;
  • It is a human product not a divine product;
  • It is full of stories about 2 ancient communities;
  • It is culturally conditioned and tells us how people then saw things, not how God saw things;
  • A historical and metaphorical understanding can replace a literal understanding.

(See red slogan at top of page! -there’s a convergence of views here, I think.)

Sources:
(i) Borg, Marcus “The heart of Christianity. Rediscovering a life of faith. How we can be passionate believers today” HarperCollins (2003)
(ii) D’Souza, Dinesh “What’s so great about Christianity?” Tyndale (2007)

Related Zingcreed Posts:

to be completed later

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