!-->!-->!--> >>> !-->!-->!-->
Infallible Bible Belief Puts You In
A Religion Box You Can't Get Out Of
By Rev. Russell
(In response to an email post that stated that the writer believed the Bible to be Infallible)
You are assuming several things in this "logic" which quite naturally would prove your corollary. However, if your assumptions are wrong, then your logic falls flat. I believe that your assumptions are:
1. God speaks to people through a book and not through their hearts. 2. The bible was inspired as the sole and definitive word of God. 3. Christians are people who follow the bible.
These assumptions, IMO, are wrong. Therefore, your logic falls flat. God cannot have "lied" to people in something he never wrote, therefore, the bible is relegated to the position of any other book of wisdom. It is relegated to humanness. Which is rightly where it belongs. If the bible is not the sole and definitive word of god, then it is a book, and nothing more.
We reject Herbert's teachings as the rantings of a madman determined to gain personal wealth and power by any means necessary. The bible was simply a tool towards that end. You have rightly rejected this, but failed to see the larger picture. We reject the bible as the "inspired/inerrant" word of God, not at all because of what Herbie did, but because we recognize that God is much bigger than any book, that he is much bigger than any religion or dogma, and most of all, that he speaks to us directly through our hearts. The bible is no more than a tool to God. Anything can be a tool for God.
God does not want us to sit there reading a book, assuming that everything to be read in that book is his inspired word. What good is that? God wants us to listen to "him", in whatever forms he may take. It may be a friend or a lover saying "I love you", it may be watching a hungry person in the street and taking pity on them and buying them a warm meal. It may be building someone a house. Each life lesson learned is ultimately from God, and I believe that God is pleased as we grow and mature. And, it does not hinge on a book. It hinges on us listening to our hearts, listening to the cries of others, showing as much love as we possibly can, and doing what is right. It is in pursuing relationships, both with God and our fellow man.
The Bible as the "inerrant/inspired" word of God actually destroys this more than it helps the goals. Using the bible as a pattern for a good life is not wrong, as long as our minds stay open to other possibilities. Taking the bible as the "only" inspired truth of God, however, I believe I can safely say would bring us farther away from him than closer.
Because the minute we start regarding the bible as God's truth and "only" truth, we have succeeded in subjugating large portions of the population of this earth into a less privileged position, at the least in our minds, and at worst very literally. This is not what God wants, I can say with a great deal of conviction.
You doubt what I say here? OK, think of it this way. The minute the Bible (or anything else) becomes the absolute Truth, the thing upon which our "salvation" is dependent, then everything else loses all credibility depending on whether it agrees with your interpretation of the bible (which could itself be flawed). Suddenly you've just created a caste system in your own mind. Those who understand, those who know, and those who don't. Those who understand are privileged with God, because they understand precisely what god wants as outlined in their book. Those who know but don't understand are the unfortunates who are to be enlightened by your great understanding. And those who don't, either because they don't have access to or haven't read the bible, are those unfortunates whom you have to minister to.
You have just set yourself up as a spiritual authority, on a higher level than those other poor unfortunates. You have just created a system of "haves" and "have nots". You have just subjugated others in your mind - and in doing so, have lost sight of the message that God actually has for you - "LOVE GOD, THEN LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF". You lose.
We have thrown out the bible because we realize it is just a book. HWA taught us that no one but God is to be trusted, period. And this includes the Bible. After all, inspired or not, it was written by men.
You say that the words of the bible that proceed out of the mouth of god are necessary for salvation. I disagree. What is necessary for "salvation", such as it is, is to understand the basic truths that the bible attempts to convey, i.e., love god, then love one another. One could gain those truths from other sources and still be in right, because God is love, therefore, anyone preaching love is preaching the "word of God".
The inherent assumption you are making is that the bible is necessary for salvation. I completely disagree. God is necessary for "salvation", nothing more.
I agree that many of us are trying to "teach" love for God and one another. But to say that it cannot be understood apart from the bible is a gross inerrancy. When God's love is in our hearts, it does not matter one whit whether we ever pick up the bible. Period.
I don't believe "Truth shall make you free" refers to the bible. It refers to the underlying message that Christ was "trying" to give. Until people corrupted it.
Being restricted to one book is not by any means freedom.
(There are "many" words in the Bible that God personally spoke (through His messengers), but there are FAR MORE WORDS that God did NOT speak. The problem is, identifying which words are which. Thus, if one "dismisses" the Bible, then one cannot "know" which words are God's, and which ones are not. God "spoke" [His Words] the Ten Commandments. (according to the Bible) HE DID NOT SPEAK THE LAW OF MOSES. The "law" that Herbert W. Armstrong taught.)
Open to interpretation. I would agree that "identifying which words are which" WOULD be a problem, if God chose the bible as his method to speak through.
But how does one interpret which words are which? Well, by God, speaking to their hearts to understand. So god spoke to people thousands of years ago, people wrote it down, introducing many inaccuracies, then we are to take what is left of that as the "inspired word of God", and rely on him to help us sift out the truth from the false, intentionally excluding some people from understanding, misleading many others, and causing others to go wacko? I don't think so. Efficiency (God seems to always be efficient) dictates that God would speak to the person directly, without any "need" for the bible or any other book, though it can be a useful tool, "just like any other book". God speaks to our hearts regardless.
(If one would give the Bible an "honest" chance, then they would be surprised at how "inspired" it really is. At least that's my belief.)
I have given the bible an "honest" chance, back when I was just beginning mainstream Christianity, about a year and a half ago. I found it boring, inapplicable, and useless. But I survived and I understand more than a lot of people who worship it.
Those people that still follow the "don't believe me, believe your bible" thing are OK, I guess, to a point. That mantra alone is well enough to completely disprove the rantings of any money-hungry old coot, because the bible, imperfect as it may be, still contains some very good gems of wisdom and the general impression of God's purpose, "love god and love one another". If you read that and understand that, it sort of makes all those complicated rule systems obsolete and cumbersome.
However, it can, as Ray shows, be taken too far. Once you go from "Don't believe me, believe your bible" to "Don't believe your heart, believe your interpretation of the bible", it becomes dangerous. At the point where one understands the greatest commandment of all internally, "Love god and love one another", in my opinion, is the point where the bible should lose its special place and return to its place as just another book. Going any further with the impression that the bible is the sole and definitive word of God will simply create more problems down the road.
In short, the bible is a good healing tool for those who are entrenched in a cult, because it does contain wisdom that when applied properly can expose those who would take advantage of others. Also (and this is perhaps the biggest reason) because most cults, such as Worldwide Church of God, hide behind corruption's of the bible to justify their abuses... thereby making the bible one of the most convenient ways to expose them for what they are. Regardless of whether the bible is inspired or not, a verse taken out of context is still a verse taken out of context.
There are four levels of spiritual understanding, in my opinion. This doesn't mean that one level is better than another, but I honestly believe that these levels do represent different levels of enlightenment, such as it is:
1. Those who follow someone else's interpretation of the bible, and allow others to do all the thinking for them, about what they believe. These are the cult members. These people consider the bible the divine, sole, and inspired word of God, but they rely on someone else to translate it for them, and submit unquestioningly to their translation. This is the most restricting of the levels. In this level, the mind is usually as closed as a nun's panties (sorry, couldn't resist :)
2. Those who follow their own interpretation of the bible, or take it literally, and consider it the divine, sole, and inspired word of God. These people are at the lowest level of enlightenment, I would say, because their minds are either being controlled by someone else, or barring that, they have closed their minds so much that no other idea will be allowed in to challenge whatever pet interpretation they have. These people are also usually the ones who think of themselves as the ones with the divine truth, and as everyone else as either lost or perhaps just deceived. Notice the egotism, arrogance, and self-righteousness of this particular approach. I want to stress again that I'm not saying these people are any better or worse, it's just something I've noticed. These people do not rely on others for the translation, they have broken out of the mold of level one enough to think for themselves, at least enough to follow their own interpretation.
3. Those who do not take the bible literally, but instead recognize a message in it, and follow the message. These people can still see the bible as the sole, inspired word of God, and still understand the message of love that it contains, that it transcends anything else. These people understand that the love of God takes much higher priority than the word of God, even though they do not hold any other book in as high esteem. These people are usually much more moderate in their beliefs, they still believe they know something that everyone else doesn't, but they do not hold others in derision or anything, instead, they recognize that God's love encompasses all, as shown in the bible. They do see specific examples of good living and attempt to follow them, but hold what is said in the bible to the standards of love.
4. Those who consider the bible just another book, and recognize the Word of God, as written on their hearts, as the most important thing. These people are usually the most accepting and non-judgmental, because they are the ones who most openly and freely allow God to work in their lives and allow God to form a relationship with them, because they are not constricting their opinions to a narrow aperture, rather, they seek knowledge in all its forms, recognizing that God can show himself in anyone and anything. These people also have, in the long run, the most rewarding lives.
I am not judging anyone here, and neither am I putting down anyone in the first two groups. What I am doing is attempting to quantify the stages in spiritual enlightenment, from those who are cultish to those who are really free, and those who can gain the most from their journeys, quests, and studies.
I, of course, consider myself in the last group, actually, that's a necessity, because if I didn't, I would not even consider the possibility of the last group being anything but deceived and lost, instead of people who are seeking the truth. One could also categorize the groups as degrees of open-mindedness and freedom. It's not egotistical, believe me.
There may be yet more levels. I would not know about them until I reached them. It's the nature of things. Those who are on the lower levels tend to look down in one way or another, either in pity or condemnation, on anyone on a higher level.
Transition from level 1 to level 2 is marked by disillusionment with the organization they have joined, and eventual leaving, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The other transitions are not as obvious, except by a greater tolerance for others.
This is just a theory of mine. Some of you will blast it. Oh well.
I've begun to believe lately that there is a God, and that he does take an active interest in people's lives. But what I've begun to realize is that whenever humans attempt to put God in a box, whether by believing he can only work a certain way, or by believing that one book is his inspired word, it almost always works out for the bad. For the reasons I stated in my above, partly. But I think there are other natural laws in effect too.
We, as humans, are innately seekers. Our entire reign on this planet is marked by an intense drive to learn, to understand, to seek out truth. We want to know why we are here, what the meaning of life is, what our origins are. We've spent millennia trying to find the answers to these questions. And as we find new answers, our collective knowledge grows. And then we build on that, and so on, and so forth. We have come so far in such a short period of time, in the physical sciences, in mathematics, everything, all because of our incessant drive to learn, and to understand. This is also the case in spirituality as well. It is a process of maturation of our species.
This is the whole basis of freedom. To be free to learn and understand whatever we desire, with unfettered and unrestricted access to all of the works created before. To pursue our own path of understanding and maturation. Notice that in almost all civilized countries, freedom does not extend to subjugating others in any way, because this would limit their freedom to carve their own path of understanding and maturation. Notice how the punishment of such crimes is usually a restriction of the offender's freedom, sometimes for life, and sometimes it's the ending of their life. Why? Because this person poses a threat to the maturation of the species as a whole.
To me, this is how evil is defined. The restriction of a person or group's freedom to find the truth for themselves.
So what is the point I'm trying to make? Simple. As we have learned more, as we have continued the maturing process, there is always that force of evil which would try to stop us. Sometimes it is outright, such as the nazis, or apartheid, or the Chinese human rights violations. And sometimes it is more insidious. Such as the influence of religion on people's lives, which cause them to pull back from the process of exploration and discovery, and force them into a little box, which they then must defend vigorously with all their might, sometimes philosophically, sometimes physically, the Muslim extremists, for example. They force god into a little box as well, and fight so hard to keep him there.
So many people fail to reach their full potential because of the concerted effort of religion to keep them there. Once one is "converted" into a religion, they lose all will or need to continue exploring or developing themselves, because they now have an organization which will do all the work for them. And they give up all of their freedom. And they get trapped in a little box.
So, Christ comes on the scene. It doesn't matter what his nature is, whether he is divine or not, whether he is still alive or not. It doesn't matter at all. Christ's function was to tell people that they are not really free, that there is a freedom that they are entitled to as human beings. That it is their obligation as human beings not to hinder the exploration and maturation of others, but to nurture, and support them. To love them regardless while they continue on their path. Naturally the religions, the entrenched powers, hated this, and hated him, because he was telling everyone the one thing which would completely eliminate their hold on power. He was setting people free.
If you read through the "Brinsmead" documents, this is exactly what he is trying to say, except he comes at it from a different angle. Christ was setting people free from the restrictions of their own religions and mythologies.
So, instead of going away, the evil adapts. It takes the freedom given by Christ, the unparalleled understanding of humanity that he had, and twists it around so that it forms its own box. And takes away the freedom of people in the name of the very one who sought to show us how much freedom we actually have, if we just rise up and claim it.
I apologize if these thoughts are a little muddled. They are mostly within my grasp, but very hard to formulate.
This is why tolerance is so important, why love is so important, and why I speak so hard and strongly about closed-mindedness. Open-mindedness and a willingness to be humble and change when one discovers something to be wrong, rather than contort around the truth and fight to the death to keep from having to change (which is a difficult thing) is the only thing that will allow our species, both as a race and as individuals, to grow.
This, I believe, is what Christ was all about. I believe this was his message.
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.