Tuesday, July 10, 2012

By What Authority?

I subscribe to Richard Rohr's daily e-mail meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation.  Rohr is a Franciscan priest who writes about the intersection of spirituality and culture.  I deeply appreciate his insights.  Recently he inspired me when he began a series answering the following questions “By what authority do you say the things you do, Richard? How do we know these are not just your ideas? Why should we believe you?”  Another way of framing the questions might be to ask, why do you believe the things you do?  or What are the foundations of your faith?

I thought it might be interesting to think about those questions and blog a bit.  So I'll be blogging about a few of my sources of authority in no particular order.

First - the Bible.  There are scores of more conservative Christians who would shake their heads at me saying that.  They would argue that I don't really believe the Bible.  Depending on what you mean by that, they may be correct.  I do not believe the Bible the way they do.  I do not take the Bible literally.  Indeed, there are things in the Bible that I do not believe are God's word to us and there are things I just do not believe.  I would go so far as to say that in order to really believe the Bible, one cannot take it literally.

So what do I find in the Bible if  "plenary verbal inspiration" is not a descriptor I would ever use?  (Plenary verbal inspiration is the idea that the very words of the Bible are individually chosen by God.  Many who hold that view would say that it only applies to the original autographs or documents written by the Biblical writers.  Others apply the idea even to some translations, usually the KJV.) 

I do not expect the Bible to be without contradictions nor do I expect it to be a book of history in the modern sense or of science.  I believe that taking the Bible seriously requires one to recognize that it is comprised of metaphor, parable, myth, poetry, and is the stories of fallible human beings trying to make sense out of their experiences of the Holy... and sometimes misinterpreting it entirely.  I am inspired by my ancestors in faith who struggled with the presence of the Divine One.  I am challenged and humbled by their courage and strength and I am warned by their weakness and cowardice. 

Theirs are not the only stories.  There are similar struggles in every culture in the world.  They are the stories that are central to my culture and my faith so I stand in them, wrestle with them, and hopefully learn from them and become a better follower of Jesus because I take them seriously.

1 comment:

Michael Mahoney said...

You might not have expected this, but I agree with you more than I disagree on this point. Especially around the translation bit. Yeah, the original texts may have been divinely inspired (I think they were) but what has been lost in translation? Clearly, koine Greek does not translate to English well.

I can't reconcile the evidence of cosmology with the Genesis creation account as well, if the latter is to be taken literally. The alternative is that God is lying to us through His creation, and I cannot accept that. I think it far more likely that we are misinterpreting His revelation.

Still, for a text written over a period of 1500 years by over 60 authors on three continents in at least three languages... it's a remarkably consistent and coherent book.