Explaining the Inexplicable

hidden-3d.com-gallery-x-3Dimka_Chel_CamelIt is surely true that one of the greatest lessons I learned as I ventured into the blogosphere is something that cannot be learned easily in the real world, unless over long periods of time.

It is that everyone’s brain does not work the same. We tend to think that they do. When we come up against a person who seems unreasonable and without logic in their thinking, we tend to say “it’s just them”, as in something is wrong with them individually.

But when, via the Internet, you meet dozens and then more dozens of people who have this same “problem”, you realize that there must be really different ways to organize thinking.

The two groups that have frustrated me the most are fundamentalists and atheists. I probably should subdivide that somewhat because not all atheists are the same, nor probably all fundamentalists. Let us just say that the most fervent among either group share this trait–a perfectly ironclad belief that they are right, and a perfectly ironclad belief that there is no fact out there that can change their mind. They basically don’t acknowledge the latter of course.

Fundamentalists insist that I suspend all my senses and the accompanying logical deductions that seem to support conclusions in accord with those senses and believe that for whatever reason God wants us to believe a completely different scenario of “how things came to be”.  Our senses serve double duty–allowing us to function in a natural world, yet designed apparently to lead us terribly astray if we follow them to their logical ends. In other words, see the dangerous animal ahead, but don’t look much further into what composes the animal.

Atheists, at least the vocal ones nowadays, say all such God-talk is utter nonsense, and there is no point in trying to debate a fantasy. No one who believes in God, whatever their education can be other than a dolt. They are reduced to making fun of believers, mining the Bible for quote after quote, ridiculing the logic and implications. If you try to point out history, context, literary genre, or anything similar, they point out that “progressive” explanations are merely attempts to not dump the baby out with the bath water.

Atheists reduce all religion to fundamentalist definitions because that is the easy target. It is would be akin to defining and then criticizing all political parties using only the Tea Party model.

It is frustrating to “explain” belief to a non-believer. It is hard to explain because if you have not had that “moment” its hard to make it understandable. It requires a willingness to think outside the box I guess.

I have no answer for the fundamentalist. Mostly life either throws them a curve that upsets their apple cart or it doesn’t. For those to whom that happens, they discard fundamentalism rapidly thereafter, and alas often any belief in God at all. This is the unfortunately reality. The Internet abounds with various “help” blogs for “recovering fundamentalists”.

But there are a vast number of atheists out there who are not of the vocal and hysterical variety. They are just quietly what they are, much as I was for many years. Contrary to the “new” atheists who claim they are discriminated against, I and I dare say most atheists have never felt this. Frankly it’s something that seldom comes up in any conversation.

Among my atheist or agnostic friends, still the subject of “why do you believe in God” does arise in a friendly way, and as I said, it is hard to explain.

This is all to say, that I have found what I believe is the most cogent and helpful explanation of what believing is all about. And it’s all about stereograms.

Stereograms are pictures that contain other images within. For some, the other picture is apparent almost immediately. For others, it takes some minutes, maybe longer. For some few, it never happens. The beauty here is that even those that “never can”, can at least recognize that others can.

Thus belief is seen as “another way of thinking” or “another way of seeing”. Some can “see” this way easily, some after a while, some only after a long while, and some never. But the nevers (atheists) can at least know that others can see this different way.

If that all sounds confusing, then I urge you to go to Making the Spiritual World Real. I’m quite sure that David Flowers explains it much better than I. If we can make inroads in our differences, at least to understand each other, then we have moved miles.

Blessings this day.

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What Do We Expect?

I’ve said this a few times (to say the least) before. Fundamentalists create more atheists than other atheists ever will. I was never quite sure why, but the answer is really pretty darn obvious.

Fundamentalists deal in absolutes. The Bible IS the word of God. It is absolutely true in every single respect. There can be no contradictions and no errors. Of course when proven not to be the case, the shattered believer applies the same demands on non-fundamentalist faith–proof.  And none is forthcoming, so they throw up their hands.

If there is no proof, then there is no basis for faith.

But really, fundamentalists are much akin to atheists in their thinking. Atheists always point to reality as that which can be proven. A science experiment either works or it doesn’t. It’s true or false. Something, someday, might be more true, but it seldom turns out utterly false.

The same is true of liberals and conservatives. Conservatives know what has worked, and what hasn’t. They KNOW and they don’t want to venture into not-knowing. They don’t like to take chances. They don’t like not knowing anything, so they often structure a world that contains only known things and they declare unknown things unworthy of thinking about.

Liberals don’t mind not knowing. They actually know that some things they may never know, other things will become known in time. They aren’t afraid of taking chances, especially when what is known produces outcomes that don’t work so well.

Liberals make fine progressive believers. They aren’t afraid of the fact that they may never know God in any significant way. It’s okay. It’s okay even if God isn’t real in the end. Believing and living a life based on belief is not a bad thing. As they see it.

Conservatives think that silly, and so do fundamentalists. So they set out to create a God that they CLAIM is knowable, fully. And they know God, or so they claim. They feel relaxed, confident, and somewhat puffed up by the fact that they KNOW.

The person who has had the fundamentalist theology explode into a thousand pieces asks what is not possible. They want answers that will fully satisfy them as their bible-thumpin’ ministers used to. And when they don’t find that, since living in the unknowing, is part of being a believer, they mope, and get angry, they argue, and they pout, and in the end they throw up their hands in disgust. The atheists are right–believers have no answers.

I don’t mean to make fun of or deride these folks. I feel deeply saddened that their personal, shall we say, brain pattern demands certainty. It is perhaps they way they are structured. Some seem to make the change, but most don’t. Not that I can see.

Buddhists are, in my opinion, rather expert in living in the moment, and not wasting much time worrying about knowing. If you can’t know you will be alive in five minutes, there isn’t must you can be sure about. There is much wisdom in that.

I’m in a place and time where I’m not giving nearly the attention to faith that I should. But maybe the point is that I shouldn’t be at all concerned. God offers me relationship, gracious and freely. Since I believe that, I expect God understands quite perfectly when my life becomes chaotic to the point that I only seek him for peace and sanity, and little more.

So, I’m okay with the limits on my prayer, meditation and reading of spiritual things. It will return when life is less hectic, of that I am sure. I don’t know if my notions are accurate or not, but there is nothing I can do to find out anyway.

God is there when I need it. At least that is what I feel, and what I believe. And in the end, what else is necessary?

Amen.

Who is Christian?

Following the horrific events in Oslo, Norway, and the ensuing rhetoric about it, this question came to me. Who indeed is Christian?

As you will recall, long before much in the way of facts were uncovered, a shocking number of pundits and “journalists” speculated freely that Al Qaeda had struck innocents once again. Once the alleged perpetrator began to talk, all this changed, and we learned that the actor was a self-proclaimed Christian and fundamentalist. His written screed backed this up, with illusions to the Crusades.

As we have now come to expect, the Right was furious. How dare this madman do his evil deeds in the name of Christianity? In fact, some of these misguided folks claimed that they were the “true victims” since the Left now would use this crime to attack the far-right cause. Indeed the terrorist named several anti-Muslim activists in this country as being an inspiration to him. So the extreme right had reason to be concerned.

Other’s unbelievably, still wanting to put a Muslim face on this tragedy, said that the actor “had a point” in suggesting that multiculturalism was a disaster for Europe, and by inference for America as well. This tactic was rather soundly condemned: how can you uphold anything that comes from a crazed killer?

But perhaps the most profound result was people like Bill O’Reilly, pundit for Fox “News” who proclaimed that the Norwegian killer was “no Christian”. He claimed that one was not entitled to that title merely by saying it, especially when one’s actions belied any real understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

Of course, Mr. O’Reilly has never had any problem with calling Middle Eastern terrorists, “Islamic Terrorists” simply because they were of the Muslim faith or claimed to be. One begins to smell a lack a rat here.

But the question remains. What constitutes a Christian? The question of course can equally be asked of Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and any other faith tradition.

Who gets to decide when one is acting or talking or thinking within the acceptable parameters of one’s tradition?

I, for instance, would argue that The Westboro “Christians” aren’t Christians at all, or one’s whose understanding of Christianity is deeply flawed.  I and many others sometimes refer to fundamentalist Christians as Christianists, to signify that they use and distort biblical passages in order to serve their personal views of the way the world “ought to be.”

Other’s argue that Mormons are not “true” Christians. And the list goes on and on.

The point is, that the majority of Muslims throughout the world might well argue that those who engage in terrorism are misguided and self-serving in their interpretation of the Qur’an, and are not “true” Muslims. Perhaps that is said by some portions of the Jewish community. There are Buddhists who engage or have engaged in violence. Are there Buddhists who would argue that they are not “true” Buddhists?

So the question remains, who decides?

There is no human answer here of course. The ultimately satisfying answer can only be, that God will and does determine this issue, if it is of any importance at all. We, individually or in community cannot know the mind and spirit of any other person. We cannot judge what faith means to them, or how they interpret it.

Is the man who killed Dr. Tiller a Christian? He would certainly, and does claim that he acted to defend God’s word. Were the Inquisitionists Christians? Were the Crusaders? The KKK?  White Militias?  All have killed in the name of God.

Again, we mere mortals do best to leave that alone. Nothing is served by trying to “protect” one’s sect of Christianity by claiming that this or that one “doesn’t belong to us.” The truth is that fundamentalism is not a Christian thing, nor a Muslim thing, nor even necessarily a religious thing. It is a state of being, in which the believer thinks that he/she has the answers to whatever issues matter to them. They have interpreted correctly and those that disagree must be defeated. The manner of their defeat can be many things, but for a fringe it can and will include violence.

It is this that is opposed, and not the thinking itself. I am well able to accept your self-serving interpretations as long as they remain yours and not ones you seek to impose upon me by force.

If the Norway shooter believes he is Christian, then he is entitled to do so. He’s not my vision of one, but I am not the decider. And neither is anybody else.

Amen.

The Hand of God

I have spoken often about fundamentalism. It is, in my opinion, a deeply dangerous and destructive methodology. It has been my opportunity to visit a number of blogs devoted to those who have come through the dark night of fundamentalism.

It is not a pretty picture. Never have I seen people so pained, so wounded, so mistrustful. They feel, and quite legitimately I might say, betrayed.

Some are so locked in pain and betrayal, that they are no longer seeking, as they claim; they are defending their newly discovered errancy of the bible. Those, I have had to release, because my offerings are not helpful, they trust only their own conclusions and that is probably correct at this point in time.

It is said, “to be a fundamentalist,  you have to have a book.  And then you have to forget that book has a history.” R. Joseph Hoffmann [h/t to Do You Ever Think About. . .]

What is ironic is that in discarding the inerrancy doctrine of fundamentalism, most ex-fundies don’t discard the rest of the ideology. They now “prove” errancy by the same literalistic interpretations that they just discarded. They buy into the fundamentalist claim that if the one thing is errant, then the whole book is suspect and worthless, and  “your faith is a sham.”

One would think that once you have faced the betrayal, you would throw out every  single tenet propounded by such practitioners. But for whatever reason, as I said, this is not the case.

I came across a poem, written by one who is truly seeking for a new way. She is intelligent, well read, and I think past the searing pain of her past. I have found many of her posts deeply moving and thoughtful. She asks good questions. She listens carefully. She wrote this poem, that bespeaks some of the things I have mentioned. I reprint it here. Do go and see her blog and offer her support.

My field of view within Christianity is littered with weeds.

Where some see God’s grace, I grieve for the un-elect.

Where some praise God’s sovereignty, I shudder at eternal conscious suffering.

Where some shun apostates, I resonate with their questions.

Where some obtain solace in their Bibles, I find confusion.

Where some worship with joy, I am riddled with anxiety.

Will I be able to see a flower where I once saw a weed? [Like A Child]

The first two lines especially bespeak a reliance on “old fundamentalist” teaching. At least to me. For there is nothing in the bible from which one must conclude that there is any “elect”, nor is there any reason to conclude that there is any “eternal conscious suffering” imposed at least from outside one’s own mind. One can argue from literal readings I suppose that this is the case in both instances, but the more reasoned and exegetical majority opinions don’t suggest these severe conclusions.

If I may, let me write a response:

Where some grieve for the unelect, I see God’s creation as Good where all are welcomed.

Where some shudder at eternal conscious suffering, I see God’s loving embrace, wiping away  every tear.

Where some are plagued with questions, I welcome each one as searching to probe deeper into the mystery.

Where some find confusion in the Bible, I find an unending fount of insights being refined and   yet to be refined, awaiting.

Where some are riddled with anxiety, I take comfort in the mystery to which we are invited.

Please understand, I respond, not to cast down the heart-felt feelings of another, but to offer how I view the world. I can but pray that those who are in pain, find solace, and hear again God’s voice,  for I promise, it is there, in the very places it has always been–everywhere.

Amen.

My Cooking is Killing My Sheep!

Jesus told Peter to “feed my sheep.” That responsibility falls upon us as a believing community. Yet Paul reminds us that we all have different gifts.

One of mine is surely not pastoral care. Mind you, I did some graduate work in this area, but it’s not my forte.

I screwed it up, as they say.

You will remember that I spoke about finding some bloggers who were in transition, having freed themselves of fundamentalism. They were in deep pain, struggling to retain a faith that had lost it foundations.

I felt that my offerings were not helpful. Yet one commented on that post and I felt encouraged enough to continue. I should have left well enough alone.

I have not the right words it seems, or the right attitude, or something. In point of fact, I think I misunderstood the “place” of the other person. I negligently thought I saw a person still struggling to retain faith. Rather I think I found a person who rejected fundamentalism in its interpretation of the bible, but accepted its underlying threat: It’s all inerrant, or you have no reason to accept any bit of it.

This is the constant and insidious ugly side of fundamentalism. Not only does it convince that a book is God, it convinces that if the Book isn’t God, there is no God to be found.

Most of the other commenters on this post are agnostics or atheists, so they were challenging me as well as supporting the doubts raised by the poster. Trying to argue a person out of agnosticism or atheism, especially when it is newly acquired is a worthless proposition.

But it did get me to thinking. How very different my own journey.

While I knew plenty of Catholics in my young life, they were never ones to speak of their faith. It just wasn’t done. When I did learn anything about religion and God, it was from a fundamentalist point of view. This was true through my early 20’s and  through my 30’s.

I simply rejected it out of hand for this reason. I could never have believed in a God that was projected by a inerrant reading of the Bible. In fact, upon reading it, my reaction was, “what an evil and awful thing this God is!”

For, intuitively I knew this: God had to be at least as perfect and beautiful as ANYTHING I could create in my own mind. I suspected God was much more, but the Creator MUST be at least that perfect. I was merely a person, with a reasoning brain after all.

So reason, before I knew a thing about real theology, was a hallmark of believing. Remember, I am the one who, upon learning that there was no Santa Claus, placed God in the same category. Wispy magical imaginative whispers of non-reality. Nice, but not real.

Thankfully, God did not stop knocking at my door. And one of my first questions to Sister Doris when I explored entering the Roman Catholic church was, “Do I have to believe all this stuff in the bible literally?”

“My, my,” she laughed, “of course not. True, we do have tenets, things we accept in faith, but we don’t think God tricks us. The earth is certainly not a mere 6,000 years old, for instance. We have dozens and hundreds of fine Catholic scholars who study and examine the manuscripts and explain what certain texts mean.You will learn about myth and allegory and such in your preparation to join the Church.”  

We had a lively conversation, and I left assured that my common sense and reason would never be assaulted by the strange child-like machinations of fundamentalist demands.

Since that time, I’ve studied under priests and other nuns who were theologians and biblical experts, some in the Roman tradition, and recently in the Episcopal tradition. They, individually, studied in some of the most respected and intellectually rigorous universities in the world.

I was never asked to accept their beliefs. I had the benefit of their scholarly learning, but one thing that all of these fine men and women taught me, was that questions were never bad, God was big enough to handle them. And moreover, I understood, whether said directly or by implication, that the hallmark of a mature faith was one worked out individually.

I have come to see it this way: God is like a key hole. We are the key. Yet, we are a key blank at the beginning. Our experiences, study, prayer,  and so forth serve to try to create the key that we can place in the lock and turn. We work at this, making it sometimes jiggle, turn a bit, turn more, stick. We withdraw it at times and look it all over again. We hone, chisel, sharpen. Over time, with effort, we begin to unlock God.

Jesus, of course, was a perfect fit. Perhaps Buddha was as well. Others, those we revere as great mystics and teachers, have got the lock almost open. Once open, the kingdom is ours, today. Jesus tried to explain to us how to do this. He showed us “the way.” But there are other ways, I think, since I dare say the Dalai Lama thinks the Buddha’s way is such.

This is a God I can love, and revere and work hard to emulate. This God, who joyously provides all his sentient beings with keys, calling them to fashion themselves in his image.

Some wonder why it is hard? Should it be easy? What can we possibly learn if it is handed to us on a silver platter? No, we become Christ-like by the struggle. Study is my joy, teasing out the delicate threads of real value in sacred scripture. Sacred? Yes indeed, for all was wrought by believing minds speaking their truth as carefully and completely as they could.

Confound it, but I cannot speak this in a way that convinces the unbeliever. I preach to the choir only. It is my frustration. Is it yours?

Who is This About?

I found myself this week reading a few new blogs I came across written by women who were in the throes of transformation.

And the transformation was exceedingly painful, and the end result mostly unknown. These were women raised, and deeply indoctrinated in fundamentalist faith systems. They had broken out of such systems, and the real struggling began.

Never have I read such painful, heart-wrenching descriptions of soul-searching.  My heart literally broke in agony as I read these stories. At first questions, and then more, the searching for evidence, and the final acknowledgement that nothing they had been taught was true.

And that is the issue. The Nothingness. Each expressed in various ways the loss of foundation, the mooring of one’s being in a philosophy that grounded one’s life. The anchor had been removed. As one put it, “there is no right or wrong, no up or down.” These women could see no basis for any moral decision, in fact they could no longer define what was morality.

In some cases they were plagued with fears that the very thoughts they were thinking were the work of Satan, causing them to rethink what they had determined. They were in chaos, swimming in circles, grasping for a lifeline.

Some were still determined to find God in all this mix. Others were not sure at all that any faith was any longer possible. This is the insidious evil of fundamentalism. It is taught as an all or nothing thing. “Either every word in this book is literally true, or we have no basis for believing any of it is true, and our faith is nil.”

It is the faith of fear, threat, and punishment. If you question, you are possessed by the devil and are going to hell. Open that bible, pray. Such people often end up in mental hospitals under sedation. Any psychiatrist will tell you that many a patient is locked in a vicious loop, the perfect catch-22, and some can’t escape.

As I have said many times, fundamentalism causes more atheists than any other single factor.

I left comments on a couple, offering sympathy, and hopefully insight. I offered hope. I offered encouragement. I offered a listening ear.

I, to date, have received no reply. And I was saddened.

And that caused me to think deeply as to why I was so saddened. Why had my overtures been seemingly rejected?

Of course, that is not necessarily the case. My offers of help, of counsel, may have been taken in and treasured deeply for all I know. There is a time for everything as Ecclesiastes tells us.

But I was more concerned over my own feelings.

They gained clarity with today’s second reading from Paul to the Corinthians. (1Cor 1:10-13.17). In it Paul is lamenting the “factions” that have arisen in the city among the faithful. Some are “for Paul”, others “for Apollos”. Others “for Cephas.”

In Paul’s time, there were indeed factions. Three or four to be certain. Paul represented the most “liberal”. His position was that these new gentile Jesus followers need do nothing than profess Jesus as Lord. Cephas, or Peter, represented a more moderate “Jewish” position. Namely that the new gentile members should follow at least some of the Jewish laws. Presumably Apollos represented another school, perhaps the stricter one that all new gentile converts needed to be circumcised and follow all the laws.

In any case, Paul admonishes them all, claiming that the message is distorted if it’s about who is right on all these particulars. The greatest thing by far, is the message of Jesus. That is what they are all called to preach. Losing sight of the goal is damaging to them all, as well as causing damage to the real point, the preaching to the ends of the earth of the saving power of Christ.

I began to realize that this is what I had gotten caught up in. I wanted these women to acknowledge and validate my advice. I wanted the “oh you don’t know how much you have helped me, how you have clarified things, set my heart at ease. I know that my faith is real!”

It was about me.

And I was humbled, as I thought about this. For indeed, I had never agonized over my faith in this way. I had never tossed and turned, fearing, and trembling. I had never felt the painful insecurity these women expressed.

My conversion was more intellectual. I made an assessment of arguments both for and against. I truly believe that God brought that to a head for me. And the choice was obvious to me. Still is. But I did not wrestle with the angel as Jacob did. I made a decision. I question it from time to time, I go over the “evidence”, but I don’t cry out and moan in pain.

And in some ways, I guess that means, that these women have a faith hugely bigger than mine. It is a faith fighting a behemoth of misinformation and out right lies, told to them for years. And they are still in the fight. I’m not sure I would be. Many a newly created atheist sure isn’t.

I am awed, and I am humbled. Perhaps I need do a bit more listening and a lot less giving of advice. Perhaps I am the one who needs to learn something about faith.

(repost) The Human Faces of God

Seldom have I anticipated a book more than Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When it Gets God wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) . I can tell you, that the book does not disappoint.

Stark takes on the biblical inerrantists and simply demolishes them. Inerrantists, (fundamentalists) insist that “the Bible is inspired by God, without error in everything it affirms historically, scientifically and theologically.” Stark begins with their own founding document: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, formulated in 1978. In it is found its hermeneutic tool: the historical-grammatical method. Stark shows how this method is used, except when it is not used. In other words, inerrantists profess it, and use it, until it doesn’t accomplish their result: an inerrant text. Stark calls their actual practice one of the “hermeneutics of convenience.”

A series of methodologies are alternated, all directed to reach the result that the bible does not err. This at times involves plain meaning, literalism, scripture defining scripture, fuller meaning, and in the end a resort to throwing up one’s hands and declaring that “God has not as yet seen fit to reveal the meaning to us.”

Stark moves through the troubling passages that allude to a belief in a pantheon of gods. Anyone familiar with the Hebrew scriptures knows that there are odd pieces here and there that seem to suggest that there were other gods than Yahweh. The Psalms are replete with such sayings such as God being mightier than the other gods. Exodus and Genesis make such references as well, as well as mention of the “council of the gods.”

Indeed, Stark’s claim that polytheism was the order of the day in ancient Israel, is nothing new. Yet he explains it to the lay reader perhaps better than anywhere else I have seen. The same can be said of his hard-hitting analysis of the God of genocide, found in and throughout Deuteronomy, and the God who at least condones and accepts human sacrifice. These difficult and troubling texts are explained, carefully, and patiently with excellent reference to archaeology, other relevant texts of the time, and good literary critical exegesis.

Perhaps the area that will cause the most concern is his claim that Jesus, while many things, was most certainly an apocalyptic prophet. Stark points out that his prophecies regarding the end times were accurate, until the last one, the imminent return of himself, ushering in the full kingdom of God. In this Stark claims that Jesus was simply wrong.

This is hard to swallow, but Mr. Stark makes a very convincing argument, one well worth the time to read carefully and seriously. I suspect that if you get to that point in the book, you are trusting of Stark’s careful analysis and will listen with an open ear and heart.

What is accomplished here, in this book, is more than just showing the errors and contradictions of the bible. There have surely been dozens that have done that already. Rather, Stark, explains how the “book” we call the bible, came into existence. Understanding it as a collection of documents written over more than 1000 years, and containing within disparate, and contradictory voices, helps us to see it for what it is: a people’s walk with God.

It is most singularly a human document, written over a long period and containing oral traditions that span even greater times. There are voices within it that argue for opposite things. In some cases, even some of the Hebrew writers attempted to reconcile difficult passages that were at odds. (The stories of David and Goliath are instructional here, and Stark lays out a wonderful explanation for the two different explanations for Goliath’s death, and why another writer, the Chronicler, tried to cover up the contradiction.)

Stark convinces, I think, that having to face up to the difficult and ugly passages in the bible is worthwhile and has much to teach us on their own. Rather than shrug, as inerrantists often do, or try to twist and warp them into some apparent sense, it is much better to accept them as human failings in living and in understanding of their God.

Better to allow God to speak through the hateful and unacceptable passages to us today and allow them to inform us as to our own shortcomings and roads to growth.

Stark is a believing Christian, one who has struggled with scripture and found that facing the unpleasant realities allows one to grow into a mature faith. In fact, he claims, and I tend to agree, that fundamentalism is an adolescent and immature view, clinging to a world that one would prefer, but which simple does not exist.

We would all like certainty. But certainty doesn’t exist. The Bible cannot give us that, no matter how much we might wish it. We can pretend otherwise, but that leaves us mired in a fantasy world and helps us not at all in addressing the troubles of our world.

The last chapter is delightful, giving Mr. Stark’s own reflections on what these hard passages can offer us today.

Speaking of the problematic stories of Abraham and Isaac, of Jephthah and his daughter, and King Mesha and his son, Thom Stark reflects:

Today we denounce such practices as inhuman and reject as irrational the belief that the spilling of innocent blood literally affected the outcome of harvests and military battles. Yet we continue to offer our own children on the altar of homeland security, sending them off to die in ambiguous wars, based on the irrational belief that by being violent we can protect ourselves from violence. We refer to our children’s deaths as “sacrifices” which are necessary for the preservation of democracy and free trade. The market is our temple and it must be protected at all costs. Thus, like King Mesha, we make “sacrifices” in order to ensure the victory of capitalism over socialism, the victory of consumerism over terrorism.

If you would learn to understand the bible, and actually get the most out of it, then do read this book. It is about the best I’ve seen at showing us the dangers of inerrancy, and how we can grow in our faith through a truthful, honest and courageous examination of our sacred books.

* I am indebted to WIPF & Stock Publishers for sending this book free of charge for review. The only agreement is an implicit promise on my part to read, review and publish the results.

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