Thursday, December 31, 2009

"So, I Guess You Throw Out the Bible..?"

Y'know, I really don't believe in coincidences (though I've been known to think of such things as God-incidences). I find that God comes to me cleverly disguised as my life. So, this morning, while reading from a rather formidable-and-controversial book, called The Urantia Book (some see it as divine -- some see it wholly as science fiction -- but I see that truth can be gleaned anywhere -- I swallow what feeds me, and spit out what doesn't), I came across a passage that utterly struck me in the gut..!

This passage is a response to a question that's tossed my way on a regular basis. It goes a little bit like this, "So, I guess you've completely thrown out the Bible as your Authority, huh?" If the question is asked in person, it's usually accompanied by a sneer, wide eyes, a look of fear, and body language that indicates that the inquirer is about to dash out the door, making the sign of the cross, and/or spraying holy water over their shoulder.

My simple answer would be in the form of another question: "Who says that the Bible was ever meant to be our Authority...?" The answer to that, of course, is, "the traditions of man."

Now, this passage is admittedly written in a rather stilted fashion ... so try to overlook that, and don't concern yourself with the source (I mean, if God could talk through a donkey...!) ... just see if it speaks to you, in any way. As for me, it quite articulately expresses how I have come to view scripture (& FTR, I also read and find truth in scripture outside the Bible, even in other religions/cultures).

This resonates with me ... and I have no problem imagining that it's at least *possible* that Jesus did indeed speak this to his followers ... regardless, I'm inclined to take it as a word from him to me, for me, at least at this time (and if that ain't relativity, I don't know what is, LOL!). Here goes (I have emboldened the portions that stood out to me):

Nathaniel was much bothered by some of Jesus' pronouncements which seemed to detract from the authority of the recognized Hebrew scriptures. Accordingly, on this night, after the usual period of questions and answers, Nathaniel took Jesus away from the others and asked: "Master, could you trust me to know the truth about the Scriptures? I observe that you teach us only a portion of the sacred writings—the best as I view it—and I infer that you reject the teachings of the rabbis to the effect that the words of the law are the very words of God, having been with God in heaven even before the times of Abraham and Moses. What is the truth about the Scriptures?" When Jesus heard the question of his bewildered apostle, he answered:

159:4.2 "Nathaniel, you have rightly judged; I do not regard the Scriptures as do the rabbis. I will talk with you about this matter on condition that you do not relate these things to your brethren, who are not all prepared to receive this teaching. The words of the law of Moses and the teachings of the Scriptures were not in existence before Abraham. Only in recent times have the Scriptures been gathered together as we now have them. While they contain the best of the higher thoughts and longings of the Jewish people, they also contain much that is far from being representative of the character and teachings of the Father in heaven; wherefore must I choose from among the better teachings those truths which are to be gleaned for the gospel of the kingdom.

159:4.3 "These writings are the work of men, some of them holy men, others not so holy. The teachings of these books represent the views and extent of enlightenment of the times in which they had their origin. As a revelation of truth, the last are more dependable than the first. The Scriptures are faulty and altogether human in origin, but mistake not, they do constitute the best collection of religious wisdom and spiritual truth to be found in all the world at this time.

159:4.4 "Many of these books were not written by the persons whose names they bear, but that in no way detracts from the value of the truths which they contain. If the story of Jonah should not be a fact, even if Jonah had never lived, still would the profound truth of this narrative, the love of God for Nineveh and the so-called heathen, be none the less precious in the eyes of all those who love their fellow men. The Scriptures are sacred because they present the thoughts and acts of men who were searching for God, and who in these writings left on record their highest concepts of righteousness, truth, and holiness. The Scriptures contain much that is true, very much, but in the light of your present teaching, you know that these writings also contain much that is misrepresentative of the Father in heaven, the loving God I have come to reveal to all the worlds.

159:4.5 "Nathaniel, never permit yourself for one moment to believe the Scripture records which tell you that the God of love directed your forefathers to go forth in battle to slay all their enemies—men, women, and children. Such records are the words of men, not very holy men, and they are not the word of God. The Scriptures always have, and always will, reflect the intellectual, moral, and spiritual status of those who create them. Have you not noted that the concepts of Yahweh grow in beauty and glory as the prophets make their records from Samuel to Isaiah? And you should remember that the Scriptures are intended for religious instruction and spiritual guidance. They are not the works of either historians or philosophers.

159:4.6 "The thing most deplorable is not merely this erroneous idea of the absolute perfection of the Scripture record and the infallibility of its teachings, but rather the confusing misinterpretation of these sacred writings by the tradition-enslaved scribes and Pharisees at Jerusalem. And now will they employ both the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures and their misinterpretations thereof in their determined effort to withstand these newer teachings of the gospel of the kingdom. Nathaniel, never forget, the Father does not limit the revelation of truth to any one generation or to any one people. Many earnest seekers after the truth have been, and will continue to be, confused and disheartened by these doctrines of the perfection of the Scriptures.

159:4.7 "The authority of truth is the very spirit that indwells its living manifestations, and not the dead words of the less illuminated and supposedly inspired men of another generation. And even if these holy men of old lived inspired and spirit-filled lives, that does not mean that their words were similarly spiritually inspired. Today we make no record of the teachings of this gospel of the kingdom lest, when I have gone, you speedily become divided up into sundry groups of truth contenders as a result of the diversity of your interpretation of my teachings. For this generation it is best that we live these truths while we shun the making of records.

159:4.8 "Mark you well my words, Nathaniel, nothing which human nature has touched can be regarded as infallible. Through the mind of man divine truth may indeed shine forth, but always of relative purity and partial divinity. The creature may crave infallibility, but only the Creator possesses it.

159:4.9 "But the greatest error of the teaching about the Scriptures is the doctrine of there being sealed books of mystery and wisdom which only the wise minds of the nation dare to interpret. The revelations of divine truth are not sealed except by human ignorance, bigotry, and narrow-minded intolerance. The light of the Scriptures is only dimmed by prejudice and darkened by superstition. A false fear of sacredness has prevented religion from being safeguarded by common sense. The fear of the authority of the sacred writings of the past effectively prevents the honest souls of today from accepting the new light of the gospel, the light which these very God-knowing men of another generation so intensely longed to see.

159:4.10 "But the saddest feature of all is the fact that some of the teachers of the sanctity of this traditionalism know this very truth. They more or less fully understand these limitations of Scripture, but they are moral cowards, intellectually dishonest. They know the truth regarding the sacred writings, but they prefer to withhold such disturbing facts from the people. And thus do they pervert and distort the Scriptures, making them the guide to slavish details of the daily life and an authority in things nonspiritual instead of appealing to the sacred writings as the repository of the moral wisdom, religious inspiration, and the spiritual teaching of the God-knowing men of other generations."

159:4.11 Nathaniel was enlightened, and shocked, by the Master's pronouncement. He long pondered this talk in the depths of his soul, but he told no man concerning this conference until after Jesus' ascension; and even then he feared to impart the full story of the Master's instruction.

Thar ya ar -- for whatever it's worth to you.

As for me, this nearly identically fits with what I read in Marcus Borg's(brilliant! recommended!) book, "Reading the Bible AGAIN, For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally".

I very much appreciate, use, read, and study the Bible. I always have. But I now see it for what it is, what I believe it was intended to be: an inspired (and yet often-fallible) collection of the best thoughts of man at that time (or, at various times), intended to be useful to lead us to the knowledge of truth -- and NOT as a substitute for the living connection between the Creator, and the Beloved Creation -- discerned in the heart/mind/soul/conscience/being of each one. For I see and experience that only the Spirit-within is able to lead us into all truth ...

The Bible, taken seriously, but not literally, does indeed lead me to the knowledge of Him. But then, the Spirit leads me into all truth, using all things, including, but not limited to, the Bible.

Shalom, Dena

[Edited to fix my boo-boo -- I love the writings of both Karl Barth and Marcus Borg, and my brain tends to transpose the names ... dunno why. Let's blame peri-menopause! Anyway, I'm sure that the men belong to a mutual-admiration society, though Karl has gone through the veil, and I've just fixed the error -- read both of 'em!]


MysticBrit said...

What wonderful stuff you come up with, Dena. My favourite in this passage is,

...nothing which human [egoic] nature has touched can be regarded as infallible...

To me, this is brain-dead obvious!

Looks like I might have to investigate this Urantia business, not to mention Mr Barth.;)

Sue said...

Hey Dena,

Excellent stuff. Thanks for posting!! All resonates with me.

I looked up that book you recommended, and then clicked a few buttons and now I've ordered it :) Just for the record, the author is Marcus Borg, not Karl Barth.

Dena said...

Oh crap. I am always and forever transposing their names...! Though I'm sure they'd be mutual admirers...!

I shall fix - thanks!

Chris Pridham said...

I am pretty sure you will burn in hell-fire for this. Even if I don't really believe in a traditional hell I am sure something will be worked out on your behalf.

yourbrochris :)

DickB said...

The Urantia Book has been a wonderful spiritual resource for me for 44 years. I didn't read or appreciate the Bible until after I read the Urantia Book.

An interesting and funny book about the Old Testament is Good Book by David Plotz. Another recent book with good insights is The Evolution of God by Robert Wright.

Please visit for a one page description of the Urantia Book and check out my Jesus videos while you're there.
Namaste, Dick

cwtpmom said...

I heard it (the Bible) explained this way last Sunday. Think of the demo where you take an empty jar, fill it with sand, tiny rocks, larger rocks, and then try to fit even larger rocks into it. Can't be done. BUT if you place the largest rocks into the jar first, and then add the mid sized ones, then the smallest ones, and then pour the sand into all the cracks, it will all fit.

The Old Testament is like the Big rock. It must go into the jar first if you want to be able to make sense of anything else. It is the base of so many of the world religions. The middle sized rocks are the New Testament & Book of Mormon, followed by the smaller rocks - other significant books. And everything else is the sand. The sand filters in between all the rocks, filling up the tiny spaces, filtering down as it weighs itself against the larger rocks.

Just as not reading the Old testament will make it more difficult to grasp the full meaning of the New Testament and Book of Mormon, reading the New Testament and Book of Mormon will make it easier to understand the Old Testament.

I was raised on Old Testament stories. They were my favorite because so many were just good stories. Those prophets taught me the importance of obedience to God, and what happens when people don't. Don't keep the book of Juda and the book of Joseph from becoming one testament of Jesus Christ.

If we had just the NT or the BofM, we would not understand the Law of Moses. If we didn't understand creation and the fall (which a lot of us don't), how could we understand the necessity of a Redeemer who would open the door and invite us in to redemption and atonement?

Just as evolution prepared the earth to house man, the evolution we are going through today is preparing the earth to house God.

That "thing" or change you're anticipating is this evolution of today. We don't know where it will take us, but we're beginning to see. As you will see in the following two articles, many Mormons are wondering too.

Like it or not, this evolution is waking people up to values, and other important things in life.

Dena said...

Chris -- hey, I'm holding you personally responsible, LOL! :)

Dick - thanks for the book recommends, and the link ... I shall indeed check it out. Though, I've gotta tell you, there are things in the Urantia Book that do not fit with what else I've been shown ... I pick and choose what fits for me there, too..!

Connie - I have no doubt that many, in many religions, are experiencing this, and are defining it within their own traditional views ... I simply do not find anything drawing me to the particular religious view you espouse, even as I love and respect you, and hear the Spirit when you share your own thoughts. The doctrines though do nothing for me ...

DickB said...

Dena, I think you have absolutely the right attitude toward the Urantia Book or any other book: take what nurtures you. One of the stories in the Jesus papers that I like is this one: "P.1591 - §6 One of the most eventful of all the evening conferences at Amathus was the session having to do with the discussion of spiritual unity. James Zebedee had asked, "Master, how shall we learn to see alike and thereby enjoy more harmony among ourselves?" When Jesus heard this question, he was stirred within his spirit, so much so that he replied: "James, James, when did I teach you that you should all see alike? I have come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God. I do not desire that social harmony and fraternal peace shall be purchased by the sacrifice of free personality and spiritual originality. What I require of you, my apostles, is spirit unity--and that you can experience in the joy of your united dedication to the wholehearted doing of the will of my Father in heaven. You do not have to see alike or feel alike or even think alike in order spiritually to be alike."

Shalom, Dick

Dena said...

Ahhhhh, music to my ears, Dick! Yes, beautiful. And, as it so happens, you were just now used as a confirmation to a heart-question that I asked last night ...! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thomas and Nathaniel were the most brilliant minds around Jesus. Others were following Jesus almost dogmatically while these two with philosophic minds always wanted to know more. If only the disciples knew that Jesus was the creator of the universe they all would have asked more intelligent questions from Jesus and we would have richer/useful scriptures.

-Segun from Lagos Nigeria