-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is the last in a series that is best experienced in order. If you are jumping in at this point, here are all the previous meditations. Please check them out:
Bible 101: An Introduction
Bible 101: Finding God
Bible 101: The Three Hebrew Bibles
Bible 101: Language Changes
Bible 101: Take a Breath
Bible 101: Voice
Bible 101: Jumbled Voices
Bible: 101: Q
Bible 101: Canon
Here's where you learn how far I'm willing to go and no further. We all have our limits, and I'm sure I've surpassed other's limits in this series. They are probably ones who are not even reading this post, and just waiting for the next series to start. I get it. There's nothing comforting in the information shared. So lets talk about something else: Bart Ehrman.
Bart Ehrman is an interesting person for two very important reasons: He is a New Testament professor, and he is a known atheist. Well, agnostic. Atheist sounds more radical on paper, so the atheist tag is often the one tied to him.
There was deep discussion when I entered Candler about Atheist Divinity Professors. Can an atheist take on a class focused towards many who are on the path to ministry? The most thoughtful answer came from my Hebrew Bible professor, Rev. Dr. Peterson. I'm paraphrasing, but here is generally what he told us.
We want to believe the person who is teaching us the Bible shares the same faith values we share. In fact, a Biblical scholar is not a Biblical scholar because of their faith tradition. For example, while Peterson was a Presbyterian minister, he was not out to paint over the Hebrew Bible with Christian subtext. He wanted us to understand the Hebrew Bible the way it was written, for the Hebrew people. (I cannot express enough how important those two semesters were to my theological development.) When it comes to New Testament, we are probably better served hearing the cold hard facts from an atheist voice. (Here's my illustration to go with his thoughts.) We learn about the body from looking at a non-living corpse. To see the story without faith helps us understands the mechanics of the Body of Christ once the life blood of faith is flowing through it.
This is all well and good. We were taught to dissect the pieces with scalpel like accuracy. I know what the dead nature of the atheist view looks like. More than that, I'm not apologetic with that phrase, and atheists should not be offended by it. A religious point of view says faith is living and alive. An atheist point of view says faith is static and dead. One cannot be a minister and an atheist because one would treat the Body of Christ as something deceased. An atheist would make cuts to the Body not considering the fact that there's a life blood flowing through it. The Spirit is what draws the parts together, and what would be exploratory on a corpse, would would be lethal to a living Body.
This is why I, a Christian and a believer in Christ, can have Bart Ehrman books on my shelf. I know he's talking about faith from a dead perspective. There is no life in his critique, The Spirit cannot flow through his words. I'm okay with that, because I need to see the pieces divorced to understand them as they are. This is also why Ehrman became a media darling. They don't want to talk about the Spirit of God. They want someone to point to the cold dead truth and name it as cold and dead. The media also wants to find those who are all Spirit with no Body. Why? Because it's the Spirit out of context. It makes us look foolish.
These past few months were cold and dead on purpose. I was showing you the flesh and bones. We should know that flesh and bones are not the parts that make up life until God breathes life into it.
I have been witness to multiple uses of Spiritual death by Bible. Scripture that is used as a gotcha, or taken out of context, are unknowingly deadly. You may want your simple Bible back, but a kitchen knife is simple too, and look what damage it could do in the wrong or untrained hand?
So Atheists cut deep because they can't see the life in the Word, and fellow Christians cut deep out of protection or lack of understanding. What's one to do? What is our closing thought?
I believe, just like Jesus Christ, the Bible is the living Word of God: fully Divine, and fully human. We must see the humanity in those onion skin words.
Last week I wrote this: "We have to understand all that happened before we can even look at the phrase, "The Bible is the perfect and literal Word of God." The Bible is not the perfect and literal Word of God. Jesus is the perfect and literal Word of God, and that's where we need to move our sights. Once again, when you put the power on the book, you forget that the book exists because an event was big enough for that book to be written. There is something bigger than our Bible, and it's what happened to cause that book to be written in the first place. Canon are what is considered the most important and authentic parts as understood by Church leaders in the late 4th century."
There are three descriptors: Living-Literal-Perfect.
The Bible is Living. The words themselves are not meant to be literal or perfect.
We are Christians. We believe in a Risen Christ. Christ is also alive. We can seek a literal and perfect relationship with Christ, knowing we are coming to that relationship as imperfect and broken individuals.
Which brings me back to my initial questions: What's one to do? What is our closing thought? Act as followers of Christ who read the Bible, not as followers of the Bible who read about Christ. We are not called to prove the Bible, we are out to prove the reality of Jesus Christ. That is a deep statement, and one that is believed on multiple levels by multiple Christian traditions. It is our bonding agent when we disagree on lesser things.