It is very easy, when leaving a religion, to push every aspect of it away and never look at it again. Maybe this is best for some people, but I don’t think it’s right for everyone, and I would argue it is not right for society (at least within the UK) as a whole.
Do you think it’s important to engage with the Bible? I see memes, quotes and articles from ex-believers and atheists explaining why the Bible is an abhorrent book that should have zero power or sway in society as a whole today.
I guess the question should flip. Should we remove the substrate of the society we have created and expect the structures we created upon it to remain standing?
I think it’s important at this point to explain what I am not saying. I am not saying the Bible is the word of a God, I am not saying the Bible is correct and I am not saying the Bible is worthy of being followed as a diligent believer is called to follow it.
What I am saying is that many have gone before and treated it as such, creating the society we call home today, and we need to make sure we unpick this properly, for fear that we will burn our house to the ground without noticing we are still inside.
I think what we have can be lost, and as such, we need to understand what is important, why it’s important and plan to keep it as important.
The bible is a collection of ancient documents. It collects most of the traditional Jewish scriptures and a bunch of the first-century Christian writings that were deemed to be written by eyewitnesses or very close to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
It requires interpretation and exaltation, which is where all the problems come in. The problem is we are trying to interoperate a document that wasn’t written to us, by a people who couldn’t ever have dreamed of the world we find ourselves in today. You see, we are dealing with a document that is trying to transpose ancient wisdom onto near-future generations, we are bound to run into problems in this far generational space between writing and reading.
Does wisdom mean truth? No, it certainly doesn’t. It is ok to say that the Bible contains (some) wisdom without saying it is empirically true, inherent or God’s literal word. Wisdom comes from all sorts of places and rarely does it come with everything it was stated with still being attached. We need to make sure we pick apart what we hear, read and think so that we know what is actually going to see us through and what is going to lead us down dead ends.
This is something we should strive to do within community, for a voice on its own will only ever hear itself echoing back in agreement.
Anyway, I am not saying that the society we find ourselves within is wise. In fact, I think we have a lot to undo, reflect upon and move forwards for. But we need to find a place for the Bible within this. I have been reading a lot of theology over the last few months. Listening to podcasts, reading articles and blog posts by theologians – trying to convince myself that we can do away with the Bible.
I don’t think we can. We need to recognise that it had a place within the world for such a long time that it has set the game up and we still have moves ahead to play that we don’t have any choice over. But this doesn’t mean we can’t ask some bigger questions and search for some new answers.
Why is everyone equal? Are we all equal?
Why do we live in a capitalist, democratic society?
Without God is there objective morality? Is there objective morality with a God?
What are we aiming for, as the human race, without the kingdom that Jesus called us to build?
These are big questions, and they will take big conversations and decisions to even move into, let alone answer. You know what, maybe we can’t actually answer them, or when we realise the answer, we find we can’t actually live like it is true.
For example, I recently wrote the following to a friend: Life may all very well be meaningless. But that doesn’t mean we are able to believe it is meaningless. I don’t think we have the ability to decide what does and does not convince us, and even if life is meaningless, I have evolved through a process spanning 3.5 billion years that has been focused on the sole purpose of pushing itself into the future.
It’s interesting – I do think that life (yes, all life) is in fact meaningless. I could never live as if this was fully true. So, it seems I am completely able to hold two things in tension, one I know I literally believe and the other I seem to instinctively live out. Isn’t that interesting?
In the past, as one group has risen over another, there has been a systemic destruction of the original group’s artwork, buildings, statues, and way of life. We cannot be those people anymore. We can’t burn this world to the ground and start again, we need to protect the good we have and find a way to uncouple it from the false narratives and lies that we have been telling ourselves for years.
The Bible is a meme that has shaped our culture, and if we can unpick its power for tomorrow then we can examine it as a historical document upon which societies across this world have founded themselves or changed themselves or destroyed themselves.
Is it important to engage with the Bible? I think so because it has set the game that we are playing. But we are able to look past it and move forwards allowing it to remind us of what we once believed, as we search for answers today and live for tomorrow.
If we remove the substrate of the society, we call home we risk burning the house down with us all inside. Will a phoenix rise, or will it simply usher in the end of ‘this’, the things we claim to hold dear, and the start of ‘that’, the unknown?
Rarely in history has the unknown been better than the known, when we have destroyed the known, in hope of a better unknown, to rise up from the ashes.
_End of Blog Blurb_
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
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When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring – When Belief Dies
- When Belief Dies #53 – 'Contours of Hope' with Jim Thring
- When Belief Dies #52 – 'An Old Perspective' with John Goldingay
- When Belief Dies #51 – 'Manuscripts and Ancient History' with Bart D. Ehrman
- When Belief Dies #Bonus – 'An Inquisition' with Daniel Kelly & David Ames
- When Belief Dies #50 – 'Magnifying Glasses & Big Pictures' with Esther O'Reilly