Have you ever overheard comments that seem at first erudite - filled with great wisdom, learning and scholarship - but after some time of unconscious, mental gnawing in your heart-and-soul you begin to find such statements gnawing on you in a way that is no longer erudite? In fact, it has by then become one of those linguistic cankers you wished you never had heard, or ever hear again?
One such popular, de facto, statement that seems to pop-up all-too-frequently is the one that states confidently, "You know, with today's issues and contemporary news events Christians must resist the pressure to interpret the Bible culturally." A statement which seems harmless at first upon hearing it, until it ruminates in your head all day long, ceasing to go away like a bad song that endlessly loops around-and-around-and-around. Until finally delivered to your soul, added with a little salt-and-pepper and a dash of smug self-assurance, as if there could never be, at any other time or place, disagreement with this homey dialectic.
It is at that point that I realized how excluding, how pompous, how short-sighted and delimiting, such a definitive statement like this can be. I was left wondering just what news items we are talking about? What ideas of man that might be challenging the Bible to cause it to bow down to the pressures of the day? Whether there might be a select group of Christians called by God to be His own specially endowed shepherds to guide us lowly masses into the Biblical lands of learned, revealed, truths? A special group of mystics and revelatorys who have liturgically conjured up the proper boundary waters in which to dive-and-play less God becomes angry with mankind's endless questions, searches for truth and justice, and spiritual restlessness?
If whether today's Christians must resist living within the hoary bounds of contemporary cultural pressures of interpretation and nuance? To withdraw to a monastery, or missions lands, or even nature's temples itself, if only to define the limitations of God's holy existence within this world. To somehow retrograde all human affairs and mindsets in order to hold on to the conjugations of the church's past generations of sanctified Christian writings? If whether it is fair play, or not, to ask the God of the Bible whether today's concerns might be His concerns at all? Or if whether He only spoke for yesteryear's more literately attuned generations in a specially adapted cultural language that has long since past? If whether my daily concerns, and my generation's excruciating scholarship, have become one of those "lost" Sodomistic societies visited by God's holy angels only to be excluded from the temples of His all-compassionate wisdom.
At some point I realized by the tone, tenor, and delivery, of the conscripted statement above, that I was being excluded from that hallowed body of Christians who alone are privileged to act as God's chosen Levitical priesthood maintaining all that is hallowed and godly. That they alone were the selected ones divined by God's call to determine what may be culturally biblical or not. And whether such events are news worthy or should be damned and judged with the soiled masses of mankind.
No less was the idea that there existed a preferred interpretation of the Bible. One that was learned in hermeneutically extricating the hallowed script of God's Word so that when all was said-and-done we had arrived in the holy lands of Jerusalem lying between the two realms of light and darkness in a justifiable manner that extracted the ends to justify the means. And without this sanctified method (or literal code) of biblical interpretation we may never be able to enter into the holy lands of God's rest and refuge.
And so my heart-and-soul debated daily within itself until at-the-last I arrived exhausted, confused, and not a-little-angered by the culturally-reflective statement designed to be self-sustaining to an exclusionary body of "proper" Christians who-only-themselves, could hold to the "correct(ed)" truths of God's Word. Become its select purveyors of truth and dissemination. They alone had attained to a preferred, self-reinforcing hermeneutic that disallowed anything but their own ideas and beliefs about cruciform ministry, interpretation, and outreach. Their epistemological corrollaries and systematically derived theorems, much like their arguments and beliefs, were self-propagating without remediation or onslaught. Here was were God resided, and to be of God I too must likewise reside within their conscripted congregations lest I be banned as unworthy of templed conversation.
Issues of evolution, homosexuality, gender equality, religious pluralism, cultural ethnicity, biblical literacy, literalness and classic statement, had long ago been decided in their minds by past generations of Christians steeped in blood, war, injustice, greed, unworthiness, oppression, and pride. Mere mortals such as myself were not allowed to question the revered likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Moody, or Piper. These are the sacrosanct men of record to whom we must bow allegiance. Not the Jesus of the Scriptures who questioned the learned of His day.
All then has become "Amen and Verily" in common cultural assent by dying religious traditions and denominations that even now, in their death throes, look blindly upon the moiling tempest seeds of humanity held not-unlike themselves, in epistemological turmoil, seeking a Redeemer lost from speech within the congregations of God's own churched people. Though holding onto the keys of their own assured redemption, they continue clutching to keys that cannot unlock the hearts-and-minds of those lost beyond their own cathedral walls of golden truths.
Unable to speak to the masses the church today speaks a religious language that heaps contempt upon any who may disagree with its "cultural" interpretations of the Bible. Making of the Bible an idol of the very book they would attest (known as bibliotry). And making a religious image of a sacrificed Savior meant to be received by all. This, to me, is the most egregious, contemptible form of Christianity. Making of itself an object and a religion, of the God whom seeks to love us as we would seek to love Him. Become closed to the needs of the world abounding around itself. Unable to speak to its needs because we are too threatened by our own fears of losing the truths we deem important to uphold if we are to be faithful. Speaking of God through a Christianity become closed, exclusive, and self-justifying. Unwilling to challenge itself in its own logics and self-perpetuating closed beliefs. A system where God will not reside so long as He has become quantified by our own religious reasonings and fallacies. This is neither godly nor God-like. It smacks of man, and of man's corruptible, proud, heart.
"If we must judge, let us first use the mirror on our own wall for practice."
"Perhaps a greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by it."
- Sheridan Voysey
July 15, 2013
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