Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Well, I’ve just finished a show and have a second or two to catch my breath, so it’s time once again to offend people and alienate friends!

Not that I want this to happen, mind you. I’m just being realistic. Every time I discourse on matters of a spiritual nature and my argument conflicts with somebody’s own ideas—me killing their sacred steers, if you will, I get people mad at me, people who decide they want nothing further to do with me. Why do I do it, then, if I know this is going to be the end result? As someone who has chosen to make his living with his words (or at least is desperately trying to do so), do I not have some little obligation to occasionally use those words for a higher purpose? Discussing such important topics as the following qualifies in this regard, methinks.

To the point, then. The Bible—whether it be the King James version, Modern English version, New Standard Revised Ultimate version with commentary, the Bible rendered in Klingon (Yes, this exists) or what have you—is NOT the Word of God.

“Say WHAT?!” you may be thinking. “This is coming from a professing Christian like you? How is that possible?” Let me explain.

In the New Testament, whenever you see the term “Word” beginning with a capital letter, it is a translation of the Greek word “Logos,” and is either a direct or indirect reference to Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This doesn’t mean that the Bible was there with God at the beginning. It’s not a reference to Scripture. It is speaking of Jesus. And where in the New Testament it is used more indirectly to reference the Second part of the Trinity, we may think of it more to mean “promise” or “pledge” than anything written or spoken in the traditional sense. “Logos” always means either Jesus Himself or His message. At the time Saint Paul and the others were writing the books that would come to make up the New Testament, there WAS no New Testament yet in existence. Thus “Logos” cannot be a reference to a book.

Nor is it a reference to the pre-existing Jewish Scriptures, aka the Old Testament. Where you see “Word” with a capital W used in the OT, it can be argued that the inference is to the Holy Spirit. “The Word of the Lord came to me,” many of the prophets say, inspiring them to speak. And their words were later written down either by themselves or, more often, somebody else. But the “Word” is not referring to the words on paper, rather to the Spirit or command that inspired the prophets to speak them. Got it?

Don’t feel bad if that last part is a little hard to grasp. Even ordained clergy frequently have a hard time explaining the concept of the Trinity. Suffice it to say that “Word” with a capital W does not directly refer to Scripture, either in the Old or the New Testaments. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll keep the focus on the New Testament “Logos” from here on out.

So then is Scripture of no value, you may ask. Note that I’m using a capital S when I write the word, so nobody bother throwing that “All Scripture is good for instruction” verse at me. I’m not disputing this. What I am saying is that, while I believe Scripture was Divinely inspired, the men (or women) who wrote it down were human beings and that human beings are fallible. The Bible is not perfect. The WORD is perfect. The “promise.”

How then can we discern the nature of God, if not from reading the Scriptures? If we want to get to the truth, we MUST read them, as they contain the full story, at least as much of it as we require. No, the NT doesn’t tell us how long Jesus’s hair was or what His favorite food was. It doesn’t even tell us whether or not He was married, much to the delight of modern fiction writers. (I’m not saying I believe He was, just that there is nothing in the NT that says one way or the other.) But it tells us all we NEED to know.

How can we discern the nature of God, and His wishes? Look to the Word. The “Logos.” Look to Jesus. As Christians, we believe that Jesus of Nazareth was/is the incarnate God, God dressed in human flesh, God in mortal form. God chose to reveal Himself to creation by becoming Jesus. If Jesus said it or did, we’re pretty safe in saying, “Okay, THAT is what God is like. That is what God wants us to do.” Logos. Promise. Not “biblios,” or book. Put a capital B on that last word and it means the “Bible.” But it’s not the same as the “Logos.”

What’s the point of all this, you may be asking yourselves. Simply this: When we say, “The Word of God says [fill in the blank]” we really ought to stop and ask ourselves what the Word REALLY says. Because—and here comes the part that’s gonna get me de-friended—not every verse written down in the Biblios is “Gospel.” Not all of it is directly from God. Look at how many times, as recorded in the NT, Jesus refuted or contradicted the pre-existing OT writings. “Love your enemies” instead of “An eye for an eye,” for example. What do we have here, the Word contradicting the Word? Yes, if you believe that “Word” means scripture. If, however, we understand that Word means Jesus, what we have is God contradicting the written words. Take it to its logical conclusion. That’s what it’s saying, if you’re a Christian and you believe Jesus is God.

To put it another way, those verses early in the OT wherein God is said to have commanded the Israelites to commit rape, murder and infanticide are flat-out incompatible with “Love your enemies” and “Do unto others…” and no sane person could argue otherwise. Are we dealing with two Gods, then? The OT version and the NT version? Some have said so. William Blake sure thought so. But the Bible doesn’t say there were two. Does it contradict itself, then, depicting God in two separate and incompatible ways? How can it be perfect and contradict itself? It can’t. But this all starts to make sense if we understand that the phrase “the Word of God” was never meant to pertain to the written Scriptures. That these latter are an attempt by human beings to understand the nature of God, often divinely inspired to do so, and frequently giving us glimpses of the Divine throughout while not always getting it right. The Word IS inviolate and perfect. That doesn’t mean the Scriptures are.

So, then, when somebody uses one or more Bible verses to justify his discriminating against another person (cough*Indiana*cough), he should be careful. When any of us quote Scripture to justify ourselves, we need to be careful. Because that verse we’re quoting might not have much to do with the Word at all.

(Interestingly enough, the Jewish people, for whom the OT is the full extent of the Scriptures, never seem to be the ones arguing for their perfection” and quoting them to justify discrimination, do they?)

How many of us eat at Red Lobster even though the OT commands us not to? How many of us have gone out and murdered the nearest practicing Wiccan because the Bible commands us to “suffer not a witch to live?” (This last is a deliberate mistranslation, btw, used to justify the witch trials of the Middle Ages. The correct translation from the Hebrew is “poisoner.”)

In summation, then: The Bible is NOT the Word of God. The Bible CONTAINS the Word of God. You may think there’s not much difference, that I’m just splitting hairs. But there’s all the difference in the world.

When we want to quote Scripture to back up an argument, we should all stop and ask ourselves, what does the Word REALLY say?

What DOES it say?

Look to Jesus.