This series began when two members of the congregations shared their faith, and challenged some “doctrines” that weren’t doctrines – in particular, one said that they didn’t think the Bible was the “Word of God” as they didn’t think it was literally true!
Where to start?
When it comes to the Bible I believe that we all approach it with our own assumptions and no one treats it literally literally! Whilst there are fundamentalists who will say that they accept the Bible literally a couple of examples will show otherwise:
When Lesley was debating homosexuality with someone of a much more fundamentalist viewpoint she was told that:
so she asked whether this meant she should be a lesbian! The Bible was written in a patriarchal society to men – if you want to accept it literally …
I was debating the role of women in church and was quoted:
I responded with:
only to be told that his quote was true for all time, and mine was culturally conditioned.
When training the first lecture we had was about how we interpreted the Bible, and asked us to place ourselves on a spectrum from:
- God uses human writings – despite their errors, failings and limitations
- God dictates scriptures – they are without error, failing or limitation
One of the questions that I am sometimes challenged with is “do you believe in absolute truth” (the implication being that the challenger does, and knows what it is, and I don’t). I do believe in absolute truth, I just don’t believe that we can know what it is in this life.
For me, the Bible is humanity’s attempt to write down their experience of God using their imperfect knowledge and their imperfect language. For me, the challenge is to try to get behind what has been written down, and back to the original experience – which would have been mediated through society at the time. The next challenge is to work out what that experience looks like in today’s society. This leads to a very different approach to those who believe that the exact words of the Bible are true for all time.