Thursday, August 20, 2009

To Thimscool

"Thimscool" is one of my commentors. Yesterday he sent me a poignant poem titled "Brothers in Arms". It echoes my feeling about war, that so much of it is futile and that so many lives are lost or irrepairably damaged for no good reason. Yet it also points out that there is no more solid cameraderie than that experienced by those who fight together. You can read the poem in his comment.

Thimscool is also thinking about theology, as I often do. He wonders why I don't take the Bible literally, and why I think God would allow our world to be destroyed by a natural catastrophe. He must think that I'm a strange Christian!

Regarding the Bible, I'd say that over many years of reading it I realized that there were lots of (meaning, very many) factual contradictions in it. On top of that, and more importantly, it contains plenty of theological contradictions. A lot of this was resolved for me when I learned more about the Bible's diverse authorship and editing. The contradictions were generally due to varying cultural and political views, and the different "memories" of the many writers...not to understate that they were writing about the most difficult subject in the universe, that is, the ineffable creator of it. Given the challenge I think they did a fine job, but if one believes God "literally" inspired the Bible, then God is certainly not perfect. Since I do believe that God is "perfect", it must be true that God tolerates the poor efforts of men and women to comprehend the Godly and write about what God means to them in their own space and time.

A more scholarly review of Biblical contradictions can be found in a book that our friend RWorld is reading: Bart Ehrman's "Jesus Interrupted: revealing the hidden contradictions in the Bible and why we don't know about them". Ehrman is a respected expert on the Bible. I'd also recommend the Old Testament DVD series by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, who I've blogged about, which explores the various authors and their often divergent purposes in an interesting way. This information informs my Christianity rather than damaging it, makes it more meaningful and less dependent on popular ideologues who in most cases distort what I see as clear meanings of the Bible as a whole. For example, any pastoral speech that does not seem to come from a core concept of "love" I regard as non-Biblical.

Regarding God's willingness to let mankind be destroyed by natural catastrophes, the Bible says God will not destroy humanity with another flood. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of other options wide open. In a previous post I mentioned a dual star system that could explode at any time, sending a huge burst of gamma rays right at our earth, in which case we would be extinct in short order. We are also subject to impacts from large asteroids, the outcome of which would be to destroy agriculture and, thereby, almost all of us. Giant volcanic eruptions, such as those in the Yellowstone Park area, could accomplish the same result; unfortunately, the Yellowstone eruption happens about every 250 million years and is currently due. I don't expect any of these things anytime soon, but then again, any of them could happen this month. So, let me say "goodbye " now, just in case. (There are plenty of reliable science sources for the above information. This is pretty basic stuff.) God made the natural laws that cause these cataclysms, you know.

I believe God created everything, and within that, us. I also believe God is more than just "aware" of us, and I hope that our having the capability to envision God and to respond to God was part of a plan that keeps our souls alive and with God in some way, after our physical death. But there is no reason to believe that we are alone in this situation, or that God has any special interest in the long term survival of our species. I could even envision a scenario where a loving God has given us the ability to survive by our own concerted action, but we die as a species because we've not been able to act in a concerted manner. "Oh, well. I tried", lamented God after reviewing our final failure. Mr. Thimscool, as a person who seems to believe in responsibility, is it impossible for you to believe God would like to see us exhibit some of it? After all, God gave us brains.

I'm 65 now, and every year I feel smaller and God seems larger. I am so grateful for my life, and grateful that, unlike so many other lives, my life has been priviledged and not marred by disaster. I also have to confess that the more I learn, the less I feel that I am special. We are tiny creatures with unbelievable limitations, whether we understand that or not. This is not to say that life is pointless; it is all we have to work with, and all God has given us. Therefore, I will rejoice in it, experience it to the fullest I'm able, try to recognize my total dependence on God's creativity and mercy, and go to my death with a sense of expectation.


thimscool said...

Hmmm. Well, before I take up the thread, I should ask if you clicked the link and listened to the song... the words are blunt but powerful, the music is for the ages.

I apologize that I have apparently allowed you to labor under the misapprehension that I believe the bible should be taken literally... I certainly do not think so. My interest is in how you approach your personal faith in the absence of such an interpretation, when you seem to take an almost deist approach to understanding theology.

As for me, I don't know much about the bible, religion, or theology. I only know what God told me.

thimscool said...
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