Thursday, October 20, 2011

And The Church Goes On...Thinking About the Bible

To read this blog lately, one would think all I do is sit around thinking about "Occupy".  In real life, of course, this isn't true at all.  Right now, in fact, I am psyching myself up to get into "Sunday preparation" mode.  Things will be busy this week.  I am organising a discussion group about Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and its influence on current social movements like Occupy, The Tea Party, and the Arab Spring.  That isn't close to the half of it, however...

On Sunday, in fact, we will be wrapping up a series of services on the liberal church.  This week we will be thinking about how liberals approach the Bible.  There will be two discussion groups (one before church and one after) and, of course, the service itself.  In my experience (by no means exhaustive) most of the folks attracted to religious liberalism practice a sort of "theology of subtraction".  We approach our faith looking for things that are not divine so that we may remove them from our understanding of God (or whatever term one might wish to use).  This is, by the way, a very ancient and accepted technique. The idea is to peel away Christianity's human-made complexities to reveal the simplicities.  Or--to use slightly different language--we seek the permanent within the transient. 

We even do this with scripture.  Certain passages make sense to us.  Others seem nonsensical.  Still others we find ourselves arguing against.  Each case is different and has something for us.  When we agree with scripture, it can bring insight to the topic.  When we are confused we can seek further clarity like religious detectives.  When we disagree either our own view is modified or strengthened because of the challenge.  In each case, though, we can ask where God is and where God isn't.

I think most people do this, but not everyone is able to acknowledge it or articulate it.  Some traditions make claims for their own approach.  There are those who believe the Bible is, in fact, internally consistent.  There are those who use the complexities of their own tradition to mediate the meaning of scripture.  I like subtraction. 

Folks familiar with the tradition can probably figure out some of the readings.  One will be Theodore Parker.  Another will be Palfrey Perkins.  I am also questing for a Bible verse that would fit.  Feel free to let me know if you think of one!  Perhaps I should have known this would be difficult....

Anyway, back to it.  I don't mind, of course.  I love talking about the Bible...

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