Tuesday, 10 March 2009

On the Bible

We often read the Bible as though it were a fixed definition of God. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is the story of people’s experience of God through the ages. It is the story of God’s response to our individual needs.

As we read the Bible with open hearts and minds we will discover that the Word therein is alive and directed at our lives as it was for all those who heard it before us. When we read it carefully we will discover that Abraham’s story is also our story. So too are the stories of Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Isaac and so forth. Each character has a unique experience of God which in turn has a profound effect on their lives and on those who cross their paths. When we choose to dialogue with God through his Word we too will experience his unique presence in our lives and recognize him immediately in others, past and present.

If we choose to live our lives without this personal relationship we will only ‘experience’ his influence from the point of view of others. More importantly, we will fail to grasp his great unconditional love for us. When we read the Bible as a historical novel and ‘study’ it without entering into the hearts and minds of the people involved (which is really you) it will dry up and no longer serve our lives. As a consequence God will often appear impersonal, indifferent, and at times extremely harsh and judgmental.

A new relationship needs to be established. A new vision is required. The Bible is a rich treasure field, spanning time and creation, for those seeking friendship, peace, joy and healing. Each story is unique. Each Biblical character is a diamond in the rough until it is polished with your heart and mind. When we experience the Bible in this way and recognize his loving presence in his ongoing creation we will discover that still another and most beautiful chapter to the Bible is yet to be written – and that is the story of your life!

In the meantime, one ideal way to help us read the Bible more interpretively would be to discern its intent with the help or guidance of the Spirit. Another, helpful way, would be to reflect on the following anonymous article published by the Catholic New Times some time ago entitled:‘Dear Dr, Laura.

(Laura Schlesinger is an open line "ex­pert" in the U.S. The most widely heard talk show host in the country and armed with a degree in physiology, she has consistently demonized homo­sexual people, calling them "biological errors" and "sexual deviants .'For years Schlesinger credited her strict Jewish background as the basis for her harsh stands. She always quoted the Hebrew Bible as the basis of her anti-homosexual stands. Recently she shocked her listeners by openly breaking with her ultra-orthodox religion. The following letter to the good doctor pokes fun at her fundamentalist stance.)

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for exam­ple, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. ... End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Law and how to follow them:

  1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord — Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

  1. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual undeanliness — Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
  2. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both" male and fe­male, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies;to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Cana­dians?
  3. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
  4. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomi­nation — Lev. 11:10. it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

  1. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

  1. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Zev. J 27. How should thev die?

  1. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

  1. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of " two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? — Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private familv affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for remind­ing us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan, Jim

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