The Bible And Bronze Snake Christianity
Thursday, August 23, 2012
When it comes to the Bible and Christian faith, I often say the following: the Bible is a good word from yesterday, but it is not God's voice today.
I've said this frequently in recent conversations online that have discussed how Christians should respond to gay people, homosexuality, etc. And there's always that collection of Christians who engage in "Bible thumping," i.e., insisting that the Bible -- specifically, the 66 books of the Protestant Bible -- is the actual Word of God and is the absolute and final authority in all matters of Christian faith and life.
And for such Bible-thumping Christians, the question about homosexuality is already and forever settled because of prohibitions against homosexual behavior that are found in some of the Bible's books. To them, homosexual behavior is an abomination. It is not sanctioned by God. It is a sin. Therefore the "gay lifestyle" cannot be condoned in any way by "true" Bible-believing Christians.
Worse, though, are those over-righteous Christians who take it a step further and, in perverse non-Jesus fashion, bash gay people and spew vile and hateful epithets. And too often such Christians attempt to diminish gay people by working against their civil rights on the sociopolitical stage, using smooth rhetoric that is masked by the despicable "love the sinner, hate the sin" facade. And they say they are doing so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of God.
Let's make one thing abundantly clear: To marginalize any group of people for any reason is wrong. Period.
And Christians who marginalize gay people aren’t, in reality, doing so "in the name of Jesus." They are doing so in the name of the Bible.
There's a huge, huge difference between the two.
The Bible As Idol
The Bible has become "God" to many who call themselves Christians. It's similar to the "bronze snake" debacle in ancient Israel. During the time the Israelites were in the desert, God once sent poisonous snakes to discipline them because of their lack of faith. Moses then created the bronze snake so that "anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." (Numbers 21:4-9) About 700 years later, King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake because the people had begun worshiping it. (2 Kings 18:1-4)
It's also similar to when Aaron and the Israelites created the golden calf when Moses was up on Mount Sinai just after the Exodus. They declared the golden calf to be "God" Himself and even held a festival in its honor. (Exodus 32:4-6)
And so when Christians who are Bible worshipers bash gay people, judge gay people, and diminish their humanity in the name of their Bible and its dictates, it's their form of a "festival" to their Bible god, burning the incense of fear, ignorance and self-righteousness as an act of worship -- with gays as the altar sacrifice -- which, when squared against the reality of authentic faith, is a vile fraud.
Rejecting B.S. Christianity
"Bronze Snake" (B.S.) Christianity is about fear. It is contrary to the authentic Love of God. It creates division, rather than Oneness. It inspires superiority, rather than humility. It is incompatible with the Way of Jesus of Nazareth.
As an "emergent faith" Christian, I reject fear-based, Bible-worshiping religion like B.S. Christianity. Instead, I pursue authentic human faith where Love is the first and last Word on matters of faith and practice. Particularly, the Love of God as embodied in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
And while the Bible is a treasure that informs my faith, it is not an authority that commands my faith.
Which brings us to the issue of validation.
The Bible Is God's Word? Says Who?
Perhaps the most interesting peculiarity among B.S. Christians is the actual claim to the Bible's so-called absolute authority as the "Word of God." It is a claim that B.S. Christians can almost never substantively or convincingly validate. They accept it blindly as self-evident fact. Emphasis on "blindly."
I recently challenged some B.S. Christians to validate their claim to the Bible's authority, and did so with the "homosexuality" issue as a backdrop. Here's how I put it:
(1) Who is it that declared the Bible -- the collection of sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible -- to be "the Word of God?" And how can that declaration be qualified and validated as true?
(a) The Old Testament prohibitions against homosexual behavior are part of the Mosaic Law (i.e., Law of Moses, or simply the Law), particularly those found in Leviticus.
(b) The Mosaic Law was applicable ONLY to those people who were members of the nation of Israel, either by Hebrew lineage from Jacob, circumcised converts (or naturalized immigrants, to use a modern analogy), or resident aliens. (see Exodus 12:48-49, and Leviticus 24:22)
(c) The Mosaic Law was NOT applicable to Gentiles, i.e., those who were not members of the nation of Israel.
(d) The earliest Christians acknowledged that followers of Jesus are NOT bound by the Mosaic Law (which later became known as the old covenant, or Old Testament). In fact, Christians are not bound by any written code of law in any form. The books of Romans and Galatians discuss this in unambiguous detail. (also see Acts chapter 15; note verse 10)
(e) As such, ALL of the provisions of the Mosaic Law -- including the provisions governing homosexual activity -- are NOT applicable to Christians (take note of Romans 2:29; Galatians 2:15,21; Galatians 3:25).
(g) As for certain writings in the New Testament that mention homosexual activity, there is no requirement for Christians to consider those writings — or ANY New Testament writings, for that matter — as authoritative (in terms of being the sole rule of faith, or as being the actual "Word of God").
My challenge digs a little deeper into Biblical argument than I typically prefer to engage in. But it's necessary to present such Biblical specifics to those who are caught in the maelstrom of Biblical absolutism. In other words, to engage their thinking I have to speak their language. Yet what seems to be frequently discovered with B.S. Christians when challenged with a logical Biblical argument is exactly what happened with my challenge: they turn out to be Biblically illiterate and acutely defensive.
The B.S. Christians I challenged did not answer any of the points I presented, but instead evaded them altogether and then proceeded to demean me as someone who is ignorant and lacks faith because I dared to question the Bible's authority and reliability.
I suppose the only way for such people to feel tall is to knock others down. (see Luke 18:9-14)
There are always those B.S. Christians who say that the Bible is self-evidently "true." But this is totally unsupportable, because there is absolutely no validity to self-declarative claims of authority. In other words, we cannot accept the Bible as authoritative just because the Bible itself says so. The absurdity of such a claim is obvious. And that absurdity becomes embarrassingly magnified when B.S. Christians lay out the cop-out retort of "it's a faith thing."
Overall, my point remains: the Bible is a treasure that is informative, but it is not inherently or innately authoritative as the "Word of God" in print form. Any claims to the contrary, as are made by B.S. Christians (and some others), cannot be substantively validated.
The points that you made about Mosaic Law are very interesting. It would be interesting to see if anyone has a valid response to that.
You're right about the circular reasoning of Bible literalists. Their manner of argument is not only wholly self-serving, but ultimately self-defeating. And such circular reasoning is a symptom of conditioned ignorance by which, during formative years, they are "programmed" to blindly accept claims about the Bible without engaging in any objective critical analysis.
And part of such programming includes an enforced system of consequences: belief brings rewards, disbelief (which often includes doubting or questioning) brings punishments.
In reality, Bible literalism and its belief-reward/disbelief-punishment system is an entirely human creation. And what is its purpose? To facilitate control.
I have discovered in my own experience that the Bible -- not just the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, but also the 73 books of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bible -- is a sacred treasure that can inform faith. I also include in that sacred treasure the early writings that were never included in the canon of Scripture, as well as the Gnostic writings as found in the Nag Hammadi manuscripts discovered in the last century.
But where they are all writings that can inform our faith lives, they are not writings that must command our faith lives.
And that is a critical distinction lost on Bible literalists, i.e., that the Bible can be accepted as holy without being beheld as absolutely authoritative.