I’m Giving Up the Bible for God

As I write this I am tempted to never pick up another bible again, let alone read or study it. I’m giving up the Bible to worship the true God.

Why the drastic action? Because I’m following the depressing news on television and radio about fundamentalists of every major or minor religion killing and maiming those they’ve labeled as “unbelievers” because their scriptures (i.e. God) tell them to…..reading passages like Ezekiel16 & 17 in the Jewish Scriptures where God uses sick metaphors about abused women and girls to somehow declare “his love” for Israel and to “shame her” into returning to her master and lord…reading the Qur’an where men’s preteen wives can be given a declaration of divorce immediately because they’ve not started menstruating yet and are safe from pregnancy that might come back to haunt them if they’re not careful. Who invents this crap? Men do that’s who. All the world’s scriptures are written by and ADDRESSED to men as if men were the owners of the world and the world’s women and children. Women did not and do not have the privilege of writing scripture or if they did these scriptures were relegated to the status of non-scripture and made non-canonical by men. You can bet that their religion would be very different if women’s scripture were followed as meticulously as men follow their own. This is why I’m giving up the bible for awhile. The bible gets in the way of true worship. As much study as I do I begin to mistake the bible for the real object of worship; God. As a christian feminist I believe in the value of the scriptures as testimonies of those who have gone before us, but clearly we cannot idolize or worship scripture as stagnant a document which can mean only one thing for all time.

I believe in a God whose mercy and privilege towards women extends far beyond the written words of mere men. I cannot find such mercy in these scriptures so I believe it’s perfectly reasonable NOT to read scriptures written by men if the picture is incomplete for us women. Giving up scripture is not giving up God. I believe God dwells in each of us through the Spirit, through Sophia, Wisdom. Veronese's Wisdom vs. StrengthWithout the scriptures I can still hear God speak. Fundies will be aghast however! Well, let me ask a question:

If the Bible did not exist or did not come into existence would there still be Christians in the world?

Think carefully about your answer, it reveals a lot about your faith and where you place it. The answer is, of course there would be Christians! There were Christians before the bible ever came into existence and there will be Christians should the bible ever disappear from the earth. The point I’m trying to make is that I can be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and never read the bible again. Why? Because God communicates through the Holy Spirit and not exclusively through the pages of an inanimate object. God speaks through human flesh and always has. Some fundies will fume and say, but you wouldn’t be much of a Christian because God “feeds” us through his “Word” and without that “Word” (i.e. bible) we aren’t spiritually “fed.” How did millions of Christians thrive as Christians without a printing press? Through sermon, word of mouth, through art, through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Despite all the efforts to confine God, God still breaks out. God, through time immemorial has communicated with ‘his’ people without the use of paper, pens, or any written word whatsoever. God, throughout history has spoken through his Spirit to millions of people INCLUDING women! Our voices have been quashed, silenced, murdered, and censored, but God has spoken to us nonetheless. We can’t help that men won’t listen. We can’t help that God forgives but men will not.

There will come a day when women will thrive in the church despite the violence of a male God and men-only scriptures. I look forward to that day. I think I’m giving up scripture for my own sanity, or at least portions of it. I am advocating for Theological Revision not Rejection. I firmly believe that giving up daily scripture reading will be good for the soul. I refuse to use Scripture as a weapon any longer. I refuse to give credence to Logos over Eros–words over passion. This week I’m going to find God in art….I’m going to listen for God….in sermon……in nature…..in silence. I’m going to see God in the face of an abandoned kitten…on an icon…….a billboard….I’m going to feel God in a breeze….the heat of the sun…..in other words, I’m going to find God everywhere but in the pages of a book.

Jesus even admonished those for looking at the wrong thing to find life. He said,

“You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” (John 5:39,40).

Don’t look to a book to find life, look to the source of life itself; Jesus. As Alan Watts also pointed out,

“The common error of ordinary religious practice is to mistake the symbol for the reality, to look at the finger pointing the way and then to suck it for comfort rather than follow it”

Where is Jesus’ finger pointing? To God. Where are the scriptures pointing? To God and God alone. Don’t look to religion to find God, don’t look to institutions, not to men, and not even to women. Go to the source.

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14 thoughts on “I’m Giving Up the Bible for God

  1. There is a posting on “Spreading God’s Word” (http://jeffandcindy.wordpress.com/) that speaks to some of what you’ve outlined here…it’s Topic #2

    I agree with your final statement, “Go to the Source.” Our prayers give us the inexpressibale privilege of speaking to Him. And His Word, the Bible, is the surest way to listen to Him speak to us.

    I realize there as as many Bible versions as there are TV channels. Topic #3 on Spreading God’s Word assresses this with respect to the most “popular” translation.

    Forsake the words of men, but don’t forsake God’s Word.

  2. Bible versions are part of the problem, but not really what I was addressing. I was addressing the inability of anyone finding God in a book, any book, including the bible. Going back to the bible doesn’t solve the problem of bibliolatry. It promotes it. Thanks for the comment however. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. The historic Christian position, from well before the Reformation, has been that the Scriptures are beneficial only as they point to God, and specifically to God as revealed in Jesus. When the Bible is seen as that, and not as effectively God in itself (as I feel a number of conservative/fundamentalist/evangelical Christians try to make it at least in practice if not in name, though I also know people who would say that the word revealed in Scripture is qualitatively the same as the Word revealed in Jesus… which, needless to say, I think is wrong), then it is highly illuminating.

    Of course, I also think that the implications of the positions taken by the New Testament authors regarding sexual equality and issues of that sort could legitimately be considered in terms of present-day feminist and liberation theologies.

    When, in 2 Tim. 3:16, Paul says that all Scripture is “God-breathed,” he is using the same Greek word that is used in Genesis 2 when God breathes life into Adam. I believe that the point is not to create a modern, Reformationist theology about Scriptural inerrancy and whatnot, but rather to say that the life that is in Scripture comes from God just as the life that is in humanity comes from God. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal Jesus, who is the way, truth, and life.

    Just some thoughts. I like your writing, in general – even (and sometimes especially!) when I don’t quite agree.

  4. Thanks Jason! I appreciate the input about my writing. ๐Ÿ™‚ You have a point about the quality of the Word: Scripure and Jesus. I never understood the use of the God-breathed text to prove the validity of scripture since no one thought they were writing scripture at this point, so I think your interpretation makes perfect sense.

  5. The comments are serious and I have taken them very seriously. But I have not given up on the Bible. According to the biblical witness God enters human history, picks up people where they are (with all their needs, interpretations and fallacies) and leads them where he wants them to be. This is a historical process that can be discerned in biblical history itself. Once this is understood one can be incisively critical of the Bible without having to abandon its transformative dynamics. If you are interested in my research see my website http://www.klaus-nurnberger.com where you will find a position paper, abstracts on my two books on the subject and further detail. There is also a blog “puzzled-bored-upset-by-the-bible”. I would appreciate your comments there.
    See you there,
    Klaus

  6. Klaus, I suppose I should qualify my comments. While I haven’t “given up” the bible completely, since I do read it every morning and need to study it for Sunday school class. And while I do understand that God works through it no matter how flawed it is or may seem to me, I’m talking here more about detox. I need to detox from the bible when study seems oppressive, when justice seems denied, when the bible seems to be used more as a tool to bash than to transform. I will indeed visit your site. I’m honored that you left comments! (LATER: Forgive me Klaus, but I cannot find your blog using the tags. I’m still new to this. Do you have a link?)

  7. Ann,

    [I apologize for the length of this comment, but I had several things I wanted to convey]

    (Psa 119:89 KJV) For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

    This verse is one of the most popular verses in the Scriptures. It states that the Word of God is settled in heaven. That word “settled” is an interesting word as it means “to take a stand or to govern.” The word of God continues to take a stand on this earth and it governs the life of the believers and gives the destiny and description of the unbelievers.

    The Bible is not the final authority, it is THE Authority; in fact, THE ONLY Authority. If you have something in its final stages, then you must have something preceding it. For example, you bring your car to a detailer and he tells you to come back at 5 PM, well you arrive at 4:30 PM and he says, “it will be done shortly, I am putting the final touches on it.” Well to put the final touches on it, he had to go through a lot of work to get to that final stage.

    How many times is a biblical subject being discussed and before we get to what God has to say about it, we go through our authorities. We may call a friend, we may go to the commentaries, we may ask our Pastor, we may pull a theology or prophecy book off the shelf and try to find the answer without really having to do much study. Whenever we adopt this type of interpretive method, everything EXCEPT the Bible is our authority. True Bible study is no longer the process of attaining Biblical truth.

    The way many people are programmed to think today is that they have to go to some “expert” to get their opinion, and then the seeking person torpidly adopts that answer, even if it is in opposition to the Scriptures.

    Whenever we look for spiritual truth, we must avoid, at all costs, theological systems and preachers who just cloud the truth with their own opinions. Theological opinions can be so dressed up, you’ll think you’re hearing the Bible alone, when in reality, you’ll be hearing someoneโ€™s opinion.

    How can a fallen, sinful human race ever arrive at truth?

    [Again, I apologize for the length of this comment…]

  8. Jeff, You’re espousing a pretty standard answer from christian fundamentalism, which I no longer believe in, and it doesn’t really address what I’m saying. Since I’m not prone to going to “experts” first and since I have my own opinions about what I read, I usually don’t pay too close attention to most preachers either. Christians arrive at the truth by listening to the Spirit of God within them, listening to the community of the faithful (all of the faithful, not just a sect), and then deciding the matter for themselves, as did most of the biblical writers, commentators, and believers before us. But I don’t believe any written document is THE authority on anything, final or not. Only Jesus is THE supreme authority. “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say on this topic. Thanks for the comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Interestingly enough, though, I actually wrote a paper for my Paul course for my BA in which I argued that Paul actually intended to write with the force of scripture. I first examined Paul’s view of the role of apostle, how he compared the apostle to the Old Testament prophet, how he understood his own ministry in the terms of the OT prophets, using language from the OT prophetic calls (particularly Jeremiah), and then his view of the role of Scripture (namely what is now to us the OT) in the teaching and practice of the church. Given the intersection of these particular ideas, I then concluded that Paul intended for his writings to function much like the OT prophetic writings, only on the post-Christ side of history rather than pre-Christ.

    But that’s not to say that Paul meant to write scripture in the sense that, say, Jeff and Cindy are talking about. I think Paul had a much more open view of the relationship between Scripture and the traditional teaching about Jesus that he received and transmitted. Jesus was central, and anything that taught accurately about him and his meaning. For us, from a historical standpoint, the New Testament contains the oldest testimonies to Jesus available to us, so they should be given considerable weight in ensuring our continuity with Jesus himself, but the point is Jesus.

  10. Jason, you have some very good points here. Paul very well could have written his epistles with the view of voicing scriptural authority. I also believe that Paul was heavily influenced by Greek thought and the dualism that is inherent in this type of thought. Jewish thought was particularly monistic, which is why many Christians today cannot grasp the meaning of the wholeness or completeness of the “soul” and “body.” For Paul, the body is sin, the soul is pure. This line of thought runs through most of Western Christianity, except perhaps the Celtic branch. This scripural authority issue also has to do with the writing of mythology. I wrote my Master’s thesis on mythology and how men, who had the power to write history, myth, legend, “scripture,” etc. controlled the creation of a society’s mythic past. Women did not have the power of mythic creation, which, in effect, engenders the “history” that we read about right now. If they did create it, these documents were destroyed by men. Since men were in control, these writings do not reflect women’s thought, experiences, or expressions of worship to a deity. For me, regardless of what Paul thought he was writing, the question is, is that document which claims to be God written, binding upon all of humanity because one man believes it to be so? Are women supposed to accept what men have written to each other without consult or without voice? I personally don’t think so. I’ve struggled with this issue from my conversion to christianity in 1983, through my coming out of fundamentalism in 1988, to my broadening of intellectual thought in 2000. What I keep coming back to is, that unless any scripture, myth, legend, political document includes the voices of women, to me it’s not absolute, and it’s only one-sided myth-making. Thanks for the fruitful conversation!

  11. Ann,

    You have really touched on one of the tenets of Catholicism in you words. Tradition, in the familiar, family sense, is not written down. We have turkey on Thanksgiving, roast beef on Christmas, and lamb on Easter. I have the recipes written down but otherwise “tradition” dictates. Catholics rely less on the written word in the Bible for this very reason. No amount of writing will ever fully capture the essence and being of God — even if it is given to man from God himself. Our human language is not sufficient to encompass that glory and it is sadly human to think otherwise.

  12. Ahh Joanie, my muse, you are sooooo correct. I’m dedicating today’s post to you. (See mascuscriptolatry) Human language is indeed the problem which is why catholicism appeals to me so much. I think I’m FINALLY getting it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I am so sorry that you did not find my stuff. I cannot find it either any more and did not have time to deal with it for some months now. I hope you were able to find me at my website http://www.klaus-nurnberger.com. My two books on the biblical witness have been helpful for a number of people and I hope you will find the time to read at least the smaller one of the two. Do not hesitate to contact me on email.
    Sincerely, Klaus

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