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What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017

what
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it.  Meditated on it. Dissected it.  Taught it.  Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it.  Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK.  Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned.  But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)

How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?

 

A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now.  Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them.  And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!

There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric!  But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New.   We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate.  There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!

One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.”  It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word.  Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?”  I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends that dont see things the way we do.  (And who doesn’t fit that catagory?!?!)

I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective.   He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then arrogantly proclaim “Book solved!”  I remember thinking, “WTF?”

This is not a book to be solved.  This is a book to be eaten.
Chewed slowly.  Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it?  Not likely.  Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart?  Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was.  There is just so much here!

I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way.  But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy.  Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey.  With lots of “ah-ha” moments.

I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.

 

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

Some Quotes:

  • It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions.  (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
  • You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
  • The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
  • I’ve heard people say that they read it literally.  As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible.  It’s not.  We read it literately.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become.  He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
  • I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church.  But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not.   We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
  • When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point.  Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

  • To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve.  These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
  • The divine is always at work.

And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins


Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”

“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.”  — Relevant

“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty

“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert

(Buy the book.  Click HERE.)

 

I’m Too Old For That November 11, 2016

My wife recently expressed concern for my safety and well-being.
You see, I’ve decided (for a while at least) to leave my “Hillary” magnet on my vehicle.
Kathleen believes that in this time of Trump-sanctioned acts of violence, I may be inviting hate-crimes against myself or my property.
She’s right, of course.
And I have considered removing it for just that reason.  Seriously, I really don’t want to get beaten up or spat on.  In my younger days I did take a number of beatings (many from my younger brother. 🙂 ).  But my bones weren’t nearly as brittle then.  Now, I don’t know that I could survive such an incident.  I’m too old for that shit.

Still, I’m leaving the magnet on my truck.  Yes, I have a little fear in doing so, but I will not be ruled by that.  Now is not the time to go into hiding.  Now is certainly not the time for anyone to stay in their closet (unless they’re praying).
No, now is the time to stand.
To stand tall, vigilant and proud.
I will display my support for social justice on my vehicle, my clothing, and any other way I can.  I will be more bold than ever.
Hate-crimes are increasing by those who believe they have the government’s blessings.
We need to stand up for ourselves, and whenever possible, intercede on behalf of anyone we see being harassed, belittled or abused.
We’ll all have to give more to the causes of social justice.  Time, or money.  Both when possible.  We need to keep our camera phones ready to record when needed.  We must be unafraid to speak out against discrimination and hate.  Especially hate that comes from those claiming to stand for God.  Yes, that’s hard to do if you fear for your safety.  It’s been hard in every civil rights movement of the past, and it will often be hard now.

We may not be using swords, rifled-muskets or breech loaders, but we are in a civil war. Hillary won the popular vote (by quite a lot, really), but Donald won the electoral college.  Either way, This was a tight race. We are living in the Divided States of America, and we can’t just all get along.  The opposition will often use physical violence.  We MUST use what author and activist Mel White calls “The Practice of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance.”  Love still trumps hate.  It sounds trite.  It’s not what I want to hear or say right now.  But it has to be.  It just has to.

Yes.  Hate won.
Hate won this battle, but the war for justice and equality goes on.
And by the grace of God, I will stand.
As of yet, I’m not too old for that.

– dave


I don’t know who put this together, but I like it:

if-you

 

The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013

sacred cover

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark


         “This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
         a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
         – Jana Riess


This is a powerful read.  Just powerful.
I’m often challenged.  I’m often stretched.  This book did both, but it did something else as well.  It “convicted” me.  I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it.  It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes.  That’s pretty much always a good thing.

So, yes, this is a book about questions.  It’s a book of questions.  Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning.  We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question.  He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go.  He knew the question itself, was sacred.

David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.

In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.”  Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives.  We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.”  “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”

From questioning God, we move to questioning religion.  We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park.  Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”

Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!”  Talk about a misuse of scripture.  Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended.  But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others.  “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack.  We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”

Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.”  We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it.  There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.”  And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”

Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5.  The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.”  Very interesting.

The sixth chapter has up questioning language.  “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.”  “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”

Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations.  “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.”  If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation.  “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”

Chapter 8: Questioning History.  I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school.  I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners.  That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament.  In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.”  It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.”  This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians.  It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”

As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures.  Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.”  I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”

Finally, we question the future.  We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.”  “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information.  There’s a lot to think about here.  Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has.  (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.)  David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing.  This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
All aboard!

– df

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t.  It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.

– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.

– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.

– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span.  There’s always more to a person than we know.”

– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers.  And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.

– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.

– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.

– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.

– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.



 

Is God Violent? A brief “Q” & “R” With Brian McLaren July 27, 2010

Q:
Your chapter on whether God is violent or not was helpful. However, this is something that I really continue to struggle with…the biggest issues I have are how violent and at times selective God seems to be…why does God put evil spirits on people and harden people’s hearts…

R:
First, it’s so good you’re reading through the whole Bible.  It’s dangerous, I think, when we only hear the Bible in little tiny chunks that fit into sermons. We miss so much of the big sweep … and we miss many of the big tensions as well, as you’re seeing now.

On God putting an evil spirit on Saul, or hardening Pharoah’s heart, etc., theologians deal with this in a number of ways. What has been most helpful to me is to realize that in the ancient world, there is little consciousness of intermediate causality. If lightning strikes, God (or the gods) did it – because there’s little understanding of intermediate causes like atmospheric convection, heat transfer, cold fronts, static electricity, and the like. I suppose calling natural disasters “acts of God” continues this tradition.

If people in the Bible see things in a certain way – no intermediate causality – does that obligate us to reject any other explanation? I’d say no. Just as we no longer feel obligated to say the sun circles the earth – even though this is clearly the language of the Bible, reflecting the “world view” of the time – I don’t feel obligated to ignore intermediate causality when I interpret Biblical language and thought forms and seek to be guided by them in today’s world. I might also add that sometimes, the biblical storytellers seem to be trying to “save” God … If Pharoah hardens his own heart, it sounds like God isn’t omnipotent. So they say that God hardens Pharoahs heart, thus solving that problem, but creating another. (In their day, the danger of giving Pharoah too much credit may have been worth the risk … but today, making God responsible for evil seems like the greater risk.)

We – all of us – do the same sort of thing today, again and again – trying to solve one problem and unintentionally creating other ones. That’s one reason I recommend reading the Bible as a library, and not giving any single text the final word … as if it were an article in a constitution.

On Saul getting a bad rap, yes, I agree. The Bible presents human beings with much more maturity and nuance than we often do … We (especially we Americans) love to paint the world into simple good guys and bad guys, forgetting that the bad guys have a lot of good, and the good guys a lot of bad. If some Biblical passages seem “primitive” to us in terms of intermediate causality, they’re often far more mature and nuanced in terms of human nature than many of our modern preachers are.

Again, if we let the Bible be a library, then we can let various authors/storytellers have their perspectives and vested interests. Part of our job as wise readers is to discern those vested interests, and take account of them in our interpretation.

This sensitivity to vested interests in the Bible helps us, I think, when looking at political issues today. There are upsides and downsides to this or that immigration bill, tax bill, energy bill, whatever. People usually simply take sides – fer it or agin it. But the Biblical library teaches us that there’s a higher perspective, where we can learn to see both the upsides and downsides of all sides … That way, even if we are for something, we won’t be naive about its downsides, and vice versa.

——————-

Read The Full Q & R in context.  CLICK HERE.

——————-
Read About, and Purchase, “A New Kind Of Christianity.”  CLICK HERE.

 

Think June 17, 2010

Capital Punishment:
A consistent ethic demands that our nation end capital punishment. We should not take life to punish wrongful death. There is no evidence that it deters murder. It is easy to make fatal mistakes, as DNA testing has shown. The death penalty is biased against the poor, who cannot afford adequate legal representation, and is racially disproportionate.
– Sojourners

Gays and Lesbians:
“Regardless of what moral or theological positions churches hold regarding gay and lesbian sexual behavior, all Christians can and should unite around a commitment to defend people’s basic rights. But the church cannot in good conscience take a passive approach to this question. It is, after all, other Christians who often have taken the lead in this thinly disguised but mean-spirited assault on human dignity. Biblically based Christians who operate out of a more loving and compassionate framework must meet the challenge head-on and forcefully oppose homophobia.
– When Dignity is Assaulted by Jim Rice

But do we really want to deny a gay person’s right to be at their loved one’s deathbed in a hospital with “family restrictions”? Do we also want to deny that person a voice in the medical treatment of his or her partner? And do we really want all the worldly possessions of a deceased gay person to revert to the family who rejected them 30 years ago, instead of going to their partner of the last 20 years? ”
– Gays and Marriage: A Middle Way by Jim Wallis

“While the passing of [hate-crime] legislation that prosecutes attacks on gays and lesbians would be a good thing, it will do very little to prevent such crimes unless Christians and other people of conscience work to change the atmosphere where gays are seen as less than complete human beings with the full civil privileges of other citizens. Gays and lesbians aren’t going to go away. Nor are they going to stay away from the church, where—rumor has it—people “love their neighbors as themselves.” This is an opportunity to practice what we preach.”
— Practicing What We Preach by Aaron Gallegos

War and Peace:
Our world faces a major challenge of how to resolve conflicts, reduce violence, and defeat terrorism without preemptive war. War has become a first resort instead of the last resort. In a world with terrorists, terrorist states, unilateralist superpowers, and weapons of mass destruction, alternatives to an endless cycle of violence are needed.

Ecology:
Addressing the degradation of God’s sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time, comparable to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass destruction in a post-Hiroshima world. — From the National Council of Churches Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States.

Put aside the Holy Scriptures for a while and read God’s first revelation—nature itself. Such was the advice offered some years ago by a profound, Christian thinker. We stress “Christian” here because this person of faith intended no offense to [the Bible], nor to us who hold [it] sacred. His point was that long before the writing of Genesis, humanity could already read God’s self-revelation in the natural world.

In the book of Genesis, the creation is simply gift, a garden made with care, and in its essence, very good. Our original place was to walk with God in the garden of life.

(All above comments are taken from “Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace.”

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR CREATION CARE: MAY 25TH, 2010

 

 
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