Feminist.

I personally identify as an Intersectional Feminist. I believe in equal rights for all (not just white, cis-gendered, heteronormative individuals), in the dismantling of the privileged patriarchy, and recognize that the fight for freedom and equality for women cannot be separated or properly understood without the consideration of the rights of all other marginalized groups. I understand that as a white, cis-gendered, heteronormative woman that I cannot ever personally experience the different kinds of oppression experienced by People of Color, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, or any other marginalized group. The only thing I can do is educate myself, check my privilege, and attempt in my own feeble way to try and fight back against the oppressive powers that be while never attempting to speak for any other group or individual. I can only speak for myself and speak to my own personal experiences.

Which now brings me the label “Jesus Feminist”. While I do understand why it was coined, I will be honest in saying that I find the term “Jesus Feminist” to be rather grating. I am both a Christian and a feminist, but I’m tired of the currently popular tone of apologetic Christian feminism. Based on the numerous articles I’ve read that would fall into this category I’m also disappointed in where the movement seems to be going. I disavow the notion that we somehow need the permission of conservative Evangelicals (especially) for our voices, for our existence as women, to be validated. I don’t need the Bible to tell me that I’m deserving of equality because I already know that I do. I don’t need any church, pastor, blogger, author, Pope, or even the words attributed to Jesus to give me permission to be heard and respected. Jesus is not necessary to justify my being treated as fully human. Jesus is not necessary to grant me my dignity and autonomy. I do not need Christianity’s permission to be a feminist. I do not need Christianity’s permission to be given my humanity. I do not need Christianity’s permission to exist.

I understand that there are some women who live within a conservative Evangelical world where unless the Bible can back a point of view it’s considered irrelevant. So I understand why some women do need the Bible to justify their feminism because they’re confronting an ideology that will consider nothing if it’s not Biblical (even loosely). But you know… those kinds of communities and institutions should be considered irrelevant and a waste of time. Why fight to be recognized by a group that blatantly disrespects you? Why all the back-bending to try and fit in some place that doesn’t want you there to begin with? Why fight to maintain a personal identity within a group that wants nothing but silent obedience? Why all the personal conflict and inner turmoil for a group that doesn’t even recognize your existence as valuable unless you’re producing children or cooking for a potluck? (I mean, how audacious to try and be more than your basic biology and cultural gender stereotypes.)

I recognize that the only way to bring about change in many circumstances is to fight for it. To me though, much of the popular “Jesus Feminism” articles, websites, tweets, etc. come across less like fighting for radical reform within conservative circles for equality and more like compromise & permission seeking so as not to seem too threatening to the establishment. After all, these are denominations and churches that build much of their identity around the premise of not changing. These are groups that pride themselves on not being a part of the “intellectual elite” and therefore reject evolution, The Big Bang Theory, climate change,  and the majority of science in general. These are groups that relish in the attention they get from stubbornly clinging to the “morality” of the pre-Vietnam War era when no one dared come out of the closet, women rarely worked outside the home, and everyone knew their place and staid there. Men were men and all that nonsense. These groups are right at home inside the conservative Evangelical Christian world – they thrive there because that is a culture that reinforces & demands antiquated social expectations in order to attain group acceptance. It is a culture which only works if people check their brains at the door, don’t ask any hard or challenging questions, and generally don’t upset the status quo that dictates what’s permissible in order to maintain membership. That is not a culture which is open to or respectful of new ideas. It is a culture which actively seeks to create fear around those new ideas so as to keep them from infiltrating their established “in-group”. They’re just fine, thanks!

You may certainly try and make feminism more palatable to such groups and attempt to make it less “scary” by saying Jesus was a feminist too. (And he totally was, and the very early church was loads more egalitarian than some modern churches are today, and I fully appreciate the fact that authors like Sarah Bessey are pointing out this fact to the conservative populace.) However, I can’t help but notice though that all too often women in the Christian community feel the need to hobble and soften feminism before feeling comfortable presenting the term to others. This attempt to make oneself more “acceptable” is not unlike the everyday compromises women make consciously & unconsciously in order to pass through life as peacefully & unscathed as possible. “Don’t be too loud, too assertive, too quiet, too fat, too thin, too sexy, not sexy enough, smart, stupid”, and on and on. The approach that I’m most commonly seeing within the “Jesus Feminist” movement (though certainly not the only one) is one which makes the demands and desires of women smaller and less intrusive. This seems counterintuitive and antithetical to what the ultimate goals of feminism are.

I don’t need permission from groups like that to be a feminist. I don’t need the acceptance from groups like that for my point of view to be validated. I don’t need anyone’s religious ideology to grant me my worth and value as a human being. I certainly don’t need a narrow-minded misogynist’s twisted interpretation of scripture or opinion on the life of Jesus to tell me where my place in the world should be.

Essentially, I don’t see the point in trying to conform to the rigid & arbitrary expectations of a group in order to find acceptance within it when the goal was to change those rules in the first place. Reject that system and make your own. Find or make a community that recognizes and values your worth as a woman in all areas, not just in the kitchen or daycare. There are already so many Christian denominations and communities that fully accept the personhood and leadership of women with no qualifying buzzwords or labels necessary. Go there. When the other groups fail to evolve and grow with the rest of the world they will fade, wither, and die (as they should). No one needs to make excuses for conservative oppression and no one needs to try and contort their reasonable demands for equality in order to please them. Real change and real equality can only become the new reality when the old systems of degradation and oppression are utterly & totally done away with. Embrace your feminism and stop trying to apologize for it. Jesus can still come along too.

dontneedvalidation

+ Katie +

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Female Trouble

 

How we talk about God matters. Pretending how we address the Divine as if it were only a minor issue does a huge theological disservice to us all. God is not male, and yet the preferred pronoun used for God has long been He, with the assumption that this was a wholly accurate title. The exclusive use of male-gendered language excludes the feminine from being considered holy & sacred, and therefore can be used to diminish the role of women within the Church. Women have been excluded, degraded, demonized, abused, and shamed in the name of “tradition” for centuries. This entire charade has only ever been weakly bolstered by claims of divine male authority/appointment by cherry-picked Bible verses used to illustrate the inferior (and often diabolical) nature of women and our bodily existence. It’s our fault we’re in this whole mess of humanity, right? Male hierarchies relish in the power from their self-appointed position of rulers of the universe, yet don’t seem to want to share any of the responsibility for any of the resulting consequences. If you’ve been in charge for the better half of human existence, you can’t really blame the oppressed when the proverbial shit hits the fan.

But I am digressing slightly. The main issue at hand this: Why does the usage of female pronouns and metaphors make so many uncomfortable? What is it about the implication that the feminine can also be sacred that elicits accusations of blasphemy & heresy? What is ultimately so offensive & awful about just being female that it can’t be seen as holy? And what are the larger implications for women in the world who aren’t permitted a God that relates to their experience?

In fact, this aversion to referencing the holy as feminine is not without its consequences. There are so many denominations within Christianity that place undue and unhealthy shame on women’s bodies by convincing them that their only worth is in their sexuality and in the strict control of that sexuality. Phrases such as “modest is hottest” imply that only girls & women who maintain the imposed ideals of sexual virtue through chastity are valuable and godly. No such similar ideals are forced on boys and men. Teenage boys are not pressured and shamed by messages of “protecting” their virginity at all costs. Teenage boys are not discouraged from wearing certain clothes because they might be “distracting” to the girls. Teenage boys are not threatened with ruined reputations and titles like “whore” and “slut”. While men & boys are certainly exposed to harmful and unrealistic ideals of masculinity, it is not equivalent to the level of body & sexual shame that women have instilled in them their whole lives. In many faiths, the idea that women are entirely responsible for how men view & treat their bodies is inextricably linked to the notion that their bodies are more sinful, deceptive, dirty, and tempting, and should, therefore, be covered prior to being considered acceptable not only socially, but spiritually as well.

These kinds of restrictions also extend to the structure and leadership of the church. If it is believed that women are less trustworthy, less intelligent, less capable, and more prone to sin, then they aren’t going to be entrusted with any power inside the church. After all, it even says in the Bible that women aren’t supposed to teach or speak up, right?

If you bring up the injustice that is presented by treating women as though they don’t matter and are in fact lesser humans than the males in the church, many fundamentalist Christians will often invoke their misogynist mascot St. Paul and treat you to such verses as:

“Women shall remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” – 1 Corinthians 14:34

“I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” – 1 Timothy 2:12.

I mean, it says it right there in the Bible y’all! However, I would like to point out a few things that weaken the foundation of the good ‘ol “women in the kitchen” philosophy.

First, let’s discuss the issue of authorship of the Pauline letters. There are, in fact, only 7 letters in the Bible which are universally agreed upon as being authentic letters of his: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Those are what are referred to as the undisputed letters of Paul. Then, there are six letters whose authorship is called in to question and it is not certain whether Paul actually wrote them or not, his authorship is only traditional: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

Then there’s how these letters were written in the first place. Many of Paul’s letters mention co-authors. That, of course, begs the question: How much did those co-authors contribute? Consider also the fact that scribes were often employed in the process of letter writing during this time. Most folks who are even remotely familiar with Biblical history will probably be familiar with the notion of scribes, professionals who were hired to do the cumbersome task of putting ink to parchment. Interesting fact though: while some of these scribes took dictation and then copied word for word what they were told, many of them were just given broad topic outlines and left with the freedom to choose the specifics of the composition themselves. Isn’t that crazy?

Now certainly one would think that before an important document got disseminated bearing a certain someone’s mark of approval, that the individual actually reviewed said document and authorized its contents before release. That could certainly be the case. But knowing that the individual doing the transcribing had the freedom available to them in some cases to make editorial decisions, and knowing that we have no original copies of these letters, I think it’s entirely possible (and indeed very likely) that the versions of scripture we have today contain many differences from the original texts.

Secondly, let’s consider Paul’s own actions when compared to the verses quoted above. When trusting a person to deliver a letter to a community, you were choosing someone to act on your behalf. They would have to not only present the letter to the intended recipients, but also answer any questions posed by the community about its contents, and even defend it in debate if needed. Essentially, the person who delivered the letter was delivering the message and served as a kind of instructor for those on the receiving end. Paul chose such men as Tychicus and Epaphroditus to bear some of his letters (Ephesians and Philemon, respectively). However, the person that was chosen to deliver his letter to the Romans was a deacon in the church at Corinth named Phoebe – a woman. Not only was this woman already serving in a position of spiritual leadership in the early church, but Paul even deigned her fit enough to deliver one of his letters of spiritual guidance to a church community he had established. I find it very odd that a man who is attributed to phrases encouraging the silence and invisibility of women would also be a man to recognize and encourage their participation and leadership. One of these things isn’t like the other.

Indeed, Phoebe wasn’t the only woman recognized by Paul. Karen L. King, a professor of New Testament Studies and the History of Ancient Christianity at Harvard points out additional information about the roles of women in the church provided by Paul’s letters:

He greets Prisca, Junia, Julia, and Nereus’ sister, who worked and traveled as missionaries in pairs with their husbands or brothers (Romans 16:3, 7, 15). He tells us that Prisca and her husband risked their lives to save his. He praises Junia as a prominent apostle, who had been imprisoned for her labor. Mary and Persis are commended for their hard work (Romans 16:6, 12). Euodia and Syntyche are called his fellow-workers in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3). Here is clear evidence of women apostles active in the earliest work of spreading the Christian message.

Paul’s letters also offer some important glimpses into the inner workings of ancient Christian churches. These groups did not own church buildings but met in homes, no doubt due in part to the fact that Christianity was not legal in the Roman world of its day and in part because of the enormous expense to such fledgling societies. Such homes were a domain in which women played key roles. It is not surprising then to see women taking leadership roles in house churches. Paul tells of women who were the leaders of such house churches (Apphia in Philemon 2; Prisca in I Corinthians 16:19). This practice is confirmed by other texts that also mention women who headed churches in their homes, such as Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:15) and Nympha of Laodicea (Colossians 4:15). Women held offices and played significant roles in group worship. Paul, for example, greets a deacon named Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and assumes that women are praying and prophesying during worship (I Corinthians 11). As prophets, women’s roles would have included not only ecstatic public speech, but preaching, teaching, leading prayer, and perhaps even performing the eucharist meal. (A later first century work, called the Didache, assumes that this duty fell regularly to Christian prophets.)

Women having full participation and leadership in the church is nothing new. In fact, without women’s involvement starting from the earliest days of the faith, we may not even have a church today at all.

To discount women as not being important contributors to the church, to restrict them solely to “traditional” roles associated with mothering and childcare, and indeed to actively shame them into submission does a massive disservice to all parties involved. Not only that, but it’s wholly baseless and dishonest to do so, completely ignoring the historical evidence proving the contrary, and disregarding the rest of the words and actions by the man who’s alleged to support that whole mindset (Paul). If women aren’t allowed to explore and realize their full potential as spiritual and community leaders, then not only are younger girls discouraged before they even try, it also creates a void for the whole community to lose out in hearing the voices and visions of those that are silenced. How can the body of Christ possibly be complete if entire limbs of it are severed and tossed aside?

Both women and men need to be valued wholesale for their gifts. Both the masculine and feminine need to be recognized as being equally sacred and equally worthy of praise. The bodies and minds of women need to be given the respect due to them, their humanity being recognized and honored in doing so. We need to become so comfortable with these things that should someone refer to God as “She” we will no longer go into fits of insolence – we won’t even bat at an eye. Hopefully, one day we will truly recognize that God is present in all of humanity – male and female alike.

+ Katie +

Original Sin, No I Don’t Think So

As a little girl I can remember references to “Catholic guilt” from films and TV and, despite finding the jokes amusing, was still quite confused about what it all meant. What did they have to feel guilty about? Had they all done something wrong? Being raised in a secular household, the idea of someone carrying around loads of guilt for no apparent reason didn’t make sense. It wasn’t until I got older and began to learn more about Christianity that I understood what the phrase “Catholic guilt” was actually describing: the concept known as Original Sin.

For non-Christians or Christians unaware of its meaning, in a nutshell, it is a philosphy that says all of humanity is inherently broken, bad, twisted, evil, profane, and incapable of taking any action on its own to remedy this sorry state. It was first alluded to by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons in the 2nd Century as a rebuke to Gnosticism. Irenaeus believed that by Adam’s commitment of sin through eating the forbidden fruit, he created the “original” source of human sinfulness and enslaved all of mankind to death (mortality) and bequeathed all future generations with a fundamentally sinful and guilty nature. As a sidenote, I find it rather interesting that Irenaeus is linking this blame more specifically to Adam’s eating of the fruit rather than Eve, but I doubt he held her blameless either.

 

I think most of us, though, who have heard of this concept associate it with St. Augustine. St. Augustine was a man who in the late 300’s was wrestling with his own shortcomings and was having a difficult time resolving his own self-loathing in a theological way. How could he, a mere man, be able to help his own soul? How could God possibly love and forgive the miserable wretch that he perceived himself (and everyone else) to be?

 

Augustine took the notion of individuals being born sinners and ran with it. He proposed that since all of humanity was present in Adam when he sinned (in his opinion) that therefore all have sinned, and this sinful nature is passed down person to person via sexual reproduction. Hence, as sinners, “humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace.” (Which is where the twisted idea of unbaptized babies who die end up in purgatory came from – if you’re already born a sinner and die before you’re baptized, then there’s no way you’re able to enter Heaven. Obviously.) Clearly, St. Augustine was a man who had a lot of issues surrounding sex and sexuality to decide that such physical actions would be so loathsome and evil in the eyes of God.

 

In Augustine’s opinion, not only is all of humanity fundamentally bad, but because of our natural dispensation towards evil, we are incapable of choosing good on our own and therefore unable to do anything to remedy our flaws for or by ourselves. The natural world and the products of that natural world (us) were inherently deficient because of this inborn corruption we inherited through simply being born. He taught that it was only through God’s grace that we had any chance at all of being “saved” or made whole again. This is a belief that has snaked its way through modern Christianity and permeates throughout much of mainstream churches. Even in my own Episcopal church I’ve heard sermons from my priest and deacon, one of whom has publicly announced their disbelief in Original Sin, about the inherent “brokenness” of people. I could not disagree with this doctrine more.

 

Humanity is flawed, there is no doubt about that. We are capable of unimaginable evil, unabashed selfishness and greed, hatred, and so on. But I don’t for one second believe that we are, at our core, fundamentally broken and ugly. The word “broken” implies that there is somehow a way to be “fixed”. Some might argue that there is a way to be fixed and that’s through Christ. However, how many Christians do you know that are flawless? How many people belonging to any faith do you know that have reached any state resembling perfection or wholeness? Clearly just identifying as a person of faith doesn’t solve any problems or make you a better person. Original Sin tells you that you are powerless in your brokenness, that there is nothing you can do to make yourself a better person, that only God can do anything for you, you worthless worm. It asks you to pray, and beg, and plead, and hope for God to take pity on you and that hopefully with Christ’s mercy you will be “saved”. Maybe.

 

The other implication with using terminology such as “broken” that I find objectionable is that it communicates on some level that there is something fundamentally evil about the natural state of humanity (imperfect). It creates a thought process whereby we start to disassociate ourselves from the body and nature because those things which are “worldly” and physical are corrupt and sinful. We start to view the land and creatures which dwell on this planet as “things” which we must conquer, tame, and destroy if necessary to further our own misguided goal of trying to achieve a state of perfection.

 

Furthermore, linking the responsibility of our “fallen” state to the actions taken by a woman has created an entire culture whereby women have been historically and systematically debased, controlled, beaten, objectified, and humiliated as some sort of warped consequence for actions taken in a Biblical creation myth. Women’s bodies have long been associated with earthly desires, women as objects which are not to be trusted, because our foremother ate a piece of fruit she was told not to and so brought all our misery and suffering upon us. I can’t help but see the connection between our global culture’s attempts at controlling women & their bodies and attempting to control and destroy our natural resources as well.

 

How strange, how silly, how sad that so much of this self-destructive behavior seems to be rooted in a theological idea created by an unhappy little man in the fourth century. Original sin isn’t even Biblical, and yet so many people seem to be unable to separate their faith from this harmful doctrine. As Matthew Fox states from Living the Questions 2.0,
“Jesus never heard of ‘Original Sin’.” The term wasn’t even used until the 4th century, so it’s “strange to run a church, a gathering, an ekklesia — supposedly on behalf of Jesus — when one of its main dogmatic tenets, Original Sin, never occurred to Jesus.” Sadly, Western Christianity is dependent on and chronically “attached to Original Sin — but what they’re really attached to is St. Augustine. The fact is that most Westerners believe more in Augustine (and his preoccupation with sex) than they do in Jesus.”

 

How unfortunate that so many Christians would rather choose to believe the absolute worst about themselves rather than perceive themselves as beautifully flawed creatures capable of so much good. I find nothing uplifting, moving, or beneficial as person of faith or as an inhabitant of this world in being told that I am broken, fallen, and helpless by my very nature. I find such messages to be positively insidious and degrading. I am capable of doing things and taking steps in my daily life to become a better person and to nurture my relationship with the Divine. We all are capable of doing that. I refuse to believe that on top of my culture consistently bombarding me with messages of never being “enough” that the Divine would hold such a similar viewpoint as marketing agencies.

 

We are perfectly flawed and perfectly loved. Don’t listen to anyone trying to tell you otherwise.

 

+ K +

The Trouble With Trinities

The topic of the Christian Trinity is a subject which I’ve had issues with for some time. To me it resembles more closely theology that Christians and “the church” rail against as pagan, heretical or even evil. It further ties into my issue of people addressing Jesus as not just the Son of God but actually an incarnation of God Himself. That notion is a very familiar idea within paganism and Eastern philosophy. Certain denominations of Buddhism and Hinduism believe that certain deities will have an earthly incarnation into a human body and they in turn will worship that individual as if they were that deity. Yet Christians look at this practice as idolatrous and ignorant. But the idea that God existed in a physical body as Jesus is somehow not only acceptable but an idea that is still quite popularly accepted as the “truth” by a very large number of Christians today. But where did the concept of the Trinity come from? Is it even supported Biblically? Why is it viewed as a necessary part of the foundation of the Christian faith?

First, I became interested in finding out how and when the concept of the Trinity came about. From the reading that I have done the word “Trinity” was first used by Tertullian, a Latin theologian who wrote in the early third century. Tertullian is in fact the individual who first coined the term and to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were “one in essence – not one in Person.” (ANF 3.621; c. 213 AD). But it wasn’t until roughly a century later in 325 during the meeting of the Council of Nicea that this relationship was formally defined as a response to the teachings of Arius, who had taught that Christ was the first creation of God. The council was led by Bishop Athanasius who established the Trinitarian doctrine as orthodoxy, an action which essentially settled the issue… I had not actually heard of Arius before looking further into the Trinitarian concept, and I found it interesting that his proposed belief concerning Jesus was that while Jesus was superior to humans, he was not of the same order as God and was in fact a changeable created being made by God. While the council of Nicea condemned this teaching, after Constantine’s death Arianism began to take on popularity again for some decades afterwards and almost overtook the Nicene party. It wasn’t until the 381 C.E. that Arianism was officially & finally condemned at the Council of Constantinople.

With this knowledge then I find it more difficult to accept the idea of the Trinity as one which is divine and Biblical. It appears more as theology created to rationalize the predicament of keeping Christianity monotheistic while simultaneously stressing the requirement of worshipping the Son of God, often above the worship of God Himself. In looking for supporting Biblical evidence regarding the Trinity one website I found offers certain Biblical passages to support its views. These passages include John 20:28 which reads, “And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”; 2 Pet. 1:1which states, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13 which says, “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” Yet, I do not see how these quotes are in any way irrefutable support of Jesus being the equivalent of God. First and foremost, these claims are being exclaimed by Jesus’ followers who are inarguably quite in awe of this man. Secondly, these are not words spoken by Jesus nor are they words which God has spoken to a prophet to proclaim. In every declaration I have ever read to be spoken by Jesus, he always refers to himself as the Son of God and as God being his father, not as he himself being the same as God. In fact that same website seems to contradict itself when it quotes Isaiah 44:8 stating that there is only one God and that God knows of no others, in what appears to be an attempt to say that while Jesus is the same as God he is not a separate entity from God. To me that just reads as an attempt to once again rationalize the concept of the Trinity so that Christianity can still maintain the guise of monotheism and avoid that “icky” label of polytheism. While that website is certainly not an in-depth scholarly study of the Trinity, when looked at critically, I see no reason why their few lifted Bible quotes do anything to support their stance on the issue.

Lest we forget the pure suspense of logic one must use in order to begin to rationalize the concept of Jesus being God incarnate in flesh form, while at the same time being in heaven and remaining omnipotent. If God were Jesus, why would Jesus still pray to God? Why would he exclaim, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). Is he not just addressing himself? And what of the several Biblical quotes clearly refuting the divinity of Jesus?

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5

“I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” – John 20:17

“My Father is greater than I.” – John 14:28

“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” – Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” – Mark 16:19

…And so on and so forth.

As much as I am a spiritual person, as much as I believe in a Divine force, a soul, a spiritual world, etc. I am also a person who embraces science, who thinks critically and logically. I can’t just turn my brain off and say, “OK”, to a theology if it just doesn’t make some semblance of sense to me. Whether or not a belief is widely held to be true does not in any way render it true by default. I enjoy thinking about abstract ideas and concepts and exploring them as fully as I can. Therefore, I cannot simply accept the concept of the Trinity as being true merely because it is an officiated doctrine; held not only by the Episcopal Church but by a majority of Christians worldwide. It’s a purely invented concept held loosely together by flimsy “evidence” and tradition.

I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar or an expert in any sense of the imagination. I am interested in the history of the Bible, how it was created and who wrote it, and the history which can be validated outside of the Bible through archaeology and academics. I believe the real truth is more apt to be found outside of the Bible than within it, based on the critical examination of its contents within the proper context of the time it was created. Once one learns more about how the Bible was created in the first place it becomes easier to be more objective at looking into its contents. The Bible was written by men, edited by men, compiled by men, interpreted & (mis)translated by men, and published by men according to what they deemed appropriate. When one studies the Bible in its correct historical context instead of attempting to live it literally one is more likely to get something of substance out of it. Much of the spiritual context of the Bible is contained in nuance and allegory, not in obsession over literal laws and verbatim quotes. We will never know what Jesus actually meant or said, and we won’t know if what people wrote down is the same as what God Himself was trying to get across. But I don’t think that by everyone trying to scream their version of the truth louder than the other guy is doing anyone much good. The two most important and fundamental laws which were to be obeyed, as spoken by Jesus, were to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:33-40). I think that if more people actually listened and carried out what they claim they believe Jesus to have said, they might actually start to live the “Christ” part in Christianity.

Can God Change His Mind?

I’ve often heard it said that God doesn’t change only our understanding of God does. I think that to an extent this is true; various cultures,denominations and individuals all understand God differently and interpret what they believe God to be saying in different ways. But if you are simply talking about the God of the Bible I would have to say that isn’t true in the least. It has been quite obvious to me for some time now that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are two different deities entirely. Which would make sense as the God of the Old Testament is quite definitely the God of the Jewish people while the New Testament contains the God of Christianity. I can understand why the Old Testament was included in the Bible as it serves a history of where Christianity evolved from, but it seems now that the Old Testament just serves as a way for bigoted, narrow-minded, hateful, violent individuals to justify their vitriol. There are those out there, for instance, who believe that in the Old Testament God is not only okay with executions but that executions actually PLEASE God and he demands they must be done. And here I was thinking that blood sacrifices were so passe. But I digress.

If you really want to follow the Bible literally, or if you want to at least believe that every single word in the Bible is the infallible and divinely inspired word of God, then okay, that is well within your right to do so. My issue is with people and denominations who pick and choose what they decide to follow to the letter and what they don’t. Obviously, everyone does this to some extent. However, it is the women-subjogating, bible-thumping, hurricanes caused by homosexuals believing, evolution denouncing, Jesus freaks who justify their brand of crazy by simply stating it’s because it “says so” in the Bible and you can’t argue with God. Where it “says so” for those folks is almost always contained within the Old Testament. But let’s pause and be real for a moment because if you REALLY wanted to follow the word of God verbatim from the Old Testament you would be an Orthodox Jew, or at least very nearly so, and I don’t think it’s very likely that Pat Robertson is kosher. I feel that the fact that the Old Testament contains cultural and religious rules intended for the ancient people of Israel is lost on most people today, Christians most especially. The ignorance of that fact has only fueled the Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements we are currently enduring.

While many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians claim to have a direct line to God and claim they have a handle on God’s “truth” and what God really wants from you, while hurling Old Testament quotations your way to try and justify their statements, they in turn ignore many things from the Old Testament themselves. You cannot make such outrageous and fear-mongering claims about how people are supposed to conduct their lives and what they are supposed to believe while simultaneously ignoring parts of the Bible that are convenient for you to ignore. It’s okay for you to ignore scripture when it fits your lifestyle, but it isn’t okay when others ignore the parts of scripture that define your lifestyle. That is the absolute definition of hypocrisy: “The Bible says so here which means EVERYONE has to do it, but this part here? No, good Christians don’t have to do THAT stuff”. Furthermore, it’s also a giant contradiction to state that your faith is based on following THE Word of God, yet you only follow the words you want to. If it’s okay to ignore some stuff then why isn’t it okay when others do the same thing only to different parts of scripture? If it’s okay to ignore some things then anyone can do it and pick and choose what they want to ignore and what they want to believe just like you do. But honestly, not even God is consistent with his own statements in the Bible, so one kind of has to pick and choose.

However, if God doesn’t change, then why would there be two statements in direct conflict with one another in the Bible? Shouldn’t the entire Bible agree with itself one hundred percent if it’s the infallible and divinely inspired word of God? If you want to try and defend this statement by arguing that it is infallible, but that through translations and over time human errors have muddied the language a bit, then you have just contradicted yourself. If the human beings who originally wrote the Bible were transmitting the Word of God exactly how he wanted it delivered to the whole world, then why didn’t he ensure that this message would remain pure and intact? If the Word of God was supposed to remain as it was and infallible, why would God allow for human error later on if he didn’t allow it at the beginning? You can’t say that the Bible is the infallible, incorruptible Word of God while at the same time conceding that it may contain human error when presented with the irrefutable fact that it does.

So, let’s look at a few examples of God changing…

Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord; I change not.”
Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.”
Ezekiel 24:14 “I the Lord have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent.”
James 1:17 ” . . . the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

VS.

Exodus 32:14 “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”
Jonah 3:10 “. . . and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
Jeremiah 15:6 “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary of repenting.”

If God were not capable of change he wouldn’t be able to repent, as the act of repentance is fueled by regret and the desire to change and atone for what has happened. If God hadn’t changed his mind and felt what he had done was wrong after the fact, then he wouldn’t be able to repent. God states quite blatantly in Malachi 3:6 that he “changes not”, but does change when he speaks of repenting for the evil he had caused in both Exodus 32:14 and Jonah 3:10. Even this handful of examples is adequate to demonstrate that the Bible can make two radically different statements about what the nature of God is supposed to be.

And though not on the immediate topic of whether or not God can change his mind, the question of whether or not God can tempt people is related to his alleged nature. Take for example:

James 1:13 “Let no man say I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

VS.

Genesis 22:1 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”

Whether or not God is capable of tempting humankind should be a pretty basic facet of God’s personality to get right, but the Bible cannot agree with itself on that either. It also brings up some pretty interesting theological questions about who is responsible for tempting mankind towards doing both good and evil acts. I personally believe there are no supernatural forces tempting individuals to behave one way or another, but for those who do I imagine it’s something pretty big to consider.

My own personal faith is not wrought upon the foundation of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility. I am at peace with and in acceptance of the fact that the Bible is chockfull of errors, contradictions and downright falsehoods because I am not ignorant to how the Bible came to be. It was created by several different individuals over many many years during ancient times and reflected the period in which it was originally written – a time of violence, short lifespans, great uncertainty, and with the common man having very little awareness of the world beyond their own existence. These originals were then hand copied over thousands of years by people with varying degrees of literacy and competence, people with their own personal & theological agendas, who also inhabited periods in history fraught with violence, similarly short lifespans and very little worldly knowledge. Currently the Bible inhabits a time which is itself filled with violence and a continued ignorance of science by the average person, only with longer lifespans to enact violence and live in ignorance. If the foundation of your own faith stands solely on the infallibility of the Bible then you have a very weak foundation indeed.

 

Note: The excellent webpage where I got the scriptural examples from can be found here.