Why have a bible at all? For the first 3 centuries after Christ’s loving sacrifice there was no canonized New Testament. Christians discussed, debated, reasoned and felt the Word in an effort to understand Christ/the Word. They followed a model similar to the Jewish model of constant updating and renewal rather than top-down commands from those who claim to speak for God.
There were many versions of the canonical and non-canonical texts for centuries after Christ’s sacrifice. Did the God’s message suddenly become fixed, static, and knowable in the 4th century? Were the Christians that lived for the first three centuries without a canonized text misguided while the pagan emperor and a small circle of men knew better than those who had lived for centuries before?
I sometimes wonder if the movement towards standardizing Christ, his teachings and the Father did more harm than good. Christ taught through interaction and discussion, why has the church abandoned Christ’s model? When He directed his followers to spread his teachings He told them to go to these places and to discuss issues with people. To me, His model is much better because to requires interaction and reaching out to and understanding with those who believe differently. The focus was on bringing the Light and the message of salvation to others. The cannon reflects this method of spreading the gospel. Some of the texts are representations of the ongoing attempt to understand Christ’s teachings! Think of the letters to different groups. These are snapshots of a debate or process of understanding. Think of it this way. In the beginning the Word was with and was God. The Word became flesh and suffered that we may be forgiven. Do we think the Word, the Creator and the Lamb can fit into a book? The answer must either be, no so the book is not a complete description of Him OR Yes, the book does fully illustrate/explain him. if the book is a complete description of Him, it must necessarily be infititely complicated and as far from out ability to comprehend as He is. Either way how can we use it as a basis to speak for Him and tell our brothers and sisters what He thinks of them and their actions?
Further, it is better to study God through man’s 1600 year old initial attempt at a complete understanding of Him or by continuously studying His creation and those He created in his image?
Since we Christians have adopted a single, complete, unchanging canon it seems, the focus has partially shifted to bringing condemnation and judgement based on violations of man’s written interpretation of the Word while steadfastly refusing to entertain the distinct possibility that man’s interpretation might be flawed due to our limited ability to under Him. It has routinely become a weapon to justify atrocities and injustice because of the flawed belief that the Bible is accurate and complete AND we understand it well enough to tell others of their sins and offenses against God and the punishment God has reserved for them. Or to tell believers in Chist that, despite their professed belief, they do not qualify for forgiveness. Some of us even truly believe that we know how the world will end because we’re so smart and so righteous that we know God’s mind.
does this human-induced rigidity lead to wasting time defending and debating inaccuracies or seeming inconsistencies in the text? Does a never-changing text make Christianity look foolish by limiting our ability to incorporate newly developed knowledge and contemporary discoveries? Every judgment, condemnation, or defense of the TEXT or trying to use the Bible to discredit scientific understanding is time spent NOT spreading the message of salvation. The same can be said for time spent telling Gays that their sinners or telling AIDS-ridden African nations that the church’s stance on condoms outweighs the millions of lives that could be saved by using condoms. IS telling people they have to choose between God and ever having a loving relationship or protecting themselves from a horrible disease spreading the message of salvation? I find it hard to say yes.
Is the process of discovery and discussion (with Christians a nonchristians) and reason and attention to the soft voice of the Holy Spirit more important than the proper translation of this word or that word? Why do we defend not the bible, but our current understanding of it so vehemently? Why cannot Christianity be more of a process aimed at understanding or growing toward God rather than a fixed set of laws, punishments and labels?
Finally, given the clear atrocities committed in the name of God and justified by the text, should we promote a less dogmatic absolutist stance regarding the rightness of our understanding of the Bible and the wrongness of everyone else’s? That is not at all to say that we should throw our foundation texts out. Rather it is to suggest that we admit and embrace our limited ability to understand them and to acknowledge that God reigns supreme and not out current, entrenched beliefs about him. Is it not hubris to think we know without a doubt what a particular verse means? Is it not sinful to take that arrogant understanding and use it to judge others and tell them they are disappointing God?