Spirituality

“…Moses Supposes Erroneously”….??

I have largely ignored the question of biblical errancy or inerrancy in this blog. It’s one of those touchy issues about which people can get pretty rabid and is central to many theologies. However, it has been on my mind and I’ve decided to use this post to tentatively feel my way around. I wish that I had a feeling of real conviction about these kinds of matters, but I honestly do not. Actually, scratch that; I guess I do. I have a feeling of conviction that none of us have it exactly right. I’ve heard lots of arguments to defend various viewpoints – the two most common being that (1) the Bible is divinely inspired and preserved and (2) that it is a compilation of histories written by fallible men.

My inclination is to agree with both takes, but I’m perfectly happy to accept that I might be wrong. My thought process goes something like this:

~God reveals himself in different ways to different people.

~The Bible is written by people who each had unique experiences of God.

~I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, but the fact remains that many sincere and honest seekers and believers interpret it differently. There are perhaps more different ways to understand the Word of God than there are strains of Christianity. Whyever should I presume that the interpretation I was taught is absolutely correct? For me, to say that the Bible is divinely inspired in no way means that my understanding is. Perhaps we all get glimpses. If that’s true, doesn’t it follow that all should have respect for the views of others? Maybe God has revealed Himself to them in ways that He hasn’t revealed Himself to you. This general idea is well-presented in the book If God is Love. While I don’t feel there is enough objective support for every conclusion the authors make, I agree passionately with their effort to treat every person as a beloved child of God.

~ Luke 2:52 reads: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” If Jesus, who was equally God and man could stand to improve, then certainly the apostles, even with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, could as well. So when we read advice from the apostles, perhaps we should focus primarily on the spirit of their words. Apart from that, the New Testament addressed the issues of specific people who were facing a specific set of problems in a specific social and political climate. That isn’t to say teachings aren’t applicable or relevant today, I think they absolutely are, but should be considered very carefully. Although, I am aware that there are a number of verses that indicate that the teachings of the apostles were from God, so maybe I’m off-base.

~ And finally, I’m veering off topic a little here, but it seems to me sometimes that we’ve given the counsel of these men of the New Testament godlike status… or like people have a hard time separating divinely-inspired from absolutely correct. To clarify, I would think that a divinely-preserved, true account of events would include mistakes and blunders that occurred… and maybe wouldn’t always tell us when we’re looking at a bad call. To clarify further, I think many people could say that they have prayed earnestly to God for guidance and still have made mistakes.

Feel free to point out any perceived flaws in my ramblings! Thanks for reading!

Spirituality

Room for Individuality

Today, I reached the end of my box of contact lenses and decided that I would buy new glasses. If you are anything like me, you’re a vain creature who starts your search with great optimism. This time, you’re going to find something you really love. The situation, however, rapidly deteriorates. Your perky thoughts are replaced by rather dour ones as you surreptitiously slip the 100th pair of frames onto the bridge of your nose, furtively glance in the mirror for exactly one millisecond, and replace them with a grimace – hoping that that couple in the corner isn’t snickering at you because you thought you could pull off Buddy Holly. In the end, you sadly point to that boring pair that will “go with anything” and then proceed to empty your wallet.

Well, today was no different. This time, I was going to find something I really loved. I was driving to the store and thinking that I wanted a pair that would communicate something about who I am. And then I started to berate myself for this absurd vanity.  They’re just glasses. I started thinking about how easy it is to get carried away with things that don’t really matter. A few of the lyrics to the song “Empty Me” popped into my head:

Holy fire, burn away
My desire of anything
that is not of you and is of me
I want more of you and less of me…

Good song, and I think the message is a positive one; but as I considered these lyrics, the thought that they could be construed the wrong way also came to mind. I’m not trying to justify my pride here, but sometimes I think that Christians don’t emphasize the beauty of human beings nearly enough. In our preoccupation with corruption and our efforts to behave in a way that pleases God, maybe we lose our appreciation for something incredible that He gave us: Individuality. We were created in His image. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I think that it at least implies we should honor and recognize the incredible diversity of humanity. Christianity isn’t about conforming. Glorifying God means using your unique gifts and traits to their fullest potential. I think we should acknowledge – and wonder at – His mind-blowing creativity.

Incidentally, I did find glasses I liked today. And so I am proudly wearing a pair that says (in a very stylish and sophisticated way, of course), “Yup, I’m kind of a dork, but I’m proud of that!” My husband agrees… I am definitely a dork. 🙂

Romans 12:6-8:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,f with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Happy early Thanksgiving, everyone!

Spirituality

Anonymous Giving

In many churches, including mine, this time of year is all about stewardship. For a number of weeks now, members of my church have been standing up to share the different ways and reasons they give. It has been good to hear various perspectives and the openness with which people have spoken is really fantastic. A method that I haven’t heard discussed, though, is anonymous giving.

I should preface this by saying that I do not think making a contribution openly is a bad thing. Filling out a commitment card may make it easier for people to honor their commitment and can help the church to plan its budget. I know that anonymous giving is not for everyone, but I have come to the conclusion that it is the right path for me.

I have to own up to a tendency to be a teensy bit self-involved. I’m more a thinker than a doer. But I am making an effort to put myself out there and put others’ needs before my own. I believe that an anonymous gift can help take the focus off of self.  I want any contribution I make to reinforce my primary goal – to live as Jesus lived.  His life and his death were for the benefit of others and I would like to take a step in the same direction.

Therefore, any commitment I make will be known only to God and to my family.  This means no possibility for recognition – and recognition could be something as small as someone in the church office reading my commitment card and thinking “Oh, how nice of them” or my tax preparer noticing my generosity.  I don’t need to know what other people think of my gift.

I do not believe a tithe should be about personal reward. A feeling of satisfaction when you do something you feel you should is only natural, but self-sacrifice isn’t about passing a heavenly entrance exam. That would, in fact, be entirely contrary to the idea of self-sacrifice. Doing for others so that you can take the ultimate prize means the action is still self-motivated. Rather, I think of it as a thank you for the access I have to God regardless of whether I give and as a sincere desire to further the work of the church to spread hope for peace and fulfillment.

A few verses I found helpful as I came to a decision about giving:

2 Corinthians 9:7:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

And, in the spirit of doing things sincerely and for the right reasons, Matthew 6: 1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

 

Spirituality

My Trouble with the Christian Concept of “Relationship” with God

Lately, to my delight, lots of things I think I “get” (at least on a basic level) are being revealed to me in new ways. These revelations are usually little things, but they are changing the face of my faith. I think that the way I understand my relationship with God is one of those things that will continue to change and change me.

My religious tendencies (in case you hadn’t guessed ;)) are somewhat expansive, inclusive and liberal. I’m doing my best to hone my beliefs, to discern what is really important and then be willing to get specific about those things. It’s been challenging. Now, before I’ve made much progress on that front, I find myself challenged in the other direction by a book my mother recommended called If God is Love by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland.

I’ve only just started it, so this is not a critique or review, but it has already got me thinking.The authors are both Quaker pastors who have come to believe in “universal salvation.” They talk a lot about grace in a way that would be familiar to most Christians but they take it one step further, arguing that every person will ultimately be with God. They provide some scriptural support, but I haven’t read enough to know what I think just yet.

The authors write about their respective relationships with God in a way that stands out to me. I get this feeling that they are confident in their familiarity with God. That they feel they really know Him. I had to wonder why that would stand out to me. After all, I too recognize my personal connection to God. To say that that connection is the most important thing in my life seems lacking. That connection IS the point. I wouldn’t even have life without it. I seek, praise, defy and try to please God just as so many people do.

So what’s bothering me? It boils down to the idea of having a “relationship” with God. I mean, what’s the root word of relationship? Relate. Before we can have a relationship with someone, we have to have a way to relate to them. Relating to other people is (technically, anyway) pretty easy. You have a body, I have a body. I can relate to you. You communicate verbally and so do I, and so on. The greater my ability to relate to you, the stronger our relationship. A relationship with God, though, has to be defined differently. He can see me, knows my thoughts, knows exactly how I’m like Him, but I don’t seem to have those advantages. It hardly seems fair! I’m always second-guessing what I think I know about Him, so that confidence I mentioned before is interesting and appealing to me.

Bottom line, I’ve become aware that I view my relationship with God as too one-sided. I confess I don’t “hear” God in a literal way and most of the time I can only guess at His specific involvement in my life. I don’t know if I will ever feel that I “know” Him in the same way I know my husband or my sister or my co-worker, but I hope to know God in a deeper way than that, anyway. I think it is possible that we limit our capacity for intimacy by applying human expectations to our dealings with the Divine.  Or maybe I really could get to know God in that way. What do you think? Do you feel you know God as you know people?