Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Can't un-learn!

Having read:

and really enjoyed it, thought it was nicely written, down to earth style with wit, humour and warmth, accessible, a few things i wouldn't agree with regarding the way he thinks about details of Christian belief, but overall definitely a good to very good book. I thought i would try:


Now i can't decide whether i like this or not, it has the same style, but seems to be trying to be clever in a more self-conscious way and (i think) fails - particularly when it comes to Biblical Critique, the idea that the pentateuch and Job was all written by Moses seems to me to be a rather clueless approach to Biblical authorship (though i may well upset some folk by saying this). Anyway, with regards to the book, i still like much of the style, and there are sublime moments in the chapters, particularly the one headed simply 'Jesus', there are still bits to be enjoyed and savoured and there are moments where Miller's turn of phrase is perfect, and he says something which can make a lightbulb go on in the brain and 'ah, now i understand' moments occur.

I am oscillating between liking this book, with reservations and disliking this book with glimpses of stuff i really like. Still worth reading, i read lots of things i disagree with and can enjoy and appreciate them, but not a gem of a book like 'blue like jazz'.

Anyway the reason for the heading of the post and my comment about Biblical critique is that over the past twenty five years or so i have journeyed through many parts of the Church - having started off in a very conservative Evangelical church which grounded me in a love of and appreciation for Scripture, i moved in my mid teens to a Charismatic church which showed me the joy and release of Spirit filled living whilst offering still a regard and respect for the Bible which i hold on to now. Looking back, though, i can see an overwhelmingly uncritical attitude to both the Bible and those who claimed to interpret it was the mark of my Charismatic fellowship, and i became less and less convinced by the often right-wing, narrow interpretations offered to me as i grew more aware of who Jesus was (from my own reading and studies) and the breadth of the Church beyond my own fellowship...

I went on to join and Evangelical Anglican church as i worked for a School's outreach group called Scripture Union in my late teens, then to carry on that part of my journey by being confirmed when I moved to London to College in South West London, and a degree in Theology (with Drama!). As I read more, prayed more, saw more and learned more i realised that the simple, or rather simplistic, version of what is in the Bible and where it came from didn't actually ring true any more. I found myself more convinced by the four source hypothesis about the foundation of the Pentateuch than the idea that Moses wrote about his own death, and that one of his scrolls went missing for a few hundred years and suddenly popped up in time for the Deuteronomic reforms. I realised that differences in the language used about God and the style of the writing in different chapters, passages and in large chunks of the Old Testament pointed more towards the skilful (inspired, i would say with no hint of irony) redaction (editing) of the scriptures than the idea that it could all have been written by just a very few people... I found the arguments about authorship in the New Testament, and the synoptic thesis, and the 'so-called Pauline Epistles' challenged my understanding and stopped me from holding on to the simplistic 'dropped from the sky, it's inspired, don't ask too many questions' approach...

I went through a liberal phase too, and as i explored my calling to ministry i enjoyed the experience of the high Church (or Anglo-Catholic) wing of the C of E. I went to a broad Church college which had the label 'liberal catholic' - but was taught by faithful Christians of a variety of denominations, theological standpoints and experiences. I went on to be a curate in a very broad suburban church, then Assistant Priest in an Anglo-Catholic parish in South Kensington, central London, then came here where i have been for nearly six and a half years.

From all of this you will see that my experience has taken me through most of the labels which McLaren uses below in my earlier posting and i have taken from these experiences a rich and varied understanding and appreciation of two thousand years of christian experience. But no matter how much i want to i can't go back to thinking of the inspiration of Scripture as i did twenty or so years ago, i can't pretend not to have been convinced and challenged by Biblical critique and to take things at face values. I don't believe that creation happened in six days, and i don't think the Bible says we have to believe that, I do think that woven into scripture are 'myths' which may not be literally true but contain depths of truth which many literalists miss out on by arguing about whether they are literally true or not. All of these things i am willing to discuss and be challenged on, and who knows, if God convinces me i need to change my ideas then i am open to that - but my experience of loving God with heart, soul, strength and mind means that i am willing to use my brain to struggle with my faith, and i continue to remain as faithful as i can to the God whom i love and seek to serve, trusting in God's Holy Spirit, and in the grace brought me through the death and resurrection of my saviour Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Tom said...

"Searching..." is definately not as good as "Blue Like Jazz," but at least it's a moderately entertaining read.

As for the rest of the post, mainly you made me lament my lack of formal religious education. There's only so much you pick up as a layman, and the strictly academic part of Christianity fascinates me.

Good stuff.