I am a retired high school science teacher and guidance counselor who is also a sci-fi/fantasy and theology nerd. In addition, I enjoy gardening, music, reading on a wide variety of subjects, and writing. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church- one might call me a “cradle Baptist” and have always taken God, and the Bible very seriously. I was also a nerd long before being a nerd was cool. Perhaps being unaccepted by my peers led me to seek a deeper connection with God, but it also caused me to be unafraid when it comes to questioning authority. Those two seemingly opposite characteristics have led me to identify strongly with Israel (Jacob), who wrestled with God, yet would not let God go without a blessing. Perhaps that’s why I chose that passage for my very first post in this blog.
I’m not sure when I read the Bible all the way through the first time, but for many years I have made it a practice to start with Genesis 1 in January and read straight through it, with goal of finishing Revelation on December 31. So I’m somewhat amused when people advise me to “read the Bible” when I say or write something with which they disagree. Reading the Bible regularly and completely is the very reason why my faith journey has moved me farther along on the progressive side of the theological spectrum. If a person reads the Bible enough, at some point they will begin to notice discrepancies and contradictions. At some point they will begin to question what they’ve always been told it means. I think that steeping yourself in the Bible is a bit like Doctor Who’s description of the eight-year old children of Gallifrey being taken to gaze into the time vortex. “Some are inspired, some go mad, and some run away”. You can close your mind to the questions or try to explain them away; you can decide the whole idea of God is false and that faith is a waste of time; or you can wrestle with the questions and grow in your connection to God, the universe, and everything.
I love the Bible, and find that it is one of the main ways God speaks to me. I think it is a unique and living document, one that has the ability to speak across space and time to all sorts of people in all sorts of circumstances. But my understanding of it differs from that of some of my more conservative brethren. While I take the Bible very seriously, I am not a literalist or an inerrantist. I do not think “inspired” means that every word of the Bible came straight from the mind of God to the scribe’s pen. I understand it more as a great choir than a solo, with some of its voices more in tune with God’s melody than others. The Bible was written by many people over the course of centuries, and they often had different perspectives of who God is, and how he expects us to behave. Its writers utilized many genres to communicate God’s truth, including some poetic, symbolic, and/or fictional ones, and it’s a mistake to treat them all the same. That doesn’t mean it’s not inspired, or true. As Madeleine L’Engle has said, “Truth is what is true, and it’s not necessarily factual. Truth and fact are not the same thing. Truth does not contradict or deny facts, but it goes through and beyond facts.”
“The criterion by which the Bible should be interpreted is Jesus Christ“. I agree very strongly with this statement, which used to be a part of the “Baptist Faith and Message”. When the SBC voted to remove that phrase in 2000, that was a deal-breaker for me, and I knew I no longer belonged in the denomination. Ironically, it was the Baptist emphasis on reading and studying the Bible for myself that brought me to a place where I felt compelled to leave. Following a long period of “wandering in the wilderness” researching and visiting different churches, my husband and I decided to join the United Methodist Church. There are many things I like about the Methodist church, particularly its acceptance of reason as a theological tool and its emphasis on doing good as an expression of faith. But I don’t really consider myself a Methodist. I’m not a fan of its hierarchical structure and still hold firmly to the Baptist idea of the “priesthood of the believer”. “Expatriate Baptist” probably describes me better than “Methodist”, although I really don’t like denominational labels at all. I am a seeker after God and an imperfect follower of Jesus. The Bible can lead us to God, but it is not a fourth member of the Trinity. Jesus alone is the lens through which I see God. As Karl Barth is said to have summed up his theology, “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”
This blog is an intensely personal one, a journal of my evolving faith journey as (I believe) God continues to transform my heart, mind, and soul. I continuously strain to hear the voice of God, not only through the Scriptures, but through everything else I observe going on around me. Perhaps some of my thoughts will resonate with some of my readers, and cause them to think more deeply about God. I think that having a relationship with God is of great benefit, and my hope and my prayer is that I will both “see him more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly day by day” and encourage others to do the same.
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