Authority, Freedom, and the Bible

I think it is the enduring and very human quest for certainty in a world that does not readily produce certainty that leads men to subject themselves and others to that which they believe to be of divine origin. Authority is the name of the game, and the West is infatuated with it. The most obvious symptoms are bondage to certain ways of thinking about the Bible, the Church, and God. It seems to me that such bondage rarely if ever produces joy and peace and happiness. Jesus, on the other hand tells us that we ‘shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” And elsewhere in scripture is the verse, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

I have to ask, where is this liberty and freedom which bring peace and joy among those who claim to have an absolute earthly authority? Is it not obvious that that which characterizes them are rules, regulations and a certain kill-joy attitude? A straw man? Perhaps, but often all too true. Freedom is seen as freedom to be bound by the rules and live by them; to be static; to move through life as a train moves along a track, bound to it and guided by it.

Ones view of authority is, in my opinion, born out of a basic fear of abandonment by God. Either one succumbs to that fear and finds ‘divine’ guidance in concrete forms which are then elevated to infallible status, to be transgressed at ones own peril, or one overcomes that fear, throws away the fig leaves and says, Here I am in all my sinful brokenness, deal with me, God as you will, and I will trust you. One looks to an authority outside of God that supposedly has God’s divine stamp of approval, the other looks to God himself and rests in Him.

I do not think there is any absolute authority in this world and to assert that there is is to snuff out the liberty that belongs to the children of God and ensnare them to bondage. God has written His law on our hearts. We have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and we know right from wrong. It’s part of being human to know these things.

While I love the Bible and believe it is the meta-narrative of Salvation I no longer believe it to be a book intended to tell us right from wrong as if we didn’t already know. It is the story of how God has provided for us in Christ through sinful people who, knowing right and wrong, did both anyway. It is the story of how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. It is a story designed to provoke faith, not guilt. It is a call to trust, not a judgment against us. It is a story of Resurrection and the restoration of all things, not of how bad things really are.

What is Faith?

Faith is above rationality. It does not depend on proofs or evidence. It is not able to convince anyone outside of the one having it. It’s existence is it’s own proof and evidence. Faith is that mysterious apprehension of the unseen and unknown. Faith is mystical knowledge of God and produces the virtue of Trust whereby we rest in the goodness, mercy, and kindness of God for all things.

A Few Thoughts on God and Jesus

NT Wright makes a comment along the lines of, ‘If our notions of God and Jesus don’t match up then we need to reevaluate our understanding of God in terms of Jesus.’ I think it’s safe to say the Church has for too long isolated it’s theology proper from it’s Christology. We do not worship God AND Jesus, we worship the God who became incarnate AS Jesus.

Seems to me that the Holy Spirit has often been given a bad wrap historically; consigning Him to his own corner consisting of the miraculous, the ethereal, the mystical etc.., while in fact what he does is “show” us Jesus. “To know Christ, to make Him known”…this is, imo, the essence of a vibrant living Christianity. I’m certain I fall on the mystical side of things in saying all of this. But, really, we truly know Jesus, even if darkly, quite apart from the Bible and history. We know him in the here and now through word and sacrament, yes, but also and perhaps primarily, through prayer and meditation and simple good living in faithful dependence on Him.

No Longer Children

The earliest homo sapiens were “immersed” in nature. They were psychologically unable to distinguish themselves from the cosmos. This corresponds to the fetal stage of human development. The fetus/infant is unable to discern itself apart from ‘mother’. So it would seem that the prehistoric world view…that which has been lost and in which man had ‘something’ that we no longer have, was like an infant relegating all things to mother, depending in all things on mother, who’s very existence is defined by mother.
This also corresponds to the pre-lapsiarian Genesis account where we find relations between man and God to be as normative as sunrise and sunset. It is the age of innocence; that era which lingers in our primal collective memory and to which we think we must always aspire. We feel we have lost that ‘something’ where all was ‘shalom’, “as it should be”. Yet the question to be asked is, was what was lost truly something lost or was it something gained which could not then be undone? If we draw on the fetal analogy, the thing that was lost was ignorance; ignorance of self and others as distinct from the self. So, this means something was gained, namely knowledge of self and self-consciousness and awareness of being separate from other ‘selves’.

At this point in human evolution, we moved into an agricultural phase. This was the weaning away from that primal understanding of the earth and cosmos as all in all. Homo sapiens began to cultivate and provide for themselves. From our vantage point their way of life was simple and unadorned, but for them it was a breaking away into new freedom; it was impossible to go back. Where there had been ignorance, there was self consciousness and knowledge. Yet the love of mother remained and these ‘toddlers’ began to see the earth as an ever present, but separate thing. Of course it was natural to personify the universe since that is from which they sprang, so we had the proliferation of deities and the divinization of nature. This phase found homo sapiens in community but as children who congregate for play; such community was essentially for the purpose of belonging, self benefit.

This corresponds to the post-lapsarian Genesis where Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. Having gained ‘knowledge of good and evil’ it was impossible to undo. They could not return to the primal innocence or bliss of ignorance. Their knowledge proved to have been an irreversible step forward with both pleasant and unpleasant consequences. It is said that Adam would have to ‘toil and labor’ ‘till the soil for producing food.’ Eve would bring forth children in pain. Not merely the physical pain associated with childbirth, but the pain of love; knowing that she was bringing a child into a world of sorrow, agony, grief and despair. This pain of childbirth would extend throughout her life as a mother while she watched, helplessly, as her children succumbed to the evils and sufferings of the world. Yet this new found knowledge also brought with it the ability to create, to appreciate beauty, to experience gratitude and a host of other experiences that could be named. It was the age of name giving. The age of the birth of language and speech.

Next was the stage of coming to reason; moving from primal, childlike motivations to more deliberate choices and actions. This was the age of self consciousness. This corresponds to later childhood and very early adulthood (the teenage years). In this stage homo sapiens began to distinguish the natural from the supernatural and God from the cosmos. There was the realization of self short comings and failure in light of a perceived higher standard. This was the age in which law was born. It was the time of full self consciousness and ability to foresee ‘higher ideals’. The end of this stage was the discovery of technology and its proliferation into all areas of life.

This corresponds to the pre and post-deluvian worlds of Genesis with the building of cities, the discovery of and production of music and the arts. It was also the age of deliberate evil. Murder, violence, rape, war. These things characterized the darker side of the age. This age saw the rise of various nations and cultures, factions and parties. With the slow but steady use of technology through the centuries, every nation and culture strives to out do the others in a never ending quest for domination. This was true on the religious level as well. Every cultural deity was deemed to be greater than the neighboring deities and so religious dominance was also sought. This age saw the gradual waning of polytheism and moved toward monotheism. Ultimately, monotheism won the day in the God of Abraham.
Much more could be said as this age extended down to our own time but for the sake of brevity we will move on.

The next stage, where i believe we are now just in the beginnings, is the age of ‘others’ consciousness. That is to say, awareness that we as individuals are not the sum of the universe and that others are as important as we are. Thus it’s the age of human justice and goodwill towards others. We will be outward looking to the benefit of others and our community. Not in the way that children were as selfish but as unselfish; looking for ways to benefit the ‘other’. As we grow into this consciousness i suggest the human race will proliferate in humanitarian efforts, seek the end of injustice, seek the end of hunger etc…

This is corresponds to mature adulthood. Fully self conscious with a growing awareness and consciousness of the needs of others, this age will be characterized by charity. It will be a movement toward unity and the unifying of all things. I suspect there will be great religious wars in this age but not in the traditional sense. They will be wars of the mind; fighting not so much with guns and swords as with ideas and reason. Nevertheless they will be bloody wars. Until one religion has been hammered out and settled.

Finally, and i have no clue what stages may come between now and then, is the movement in to full consciousness of God. Movement beyond oneself, even beyond others, to rest in the ultimate reality of God himself. I suppose then that heaven is the ever more increasing consciousness of God.