Yesterday I mentioned that I had viewed a couple of the episodes from the series Living the Questions. On part three, two of my favorite biblical specialists gave me some very interesting food for thought.
And, typical of me, I thought.
I decided that the concepts expressed were important and were worth putting forth to you.
Many of you are of course familiar with John Dominic Crossan, highly regarded biblical scholar and sometime collaborator with Marcus Borg. He posited that there are four eternal questions that believers must come to terms with.
- What is the character of God?
- What is the content of your faith?
- What is the function of your church?
- What is the purpose of your worship?
As is immediately apparent, these questions tend to circle back on one another. Depending on what you answer, you will necessarily have to return to another one. Hopefully, in the end, you can arrive at a series of answers that are logically consistent to the rest.
I realized, I think at least, that my answers are internally consistent. It has taken me a good many years to arrive at them, and I remain ever open to revising and tweaking all of them as new information comes to me for evaluation. That kind of takes me to another speaker of part three, and that was Marcus Borg.
If I am able to do the above, it is mostly because I follow Borg’s analysis of growth in thinking. Not at all limited to faith questions, Borg claims that every person goes through the following process:
- Pre-critical naivete′–this is defined as the childlike acceptance of everything pretty much we are told. As children, we rely on parents mostly to inform us of the meaning of the world around us. We accept the “fact” of Santa Claus with the same simple acknowledgment as we do that watering a plant helps it grow. We don’t question the answer, though we ask plenty of questions. We have mostly empty space between our ears, not a lot of experiences by which to judge, and are like little sponges.
- Critical thinking–All of us come to this at some point, though undoubtedly some of us do it better than others. But we all do it. At some point we begin testing what we have been told against the world as we actually perceive it. We determine the real likelihood of the Easter bunny versus the reality of a flat earth. We have tools, gained through experience and education by which we can experiment with claims and we decide what truths we will accept as such. This of course goes on throughout one’s life.
- Post-critical naivete′–This is not achieved by all. There is no necessary movement from 2 to 3 in other words. Some folks remain lodged in whatever truths they have determined and never budge. This place is one reserved for those who have a certain quest for more I guess. It allows one to return to one again, but in a different way.
Let me explain, if I can.
As to faith, I have determined that there was no actual garden of Eden, and that Genesis does not in fact portray an actual beginning of the earth or the universe. Neither are “factually” accurate. This I have determined through critical thinking. I have read extensively, gone to through fairly extensive education, listened to a lot of experts, and otherwise examined my experiences and senses and find these stories as wholly incompatible with the hard facts that I can touch, examine and test.
Yet, I have moved to three. I believe wholeheartedly in the Genesis story and I believe in the garden of Eden. Not as factual stories of what actually happened, but for the deeper truths that they were actually meant to convey. And I repeat, that is what they were MEANT to convey. So I can believe in the stories. I have returned in a sense to that child-like faith that requires no official documentation to convince. In fact, the stories now have a far greater impact on me than they could ever have had as literal truth.
As literal truth they reflect a God of such lack of grandeur as to be embarrassing. They are full of holes, illogical connections, and such, as to be against the weight of common sense, making us, the creation, rather dull and stupid. What does that say about God?
It reminds one of Voltaire’s statement (also from part three):
God created man in his own image, and man returned the compliment.
Anyway, I thought it all most interesting. I guess I felt that I was indeed on the right track in my continuous ponderings. And as usual, I conclude that this is what it means to walk with God. We are but creature, stunningly dumb in comparison to the Creator. Yet, we have been graced with a mind like God, which enables us to reach out with hand extended and to grasp but faintly truth. This surely was designed by God to work this way–the capacity to seek and find Him. For as we believe, God created, and saw that it was GOOD! We are part of that good and he delights in us as we from time to time stumble and actually “get it.”