Living books

Saturday 9 August 2008

Barry over at Honest Faith said something that completely resonates with me and dovetails nicely some stuff that's been running through my head lately. He said:
I certainly don't believe that God dictated or directly inspired every word of the Bible. It was written by (mostly) Jewish men who had a profound understanding of God, and I believe that they wrote out of that profound understanding, which is what was inspired by God. I believe the words themselves came from the various authors, not directly from God. So the authors were inspired, not the texts they produced. That being the case, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that further writings could be regarded as on a level with scripture if produced by someone who has that same deep understanding of God.
I agree. You know when someone says something that resonates down to your core and you just know on some deep level that this word is deep and high and meant for you, whether you believe it's God or the universe or the flying spaghetti monster or the connection between friends? It goes on all the time. Knowing that someone is going to call before they do. Thinking of someone and then seeing them the next day. We are all interconnected in the very thread of the air that we breathe.

A few phrases from aforesaid book the bible have been rolling around in my head this week. One phrase was about books being opened at some point in the future and another about how we are living books being written. I don't know where those verses are. From memory one of them is in Revelation and the other is maybe in John or 1 John or something like that (I always have been drawn to John and his mystical "go deeper, it'll blow your mind" view of reality. The alternative is unbearable).

That idea of books being opened evokes images of a courtroom, a stern god, and a jury, and people being judged and found wanting unless their good exceeded their bad. But how could it be a punishment deal when it's obvious from our own judicial system that punishment doesn't achieve anything - but even further, if the god has absorbed all of the bad into himself, then how does he punish us for it? What happens if, like Tyler mentioned somewhere a few weeks ago we judge ourselves? What if it's not so much about external holding up to a certain standard and being found wanted in something we can never win, and instead is another process in the transformation by Love of that which it loves? A laying bare of the very fabric of ourselves. But not to shame, nor to condemn or ruin, but to rebuild, from the bones up?

I like what Erin said, in the comments of that previous post:
I think when not taken literally but understood as a book chronicling the evolution of human understanding of the relationship we are to have with our Creator, we learn something...we often do see (esp in the OT) God taking on the attitudes and personalities of the people who were writing about him...because that was the limit of their understanding of him at the time.
This really rings true for me. It terrifies me at times when I think of how much I have changed in the past several years since being drawn to that which resonates rather than what some powerful people tell me. How much freedom there is in this version of reality. But terror, too, on occasions in the middle of the night. What if this isn't true? What if God is actually a critical bastard as he seems so much in the bible? What if this way I am walking is just all about me in the end? What if I am creating a god in my own image who is just too nice? What about if what resonates for me is some weird demonic thing and I am destined for hell?

Well, you know what? I can't do it the other way. I can't live in the mindset that church meetings live in. It gave me claustrophobia back then, and even more so now. That way removes from me any ability I may have to be able to discern things for myself. It turns me into some sort of sitting duck. I feel more in touch with life these days. But the flipside of that is that everything in me is being exposed. It's exhausting inspecting the almost unbearable, so ugly parts of myself. How to stand up under the ugliness without resorting to self punishment? How to accept where I am in the grand scheme of things without resorting to despair? How do I do that without believing that God is Love beyond my wildest? How do I do that without thinking that s/he must be something so amazing that I would sell everything to find him/her?

I can't. And so if this way is wrong then so be it. At least I will have aimed towards something that seems real to me, something beautiful and big and inspiring instead of the shite little small thing that is the religion of bibliolatry. It helps me to be comfortable-ish with being written before my own eyes, wiht half written chapters. Unwritten ones. It means floundering towards walking out my own story, even if that story is unintelligible to some. It means being read. I love the concept of our simple little lives being something that other people read and see things that we can't. I like consoling myself with this concept because it helps to frame things for me. Gives me hope.

I often feel like I don't really know what I think about something until I write it. I also know that I know more than I think I do. Sometimes I will come back and reread something I wrote and there is almost this sense of, "Did I write that?" It feels both entirely me and also something beyond me. It is in this way that I think every human is being written by God and by ourselves. Co-authors. So often, after I have written something (like this post for instance), I will have consoled myself, calmed myself by writing - but not only that, I will have come to a greater understanding about myself. This is what I believe we will feel when we look at the written stories of ourselves. Then, after that, we get to start living. But that, that is for another age. First we have to get through this shithouse one ;)

The beauty of blogland is that we have space and room to tell our stories. The stories I love best are the ones told real, with their blemishes and despair, warts and all - those are the ones that inspire us the most, give us greater understanding into each other, that always tell more beyond the simple sum of their parts.


  1. Amen sistah!

    I agree with you, especially where you said "I can't do it the other way. I can't live in the mindset that church meetings live in. It gave me claustrophobia back then, and even more so now." Claustrophobia is a good word...spiritual claustrophobia.

    I'm starting to formulate an explanation for the OT violence...when one begins to let go of the "God wrote every damn word" theory" it begins to make a lot more sense. Their God was a violent God because that was their worldview....things were primitive back then, and the killing of babies and women in war was commonplace (not that it's still not commonplace in some places on earth today, but I'm speaking here of the authors of the bible) and they had to believe God would rescue them and slay their enemies because that's the way their world worked.

    I don't know, I'm still formulating....but I think I'm on a trajectory now.

    Anyhow, I also like your thoughts on how we are each a book being written simultaneously by God and by ourselves...and for me as a writer, all the projects I have unfinished on paper reflect all the things I have unfinished in my life, all the fixin' I need that I ain't got yet, and all the love I still have to give....

  2. Essentially, I agree with Erin. Modern scholars analyze the Bible for the literary styles in which they are written as much as for the content. These authors (whoever they really were!) were inspired to write of the history of their people's journey with the One God, but they used language that made perfect sense at the time. Ultimately, it is our own history as well. We would use different words.

  3. I dont know how long Ive been saying, it, and I dont know how long Im going to keep saying it, but Ill keep saying it...

    I dont see the "god of the OT" as some kind of different God from the one revealed in Jesus, because there was violence. If we have no blind spots in our vision, ( and our visions are the things that get written down, most often, are they not?) then we have nothing new to learn and no more mistakes to make. I dont see why that should be any different for people that lived 5000 years ago, than it is for us.

    Why is it so easy to live with our own contradictions and paradoxes, in our own time, yet so hard to live with the same human contradictions that come down to us through the revelation of History? They werent another species.. they were the same as us. Maybe when we can see it in that light, the whole is illuminated, through different angles at different times, without needing to through out the uncomfortable contradictions.

    For me, the "vengeful" God of the OT is as tender with humanity as Christ is with the outcast. They both tell us the same story.

  4. What a great quote to share and perfectly stated! I was thinking of starting a blog to share the stories of people I meet, cause I talk too much and I meet people in the grocery store, the doctor's office etc... and people, especially older people, love to tell their story (or parts of it).

    I totally agree that the Bible is not the end of God's inspiration. How could it be?? What a sad life it is if all we can cling to is a 2000+ year old book where people wear loin cloths and grow olive trees and drink wine in animal skins. He's here.

  5. And I LOVE the new picture of you in your playroom!

  6. those evil, black hearted "what-ifs". i know them all too well and have had run-ins with them myself. i don't know how it is for you, but they come to me with rusty razors and just begin to filet me so precisely.

    although many don't consider mental anguish to be "real", i would have to beg to differ. the tortures of the mind can be on par, or in some cases exceed, the tortures of the body. so when the bastards come and start cutting, i simply take it as a form of suffering for my faith.

    i mean, that's the reason they come. and the reason they continue to hurt me is because i refuse to give in. fuck them! i refuse to give up my mind to the "what-ifs."

    because i already know the truth, and this truth frees me. s/he gave me something to focus on in my dark times and it helps me. perhaps it may help you.

    "either the cross worked or it didn't. either way, you don't need to worry."

    thank you for sharing your inner journey so freely with us. it helps us all to know we are not alone.

  7. Erin - that sounds like an interesting trajectory. I would be interested to hear your thoughts as you develop it further.

    Barb - indeed. So often I will read a portion of something and wonder what it's getting at. The translation can easily lose its meaning when moving across time and culture - I'd love to read isaiah and capture all the nuances of the time - i feel I miss so many.

    Monk - do you mean that the violence was a part of god's dealings with the people at that time, or do you mean that this was a blind spot of theirs but had no bearing on god's personality? I know intellectually and I feel I know in my heart, that the God of both is one and the same, but sometimes I wonder - if that was some kind of seeped-in truth, wouldn't I see it in the OT when I read it, the way I can see universalism where once before I couldn't? I guess we all see in part, like you say. I would like to be able to see what you see but oftentimes I can't just yet - I stumble over dashing babies against rocks bits.

    Jennifer - that's a good idea for a blog. Hey, I can't imagine you talking too much! ;) Yes, he is here :) And thank you for your lovely compliment.

    Jon - wow, thank you. Yes, rusty razored filletting with the what ifs. What if what if what if. And they are always fear-laden. I agree, the torture of the mind can be worse because it is often self-inflicted. I get so jacked with playing what if. I actually started thinking a few months ago every time I start launching into fucked up what ifs, I'm going to use it as an excuse to go and do something really fun. I like the thought but I think I practised it for about a day, hehe :)

  8. Nice new pic, love :)

    Yeah, I agree with Erin, they did the best that they could with the revelation of God within them.

    Truth is, I could get the exact same message from Him now as five years ago and write about it completely differently. I know Him so differently now that it colors everything.

  9. some thoughts on the olympics and biblical revelation by a local Prophet...

  10. Hi Sue! Haven't seen you at my place in a while : ( ....
    My husband and I were talking about some similar things last night... What do we do with " the wrath of God". Do we just throw out those verses as not being inspired? Or worse, say the scriptures aren't really inspired. I really don't think so. God is mysterious, that's for sure. But he is good. And He said He is love. Being love, He has to hate evil. (But I don't want to make God in my own image!!) That's why we need the scriptures. He took the time to communicate to us in a concrete way (not that they're always easy to understand(!) that's for sure).
    So, we thought (my husband and I), his anger must be good and holy. We don't get that because we've been abused by tyrannical anger, among other things. God says "I am who I am" and he has that right. We have that same right to say, I am who I am; why shouldn't God?
    I think it is a bit dangerous, for us, to just say that the scriptures aren't really the word of God. I think it could just get really confusing for us.... not because God will punish us, but because we will flounder and suffer for it ( and he doesn't want that for his dear ones) We need a standard of truth; God knew that. Just cause people abuse, misuse and misinterpret the scriptures doesn't mean they are not God speaking to us. Of course, we need the Holy Spirit to understand them, because they are spiritual words... I really don't believe I've been brainwashed to think scripture is inspired... I've come to know grace, though the scriptures ( I got saved reading Matthew, when I knew nothing about anything religious, and I was reading all sorts of stuff. Also, I've been delivered from all kinds of oppressive mind states, just through the word of God). I think everything hangs on how we view and interpret the scriptures. He never lets me stray from them too far. People in other nations are begging for us to send them bibles! I really do think it's something Satan wants to do away with, that's why there is so much controversy about them and why they are so twisted by people. Satan is way more intelligent than us, unfortunately. But he can't outwit God in us...
    I hang on to "God is love." A lot of things may not make sense to me sometimes, but I am not called to know everything at once, I'm called to trust with the faith of a child. He's my daddy, because of what Jesus did (and what He himself did for me through Jesus), and he'll show me what I need to know, and he does. That's hard for me sometimes. It's a leap for my wounded heart. God, do you really love me? But he says yes. He's more loving than what I can understand, but very mysterious too. That keeps it all exciting.
    I hope not to sound too dogmatic in the negative sense ( I think you know I'm not that way... I am stubborn a lot though) I listen to other people's arguments about this (the scriptures not being themselves inspired by God), but I really don't sense the Spirt in them. I've gotten confused before about this and I'm not going back there. Even though i dislike and have left the IC system in my beliefs, I've only been able to do so because of the Scriptures... I could go on and on.... I like this kind of discussion : )

  11. Thanks for the link and quote :o)

    My view is that the Bible is still the best source for learning about God, but at the same time God is much bigger than the Bible and its portrayal of him. As Erin said, the biblical authors wrote according to their own understanding of God, which was necessarily coloured by the norms of the culture(s) they lived in. Our own views of God are similarly culturally conditioned.

    Meanwhile, God is bigger than any of us is capable of understanding. A wise man once said, "All theology is heresy" because we can only ever hope to know God partially, and our concepts of him will inevitably fall short of the much greater reality.

  12. Wow, I'm loving this conversation going on here :) You guys really give me so much food for thought, you know? Makes me think and feel thirsty to be in a group of people in real time talking about this stuff. I'm sure it goes on :) I have just never experienced it - not like this, where there is a feeling of freedom to be where you are at and think what you think without being barrelled into other people's opinions. It is so cool.

    I hope I haven't given you all the impression that I think the bible is just like everything else. I definitely think that the authors who wrote all of it were inspired. I think there is even something rather cosmic about the way it all comes together too - as if the whole makes up way more than the parts. Rather like all of us, really :)

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