Expectations

It’s never good when we expect a person to accomplish something that they never set out to accomplish

Them judge them by their inability to complete the unattempted task

It’s deliberately misleading to say that someone failed at a task they never undertook

My brother is writing a novel, so I shouldn’t expect that book to be a detailed factual history

My cousin writes music, so I shouldn’t expect those songs to be methodical genealogies

Even when there is some overlap, when a person tries to use another subject to better accomplish their task

The original task is still the standard we should judge by

A piece of fiction about a historical event is still fiction

A song about genealogy is still a song

I should hold these works to the standard of what they were trying to achieve:

An entertaining tale

An engrossing tune

Meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

The same for the Bible

The Bible is meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

It’s books were composed intentionally

It’s authors had specific goals in mind

To expect the Bible to accomplish tasks it’s authors never set out to accomplish sets it up for failure

When the Bible fails at such tasks, it hasn’t really failed at all

We have chosen to read it incorrectly

We have expected it to do something it was never meant to do

Not just by its human authors, but by God as well

If you believe in God

And you believe that God delivered the Bible to us deliberately

In it’s current form

Then approach the Bible with the assumption that we are meant to read it as it is delivered

If God wanted the Bible to be something other than a collection of books written by different authors over long periods of time

Then it wouldn’t be what it is today

The Bible is a library meant to help you know God better

The Bible does what a library does: illuminate truth by viewing the world from multiple perspectives

That is the task it is meant to accomplish

There is plenty of room for nuance here. For me, I may try to accomplish a specific task but it’s clear that I should have approached it from a different angle. In that case I failed to accomplish something that I wasn’t trying to accomplish, but probably should have. Many more examples I’m sure but I still stick by the purpose of this post; it’s important to approach the Bible for what it is trying to do.

Not what we wish it to do.

Also, just a side note, the picture of books that I used in this post is the Nag Hammadi Library. Which is not part of the Bible. But come on, those leathery tomes are cool looking 😎

Gospels and War Stories

If you were going to tell the story of US involvement in Iraq, where would you start? The invasion in 2003? The Gulf War that started in 1990? Or would you go back farther?

You could go into detail about US, French, Soviet, and British support for Iraq through the course of the Iraq/Iran war that took place between 1980-1988. You might even want to go into detail about Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and the 9/11 attack because of its impact on the worldwide war on terror.

Or you could skip all that and tell the stories of the individual soldiers themselves. Both sides even, giving an utterly different and far more personal account.

It would probably be best to touch on all these topics to some degree or another, just placing emphasis on a few of the events while being briefer on others.

The same could be said of the 4 Gospels. When reading these biographies of Jesus’ life many notice the differences in the way they are told. And the differences are notable. One author may leave out details that the other authors emphasize. They may have events happening in slightly different order. Some contain the same saying but worded in a slightly different way or told in a different context.

They even start in completely different episodes in Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ family genealogy as well as the events before and during his birth. Mark and John start in adulthood and scarcely mention his birth at all, although John includes a preamble which explicitly states that Jesus existed before the beginning of creation. In fact John tells us that Jesus was the agent of creation, through which all things were made.

So which of the Gospels is telling the story “right”? Whose timeline is “right”? Whose testimony should we trust? Luke doesn’t even claim to have witnessed anything at all. Luke claims that he investigated the different eyewitness accounts and carefully constructed the best & most orderly account based on his investigation.

I recommend thinking about the Gospels the way you would think about the war in Iraq. It’s not about whether the story is wrong or right, it’s about where a particular author puts the emphasis, what information they found most pertinent. If you were going to try to learn about the war in Iraq you should read a multitude of accounts to take in as many perspectives as possible. By comparing the different accounts you will find details that one author casually glossed over or ignored, that a different author spent more time on. Through the different accounts a more complete understanding will emerge. Each narrative will converge on  a more decisive & complete story that is more complete than any one book alone.

That’s why we have four Gospels
That’s why we shouldn’t be worried about the differences
The differences make the Gospels stronger.
The differences reinforce that we are getting multiple, real accounts

Everyone sees and experiences the world differently

The Bible acknowledges that
The Bible canonizes that

I trust the Bible because it brings me the same diversity of experience I see everyday in the world around me

The Theory and the Revelation

There is one sure way to completely shut down an argument: show the person you’re trying to sway that you haven’t done the background research to know what you’re talking about.

In the realm of religion and science there are 2 perfect examples

Evolution
&
Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Christian Bible. It can go by a number of different names:

The Revelation to John
The Apocalypse of John
The Revelation
Revelation

I’ve even seen a long form of it spelled out as The Apocalypse of St John the Apostle

But it’s never called “Revelations”.

And anytime a person who’s trying to argue with a Christian adds an S onto Revelation there is a good chance that the Christian checks out.

The thought being:

This person isn’t taking this argument seriously enough to go do the tiny amount of research necessary to even argue with me.

Why would I listen to them, then?

The same in arguments about science.

The book The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin can also go several names:

On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

But it is never called “The Origin of the Species”

That’s not the name of the book and the same thing happens when people call it that in an argument.

The opponent checks out and doesn’t take the rest of the conversation seriously.

If you want to convince someone of your argument or even get them to take it seriously you have to understand the terms and sources they use. At least casually, so they’ll respect your thoughts on the subject.

In both these cases I’ve even seen works published with the wrong title. That shows that even editors of texts meant to be taken seriously haven’t done their due diligence to know the title of the book in question.

But these are just good examples

There are many more

The point is, before trying to persuade others you have to spend the time to know what others believe.

In all productive conversations I’ve ever had, it’s only when I try to see the world through beliefs that are not my own that I can approach someone to try to change their mind.

THOSE people are destroying society

Whoever they are. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be anymore that’s unstitching society. Uprooting our morals, our standards for what is acceptable. I really don’t know because so many of the arguments are silly

And so many don’t care to make an argument at all. They just care to identify a scapegoat

It’s

The Gays
The Jews
The Rednecks
The Latinos
The Blacks
The Scientists
The Atheists
The Catholics
The Mormons
The Millenials
The Capitalists
The Socialists
Hillary Clinton

THOSE people

Whatever

I don’t care about the scapegoating and labeling that obviously has nothing to do with what’s actually driving our society into darker and darker places

I did come across a great example of what’s destroying our society that has nothing to do with a scapegoat

The example is an incident that distills popular sentiments into a simple act

This young man knocked on a door for assistance and was met

With a gun

That my friends, is what’s destroying our society

I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– Matthew 25:35c NRSVCE

Nested Hierarchy

Finally, I wrote about Nested Hierarchy

I’m trying to keep this intro post as short as possible

…probably not doing a very good job though

Nested Hierarchy is the way I read the Bible. There are a number of ways to approach the Bible and many of them overlap

I’m just going to make a basic comparison here though

To contrast my view I’ll talk about a narrative hierarchy

That’s how we read most books

You start at the beginning of a book and read to the end, a straight line through the text

It’s an easy way to read for sure

That’s why most books are arranged this way; the beginning chapter creates a foundation and each chapter slowly builds on that foundation

I can’t read the Bible this way for one simple reason:

The Bible is not a book, it’s a collection of books

Some of the individual books have a narrative hierarchy, some don’t

But the collection as a whole definitely does not

So I have to look elsewhere for the foundation

I believe that foundation is Jesus

Jesus is the center of a nest, with the other layers in the nest built around him

Jesus is like an egg

The egg is the point of the nest
The egg gives the nest purpose
The egg is the reason the nest was built
Everything about the nest has to be viewed through the object at it’s center

I believe Jesus is the center of the Biblical nest

All the books of the Bible are read through the lens of Jesus

His teachings
His life
His death
His resurrection
His return

The books of the Bible have their purpose fulfilled by Jesus
Jesus is the reason this collection of books was built
Jesus is the point of the collection

The center of the Nested Hierarchy

This is a theological nest I’m talking about, others may use a similar nested approach but with a different goal.

A good example would be a historical approach. Instead of trying to find the theological center of the biblical texts you might try to determine which books were written first. Then you could look at the Bible in terms of how each book is related to those that came before it.

You could do the same with language or culture as the center around which everything was built

To be honest most of us use some combination of these different different approaches

Me included

But the most important to me is the the theological nested hierarchy

My theological perspective is definitely Christian. There are others as well.

Jewish theology for example. You could say that Jewish theology places the first five books of the Hebrew Bible at the center and builds theological interpretation of the other books around them. Those first five books are also know as the Torah or the Pentateuch.

Even Muslims revere the Bible, though they view it with the lens of their prophet and their holy book at the center

My lens is Jesus
Every book points to him
Every conundrum and question that the diverse writers of the Bible attempt to address are fulfilled by him

All of my beliefs, my faith flow from this method of understanding the Bible

The Nested Hierarchy of the Bible leads me to a number of different conclusions, many that other Christians don’t share

About history
About neurology
About physics
About human sexuality
About any aspect of life that I relate to by way of the Bible

All these conclusions and more are the result of reading the Bible as a Nested Hierarchy

The term nested hierarchy is used in a variety of contexts

Brain science

Genealogy

Those Russian dolls that fit inside each other

Reading about these examples might help illustrate what I’m saying here better than I can

I know that thinking this way has led me to many conclusions that other Christians would disagree with. I certainly disagree with many Christians as a result of my nested approach to the Bible.

I guess that’s one point of this blog

We can’t find common ground if we don’t understand each other. If you want to understand my religious beliefs whether you’re Christian or not

Nested Hierarchy is my staring point

For someone you love

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It’s hard to talk about love & suffering

they don’t seem to go together well

especially when it comes to the idea of a God who loves but allows suffering

So my thought for this Easter is something I think parents will understand better than I do

If I asked:

What would you do for your children? How far would you go? To protect them? To keep them safe?

Most of the parents I know would have the same answer:

Anything
I’d do anything for my children

I think maybe that’s why suffering exists, because love means you’ll suffer for someone you love.

You’ll place someone’s needs above yours

Above your own life

This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends

John 15:12-13 NLT

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A’ Chàisg sona
Ka hari Aranga
Kristos sotonnheton;
oriwiio tsi sotonnheton
hyvää pääsiäistä
M’shee ho dkom!
Happy Easter

Links to

the images above