Was God Mistaken?

October 22, 2008 at 2:08 am 1 comment

 I wake up most nights about three. I plod to the porcelain palace, then while returning to bed, my mind flicks on and in the quiet dark; cozy under the blankets, I spend time with (in?) the Spirit. Most of these times are simply pondering but the other night, from nowhere, a thought flashed like a lightning bolt. Spotlighted by it was the gnarly ogre of homosexuality as it relates to Bible interpretation. Hmmmm…. where did that come from? No matter, I was in Spirit mode now and ‘It’ seemed to be sending a message to be relayed. OK I will, I thought, but first I’ll give you some background.

People back in prehistoric and Old Testament times, were just as intelligent as we are today. With crude instruments and sometimes with only raw brain power, the ancients discovered and accumulated knowledge (from fire to cosmology) that we benefit from today. Adding to this knowledge base for millennia has put us in a position where we now consider ourselves smarter than the ancients, just because we know more facts. But we aren’t smarter, we just know more. On their journey of discovery the ancients naturally made mistakes. One such error involved reproduction. This error fascinated me and permanently affected my opinion of the Bible.

In times immemorial it was common belief that the male had the sole power of procreation. A being was contained in the male sperm as any plant was contained in a seed. The male simply inserted the seed into the fertile female receptacle, where like a seed in a pot, it would grow. Human seeds were too valuable to waste (they didn’t know there were billions of sperm). People were taught and reminded, in books like Leviticus, that it was wrong to spill this seed upon the ground, to plant it in other species, or plant it while one man lies with another as with a woman. The fear was that if the seed grew in these places, a horrible abomination would result. It was this erroneous biological belief that put the dark pall on homosexuality that despite advances in knowledge, still exists. This miscalculated biology also saw women being deemed to be overflowing with uncleanliness, rather that experiencing a function of fertility, during their monthly cycle. Sometimes they were even segregated to the ‘red tent’ during moon time. What an example of the depth of paternalism in society back then. As knowledge increased, humanity came to understand reproduction in the correct, more maternal way. This example shows why some knowledge that informed the scripture writers and was subsequently found to be in error, makes literal interpretation of the Bible dangerous.

Some people cherish their Bibles as ‘the authoritive word of God for all time.’ They believe that The Old Man above the clouds caused His words to be recorded as a rule book for us to adhere to in order to please Him. No questions allowed. God never makes mistakes. This ‘no questions allowed’ or inerrancy doctrine was used by the early church to promote an agenda that became increasingly distorted and self serving over the centuries. The current misunderstanding of homosexuality is a result of that doctrine preserving an error. Those having faith in the inerrancy of the Bible must come to realize that the Bible does contain errors; errors of both knowledge and fact. Was God mistaken? No, because the Bible is simply a metaphoric human invention, a collection of midrashic Hebrew history and spiritual anecdotes edited and stitched into an epic morality story. As with midrash (a Hebrew method of commentary or teaching of morality where the message is the focus rather than the vehicle that the message is delivered in), we need to see and know the over-arching story and not get bogged down in details from a bygone era, some in error.

Regarding the over-all story; have people ever noticed that the ‘never changing’ God actually changes? The story of Job is more than the lesson that crap happens and God is powerful. It marks the point in the over-arching story where God is called to account for bad things happening to good people, then blusters at Job to hide the egg on His face. (Wow, God isn’t perfect) The immediate lesson of the story is that rain falls on the just and unjust alike, or crap happens, but there is an important development here to the over-arching theme. From this watershed God becomes a nicer being. The external, petulant, shock and awe God of the Old Testament actually grows into the inner, patient and compassionate Spirit of love and forgiveness we see in the New Testament (anthropomorphically exemplified by the Christ). Ten commandments written on stone in the Old Testament become a single new commandment written on the heart. Incidentally, both that commandment and the over-arching theme of the bible are: Love.

The Bible is definitely a guide for life. It is meant as comfort and inspiration for the heart, not a confusing instruction manual/ book of rules for the head. Freeing oneself from the bog of literal interpretation liberates one to discover a right relationship with Spirit and enables one to practice that single commandment without need of pretzel logic. With this liberation we see homosexuality as simply a love issue.

Peace

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

Looking Into God’s Eyes? Martin Luther

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. lifeinthemargins  |  November 13, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Does the title of your post ask a valid question? I could ask: Do tooth fairies get root canals? Even though it’s semantically possible to pose such a question, it’s pointless because it isn’t about anything real. Homosexuality only becomes an issue if you first make a long series of dubious suppositions: god exists, god is sentient, god’s sentience is perfect, god writes, the sentience reflected in that writing reflects a perfect sentience, the writing does in fact say something unequivocal about homosexuality, what it says hasn’t been warped out of recognition by translation and interpretation, that translation and interpretation can validly rest upon a notion of authorial intentionality, that words even if correctly interpreted are even binding, that humans are compelled to care, etc. Challenge any one of those necessary claims and everything comes crashing down like a house of cards. But why feel compelled to challenge the claims? Why should the onus rest on those who doubt? Isn’t the logical rule: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs? I prefer to sit with the notion that it’s all bunk and wait for somebody to show me the error of my ways without insulting my intelligence in the meantime.

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