I have found that reading the blogs of American progressive Christians can be more fun, more challenging and more enriching than most sermons I have heard in church. What can be just as eye-opening can be the comments, as conservative evangelicals seem to like to hang around and throw in their opinions too.
It struck me that the differences of opinion between people often lies in their interpretation of the bible; more specifically which parts of it should be taken literally as absolute truth and which parts were applicable only for the people at the time. My daughter just couldn’t imagine the whole world flooding, so I chipped in with, “Well how come the lions in the ask didn’t eat everyone?” David fought lions so they were indigenous to the area.
I then went on to explain that even if the story didn’t happen it was about how God loves us and wants a relationship with us, the thread through the whole bible…
So did Noah build an ark with his nameless wife? I have my doubts. I now tend to view much of the early part of Genesis as a poetic parable, not literal history.
Moving forward, some Christians get very upset about the breaking of some of the laws that the Jews were expected to follow, but conveniently forget about others. The early church worked out that at least a couple of laws were no longer applicable: the law of circumcision ànd the laws governing kosher food. It’s not recorded whether the church repealed the law on wearing clothes made from mixed materials or planting different type of seed in one field…
Jesus perhaps picked only one law from Leviticus – Love the Lord your God with your mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. The prolific Paul of Tarsus made lots of recommendations to early churches and their leaders – drink wine if you have weak stomach, don’t let women talk in church or wear fancy jewellery, be kind, cast out people who make trouble, look after your slaves, pray a lot, amongst other things.
So how do you decide what should be taken literally. How do you decide what should be taken contextually? Who do you rely on to help you work out the context? Are the differences between Christians, and the groups they belong to, down to what we pick and choose to believe applies to us?
With thanks to Kimberly Knight