The post today was first written as a status update on Facebook yesterday the 6th of July 2016. Because of the reception it got there, I have decided to share it here for you my non Facebook friends to benefit from it. I hope you like it.
Two reasons prompted this piece. The first was something a Muslim follower of tweeted in the aftermath of the Ramadan bombings in Medina, Saudi Arabia when the sentiment again spread that Islam is a warmongering religion. “I hope one day Christians experience what Muslims go through with being pigeonholed as terrorists because of a few bad eggs among them.” The thought among the presumably non-Muslim people(a thought which is not shared by this writer) is that if Muslims could be callous enough to bomb their most holy cities, where else was safe from their violence? I wanted to explain why it isn’t and should not be possible to pigeonhole Christians that way.
The second reason is that during a twitter conversation on faith and religion a twitter feminist and “atheist” once told me that she feels that God is sexist and chauvinist, using Paul’s message in 1Corinthians 14:34-35 as a basis for her argument. To her if God is as fair and just as Christians claim he is, He would not have allowed one of his most influential apostles to make such disparaging comments about women. I could not immediately get a rebuttal to her argument so I resolved to study it for myself to see if she indeed had a point. However, while I searched for that rebuttal I got an amazing insight into the nature of God, Jesus Christ, Christianity and the Bible.
A lot of religions have some sort of Holy Book. A collection of teachings laid down by their different deities and teachings from the venerated figures within their faiths. These teachings make up the moral code for the devotees of the respective religions. Because of the nature of the books and the things contained in it, the book itself is given some form of pure and holy status. In our own case as Christians, our holy book is the Bible, which we believe to be inspired by the God and has no fault whatsoever.
However, there is a problem with the way a lot of us Christians perceive the bible, and tragically we keep passing these wrong perception from generation to generation. The perception is that the Bible is the holiest book of all and that it is God that practically guided the hands of the writers to write it. Therefore its ruling on every and any issue cannot and must not be challenged even if that ruling seems confusing within the modern day context. Unfortunately, this often makes Christians look like quarrelsome and fanatical bigots who can’t seem to argue logically about issues and who respond to anyone who dares to point out any anomaly within the bible with sullen snobbery, or belligerent insults. This may allow you win arguments, but you are not going to win an unbeliever into the vineyard by insulting or snubbing them.
My father often says something, whenever we his children or anyone else questions him about why sections of the Old and the New testament in the Bible seem so contradictory. He would say: “As Christians, the New testament is our constitution. The Old testament is like a book of by-laws. Whenever there is a conflict between the Old and the New testament, the New testament wins out, because it is the testament of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He would add, “God sent Jesus Christ to create the new testament because he saw that the old testament is no longer adequate for us, as his children.”
The thing about the bible is that while it may have been inspired by God, it was written by men. It was not sent down from heaven, it was written on earth. it is just a paper book. If you put it in water it will become soggy. If you put it in a fire, it will burn. If you put it in a place infested with termites, the termites will happily eat it. The people that wrote its books are no angels either, David who wrote most of the psalms was an adulterer and a murderer, Jeremiah who wrote the book that bears his name was a timid young man who was afraid for his life. Paul was an apostate turned apostle. They were not angels and none of them ever gave the impression that they were.
So am I then arguing that the bible should be disregarded? Far from it. If we look at Acts 10, God lets a huge sheet down in front of Peter, with all manner of unclean animals the Jews were commanded in the books of Moses not to eat, and tells Peter “rise kill and eat. Peter replies ” God, you know that I have never eaten anything unclean.” God replies him: “Whatever I the Lord has made clean, don’t you call unclean. ” That gave me pause. Was it not God that said those animals were unclean in the first place? Why is he contradicting himself? However, God didn’t say “This means I have now rendered the law of Moses invalid.” He only gave Peter a new set of instructions based on the position Peter was in at the time. That passage in Acts reminds me of something one of my teachers in secondary school told me about science. According to him:”When a hypothesis has been tested, it becomes a theory. When a theory has been extensively tested it becomes a law. If a law is however, challenged and said law fails, it does not mean the law is now invalid, it only means there are certain points that the law does not cover.”
This means if what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 does not fit into current day issues, it doesn’t mean Paul is a liar, or that he is confused or that the Bible is contradicting itself. What it means is that what Paul said isn’t just applicable to our reality. This is where the spirit of God comes in. Jesus Christ envisaged these issues when he was going to heaven, that was why he promised to send a spirit which would be, among other things, a teacher. This is why as Christians we must be careful of slavish obedience to the letters in the book instead of the spirit that gives those letters life.
Our God is not an archaic God. He is dynamic. He understands changing realities and gives us the understanding to match it. He understands the value of negotiation and he changes his mind based on issues. It is true that he gave us a book to live by, but he doesn’t want us to serve the book and forget he who gave us the book.
Would God, for example, support feminist activism, despite the general perception of the Bible being phallocentric? If you are talking about Feminism that has helped women get the right to vote and be voted for, the right of women to be free from repressive laws, equal opportunities in the workplace and freedom of expression, I don’t think God is against it, I don’t care if the Bible doesn’t spell out every single case where a woman was properly treated. For those “I too know” Christians and Atheists alike who would want to shove the Bible under my nose because of my stance on certain issues, I have a message for you, I don’t serve the Bible, I serve God, the omniscient, immortal giver of the Bible.