Wednesday, June 25, 2008

abode denoument. enter:the religion of rote

"We have survived by hiding from them, by running from them. But they are the gatekeepers. They are guarding all the doors, they are holding all the keys which means that sooner or later, someone is going to have to fight them."

to me it looks like this. bible verse + bible verse + bible verse = doctrine. i understand that this is an oversimplification and that there was much debate that went into many of the doctrines that now exist. but that was in the past. NOW we have these formulas. and we are told the formulas are true and that they work. the case is closed, it was decided by godly men, and we need to continue the tradition.

as has been stated by me before in other places in other ways, my problem with these "mathmatical-take-it-on-faith-doctrines" is that there is no room for personal faith. there is no ability to exercise choice. which makes our faith life little more than a puppet. which makes me wonder just what i am needed for if it has already been figured out for me and i simply need to believe it all. living within this type of tradition, i often wondered why we bother giving people bibles at all or encourage people to read them. why not simply hand out a book of doctrines? because when one is subjected to them long enough, you don't even read the bible when you read the bible. all you see are the doctrines that passage has been used to create. the bible doesn't even speak for itself anymore. it has nothing new or fresh to say to us because anything it has to say has been figured out, right?

did you know that there has hardly ever been a time of unanimity within the church? as far back as Acts15:37-39 there have been disagreements within the church. sharp disagreements. the doctrines and traditions we have had handed down to us are simply the majority view, not the unanimous view. HUGE difference. if you study church history you find that many issues of debate were only settled by a council of leadership calling the issue settled, and banishing or killing the dissenters and burning their writings and findings. just because augustine lived a long time ago does not mean he was right about everything he had to say. yeah. i said it. augustine is nothing, god is everything. whatever he said and did in his life is good for him back then. some of it may even be good for now, but that doesn't mean that it can't be opened up and reexamined. its okay to dissect the things he said and decide for yourself whether or not you agree. he's dead. it's not going to bruise his ego. the same goes for the myriad of men who are authors, architects, and pawns in this tradition.

time would fail me if i fleshed out all the examples of "heresy" that have come down the line and were resultantly stamped out by those who "know best." i just don't like a world like that. i prefer to hear all sides and make my own choice, rather than having some appointed human deciding what is appropriate for me or not. how would they know what's appropriate for me or not? how would they know what god wants from me or the things god wants me to do or the places god wants me to go? hasn't the veil been torn in two? can i not hear directly from the god myself?


Erin said...

...and the sun orbits the earth, it's in the bible, don't you know? if you claim otherwise we will subject you to eternal house arrest until you recant. and we will burn your writings. or something like that.

i quit reading the bible, Jon. over three years ago now. i can probably count on two hands how many times i've opened it since then. i know what's in it...anyhow, he can talk directly to me, can't he?

and the church fathers were just people. they weren't deity, they weren't even alive when Jesus walked. not to say they weren't smart, but they weren't God.

so in a nutshell. yes.

jON said...

did you read the whole thing before you stopped reading it? just curious. not as some sort of a measuring stick of your "goodness" or anything, i just know how shocked i was at what was in it when i read it all the first time.

and i am also shocked at what i see in it now that i have come back from putting it down for awhile. since my thinking has changed and i DON'T see doctrine when i read it any more, i begin to see so much more that i never noticed before. like just how much meta-physical and mystical and grace-filled stuff drips from the pages. things that were always there, but until i changed, i couldn't see it.

do me a square, will you? i'm never going to borrow a cup of sugar from you or ask you to babysit the kids. given the nature of your questions and posts recently, i think you would rather enjoy reading Galatians again with your new eyes and new mind. obviously you don't HAVE to. but i think you might be shocked at what you read and what comes through this time around.

just because old men don't get to interpret it and define it for you doesn't mean there's not great stuff in there by people who had encounters with the god. in fact, for me, i found that once my eyes had healed from having the thick layers of soctrine ripped off, all the bible did was bolster my faith and the direction it is heading.

plus it also gives me a better ability to stand up for my beliefs when called to stand and "fight" on evangelical ground. even jesus did this when faced with pharisees or religious leaders. he showed them through their own holy book things they could not account for and that didn't fit within the system they had created and tried to cram everyone into.

Ruth said...

Well I am a believer in hearing from God and that everyone needs to make their faith their own. But I believe that hearing from God needs to be done in community that includes wise council, mutual submission, humility, respect, earnestness, fruit bearing lives, yada yada. How else does one know that they are really hearing from God or if they are just a loose cannon?

Erin said...

You make good points Jon. Don't forget I was raised in this stuff, too. My dad wasn't a pastor, but for to bulk of my life I've had scripture preached at me and pounded into me.

When I say He can speak directly to me....I know that what I hear must not contradict the written word...and I look for that, and I do sometimes look up scriptures to verify when I'm in doubt. But I don't make a point of reading it anymore because, well, I can't. Because of how angry it makes me that it was taught to me so wrong. I don't find freedom in seeing that the things I see for myself are so different than what I was taught...maybe that's a stage of healing that I haven't reached yet. Because I DO still see doctrine when I read reminded of all the ways the voices of my past would say I have failed.

Ruth - I hear ya and get what you're saying there, but I guess I'm not afraid of being a loose cannon ;-) maybe I already am.

Ruth said...

Well just remember you said it and not me Erin :)

I'm just teasing I don't think you're a loose cannon. You do possess wisdom. But I am surprised you don't feel you can read the bible without feeling angry. Where do you draw truth from?

Valorosa said...

:-) loose cannon.

You are cool Ruth ... I agree with most of what you have said.

And may I ask where you have picked that expression up from. ;-)

Bear with me ... I don't mean to offend just provoking thought.

I think 'loose cannon' is probably one of the most manipulative visualizations known to mankind that has come straight from those who lust after 'position' in spiritual places.

Yes, God speaks to us 'individually' and moreso to those who are honestly seeking him and hunger and thirst after righteousness. Our relationship with Him is personal as individuals. Like a Father with his children. Each one is precious, and especially unique. All through the OT and the NT, people of God were called out individually.
They needed to stand with God alone and do the right thing. The Lord brought those who would support them alongside.

The Lord will guide each of his sheep as He will. Sheep are guided in flocks yes, but the pasture where the Lord guides them is of His choosing, whether it be here or over there. The body works together even when the body is not in touch with each other and the finger does not tell the liver what or how to be. Only the brain does this and the head is Christ not pastors. Pastors are part of the body, caretakers of the sheep, protectors and until they understand this church orgs will remain controlling bodies where that are not in control at all. There are some pastors who do know where they are in the body and act accordingly ... there just seems to be so few of them.

Nate said...

Spiritual loose cannon. I think I will change my blogger name to that. Or I love it when I get called a heretic. That is fun too.

Erin, I am right there with you on the reading the bible thing. I am still just digesting it, and listening. I am beginning to feel the urge to read from beginning to end with new eyes. It would be very interesting for me.

Jon, "Show Me How To Live (Nail In My Hand)" by audioslave got me again today on the way home from Savannah. It is the SHOW part that I think many have a problem with. In standard churches, they can put an action to the words. My beleif in the commandments is love your neighbor, and love God. But how are we supposed to love our neighbors? How do we show people how to do that, and not be Mother Teresa? How do we show that to our neighbors and the people we see everyday? How do we SHOW loving our neighbor, when some have absolutely no experience with love.

Just a thought that hit me as to why the RULES churchs are so popular.

Also while reading someone's comment about church. Why not make a First Step On The Jounrney church. Where people are brought into a loving community, are tought how to read and understand the bible, and then asked to leave. With the term limits in place, the turnover would not allow a lasting hierarchy. Just a thought.

Ruth said...

loose cannon - An unpredictable person or thing, liable to cause damage if not kept in check by others.

No offense taken Val - I'm glad you like my word.

I'm not sure that I get what you are talking about. Are you saying that leaders who manipulate are loose cannons or that they manipulate others by calling them loose cannons?

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have the propensity to be a loose cannon in some way. Having a trusted community keeps one grounded, whether it be in a spiritual sense or in real life. However, the spiritual realm deals with the unseen. Therefore we are in a much more vulnerable position when we are part of a spiritual community.

There will always be wolves in sheeps clothing and in Pastor's clothing for that matter. But is that reason to leave the flock altogether?

I am part of many "bodies of Christ". This blogging communitiy being one of them. They all give me perspective and balance.

I could flit from blog to blog never really being transparent or revealing my heart. I think many people live their real lives that way.

I've been reading a book by Graham Coooke. He said something that caught my attention.

"The most common forms of immaturity are evasive behavior, an unteachable spirit, an independent mindset and spending all your time with people that you can control or easily dupe."

I think many of you have been hurt by leaders like this. It is very hard to detect this unless you are a peer of these people.

I am a women's leader and I can see how easily one can fall into that category unless they are willing to be authentic and submit to others.

jON said...

then erin, if you might do me another square, why don't you drop by the bible study that susan hosts every week? we're reading through john right now. we do one chapter a week. don't feel like you have to join in the conversation if you have nothing to say. but at least you can listen as we speak of the bible, one chapter at a time, without those filters and just talk about what jumps out at us. it goes a long way towards letting the doctrinal scales fall away from your eyes... but believe me, i understand. it was a while before i could read scripture without those voices implanting themselves into my mind and cutting me. interestingly enough, it was delving back into those same scriptures and pushing through SLOWLY that helps me to silence them.

ruth - you raise an excellent question. how DOES one know they are hearing from god? everyone's experience is different, but it was this very area which lead to community falling apart for me. as i struggled to understand the things i believed god was showing me, and brought them to the community i was a part of, they only wanted to kill it. which caused a crisis of faith for me. because when those you've trusted to help you stay grounded are now actually telling you that you can't hear god, you're not hearing god, and that you should stop talking to people in the congregation... what's a boy to do? submit? or follow no matter what the cost?

nate - you are way too tight to be a loose cannon... :) as to the SHOW ME part... i, personally, am interested in a practical faith. that was one of the things that started this journey for me. a shifting of beliefs more towards a universalistic understanding of grace coupled with "heart exercises" brought things to a more daily and applicable level for me. i think i will post about these said execises.

and your thoughts on a limited-time church was interesting. it reminds me of a passage that is oft overlooked when talking about "doing" church. eph.4:11-16 which speaks of people being made apostles, teachers, pastors for the purpose of equipping people for service until we ALL attain maturity and unity. i do not think it means what most evangelicals think it means. i take it much as you have said here nate. a place for beginnings until we learn how to each hear the spirit and follow, then teach the newbies, then move on out into the world.

Valorosa said...

Calling people loose cannons,Ruth :-)

Not everyone is accepted into the church org community.

It cannot be considered a trusting community until everyone of God's people are, the appreciation of each ones unique gifts are recognized and not just those of the elite few who look the part.

And I don't think anyone here has left the flock ...

Erin, There was a long interval when I stopped reading the bible. I honestly just didn't want to and felt a tad guilty about it until I realized that the 'living word' was at my side. The Holy Spirit is always speaking to us in real time.
It was probably the most important time of my life.
It was a time when I came to fully realize the depth of our Father's love. It is bottomless and never ending ... it just keeps getting deeper and better.

It is ok to be angry with those who have manipulated the truth for their own motives.

Ruth said...

Often we find that we must move from one spiritual community to another because we are just not on the same page anymore. When God opens up our eyes to what he's doing elsewhere we can't help but follow or we will live in oppression. In my case, I feel the Lord is telling me to stay with my church but he has brought me other communities to enrich me.

Val you said
"It cannot be considered a trusting community until everyone of God's people are"

You are right here because people can never be fully trusted so I think it was a bad choice of words on my part.

What I meant was that when we are willing to stick with a community and be vulnerable and authentic it keeps us grounded. We might be part of a larger group or church but we really need to make ourselves known and know others in a smaller context.

With that said, there is more to preventing loose cannon syndrome than being grounded in a community.

Valorosa said...

"With that said, there is more to preventing loose cannon syndrome than being grounded in a community."

I lost you here .... in this avenue of conversation it can be easy to miss something ... just wondering if you could light this one up for me ;-)

Katherine Gunn said...

Re: the blog post...

In my experience, that 'hearing from God myself' part is what scares a lot of church leaders. I know my former pastor, though publicly encouraging it, hated it in practice - feared it because of the danger he would be exposed.

For my, the only reason I survived is because God talked to me - directly. ;-)

Ruth said...

Well Val I was going to go on about that but I figured I had gone on enough so I just left it in the air hanging. Preventing loose cannon syndrome has more to do with our own internal landscape. A posture of humility, authenticity, seeking truth and not thinking we know it all, are some that I can think of off the top of my head. Can anybody add to the list?

Katherine - I know what you mean about the leadership fearing the congregation hearing from God. When I asked one of my Pastors about that once he said very honestly - "it seems we are quick to tell people when to put on the brakes but we rarely tell them when to put on the gas".

Valorosa said...

When I asked one of my Pastors about that once he said very honestly - "it seems we are quick to tell people when to put on the brakes but we rarely tell them when to put on the gas".

Cool pastor ... loose cannon is a 'common' phrase among those who like to keep their congregations under 'control'

I believe if the term had been popular in the days that our Saviour walked the planet, He would have been referred to as just that.

Ruth said...

Oh I get it now what you're saying Val. And yes - I'm sure many a Pharasee called Jesus a loose cannon.

Sue said...

Wow, Jon, I just love what you say here:

"and i am also shocked at what i see in it now that i have come back from putting it down for awhile. since my thinking has changed and i DON'T see doctrine when i read it any more, i begin to see so much more that i never noticed before. like just how much meta-physical and mystical and grace-filled stuff drips from the pages. things that were always there, but until i changed, i couldn't see it."

I hardly ever read the bible anymore because of exactly that reason - every time I opened it I just saw shit doctrine. I've opened it up here and then since then, and been pleasantly surprised, but also still had some leftover stuff. How long it takes for it all to slide off, my God. I can't wait till the day when all the excess stuff has been cleaned off it and I can read it again with abandon

(Of course, there's still tons of Old Testament stuff that rings for me still, Isaiah and the Psalms are my favourite books of the whole thing and they still rock)

jON said...

there's lots of stuff in the bible that just never gets talked about. and unless you read it for yourself, you'll never know it's there. that being because you only hear about the same 20 passages over and over again until you, as the layperson, might think that you actually "know" the whole bible because you never hear anything new.

to be honest, i had to put down the NT for about 4 years before i could begin seeing it with new eyes. but there is a load of shit in the OT that just tore me a new one. joshua was very hard to read. to reconcile in my head and heart that god was asking the isaraelites to kill so many people. that was hard.

the story of the levite and his concubine from judges 19 actually made me nautious when i first read it. i couldn't believe something so graphic and gritty was in the bible. i've said it many times and i'll probably say it again, there is definitely no flannelgraph for this story. we have flannelgraphs for samson with his eyes poked out, but not the levite cutting up the body of his raped-until-dead concubine.

and of course: sometimes no one really understands what its like to have god ask you to get into pretty fucked up situations quite like the prophets.

but the bible is still powerful to read. and just because the "presbyters" have had a stranglehold on interpretation for millenia does not mean that it belongs to them or that they are always correct. i still believe in the worth of "eating" it.

but not in a dogmatic way. like "read you bible every day or you're an undisciplined loser who's going to backslide into hell!" more like, "it's useful, so why not?"

did you know that the bible never says to read itself every day? if you didn't know better, you would think that you're being taught scripture when this keeps being pounded into your brain. but you're actually not. it's just one of MANY unscriptural beliefs of churches.

another series i'm thinking of doing because there are just so many...

thanks for stopping by!

Erin said...

You know, Jon...I did try to join in Susan's bible study when she started it. I REALLY wanted to because I know the company there isn't going to force any positions on me....but I just couldn't.

I wish I could describe how it feels to me...but I seem to be a bit wordless about it. It's not a good feeling and I just have to wait it out. I don't know what else to do.

I still go to it for references, like I said. But reading...actually about a year after I left I did start a daily reading for awhile, and yes, I did have that "seeing it with new eyes" experience...but it didn't last. Soon I was hearing voices again...

I trust God on this one. He hasn't steered me wrong on this journey yet...maybe that's heretical to think God is keeping me away from the bible, but there it is.

Sue said...

Well,dear Erin, if that's the case then you and me and a whole stack of other people are being deceived as well.

The Word is still there whispering in your ear even if you're not reading the bible.

Actually, I'm thinking of reading Isaiah. That shouldn't do any harm and it doth bloweth my mindeth

jON said...

erin, if you are being directed by god rather than fear, then go with my blessings. i completely understand, and i will pray that the scales fall off your eyes and that the voices be banished.

i know these insidious voices of which you speak, so no, you are not alone on this. i'm just glad they are finally gone from me.

a lot of it, for me, goes back to the matrix quote at the top of the post. when you're ready, erin, the voices won't even be able to get to you. all you'll need to do is hold up your hand and say no and all of their "bullets"(mathmatical equations of scriptural logic and judgement) will fall to the ground. because you don't believe them anymore. you know in your heart of hearts that their arguments are nothing and that you are secure in who you are and who god is. and what a good place that is to be.

yet, i get the sense that you're not fully convinced yet. that's why the "bullets" are able to find their way in and strike home. i know because i have been there and still have days, fewer and farther between now, where they get through.

but truly the bullets are nothing. they are the imaginations of men. yet it is so hard to shake this need for approval from other people. that is what makes this life so hard. so often we seek the approval of others rather than the approval of god. hey, wait, that was from this week's chapter!

sue, you are so right! the true word IS whispering in your ear in real time and space if we are willing to hear.

jON said...

sorry, not the quote from THIS post, but the last one. i know you're a smart cookie and could probably figure that out on your own. i just didn't want there to be any confusion.

Erin said...

Jon - I WANT to be able to read it and not hear the voices...maybe I just need to let go. I don't know. It's definitely a struggle for me, but I do admit that my desire to read it right now is more born of the people who would call me a heretic for NOT reading it. I'm personally OK with not reading it, for now. You said you stopped reading the NT for 4 years, what about the OT? I've been out of the bible for about 3 years....maybe I just need more time.

jON said...

hey erin, thanks for making it back here! hopefully you'll remember and make it back here again.

initial question. what translation do you have? many translations are completely doctrine laden. they do a lot of "thought for thought" translation rather than strict, honest, "word for word". big difference! if the doctrine has already been added to the text, it may stand to reason why you can't see past it! don't know why i didn't think of it before.

believe it or not, i think about this stuff on a fairly regular basis, even at work. and when i think about you, and things that we're talking about, the bible just keeps coming up. for example, from heart exercises, you said that you were an introvert and ruth said she was surprised because you didn't seem like it online. later that morning, as i was driving, it came to me that this is exactly how the apostle paul described himself in 2Cor.10:1 "I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!" (i.e. how strongly he speaks in his letters)

what i hope for you to find, erin, is not a source-book for dogma or doctrines or even a rulebook for living. what i hope for you to find is what i have found. and that is a collection of tales about and/or written by those who were "god-spoken." those who had god actually tap them and say "go there. do this." as i have experienced. and, i believe you have as well.

what about the OT? that is what i read during that time. and that is where i began to find comfort in reading the prophets and reading of men like isaiah or jeremiah whom god sent to speak to people who didn't want to hear what they had to say. isaiah they simply ignored for the most part, but jeremiah they downright hated. hated hated hated hated hated. they were verbally and physically abusive and even sought to kill him. people thought he was lying to them and thought he was a heretic.

but at the end of the day, inside of jeremiah, there was always this nudging from god which, in my mind, amounts to god saying this, "you've heard me. go tell them. you've heard me. go tell them."

the specific reasons for god asking this of jeremiah are probably not applicable to your own life. i don't think god is asking either of us to go to the chief priests and jewish leaders and jewish king to tell them that if they don't stop fucking over the poor and the immigrants among them, as well as forsaking god which is evident by their willingness to fuck over impoverished people, that nebuchadnezzer is going to come and level jerusalem and exile the best and brightest to babylon. and for kicks, leave the land with the poor and impoverished since babylon didn't want them anyway.

however, i DO think god has something to say to this generation, and like every other time before, the religious leaders HATE IT with a passion. but it doesn't matter what they think. as far as i can tell, mainstream evangelical christianity has become the SAME RELIGION AT A HEART LEVEL that the pharisees and sadducees were practicing. the rules. the finger-pointing. the man-made expectations that the leaders are too happy to lay upon those under their charge while "not lifting a finger themselves."

if the religion that was spawned from the Son has become the same as the one that the Father spawned right before he came and took everything away from them, then the application from jeremiah becomes clear in our modern era. "you've heard me. go tell them. you've heard me. go tell them."

the only thing that makes it easier for me to do this, is to know that "this is how your forefathers treated the prophets."

shit. i could say so much on this. and i don't want this to be more fuel for your guilt. these are just my impassioned pleas to let you know that these "dark voices" that keep you from your newbirth-right have no power over you that you don't give them. you can walk right past them with head and middle finger held high, face toward heaven, with joy and peace in your heart, at any time you choose. because it comes down to this. do you place your trust in the approval of imaginary dark voices in your head? or do you trust in the cross? think about it.

you know, there's too much here to go to waste. so i think i'm going to give you a nudge and let you know it's here. always praying for you, sister.

Erin said...

Jon - I want you to know that I appreciate all the thoughts and encouragement you have shared. If I ever sound snarky on this topic, it's not directed at you, but at the people who put me in this place by feeding me the twisted bible.

In any case, I generally read the NIV and occasionally the Message, if that makes any difference. What should I be reading (if I were)?

I'm actually going to write a post about this, because lately perusing the blogs I find I'm not the only one. Not that I thought I was the only one, only that people seem to be talking about it right now.

Barry said...

Good post.

If there's one thing studying theology taught me, it's that there is no such thing as the one, correct interpretation. We were encouraged to read theologians with widely differing beliefs and emphases, which opened my eyes as I had come from a very narrow, our-way-is-the-only-true-way sort of church. I actually believe that God meant this to be the case; otherwise he wouldn't have given us a book. It is in the discussion and debate that we learn more about God. I certainly learn a lot more that way than I would from a thousand sermons.

I think another problem, touched on in the comments here, is bibliolatry, or the tendency of many evangelicals to almost worship the Bible in place of God.

I don't read the bible very often these days. Like Erin, my attitude is that I know what's in it so I tend to read it only when the whim takes me, or when I want to check something. I was always taught in church that we should read the Bible every day, but while that may be helpful for some, it doesn't work for me. After a while it can get like a novel you've read a lot; you need to leave it alone for a while before you can re-read it and get something out of it again.

I've actually read the Qur'an more often than the Bible recently. Why? Because I haven't read all of it yet and so I don't know what's in it, so it's interesting.

My take on Bible reading is this: as the Bible was inspired by God (however you define that) it's worth reading it through a few times and becoming thoroughly familiar with it, but reading the Bible should never be an end in itself. The focus of our worship and devotion should be God himself, not a book.

Tracy Simmons said...

I know I'm jumping in here kind of late, but I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed the respectful conversation on a topic that can often get quite heated.

I also could not read the bible for years and years. It was definitely part of my deconstruction phase. Now I read it and it is so alive to me. It's not words, it's a living person revealing Himself to me.

I just wanted to say that when you're ready, you'll be drawn to read it again, and until then: No guilt!

jON said...

tracy and barry - welcome! thanks so much for not only dropping by but opening your mouths and joining in.

erin, you're welcome. i don't know why, but i feel a connection and a strange compulsion towards helping you along however i can. i can only share out of my own experience, however, and of course it is up to you to sift through the mountain of words i toss your way and decide what fits with you and your life and what doesn't. but i know you're smart enough to grasp that. sometimes i just feel it needs to be reiterated.

on my end, it's just good to have someone out there who is actually willing to discuss "meatier" topics such as these with me. things like this usually tend to not be the focus of my "cahsier conversations", you know what i mean?

i was remarking to my mother the other day how much the bible changes. she looked at me in horror and i said, "okay. let me rephrase that. it is interesting how much what i see in the bible changes as i change." the more i grow, what i see in the bible becomes different. it was always there, i just never noticed it anymore.

that is not the attitude i find in many leaders who went to seminary. they've got it all locked down. so there's no reason to go back to it except to reiterate to yourself what you already know. ceratinly not to learn something new.

perhaps this is just a part of what god wants from me personally, erin & barry, but i can't stop reading and contemplating it. not on any sort of a daily regimen where the number of chapters or time spent in it becomes an end in itself.(as you wisely pointed out barry) it may only be one chapter every few weeks or simply one single verse that i meditate on for a few days in almost a trappist or zen kind of way.

seeing how things change so much every time i read it, i can't stop and think that i already know what's in it. which is why i encourage others to continue with it as well. many of the questions we have that we don't think the bible addresses ARE addressed. and when you can strip away the doctrinal gags, i find greater mystical and existential concepts at work within the pages. and i, for one, find it not only exciting, but it gives me greater ground on which to fight the "doctrinal agents" if and when they are encountered.

i.e. being able to graciously handle a "troll" rather than breaking down into defensiveness and hostility. (which we in blog world tend to be very bad at)

but again, that is what i and my brain have been called to. so, i echo tracy. NO GUILT!

much love.

jON said...

as to the translation thing...

what do you know about them? i'm not trying to "should" all over any one. my own personal convictions, however, are that if i am not going to put in the work to learn greek and hebrew (which i probably will someday) then i should at the very least read a translation that is as faithful to being "word for word" as possible.

once again, personal conviction here.

many translations do something called "thought for thought" translations when the original wording becomes a little tricky or difficult. in essence, what you then read on the page and think is what one of the writers was saying is actually the translator's idea of what the writer was saying and not what the writer actually said.

the NIV is a good one for doing this. that's what makes it the number one choice of evangelical churches. the doctrine is already added to the text. so it will be really hard for you to not see it when you read, erin...

the Message is what is known as a "dynamic equivilant." in which this is done entirely and throughout. reading the Message is reading eugene peterson's thoughts on the bible more than reading the bible itself. it is good to get a different take on what these things mean and beneficial even. but it is not, in itself, what the writers wrote.

my translation of choice is the NASB because it is the closest in "word for word" traslating that is out there. (or at least it was, i haven't checked in a few years.) when they add words not homogenous to the original texts, or there is an alternative way that the text could also be translated, they let you know. so you can see the bigger picture and be as faithful as possible to what was being said. this has helped me a ton.

Erin said...

I actually just bought a book that I haven't really cracked yet. It's called God's Breath and it consists of:

The Tao te Ching
The book of Rumi
The Gospel of John
The Bhagvad Gita
The Qur'an
The Tibetan Book of the Dead

It includes commentary by people like Marcus Borg, Thoreau, Merton, and Jung. I was going to tell Barry that if I brought a Qur'an into the house my husband would probably leave me, and then I remembered this book. I don't think he knows. ;-)

I got it not so much because I'm searching, because I think I'm done with that, but because I've decided that if every religion has a piece I ought to get a sense of what those other pieces are.

You know Jon, I have always gone back to the original language because I've been shocked at what I've found when going from the NIV to the Hebrew or Greek. I theorized a few months ago to my husband that it was beginning to seem like the bible (my NIV) was deliberately avoiding telling us some things. I've always known there were many different translations, of course, but I didn't know there were different "kinds" of translations, So thanks for pointing that out. I don't think we have an NASB in the house so I'll look into getting one. I may not read it yet, but whenever I do read again, I'll try that.

Blue Letter Bible is one of my best friends. I have a good (heavy) Strong's but that online resource is fantastic...just wanted to throw that out there for you if you didn't know about it.

And no, you're not "shoulding" me...I appreciate the advice.

Ruth said...

Thanks for the lesson on bible translations Jon. I didn't know all that.

Erin that sounds like a great book because it gives you a glimpse of the writings from each faith. I find when I read about other faiths and spiritual outlooks it gives me perpective on my own.

Barry said...

On the subject of Bible translations, I thought I'd weigh in, as I have some understanding of Hebrew and Greek and have studied the Bible in the original languages.

i should at the very least read a translation that is as faithful to being "word for word" as possible.

Why? The whole point of translating is, as far as possible, for the original text to be adapted so it makes sense in the target language. A completely literal translation of the Bible would be unreadable, as Hebrew and Greek idioms, syntax and grammar would make it almost impossible to understand.

many translations do something called "thought for thought" translations when the original wording becomes a little tricky or difficult.

Not "many" translations; ALL translations do this, to a greater or lesser extent. Otherwise, as I mentioned above, they would all be almost impossible to read and understand.

the doctrine is already added to the text.

Why would you think that? Every translator of the Bible, just like every reader, comes to it with his or her own doctrinal bias, but that is not to say they are going to deliberately make their translation reflect that. If they did, it would no longer be a translation but a paraphrase. Translators who use more dynamic equivalence than others do so in order to clarify the meaning in English (or whatever target language they are using) rather than to make a doctrinal point.

my translation of choice is the NASB because it is the closest in "word for word" traslating that is out there.

How can you know that if you don't understand Hebrew and Greek?

Every translation uses dynamic equivalence, to varying extents. Every translation changes the word order, grammar, punctuation etc. to make it make sense in English. If you want to read something that is totally "faithful" to the original languages in the way you suggest, the only way to do it is to learn those languages and read the originals. Otherwise you're going to have to settle for a translation, and there is no such thing as a perfect translation.

jON said...

barry, you are quite right. i was using the wrong words here. i meant to say paraphrase. the NIV does it more than the NASB. and you are quite right about the need for things to be in proper english order because the grek does not have that. i am not fluent in either language but have done some studying in both.

thanks for bringing balance.

i just know in the past when looking at different versions of the bible i have found some put things in the texts that aren't actually there without telling you they are doing so. not in such a way as to make it clear in your own language, (which is fine for me, i don't mind that) but in such a way as to change what is being said.

erin, that sounds like a fascinating book and i would love to get my hands on one.

Erin said...

One example of why I think most (all?) translations have clear cultural and historic bias: The Holy Spirit is female. I have studied this since reading The Shack, because I wanted to know where Paul Young got that idea.

Specifically in Genesis 1:2, the word "spirit" ruach (wind or breath of God) is a feminine noun in the Hebrew.

Culturally speaking, I can certainly understand why the feminine side of God has been almost entirely omitted from the Bible. Until the second half of last century, women were generally second-class citizens in religious circles (we still are, but it's coming around).

However, if the rule of first mention is correct, I would believe Genesis 1:2 to mean that the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect of God. Whoever wrote Genesis chose this specific word, inspired by God to do so.

I'd love to know why this tidbit of information has been left out of the Bible, and therefore any and all religious teaching I've ever received in my lifetime.


I used to honestly and wholeheartedly believe I could trust bible translators to be unbiased, but if they are human then they are biased. That has been difficult to wrap my mind around.

Barry - If I didn't know you as well as I do, I'd say your last comment sounded a little harsh. I would venture a guess that you didn't mean it, but suffice to say, Jon is a smart guy and probably has pretty valid reasons for thinking the way he does about biblical text.

Jon - FYI it's this book.

Erin said...

And I forgot to mention, it could as easily be caused by bias against Goddess religions as against women in general that the Holy Spirit isn't given the pronoun of "she" in the bible. Most conservative Christians throughout history would cry "paganism"! at their first opportunity.

Whichever, it's clearly bias at work, in my mind.

Barry said...

Sorry, Jon and Erin - no harshness intended in my last comment, honest! Just trying to give a different viewpoint.

Erin - it's an interesting fact that the Greek word for "Spirit" is actually neuter in gender. You're quite right that it's feminine in Hebrew though. Not that the gender of a noun necessarily has any bearing on the gender of the thing to which it refers, though.

Barry said...

Erin - following that line of reasoning would lead the the Holy Spirit being referred to as "it" in New Testament terms, so which is right? Or is neither right? At this point I think we begin to see the limitations of human language when trying to describe the indescribable God.

shelly said...

Barry: The whole point of translating is, as far as possible, for the original text to be adapted so it makes sense in the target language. A completely literal translation of the Bible would be unreadable, as Hebrew and Greek idioms, syntax and grammar would make it almost impossible to understand.

To me, it's not impossible.

Both Young's Literal Translation (which you can access through and the Concordant Literal ( can read the NT online) are very literal translations of the Bible. IMO, yeah, Young's is a bit harder to read at times. On the other hand, the Concordant version is a bit more moderate.

We first seek to determine essence of word meaning; wherever possible, according to internal scriptural evidence. For each Original word, then, we assign a STANDARD English word. To facilitate a readable English translation, additional synonyms or other concordant variants are also used, as needed. In nearly all cases, any such standards, synonyms, and variants are used exclusively for a single word in the Original, thereby eliminating almost all “crosswiring” between languages. Thus a substantial formal correspondency is maintained between the original and receptor language. It is such very principles of translation themselves, together with our many years of refining our efforts according to these principles, which distinguish our work, and its results, from that of others. (from the Concordant Publishing Concern's "about" page)

Also see:

The sources for the CV and Young's, to my understanding, are the original Hebrew and Greek texts (plus, maybe, the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament translated to Greek). Most of the more common English versions went by the Latin Vulgate, which--IIRC--was written/mandated around the sixth century or so.

I use Young's and the Concordant Literal NT along with the Darby Translation (it isn't literal per se, but it's a somewhat easier read), the New King James (on occasion), and--when I want to read a passage in much plainer English, and because I love how it reads--The Message (yeah, I know). Plus, I have a copy of Strong's at the ready.

Meanwhile, I don't read the Bible all that much. I do so mostly when I'm researching something. I think it may have to do with the fact that I'm not as avid a reader as I once was (too much required reading in high school, methinks).

Erin: One example of why I think most (all?) translations have clear cultural and historic bias: The Holy Spirit is female. I have studied this since reading The Shack, because I wanted to know where Paul Young got that idea.

Aside from the passage in Genesis you cited, I'd also bring up that verse in the Gospels (can't think of the reference right now...I think it's in John somewhere) where Jesus tells the disciples (or whomever) that he had to leave the Earth and return to Heaven; otherwise, "the comforter" couldn't come to them. If you take traditional gender roles into consideration, it's usually the woman who does the comforting, not the man. Just another thought.

Erin said...

Barry - Yeah, I get it about the gender of a noun not representing the gender of the thing - I've studied romance languages.

I'm thinking, again, about first mention and the reasoning behind choosing a feminine noun "in the beginning". Because God is not male, either, yet he is given a gender...and the words that represent God, other than Yehovah, are masculine nouns.

See what I mean?

You're right that pneuma is neuter...I do wonder if this has to do with translation from Hebrew to Greek and nothing more? Or even a conscious choice, perhaps? Because they could have translated (ruach)ruwach as
pnoe, for instance, which is feminine.

However, I'm an amateur at this...and maybe it's just a "girl thing" that it bugs me.

Shelly - Although gender roles seem subjective, it's true that, especially in biblical times, gender roles were pretty well defined. So I agree.

jON said...

barry, its all good. she's just calling you out on manners. that's what women do. you should know this from being married. this is womanspeak 101 almost:

as a man, you just walked in and said, "hey, something i know about," and shared.

as a woman, she is just wishing to protect me, the host, from feeling some discomfiture at your first visit. as if you were walking into the room and saying "stop everything i have the answer!" and subconsciously she was just trying to protect me because she knows how much i LOVE people like that and wanted us to get off on the right foot and make preliminary peace just in case any feathers were ruffled in which case you might not come back and you're a cool enough guy and we'd love to have you stick around so don't go.

i know who you are through my brother's (nate) blog, defined. it's all good. its always nice to have others around who have studied.

me likey good conversation. yummy. gives me something tasty to chew on all day.

jON said...

yes, the mysterious shelly. good to see you here. i have seen you around before, but never made contact that i can recall. make yourself at home, thank you for all the information. i love learning about these things and am always interested to hear others work and research and findings and successes and failures. i welcome it all here.

michelle brought doughnuts a couple of months ago. if there's any left, they're pretty stale. people are being stingy on the snacks lately. but if i know this crowd, somewhere , right now, somebody's got some wine that i'm sure they would love to share. kari, michelle, i'm looking at you... ;-) iwhen nate show, he'll probably have whisky if you prefer. me. just some good old mountain frost. aldi's finest major citrus soda brand knock-off for $1.99 per twelve pack. it's a fscinating soda. it tastes like they wanted to hit both major american markets and make it taste somehwere in the middle between a blend of mountain dew and mello yello. is it good? i don't really care. it tastes like $1.99. and that's really about all i need it to taste like right now.

Barry said...

Cheers, Jon. I feel welcomed :o) I've added you to my feed reader so I can keep up with your postings.

Sue said...

Bibliolatry. wow. Never heard that word before. what a doozie :)