"Human beings almost inevitably and intuitively seek the truth of God and it comes through many sources of which the Bible is one. The truth of God, however, cannot be captured in propositional form, for it is always bigger than the human mind can embrace. Our perception of truth evolves as human consciousness expands. We claim no finite book as the literal source of truth without becoming idolaters" - John Shelby Spong
A growing number of Christians – both Protestants and Catholics – struggle with many of the traditional [and fundamental] tenets of their Christian faith. Historical church doctrine and dogma, composed centuries ago within cultures and societies that bare little resemblance to our world today, continue to direct our religious habits and lead our spiritual paths: we are taught to believe what our parents (and pastors and priests) have told us for generations. We are expected to follow the path of our ancestors: grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparnents. We are instructed to believe without doubt, without question, without analysis. Under an umbrella of perceived - and protected – "truth", we pursue instruction in creeds and dogma; we memorize prayers and Bible passages; we learn (with special emphasis) that we are never to question our religious rituals, beliefs and practices – at least not openly. And, lastly, we are taught to live under the paranoia (and fear) of dying sinful and “unsaved” [uncleansed] ... whereby we face condemnation within an eternity of hell. In the vacuum of “no questioning allowed” we are left with only two unsatisfying alternatives: i) ignore that which challenges our intellect and brings us discomfort, and (instead) simply embrace the status quo, or ii) forget religion [and G-d] entirely. Regretfully, given the prejudices and biased attitudes that dominate within many religious communities, little tolerance is shown for those who question privately … and who seek to dig deeper (and clearer). And even less tolerance is given to those who speak openly … and question some (if not many) of the beliefs of our ancestors.
We have grown-up in religious circles that teach the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. God’s Word is stamped Holy, Sacred, Above Questioning, and Beyond Debate. That which is Perfect is not to be disturbed. That which is Infallible is not to be analyzed. Our expectation is to learn the rules of faith, practice the habits of faith, and preserve the teachings of faith. DO NOT DISTURB. DO NOT TAMPER. DO NOT CORRUPT.
Yet, scripture inspires a second, closer look. Faith and reason challenge us to examine the texts of the Bible in light of our understanding of the world today. The "sins of scripture" [to borrow a phrase from Bishop John Shelby Spong] push us in a direction further away from literal interpretation: a direction that brings us to a richer, deeper and more complex, level of understanding of Scripture.