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Spirituality for the Skeptic




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BOOK OF THOMAS HAS ARRIVED!
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IGNORANT SUPERSTITION: THE ANTIDOTE

DISTINGUISHING KNOWLEDGE
FROM MERE SUPERSTITION?

Man walking on sand dunes
Profound enrichment is lost through literal interpretation.

Religious knowledge
becomes mere
superstition when
bizarre  stories
that fly in the face
of scientific knowledge
(e. g. a 5,000 year old
earth) are taken literally.  
One rationale for
literalizing obvious
myth goes something
like this: "If the 
Bible can be proven
wrong about one thing,
then why shouldn't the
whole Bible be wrong? 
So we must take
everything in it as
inerrant fact."   
 
First of all we must realize there
are two ways of attaining knowledge:
(1) through factual description. (2)
through intimate acquaintance. 
Science, with its sensitive instruments
and advanced mathematics, is the best at
finding facts and drawing descriptive
laws and predictive theories from those
facts.
 
Religion on the other hand is best at
producing deep personal acquaintance with
mysteries beyond literal fact. Such deep
acquaintance is given through the imagery
and metaphor of poetry, the morals of heart-
warming stories, the rich symbolism of
allegory with many levels of meaning.
 
So it should be obvious that Scripture
was not meant to be a scientific text in
the first place.  Those who take it to
be such do not penetrate even the surface
of its richness and depth. If  Scripture
is inerrant, it is so not in trivial
literalizations but in the ever deeper
meanings one derives from its ultimate
mysteries.  So let us now find more
precisely how  this intimate knowledge
by acquaintance works.
 
 
GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH SCRIPTURE:
 
How much of scripture was meant to be 
taken literallyin the first place? 
The part that was literal history we
can leave to the archeologists in
coordination with experts in reading
ancient scrolls and engravings. 
Beyond that the Psalms were meant to
be sung, Lamentations were meant
to be chanted, books like Daniel and
Revelation were meant to be
interpreted symbolically. Even many
of the prophecies were spoken from
ecstatic visions - e. g. Ezekiel's
Allegory of the Dry Bones (Ezek.37).
In fact prophets like Ezekiel were
sometimes overwhelmed by visions for
days (e. g. Ezek.3:12-15;8:1-14; 
11;1).  Also many prophices were in
the formof dreams. (1 Kings 19:58;
Job 4:12-16;  Jer. 23:28-29)  Moreover,
some Hebrew scholars believe the Old
Testament is rife with numerological
symbolism with many levels of meaning.
(See the book. Biblical Numerology by
J. J. Daves.)
 
In the New Testament, the apostles themselves
spoke in tongues that needed interpretation.
(Acts 2:1-13;  1 Cor. 14)  And Jesus himself
said he spoke all things in parables.  (Mtt.
13:35)  In fact in the New Testament 
the morals to the stories were considered
important, not the literal descriptions of
events.
 
So you would lose untold inspiration by 
interpreting these songs, verses, parables,
symbols, and ecstatic expressions literally.
Moreover, the more knowledge and life's
experience you yourself bring to Scripture,
the more inspiration and intimate knowledge
you will retrieve from it.  Biblical
inerrancy is not literal inerrancy. It was
never meant to be.
 
Finally it must be understood that because
Scripture is composed of many different books
from different eras, and that revelations
came through imperfect vehicles called human
beings, it cannot help containing self-
contradictions when literally interpreted.
(See the classic, Self-Contradictions ofthe
Bible by W. H. Burr.)  So it takes Biblical
and historical knowledge to trace each strain
of meaningto its source, and its evolution
or devolution in later writings.
 
When finding different meanings in Scripture
it would do well to ask yourself:  Which would
be the most relevant meaning today?  How would
the original writer express this knowledge if
he or she were living today? In this way we
have a living Bible relevant to today's
problems and events.
 
As far as faith being blind is concerned -
in our post modern era, even reason and
experience must now be based on faith; but
in this case faith that is enlightened, not
blind.
 

What is God?

THE BOOK OF THOMAS THE DOUBTER

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