This post is brought to you by Theology Thursdays – simply one variation of Jenn-story. Don’t worry. It’s just on Thursdays now.
Before my parents thought I was emotionally sturdy enough to handle watching Fiddler on the Roof, let alone both halves of it, when it aired on television on Thanksgiving and the night after, respectively, I was already able to quote songs and dialogue from it. My parents were right to shelter me from it for a while, too; when I finally did see the whole thing, I sobbed my eyes out–and loved it from the bottom of my heart. It probably helped, though, that they had been quoting Tevyeh for years before that. One of the best things about Tevyeh was his running monologue with God and his quotes from the Good Book. The line my parents always laughed about was when he starts telling God Himself what the Good Book says:Tonight a group of my classmates and I are going to be engaging in a debate about the Good Book. The Good Book including the bit that Tevyeh wouldn’t have acknowledged, where the Messiah has already appeared and stuff. Our class spans two campuses, and so last night our debate team had a conference call to talk about our arguments. We’re the first debaters in the class and some of us (such as myself), while we may have argued before, have never debated a day in our lives. To complicate things, some of us have to argue a position we don’t even hold. The students from the New England campus are arguing that the Bible, while it may have been inspired, wasn’t inspired in every detail, nor is it without error. The students from the D.C. campus are arguing a more orthodox view.
Interestingly and refreshingly perhaps, I am the only non-Latino white person in this group. One of our texts for class made this interesting observation:
. . . the African-American church tended rather reflexively to acknowledge and therefore submit to the Bible as the word of God. The debates over inerrancy largely played out in white American Christianity. It’s not that the African-American church took inerrancy lightly. On the contrary, African-American Christianity had such a firm sense of biblical authority that the challenges to inerrancy that flourished in many places on the American church landscape never even gained a hearing (Nichols & Brandt).
This is proving to be true in our group. One of the African-American women said, “I thought these were arguments from a long time ago–like, not more recently than the beginning of last century. I didn’t realise people were still talking about this today.”
Oh yes. We in the white church, not content to take anything at face value, particularly not something which we have so taken into our culture that we mistakenly think that thing is white, are definitely still talking about this. In Now Church, Pastor Ron and I would both say we believe the Bible–even that it’s God’s Word–but what we mean when we say that is something often entirely different from the other person’s meaning.
Our Latino brother in the group, who is helping to argue against the idea that the Bible has no mistakes in it, said last night, “I feel kind of guilty arguing from this perspective. Like–I feel bad even saying this stuff.” Which sentiment not only highlights his belief in the Bible as the exact Word of God, but also kind of exhibits why: if he, a mere human being, doesn’t want to say anything false, surely God Himself wouldn’t have spoken words of error.
As for me, well–I’m white, and I’m in a primarily white semi-liberal church, and I have “progressive” (that’s the new thing now, right–it’s not “emergent” anymore?) Christian blogging friends whose opinions and insights I value, and I’ve recently been in discussions about the nature of the Bible with some of these friends because, in spite of my new classmate’s surprise, for some of us, it is still a live topic. Tonight I will be arguing from these progressive friends’ perspectives, but I’m finding that, rather than feeling guilty for saying this stuff out loud, I’m feeling clarity. Somehow saying them with my mouth is highlighting to me that these arguments miss the mark in a lot of ways. I understand the critical thinking and quite often the genuine compassion that fuel these arguments against plenary inspiration and total inerrancy, but . . . I’m finding that bringing them into the light of day makes them look a little shabbier than they did when they were just batting around my head.
Wanna know why? Engage me in the comments. Debate me. I’m not very good at it, but it could be fun.