GOD: Right after two heavy sessions what do you want to clear up?
TERRY: Freewill and the literal authenticity of Holy Scripture. They seem to be connected.
GOD: How do you see that?
TERRY: Well unless you over-ride human freewill, then you cannot force anyone to write exactly what you might wish them to write.
GOD: Yes that puts it pretty clearly.
TERRY: I have long realised that you do not (I won't say cannot) over-ride anyone's freewill. If you could then you could force everyone to act according to your perfect will; so that they could all go to Paradise, Heaven or Nirvana, or whatever is on offer.
GOD: That is right; we do not compel people to be religious. We are also glad that you avoided saying we cannot do something, you should not pin us down as being even partly impotent. From your point of view we can do what we chose.
TERRY: In addition to not forcing scribes to write perfect scripts, I have also long realised that the meaning of any holy writing would inevitably change with customs, culture, language and understanding (to say nothing of education). With all these uncertainties I have always interpreted the bible allegorically.
GOD: So far, so good. What happened when you were asked you to read that book about biblical inerrancy?
TERRY: The book made me suspicious, then angry and then bemused. Especially the bit about when the scripture and science disagree then the scriptural explanation must be taken as correct.
GOD: You said you were angry; why was this?
TERRY: Hmmm, that is a hard question. I felt threatened by people who do not take my logical approach to scripture.
GOD: Why should they? There is no logic in spiritual matters. If fundamentalists chose to believe the bible this literally and promote their ideas, why do you feel so superior that you must oppose them? You nearly had us saying that these people were idolatrous in their approach to the bible. Fortunately you didn’t misquote us, as we can endorse our supposed objection to anyone treating “inspired texts in an idolatrous fashion”.
TERRY: Fair enough, I take your point. Idols are objects that people pray to, offer food and money to etc. and I must admit that I have never seen anyone offering anything to a bible.
GOD: Good point. However, there is a deeper problem that still troubles you.
TERRY: Yes, did you really order the genocide of Canaanites by the Jewish tribes?
GOD: Well what does text of the Old Testament say?
TERRY: Well it says that you ordered the complete annihilation of the Canaanites because of their abominable worship practices; later described as child sacrifice. But this doesn't seem right to me; after all if you don't intervene to rescue children when they are molested, why should you send in human troops to prevent child sacrifices when in so doing they wipe out the victims?
GOD: Do you suggest that it would have been easier for us to wipe out those people with a natural disaster or catastrophic plague?
TERRY: Yes, why get a bunch of misfits, whom the bible shows were almost totally unreliable and get them to do your judgemental dirty work?
GOD: Good point, did you notice who told the Israelites to carry out genocide?
TERRY: Yes it was Moshe (Moses), later Y'hoshua (Joshua) and then Sh'mu'el (Samuel). It is quite possible that these people may have got your message confused and spoken wrongly on your behalf. These statements may have been actually said, but it wasn't you that said them. This would make the biblical account true and would leave the inerrantists with a defensible position.
But why defend unnecessary propositions? I can happily read the bible and tell myself that this is best available history of the time; although it was written down hundreds of years later (like all ancient histories). I am convinced that when these later writers realised they were writing about genocide they couldn't help creating explanations that made these despicable actions seem plausible.
GOD: So you are suggesting that the original leaders or the later scribes could have been biased and emotional, despite our firm efforts to inspire them?
TERRY: Yes, no human is perfect. I recently heard a wise saying that sums up the scribe's position. We don't see reality as it is: we see reality as we are. No matter what ideas you put into our heads we can only understand and interpret these things in terms of familiar concepts.
GOD: What you say seems sensible; to you. But we are less impressed. You admit that you read about inerrancy and became "angry", "bemused" (we would say confused) and "felt threatened".
TERRY: Well that is how I recall what happened.
GOD: Are these desirable spiritual attitudes?
GOD: You read the bible history and make firm conclusions about what you read. Are these conclusions essential for a spiritual viewpoint?
GOD: Does spiritual understanding require logical proof?
GOD: If some people decide they want to read the bible and contemplate spiritual mysteries in their own way; are they wrong?
TERRY: I guess not.
GOD: Why do you think we are taking you through this?
TERRY: Because anger and argument have torn your church apart from it's earliest times. We were told to love each other not argue with each other.
GOD: At last we are starting to understand each other. Critical judgement should never, ever, be clouded by anger or self righteous indignation; this leads all too easily to sin. Criticism should always be helpful and constructive; because as you know it so hard to receive.
At the same time spiritual judgement must lead to compassion not anger and hatred. There is a well known saying that we 'love the sinner but hate the sin'; it sounds holy and plausible but it is wrong and misleading. We are compassionate to all and we despair of, rather than hate, the way most people abuse their world and themselves.
TERRY: At last I am starting to feel that I understand you. For so long I have been looking for you with a 'dirty mirror'.
GOD: Having reached this critical understanding we will end the interview. We want you to spend time thinking over what you have just discovered. As you are now starting to learn, meditation is about clearing your mind of prejudices, not reflecting on how you can reinforce them.
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