Monthly Archives: March 2016

Lent 2016 summary

So… this is my first scheduled post in awhile. At this point of time I should (hopefully) be on a flight out of the country for the Easter long weekend – a little ironic that I’ve elected to take a vacation over this period, given that I’m supposed to be concentrating more on God; but that’s just the way it is with limited vacation days and opportunities to get away, I suppose.

Hopefully this entire faith-related blog series makes up for it! Perhaps I’d started it subconsciously with this weekend in mind, haha…

Well, I’d hoped to reflect more on my faith these few weeks and I’ve certainly managed to do that – at the same time, I don’t think all that much progress was made. I’ve ended up re-examining old doubts; doubt that have been around since my unofficial (re-)confirmation a decade ago, and even before that, truth be told.

To recap, this Lent I wrote on:

So I’ve ended up writing on a whole bunch of doubts – I’m in no way discounting the religion, there are just many things I’ve not figured out yet. If anyone reading this has any thoughts, I certainly welcome any discourse on any of the above topics!

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Who is this Paul anyway?

Probably_Valentin_de_Boulogne_-_Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles_-_Google_Art_Project

This is a follow-up to the post on biblical canon, I suppose. I’ve always wondered about the place of Paul’s epistles in the Bible – why exactly are they there? My (simplistic) line of reasoning in questioning this is that the Old Testament was accepted by Jesus, and most of the New Testament is supposed to be a historical record of the time of Jesus and writings by his apostles – where does Paul fit into this? Sure, he writes rather detailed theology, but what separates him from any other author who does this, such as C. S. Lewis?

Even putting aside disputes over their authorship, the main reason Paul is in the Bible is that he is regarded as an apostle like the original twelve, albeit appointed by Jesus only after his (Jesus’s) death. His miraculous conversion was recorded in the Acts of the Apostles – written by Luke, an associate – perhaps disciple – of Paul’s. Peter (bona fide apostle – arguably Jesus’s appointed lieutenant) apparently referred to Paul’s writings as scripture – this point might have convinced me if not for the fact that the New Testament canon did not exist then and Peter was clearly not referring to the Hebrew bible (Old Testament), which would have been a closed canon then. Did he have another intended meaning for the original Greek word? Did he, perhaps, simply mean that they were useful for instruction, just as many of today’s bible commentaries are?

I am making a number of assumptions here, but in the absence of actual knowledge, I find it difficult to simply accept the veracity of all these claims, and the scriptural status of his letters – and in so doing (effectively) offer up my life to be guided by those writings.

Biblical Canon

Torah_and_jad

(I feel fairly certain that I’ve written on this matter before, but can’t seem to find it anywhere, so guess I’ll just churn out a 2016 edition this week…)

This is pretty much a continuation of the post on Sola Scriptura, where I explained why I don’t think it’s a good idea to lead your life solely by one’s interpretation of the Bible. Here, I step closer to heresy by elaborating on one reason why I’m not entirely convinced that the Bible is God’s inerrant message to mankind – biblical canon.

For those not so familiar with the development of the Christian biblical canon, here’s my summarised version:

  • The Old Testament comprises a bunch of books accepted as scripture during Jesus’s day (also ratified by the Jews as the Hebrew Bible). The assertion made is that Jesus had accepted these books as true, so we should do likewise.
  • The New Testament comprises books that were generally accepted as canon by various churches (this wasn’t really universal until sometime around the 4th-5th century (e.g. the Book of Revelation only became universally accepted around 419 AD).

Proponents of Sola Scriptura seem to like to gloss over the centuries of uncertainty and lack of universal agreement on biblical canon (which, incidentally, continues till this day), and the common belief seems to be that the canon had been fixed by apostles like Paul, Peter and John. That seems to me to be completely ignoring what had happened in practice, as well as the need for men to come together and make decisions on which books to keep and which to leave out. There are others who argue that this is merely part of God’s plan, that the internally consistent canon we have today is proof of His hand at work – but to me, this just shows that internal consistency was likely a criteria that men used in their decision-making.

For me, the greatest exemplification of this inconsistency that holds true even today is that of the Catholic and Protestant Old Testament canons – the Catholic version includes additional books viewed as canonical that Protestants do not share. Apparently, the Greek version was in common usage during Jesus’s day would have included these books, and the Catholic theory is that’s the version Jesus would have referred to as ‘scripture’. There are various other differences in canons among different Christian traditions, but to me this specific one is a simple example of a jarring difference between two rather sizeable groups of Christians.

If God was truly behind the selection of books to be included in the biblical canon, would there not be greater uniformity in its present state? Even if he was, and the variant forms are corruptions of his intended message, that is to me even more worrying – should I just take for granted that the version I am holding is the correct intended form?

There are other reasons I have for wondering about the inerrancy of the Bible, but the uncertainty about biblical canon is probably my biggest bugbear. So my personal stance is that the Bible is a useful document for understanding God (for Christians, it would probably be the first point of reference). But as something to be accepted as gospel truth? I need a little more convincing, for that.

(Intermission) On Job

So I’ve missed a week updating the series, and rather than totally miss a post, I thought I’d just publish something I’d recently shared via Facebook.

Misery – The New Yorker

Currently reading the Book of Job and this article reflects many of my own thoughts triggered in the process. Even putting claims of textual problems aside, I find its core message to be rather difficult to understand, stomach and accept.