As many who know me can attest, I’ve done a fair bit of personal research into the Bible. Obviously, I have a set of opinions, presuppositions, etc. that differ with much of the received wisdom our forefathers in faith passed down. I have had many struggles with what I’ve come to believe and not to believe. Most of it has to do with the fact that much of what I was taught as a Christian is built on a set of presuppositions or faith, depending on your point of view, that when exposed to “the facts”, came crashing down. As a youngster, I believed in the divine inspiration of an author whole wrote down a message and that this was basically in chronological order from Genesis until Revelation when God basically “stopped” inspiring people. He was finished and the Book complete.
Imagine my shock as I learned about the true order of writings: first Paul’s letters, then the Gospel Mark, then Matthew/Luke, and finally John. Or that these books were not written by the “traditional author” but arose out of an oral tradition which spurred people to subsequently put word to paper, except of course for Paul’s epistles which are letters by definition. I remember the day quite clearly, when I asked Father Gabe about Gospel authorship. We had come to that point in our Church history class which discusses that era in history just after Jesus’ death and the our faith movement began to pick up steam in the Roman Empire. We learned about oral tradition and then after some decades (60 years in the case of the Gospel of John) this tradition was written down. This hit me like a ton of bricks.
I raised my hand and asked Father to confirm if I had understood correctly what he had said. When he did so and casually moved on, I was completely devastated. To add insult on to injury, I found out that there other books, such as the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas, that were not included. I asked who made the decision to “leave these out,” and was told the decision makers were the bishops of the day. I can tell you as God as my ever-faithful witness, that I would not wish that kind of shake up on my worst enemy. Everything I believed was rocked to the very core. I had been doing Bible study with my Protestant “friends” to sharpen my understanding at the time, so I held the Bible in high esteem. I went home that day feeling like I believed in a lie, an engineered lie at that.
Thank God, I had Jesus, though. Thank God, Almighty. I picked myself up and kept right on learning. I figured I had to rebuild what I had lost. So I set about the task of building my faith from the starting point that Jesus is real, that he loves me, and died for me. The details I would have to work out for myself. After some years, I decided that I would begin to attack the problem systematically. I would argue with other Christians, but in a really sloppy, assertion-without-proof manner. I just spoke from the heart, but I tired of this and decided I would also speak from my mind.
So, the first thing was to examine exactly what the real deal was with the Bible. I went to Barnes and Noble and bought me a New American Bible and read and read and read. I also started buying books on who wrote the Bible and when and how and sometime even why. I sought answers about this Book that governs so much in people’s lives. What were it’s origins? I wasn’t going to believe that inspired clap trap anymore. I set about proving (or disproving) what was or wasn’t the Word of God. This was a fool’s errand, since there is little that can really be proven. They don’t call it faith for nothing folks!
These days I’m at the point where provisionality is the rule of the day. I believe and love hard, but I try to keep an open mind and heart to what others believe and love, my Christian bretheren in particular. That and an abiding faith in a God who has yet to abandon me in the shadow of the Valley of Death, gives me the strength to keep The Faith.