Several months ago, this simple sentence showed up on my Facebook feed.
"I believe that the Bible is the living word of God."
It seemed to just sit there all by itself. Nothing before or after provided any type of clue as to what triggered my Facebook friend to write it. Nevertheless, I stopped what I was doing and sat on top of that sentence and just thought about it. Maybe it's because the God piece has always been the only part of the puzzle I found difficult to squeeze into my less than tidy life. I suspect we all come to this place at one time or another. In my case, I have been there more than once.
The truth is that I never bought into all the Sunday school stories of Moses in the wicker basket floating in the Nile River, Noah's Ark, Adam and Eve, and the big daddy in the sky who seemed to enjoy throwing lightning bolts at his precious creation [us] when we didn't obey him. Equally mind-numbing to me, is to view God as an accomplice in human cruelty as if he is cheering on one team against the other. Aren't we all part of the great creation?
So, when I started studying the Bible a couple years ago, I admit that I didn't have an open mind. My primary objection was very simple. How can I be expected to deify and follow some being that is so petty and mean-spirited? Yes, acts of grace are shown, but can that make up for all the wrath and carnage? That's the frame of mind I came in with when I went to my first Bible class. Admittedly, I have changed since then, and for the time being, I think I have a handle on the God piece.
God exists. I haven't figured out exactly where, but I'm fairly certain it's not in the sky. My hunch is that if we can keep an open mind, we can see God in everything. The Bible tells about God in a series of stories about how man got here and what God expects us to do while we are alive. Of course, these books were written so long ago, and we all know that in many cases they have been edited to fit the beliefs of the editor. Then there's the argument that the people who wrote the books were at a particular point in human evolution that was fairly primitive. The sacrifices of animals, the smiting of several generations for non-believers, and other laws of the Old Testament made sense back in the day when Hebrews were trying to establish an identity apart from the other idol worshipers. Now though, when lamb's blood is smeared over your doorway it isn't much appreciated in covenant controlled neighborhoods, and I have yet to see anyone in my neighborhood try that during Passover.
Yet the stories of the Bible still have a ring of familiarity. Jealousy, adultery, guilt, betrayal, and uncertainty have and always will be part of the human experience. We empathize with the people in the Bible because in a very primal way they were much like us. But they are not us. We live in a very different time period. So, all we can do to understand them is to try and look at them through their lens, not ours.
I have put the Biblical version of God in a different perspective, and have given myself license to see GOD through my own eyes and experiences. After all, it just comes down to my own relationship to God, and as long as I'm not judging others and damming them to Hell, I'm sure God is OK with it.
My view of God is simple. If there is a source of the most beautiful energy that we can see and feel which transcends our earthly existence, than the essence of that energy is God. Neither male nor female, this being refuses to be named and described. "I Am Who I am. I Am has sent me to you."
I have seen God in the face of people who have been beat down so much it seems like they wouldn't be able to hold their head up on their shoulders, but somehow their head is high and proud. Just how does one do that on one's own?
I have seen God in great people who have used their foresight, wisdom and courage to make dramatic changes in how we view our self and others. I'm fairly certain these people have been touched by God.
I have seen miracles.
Years ago, when my partner was dying of AIDS, he would tell me, "I sat with [Jesus] last night. He laid here in bed with me. He told me it's alright."
After these encounters, a peace came over Robert that sometimes lasted for weeks. A once anxious soul could relax, which was something his doctors and I could never do for him.
So, there is something greater than ourselves that is at work in this universe. I can feel it. I am not at all unique in this thought because I know other people who think like me. We can see and appreciate all of God's creations.
Probably the smartest observation an Israeli theologian shared with me is that God and humans are in a constant state of change. We grow together on a continuum of enlightenment. Mistakes are made on both our parts, but we are always moving forward. The God of the Bible has changed along with us. Maybe The Flood happened, maybe it didn't. We will never know, and at this point it is unimportant. What matters is that we give God credit for getting smarter as time moves on. Most of us have changed for the better, why not allow God to have done the same?
Is the Bible the living word of God? I think it might have been centuries ago but we live in a different time now.
I'm still studying the Bible and trying to figure things out. For me there is still a big difference between the God of the Bible and the God I have come to understand through personal experiences. Does more scripture need to be added to the Bible? For me and others like me, God is still that piece of the puzzle that doesn't always fit exactly in the right place.