Joining a new Christian church where you aren't quite sure. Long, sorry!

(13 Posts)
pookamoo Sun 13-Jan-13 23:38:00

Not sure how to phrase my thread title really!

We have moved to a new area recently and joined a new church. DH and I were brought up in different kinds of Christian families (me C of E, him Christian Fellowship) and we have two DCs that we would like to be part of a church community with as a family.

We've found a very friendly local church, great for children and families and we've been a couple of times now. We like what we have seen so far.

However. We both (DH and I) see the Bible as a tool which can be open to interpretation. We do not believe that something that was written down and re-written and copied out and interpreted and mis-interpreted, translated and re-translated over many many years and throughout many different periods of history, can be seen as the word of law in its printed form. Even today, publishers use different words in their different editions (does that bit make sense?).

I like this new church, DD1 (4) seems to enjoy the Sunday School club, and we have found the topics of discussion interesting, socially aware and relevant, and not too "preachy" (I realise that's probably ironic!).

So would it be wrong to carry on going to this church, joining in with everything, but not agreeing with some of the leaders' lines about the bible being infallible? Does that make us hypocrites? We plan to teach our DCs that whilst there are a lot of excellent stories and things to make us think written down in the Bible, we should use it to think about our own lives and how it is relevant, and how it can be applied, not just take the printed word as fact. It is full of contradictions, which would make no sense if applied literally.

I don't think God lives in church, and I don't think the Bible is absolute. Does that make me (us, DH & I) ineligible?
Crisis of confidence really, I suppose....

Unless you have to sign a statement of belief which includes the inerrancy of scripture you aren't ineligible to join in. It sounds as if the people are lovely and welcoming and this might be the place for you at the moment. However it might be worth having a look at other churches as well to see if there is somewhere that has a more mainstream view on scripture.

pookamoo Mon 14-Jan-13 13:11:46

But isn't it "mainstream" to believe that what's written in the bible is fact? I mean, in many churches?

milkandribena Mon 14-Jan-13 13:46:37

pook If that was the case mainstream Christianity would all be young earth believers
The infallibleness of the bible means it is without error in terms of faith (inerrant is that they have no errors and only applies to the original scriptures so if you are reading KJB or the new one they could not be inerrant because they are not original)
Neither mean that it is all literal fact. being all fact would be creationism/no metaphors/that everything written is true and factual instead of somethings being a story or with a pinch of salt etc

If it suits you at the minute then stay but maybe keep your eyes open for other churches who don't seem so literal. But you don't have to believe everything your church says (I don't) but maybe on the way the bible is read it would be easier if you did. You may have to explain the different view you have to the church to your children when they are older though

The understanding of scripture that you outline pookamoo in your OP is the one that I was taught at theological college. It is a work open to interpretation because it was written in another language and in another culture. If nothing else we have to work with the different genre of myth and poetry and letters etc.

Some denominations believe that scripture is without error or cannot contain error - infailible and inerrant. You are more likely to find that view in conservative evanglical world view and although they are loud they are in the minority.

If you are going to a church that will eventually tell you that women cannot be leaders or that women cannot speak in meetings because the church leadership are unable to read Paul's letters to the early church in context, then however friendly they are, you have to make the decision about whether to stay. You have said that the church you are attending isn't preachy so maybe it is worth asking some key questions about issues that are important for you and see what they say.

pookamoo Mon 14-Jan-13 15:13:01

Thanks, all this is really helpful. It really is about time I talked about my faith, after all, I am a grownup!

My MIL believes the Word is Law, I know that. She, and my SIL are also Creationists. DH is not. One of the local faith primary schools also teaches creationism, which made us rule it out for our DCs.

The parish priest where I grew up (and who married DH & I and baptised DD1) but has now retired, had the same kind of outlook as greenheart describes. That's what I grew up with and am comfortable with. I suppose that's how I "frame" my faith.

It is how we plan to explain things to the DCs as they grow up, although I am a bit worried as to how this could come across in the Sunday School group. DD1 is already very good at the "My Mummy says..." at the most inopportune moments. grin It all depends what they tell the children.

We've only been there twice, so we will have to wait and see how it pans out. It could make for interesting discussion, but I don't like confrontation and in my experience, people with extreme religious views often do!

Oh and women definitely speak there, but I was a bit hmm at something someone said about "marriage being undermined" by today's society. The inference was connected to civil partnerships.

Gingerandcocoa Sat 19-Jan-13 21:04:02

Can I suggest you speak to your pastor / vicar about this? Hopefully this church will be accepting of people with different backgrounds & views, and if they are not, would you want to be there? Unless what you're looking for is more the community side of it, in which case maybe you'd enjoy more a more liberal church with views similar to yours.

I just think that you'd feel better if you discussed it with the leader of the church, this way you wouldn't have to be afraid of what your DC would say or if people would find out!

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sun 20-Jan-13 02:25:32

Generally a church which insists that the bible is infallible and every word of it is true is one that is also misogynistic and homophobic, however smiley its members may seem (and also most of them won't have read much of it as they are always boggled by things like prawn cocktails, wearing mixed fibres... oh and allowing your daughters to be raped so as to rack up credit with Great Pumpkin).

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 08:39:27

I think the OP is exaggerating about how much the bible has changed from the original scripture.

A translation such as the NIV was written by a team of scholars who went back to the earliest copies. They did not, for example (as your OP implies), just turn the KJV into modern language.

I think that rather than worrying too much about what it say in any particular passage, it is more important to think about God's purpose, and what it meant for his people within the context of their lives, and what it means for us in our lives.

I don't think basing church teaching on a fundamentalist view of the King James Bible is something I could go with.

I like the way it is done in our church where the preacher will say what the passage is about (basically adding in cultural background, and linking to neighbouring parts of scripture etc), how it affected the people at the time, and then extrapolating to how we should live our lives today, should we choose to. We do believe that "all scripture is god-breathed...". It would be a nonsense for us to base teaching on something we don't believe in. That would be like the foolish man building his house on the sand.

Gingerandcocoa Sun 20-Jan-13 09:29:00

I agree with GinandJag, that you either believe the Bible is all inspired by God, or you don't. What else would anyone base their beliefs on as a Christian? On a book that may or may not be true? What would your criteria be for choosing which books are true and which books have been changed??

As has been said the translations have tried to keep as close to the original manuscripts as possible, and it's also worth saying that between the thousands of manuscripts found of the Bible, the differences between them are minimal or just spelling mistakes (there are lots of books out there who can provide more info on this).

You may differ on different interpretations of what God is trying to say through the Bible, but as per my previous post in this case I'd urge you to speak to your pastor about it, as you want to base your relationship with other church members on being honest and not having to hide anything from the start...!

I'd definitely talk to the leadership and see if you feel at home with this church. We felt it was right to join a local free church after being in the Church of England for a long time. Women did lead from the front and lead worship etc but as we were just about to join we found out that the church does not have women elders or ministers. We made the decision to continue attending and to become members as it is a place that we feel very at home, and we love the people there. Having said that the equality of women is very very important to me so I am in the slightly uncomfortable position of being in a church where I don't agree with everything! But I don't think life is about just being comfortable! I also know that as I would welcome gay marriage as a new law most of my church probably would not, but that may well have been the case for my previous Anglican (Church of England) church. So it is not always possible to agree with everyone, it is just a matter of knowing what you are comfortable with! Also had I bothered to read the website before we started seriously thinking of joining I would have found out about their views on women in leadership.

Or rather knowing what you are not comfortable with but can live with!

fossil971 Sat 26-Jan-13 22:49:42

I would try and find out a bit more about the church's statement of faith and what they require of members before you get too stuck in.

We left a church rather uncomfortably after being there for several years when it turned out we had some major differences of outlook - not on the central principle of salvation, but other important issues including the role of women. There are denominations that specialise in very friendly, approachable contemporary churches but have an extremely conservative interpretation of scripture. Others are much more accepting of different views and experiences.

The Christian church is broad and I believe there is room for different intepretations but God did make us to use our conscience and common sense.

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