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Taking religious stories literally?

(22 Posts)
FML25 Fri 22-Jul-11 10:37:45

I guess this is aimed at parents more than kids. I don't know what happened at The Resurrection. I don't see how we can know now. I do know some other factual stories where a situation seemed as bad as it could get, with lots of coercion and corruption and cruelty in it, and "magically" something very good emerged. "The Railway Man" is one example, another is "Dibs In Search Of Self". I call these resurrection stories, and because of them I feed off the story of the resurrection: a very good man was cruelly killed because of the cowardice and buckpassing of the powerful, and out of that came a hope that spread around the world.

FML25 Fri 22-Jul-11 10:38:54

I mean a hope of people being kinder to one another!

hiddenhome Fri 22-Jul-11 15:38:42

All Bible stories contain a truth regardless of whether or not they actually took place.

People concern themselves too much with whether or not it actually happened and should instead look to the meaning and purpose of why the story is there.

FML25 Fri 22-Jul-11 17:21:21

I would, I'm afraid, say that Not all Bible stopries contain a truth. The Bible theme that is most problematic is that if you are godly enough God will keep you safe. False false false, and damaging. What may be true is that if you are godly enough you will get a sense of safety that will keep you calm in appalling circumstances...

inkyfingers Fri 22-Jul-11 19:00:23

FML - I know what you mean and it is problematic. What I think the biggest truth is that being 'Godly enough' means that God will keep you safe through death (and suffering and illness leading up to it if that's the case). He didn't keep his most Godly Son at all safe (crucifixion) because he had a bigger intention for the world, and that's the problem with the idea that being a Christian gives an easy life; something I keep reminding myself/struggling with.

inkyfingers Fri 22-Jul-11 19:10:50

Going back to your original post, what is the hope that spread around the world? Bad and cruel things haven't stopped happening. Do you mean an optimism about human nature; that people don't have to be cowardly, cruel etc? Because that isn't what the Bible is about at all.

FML25 Fri 22-Jul-11 19:49:41

Inkyfingers: I cd make a case from Luke that Jesus was progressively finding out, and the apostles found out more, than one cannot afford to be clannish with one's kind acts: they have to be done to strangers, refugees, criminals, The Most Unpopular Person.. Not a uniquely Christian insight, I grant you (and present in the Old Testament in all the injunctions about how to treat the resident alien), but jolly necessary, and if adhered to then spreading a real hope.

inkyfingers Fri 22-Jul-11 21:38:30

I agree that it's a big theme across old and new testaments, and one we can't ever say, as a society, that we've 'cracked' - it's often conveniently ignored. I don't take all Bible stories literally (Jonah & the whale?!), but I do for the resurrection; everything Jesus said and did in his life (eg raising of Lazarus after dead 3 days) points to his own. To me it's key to all main theological beliefs of Christianity. I know many people say it's 'impossible' but then it's a definition of God (omnipotent, 'impossible' to fully understand, has supernatural powers - precisely, he's God, not human). If it didn't happen then I wonder what is God saying through Jesus, or more crudely 'what's the point of God?'

I like it that we both 'feed' off the story and gives inspiration.

NotJustKangaskhan Sat 23-Jul-11 12:53:05

"The Bible theme that is most problematic is that if you are godly enough God will keep you safe. " I would disagree that this is a Biblical theme - the most devout tend to get the most trouble poured on them, and it more likely than not does not end up in the happy ending for most of the people. Most of the Torah (OT if you must, though Jewish Bible is more used these days) are more about trusting G-D through the horrible, doing what is right even in the most horrid circumstances, as G-D knows the bigger picture and wants us to push to succeed in improving this world rather than belief in G-D as an automatic key in keeping one safe.

DBennett Sat 23-Jul-11 19:36:57

"I don't take all Bible stories literally, but I do for the resurrection"

This isn't specifically a question for inkyfingers but how do you decide which parts of the bible are metaphor/parable and which ones are literal truth?

imgonnaliveforever Sun 24-Jul-11 21:34:44

"I don't take all Bible stories literally, but I do for the resurrection"

This isn't specifically a question for inkyfingers but how do you decide which parts of the bible are metaphor/parable and which ones are literal truth?"

Some bits of the bible are not even claiming to be true, whereas others are.

Jesus told parables, for example about a good samaritan. It's unlikely that there really was a good samaritan, and it doesn't matter either way cos the story is told to teach us a lesson, not to teach us historical facts. Similarly, parts of the old testament are stories with a lesson, rather than historical truths.

However, much of the bible claims to be history, including the accounts of jesus' life in the new testament. I don't think we can pick and choose which of these we believe, especially with regard to the resurrection.

The resurrection is central to Christian belief (if you don't believe in it then you're not Christian - that's what separates Christian belief from jewish/muslim/sikh, etc.) Christians believe that the resurrection actually achieved something - because of jesus' death and resurrection our wrongdoings can be forgiven. If the resurrection isn't true, then Christianity is meaningless.

MaryBS Mon 25-Jul-11 07:50:11

Actually, Jesus is what separates Christian belief from other beliefs. I don't think you can say that "unless you believe in the resurrection you cannot be a Christian", although I do indeed believe in a literal resurrection. Jesus never said "unless you believe I rose from the dead", he said "Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.".

The reason I make this point is that people are often on a faith journey, and to be told "you can't be a Christian because you don't believe in x" is immensely offputting! Quite recently someone said to me (she was talking of someone else) "you can't be a Christian because you don't believe in the Trinity", and it put off someone who was exploring faith and what he believed (I hope, not for good!).

tuffie Mon 25-Jul-11 19:05:31

Excellent point MaryBS.

imgonnaliveforever Mon 25-Jul-11 19:35:21

Mary, I partly agree with you, but it's not just Jesus that makes Christianity different. Jews, Muslims and some of the eastern religions recognise Jesus as a historical figure and a prophet, it's only Christians who believe 1. he is God and 2. he rose from the dead 3. by dying and rising again he allows us into relationship with God.

I completely agree with you about the dangers of saying that to be a Christian you have to believe x, y and z. There is loads of difference among Christians in many areas. However, I think it's also very dangerous to say that you don't have to have ANY specific beliefs to be a Christian. That makes the term Christian completely meaningless and allows people to attribute all sorts of dodgy beliefs to Christianity (the man responsible for the Norway shootings stated on his facebook page that his religion was Christianity. He was also a neo-Nazi)

MargotQuaker Sun 31-Jul-11 17:33:04

It may be safer, instead of saying To be a Christian you have to believe XYZ, to say To be a Christian you have to do XYZ. (It does however invite the poster comment, "If you were charged with being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?") Eg be patient and supportive even to people who are a thorough pain, groan.

MargotQuaker Sun 31-Jul-11 17:33:56

Actually I think a Buddhist would have to try to do that too.

newlark Wed 03-Aug-11 10:48:21

Margot - the thing that makes Christianity different from other religions is that we accept that nothing we can do will make us right with God - we cannot earn our salvation by keeping rules or behaving according to a paricular moral code but only though grace by trusting in and accepting Jesus as your saviour (though this should lead to good works etc as we try to become more like Jesus in our daily lives).

JohannaM Sat 06-Aug-11 00:36:36

FML25 "a very good man was cruelly killed because of the cowardice and buckpassing of the powerful."

This precisely demonstrates the propagandist stories contained within the NT. Jesus of Nazareth wasn't killed because of any "buckpassing" or "cowardice". To put it quite simply, he was executed for sedition and inciting rebellion against the ruling power.

JohannaM Sat 06-Aug-11 00:41:37

Oh and point of information, the two central tenets of Christianity, namely the Eucharist and the Resurrection are first mentioned by Paul of Tarsus. It therefore seems extremely probable that both events were his constructions.

MargotQuaker Sat 06-Aug-11 10:40:05

Johanna, re why Jesus was killed: I guess it depends which Gospel you weigh most heavily. Is it John that says Pilate tried quite hard to get out of killing Jesus but gave in in the end? and the Temple authorities were certainly motivated in part by thinking they wd get into worse trouble with the Romans if they did not hand over Jesus. That's why I say cowardice and buckpassing, tho I agree the charge was sedition. Warmest wishes, Margot

MargotQuaker Sat 06-Aug-11 10:42:16

Newlark: I respect your formulation tho I don't share it. I hope there is a Judgment of sorts, but I think there is not a damnation and therefore not a salvation in that sense. What we need saving from, as the world seems to me, is not damnation but despair; and Jesus is one of those, but not the only one, who saves us from that.

JohannaM Sat 06-Aug-11 13:31:02

MargotQuaker: I think you are in danger of assuming that the NT Gospels are verbatim historical accounts. They aren't.

People today are not aware of the complexity of social attitudes within the Roman world. There were completely different law-codes for citizens and those who were not (see Acts 22:25). Best wishes!

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