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Religious texts and seemingly picking and choosing

(104 Posts)
JazzAnnNonMouse Sat 05-Oct-13 20:22:32

I can't help but notice lots of the religious people i know (largely Christian but not all) seem to pick and choose which bits of their religious texts they follow.

For example in the bible there are many examples which just don't fit with society values today but my question is: who told you you could choose which bits to follow..? Wouldn't you try and follow all the rules? If not, why?

I'm sorry if I'm not putting this across right, it's difficult to think of the right words to not sound rude! grin

AMumInScotland Sun 06-Oct-13 16:58:24

The Bible is not a book of "Rules" it is a collection of books which were written at different times, by different people, for different purposes. Therefore what interpretation you put on any piece will depend on a lot of context.

The biggest one is that the Old Testament was 'superceded' by the New Testament, when Jesus came to earth and gave us a new way of looking at God and religion. So Christians will put far more weight on the New Testament than the Old Testament, specially where the two have very different viewpoints (eg dietary laws vs 'it's what comes out of your mouth not what goes into it that matters')

But even in the NT, you have to remember that the books were written for different audiences and different situations - the epistles were letters written to specific churches, and often part of a stream of correspondence where this is the only bit we still have. So you have to interpret what the situation there was and why the writer was maybe giving advice - eg 'women should keep quiet in church' may well have been in response to a comment about the women 'chatting' during the service, not an overall 'for all people at all times' rule.

So, there are a lot of good reasons why Christians can't treat it as a 'just ollow the rules' kind of book.

Additionally, of course, people are biased and think some bits are more important because they fit their own opinions - there's a great 'letter' that gets copid online about homosexuality being sinful because of certain OT passages, but the ones around it are about not mising fibres in clothes, not eating milk with meat, etc - which the same readers don't pay as much attention to.

niminypiminy Sun 06-Oct-13 21:57:22

What AMuminScotland said. The Bible isn't primarily and book of rules - if it's mainly anything it's a book of stories. There are the kind of stories that we call myths -- stories that were never intended to be taken literally -- and stories that we call history (although they were written by people with very different ideas about what history was all about than we have), and stories that we call biography (though again written with a very different idea about what a biography might be than we have). There's a lot of poetry in the Bible, and sayings, and there are writings where people try to tell people what's going on in the world in symbolic terms. And running through it all is a great mega-story of how God has reached out towards human beings, and how human beings have understood what God is trying to say to them.

ColdFusion Mon 07-Oct-13 17:28:45

Context is rather important.

A good rule for reading the bible is to think about what the passage says, what the message is within its own cultural context, and what it means in our lives today.

It should be read prayerfully and mindful of the character of God, and in the company of other Christians, of possible (face to face or via commentaries) as the Christian faith is about relationships.

lisad123everybodydancenow Mon 07-Oct-13 17:31:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 19:48:47

It should be read prayerfully and mindful of the character of God, and in the company of other Christians, of possible (face to face or via commentaries) as the Christian faith is about relationships.

And yet you still have very distinct sects within Christianity. How come with this process you're not all 'on the same page' as it were?

I've got a better idea. How about god edits the bible and makes it clear what bits are for 2013 and so on. That'd make sense? Why muddle it all together which leads to many many different interpretations?

niminypiminy Mon 07-Oct-13 20:28:30

headinhands: as I know you've been told before, God did not write the Bible. Why are there so many interpretations? Because all texts are capable of multiple interpretations -- that's the nature of language.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 21:02:28

Okay, so why would god use a method of communication that is so open to abuse? Why would god inspire men to write such an ambiguous text? Why didn't Jesus just write the NT himself or at least dictate it clearly and concisely. If you're going to say it's written by men as an excuse for the contradictions how do you then know what is to be taken literally other than your own bias, which is what every other Christian does and hence comes to wildly different interpretations. And god knew all this! He knew that his message to earth would be vague, contradictory, ambiguous and downright offensive in places.

timidviper Mon 07-Oct-13 21:15:46

There is no method of communication that isn't open to abuse though is There headinhands. You have only to look at the news and how stories are spun by the media to see that. Add to that the fact that the Bible was not dictated word for word but was "breathed"

I wish I knew more of the Bible so I could quote relevant verses but I don't so I rely more on what I think Jesus would do or want. Not infallible but I think it works for me.

To a point though this is asking for definite answers which is like wanting proof and that does not tie in well with having faith

technodad Mon 07-Oct-13 21:26:36

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 07-Oct-13 21:30:09

Head, I can't think of any system that isn't open to abuse. Can you tell me which medium (IYO) is?

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 22:10:21

So this god who's so powerful that he created a universe with just words, a universe so vast that inconceivably large stars would float like specs of dust caught in a sunbeam, and this same god couldn't think of a better system than the same one fallible sinful men would use. He chose a way that would make it look like all the other religions. That defies logic sorry.

headinhands Mon 07-Oct-13 22:16:19

so I rely more on what I think Jesus would do or want. Not infallible but I think it works for me.

And I suspect that's exactly what the op was driving at. What you think Jesus would do can be very different to someone else who is using their own same set of reasoning. If he trusts us to use our reasoning to determine what he wants then doesn't that do away with the need for the bible? Someone unthread said that god put his ideals in our hearts anyway, why give us a book that often requires us to suspend that supposed god given set of values? Isn't that a very very dangerous system?

ColdFusion Tue 08-Oct-13 05:17:51

Are you a Christian, head?

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 06:16:56

If I am, I'm doing a really shit job smile

crescentmoon Tue 08-Oct-13 06:56:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FavoriteThings Tue 08-Oct-13 09:16:12

headinhands. The hatred that you have for God is understandable. But God wont keep on ignoring what you are doing on mumsnet.

FavoriteThings Tue 08-Oct-13 09:18:03

op. I completely agree with you.

1919 Tue 08-Oct-13 09:51:49

Favouritethings - assuming headinhands is an atheist, it seems absurd to claim that atheists hate God when the very definition of atheism is not believing in God. You are essentially an atheist with regards to every other God that humankind has proposed, does this mean that you hate Thor?
An atheist does not feel threatened by a supposed authority which they do not believe exists, however this kind of scaremongering is exactly why I view Christianity negatively. Are you saying that thinking critically and rationally and questioning belief is frowned upon by God and is therefore bad? This makes no sense if that same God created us with the faculty of reason and frankly demonstrates a petty, unforgiving and unjust God.

AMumInScotland Tue 08-Oct-13 12:25:11

headinhands The 'point' of the Bible is that it tells us what Jesus did, and what his early followers did, and what the religion he grew up in did. From that, Christians have a 'base point' with which they can compare what their own thoughts and attitudes tell them.

When there are major discrepancies, they have to decide whether -
- the Bible was too specific to a situation different from ours to be relevant
- the Bible was too much based on earlier patriarchal systems to be relevant
- it's all a pile of nonsense and they might just as well stop referring to themselves as Chrsitians
- they are too much influenced by modern culture and have got it wrong themselves

Christians believe that Jesus set an example that was worth following, therefore they want to read about what he said and did, as best we can manage since he didn't write it down himself. So the Bible is the best record we have.

The idea that God could have dictated something a lot more specific is quite true. But, if he did that, and announced it with thunderbolts etc, then we wouldn't have any choice about whether to believe it or not. I know that's a circular argument, but you wouldn't then be dealing with anything in the category of 'religion'.

Oh and from my point of view God didn't 'give' us a book. We wrote it. Because we're like that. The only difference (I would guess) between your view of that and mine is that I think it was based on some things that actually happened (and were caused by God) rather than imagination and wishful thinking.

AMumInScotland Tue 08-Oct-13 12:33:45

FavouriteThings The God I believe in does not go around being nasty to people for not believing in Him. Bad things happen to everyone, not on the basis of whether they are in God's 'good books' this week.

You should celebrate the fact that people consider religion important enough to have an opinion on, and express strong views about.

Atheists don't hate God. I don't hate the flying spaghetti monster. My feelings are so far beyond neutral that there isn't a beige enough colour to describe them. That isn't hatred.

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 13:09:20

Hi favourite smile <waves excitedly>

The hatred that you have for God is understandable.

Firstly personally I don't feel there is any good reason to think there is a god who is interested in mankind, secondly when you say you understand my hatred, you mean you agree that the god of the bible isn't nice?

But God wont keep on ignoring what you are doing on mumsnet.

What is it that I'm doing? What will he do?

ColdFusion Tue 08-Oct-13 18:08:31

So, if you are not a Christian, you don't have a horse in this race.

Do you see moulding God in your image, rather than him moulding us? It looks like it.

It's easy to discount the bible as worthless because people (yes, sinful fallible people) don't agree. That is hardly God's fault.

It is very difficult for non-Christians to 'get' the bible. When the Holy Spirit is absent, it probably does look like a very long and confusing book.

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 19:35:36

It is very difficult for non-Christians to 'get' the bible. When the Holy Spirit is absent, it probably does look like a very long and confusing book.

How come the Holy Spirit gives different people different interpretations on the issue of homosexuality etc? Why would it do that?

headinhands Tue 08-Oct-13 19:38:43

For that matter why doesn't the Holy Spirit just talk to people without the need for the bible?

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