Saturday, January 01, 2005

Hang it all, Rudolff Bultmann! There can be but one revelation!

Into the Bible itself, because one of the spurs of Christian fundamentalism was not the "modern world" itself (as Jacques Derrida has noted, fundamentalism is quite willing to use modern technology. Think of TV evangelists, or the planes-as-missiles of New York and Washington on 9/11); it was 19th century German biblical scholarship, scholarship which fundamentally changed the way we read the Bible.

Which is why I find Selkirk's essay so interesting. Because it makes me realize how fundamentally American Christian fundamentalism affects the way I think about Christianity. "....the Church is pushed further into the sidelines of the culture of the intellect where it is desperately needed"? It isn't just the Enlightenment and A.O. Wilson's God's Funeral that I have to shake off in order to comprehend that question: it's American Xian Fundamentalism, too. My spiritual journey finally got traction when I discovered Soren Kierkegaard in high school. He gave my questions intellectual heft, direction, and respectability. Nothing in fundamentalist and conservative Southern Baptist-dominated East Texas did that. Even now, I have to work against people who assume those who are religious are necessarily either anti-science, or anti-reason.

The question of the Bible is, and always has been, one of interpretation. And here the fundamentalist view can simply be proven wrong (not to a fundamentalist, mind you): the Bible itself, is caught in the act of interpreting itself. Not only in the Torah, with the authors "J," "E," "P," and "D." But there are echoes of the Psalms in the prophets; or is it the prophets in the Psalms? It is no accident that Ecclesiastes ("All is vanity and striving after emptiness")follows Proverbs (some of which is so conventional Polonious from "Hamlet" could have written it; some of which is startlingly radical and profound). Jonah is as curious an addition as Job. And none of this even touches on Jewish midrash (commentary and commentary on commentary on the scriptures, by rabbis and scholars over centuries).

In brief, the best way I can understand the scriptures, is as a conversation: discussion among many people, from many lands and cultures, over many centuries, concerning events both real and impossible, but fantastical and clearly true (read Ezekiel if you want to see where Revelation came from). And all concerned with the questions of revelation, of what has been revealed, seen, shown, felt, experienced, lived, said to them, heard by them. It is not a dictated memo taken by cosmic secretaries. It is a babble of voices, all stirred by the same thing, but in very different ways, and talking not just about that experience, but about the experiences of the others.

It is a conversation, a metaphor for life. Not a closed book.

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