A belief in God does not require a belief in scriptural infallibility

I grew up in a liberal Christian church, The United Church of Christ, often known as the Congregational Church.  That church welcomes people from many perspectives, backgrounds and lifestyles.  People can think differently from one another, in that church, and still sit down for a good discussion.  In most locations the church welcomes gay and lesbian people as well.  Open and Affirming.  It tries to be a bridge to all.

I personally do not believe in scriptural infallibility.  The Bible has been interpreted many ways and everyone seems to have a different angle on it.  Lots of groups, including the Jehovah's Witness', believe they are following exactly what the Bible says, but they all disagree with one another. 

One can gain insight from reading the Bible, but interpretation is definitely not a precise science.  The Bible is a historical document, written by people.  It provides a background of thought and experience, but it isn't met to be an inflexible blueprint. 

Learning from the Bible is like learning from past experience.  One can gain insight from the experiences of others in the past, but it isn't a magic answer.  It helps to have experience when doing a job, but fresh insight, creativity and flexibility is good also.  Being stuck in one rut can be a problem.  

Many Christian churches accept gay people, others will say that God can only love "straight people."  The prejudice against gays is from people who take a very legalistic approach to what they perceive as God's Law.  I think fundamentalists are like the Pharisees of our day. They follow what they believe is the "letter of the law" while missing the spirit.

A welcoming atmosphere.  Inside view of lodge.  Church camp, I used to attend as a kid, retains its friendly feel.   Camp N-Sid-Sen, in northern Idaho, is run by United Church of Christ; a church with an open mind and an open heart.  

Northern Idaho also gets the reputation of neo nazis, even though that is only a tiny group.  Stereotyping an entire region?

Our understanding of physics influences assumptions about truth and religion

People who take a rigid view of truth and nature's laws are using Newtonian thinking.  In the time of the great physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, the laws of gravity, inertia, mass and mechanics seemed absolute.  The universe looked like clock work.  They thought one could always find the right answer if one plugged correct numbers into a formula.  There could only be one right answer. 

Much of our technology is still based on the predictability of Newton's physics.  Clock work  thinking has also influenced our views on religion, but it isn't the only way to view the universe. 

After Newton came Einstein who is famous for the word "RELATIVITY."  Rigid fundamentalists don't like that word.  Einstein has turned the Newtonian "clock work" universe on its head.  We are still getting used to Einstein's thinking. 

Newton's rigid laws are true to a certain context, but reality is much larger than one context.  Truth is much more multifaceted than we had originally thought.  Relativity theory says there can be more than one right answer for the speed and mass of an object. The answer depends, in part, on the inertial state of the observer. 

More than one truth at once?  Or, at least, this is what I think relativity theory would say.  Actually I don't fully grasp the concepts either, of course.  We are all still learning.  Civilization is taking many years to get used to these more flexible views of reality.  There's also Quantum Physics.  Don't get me started. 

Reader comment about this section

I would just like to mention that neither special, nor general relativity does away with Newtonian (more properly, Laplacian) determinism.  Many feel that Quantum mechanics does so (though it is possible that quantum "randomness" is part of a deterministic, "many world" system).  Actually, the religious determinism of Phelps and his ilk predates Newton. It is best known to be associated with Calvinism (John Calvin lived from 1509 to 1564, long before Newton) though it probably had other forms before him. Anyway, sorry for the physics and history rant. Anyway, overall, I do think this is a nice site at which I must look more. 


What religion knows about God
April 10 2004

Back in the middle ages, I heard about this circle of monks who felt a mystical power.  If an acid, like lemon juice, was placed in a barrel with some metal rods, a strange power was felt.  A person at one end of the circle touched one rod while a person at the other end touched the other rod.  If this happened while everyone held hands a jolt was felt.  

This mystical force is now understood to be electricity.  Today's concepts of God reminds me of the monk's concept of electricity.  

Could those monks have comprehended the internet that runs on electricity?  Do our religious traditions really give us an understanding of God, or should we go back to the drawing board?  Are we like the monks who barely have a hint of what this is about, or what it can be used for?  

Does modern science make us more humble and less arrogant than the ancients who may have felt they had the explanation of things holy?  Are our leaders more humble than ancient rulers who felt they were appointed from deity?  

Realizing that we are not necessarily the center of the universe can be humbling.  Like entering the Kingdom as children.

It doesn't necessarily mean "one way."

If one believes that the father, son and holy spirit are united, what is the difference between Christ and the holy spirit?  Maybe native Americans were worshiping the holy spirit, only they called it the "great spirit."  They were worshiping Christ before the missionaries even got here.

Some missionaries don't want to hear that.  It could put them out of business.

When Christ is saying "I am the way, the truth and the life," he is speaking about God, if you believe Christ and God are basically the same thing.  Salvation is a gift directly from God.  No one, except God, can give you salvation.  No one can deny it either.

Maybe he is saying, "God is the way," rather than some other person, like an church leader or evangelist, being the way. 

Don't be deceived.  Each person can have gifts of the holy spirit in their heart.  No person, church or organization owns the rights to the "spigot."  Many churches try to say you can't be saved because you don't believe a particular doctrine.  "One supposedly can't be saved with certain political beliefs, or not being a member of their "club."  These preachers stand in front of God and try to parcel out who gets salvation and who doesn't.

Churches can play a valuable role in community, but belief systems and preachers are not sources of salvation.   This is what I think Christ was saying.  God is the only source of salvation and the holy spirit is everywhere in the universe.  It can be in the hearts of each person.

Reader comment about this section

Although I don't consider myself a Christian, I greatly appreciate your interpretation that people may be able to "go through Christ" without being a Christian (e.g. the Native Americans) since many people worship or acknowledge God or the Great Spirit.  I've always suspected that God Himself wouldn't judge people by such rigid rules, as some Christians believe.  So I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

I was reading what you wrote about gay acceptance in the
church.  Although I'm not gay, let me offer my two-cents.  Many people feel that being gay is a choice.  They think that someone chooses to be attracted to members of the same sex just to be "different", "sinful", "wild", etc.  They also consider the fact that God apparently made man and woman with organs that fit like a glove.  Their conclusion: homosexuality is unnatural and ungodly.

I know from gay friends and from logic that having the choice in the matter can be a grave misconception.  I can't explain briefly what I know from my gay friends, but the logic is quite simple.  If being gay were always a choice, why should anyone have to "come out of the closet"?  If all men could love women (and vice-versa) in a sensual manner, why go through any ridicule if it could be easily avoided? 

Why?  Because with many people, homosexuality is NOT a choice.  And in complement with what you wrote, Robert, how could God be displeased with something which clearly isn't human choice?

Some native Americans believed heaven was the "Happy Hunting Ground."  In their "hunter gatherer" societies, a hunter's vision of heaven emerged.

We live in a bureaucratic society so what is our vision of the heaven like?

A bureaucracy
  "The great Registration and screening center in the sky."

If you are idolater, adulterer, male prostitute, homosexual, thief, greedy (like most Americans) drunkard, slanderer or swindler ... 

"Honey, aren't we all at least one of these categories at times."  says the weary clerk from Alabama, hired by Pearly Gate INC. on a "Work First" grant.  "DON'T WORRY."  "Just make sure you-all filled out part E of form A."  "Proceed to the next station." 

Happy hunting for that piece of paper.

Religion media bloopers

I hear the Pullman Herald newspaper once had a typo in its headlines.  It called LDS (Latter Day Saints, Mormon) Church the "LSD Church."

The radio DJ, at a religious station, placed a sermon on the turntable. (back in the days when canned programs came on albums).  He figured he had 20 minutes to go across the street for a cup of coffee before getting back to the studio to change sides.  Returning to the studio, after his 20 minute break, he found the record stuck at the start.  For 20 minutes, his station was broadcasting "go to hell - click," "go to hell - click."

When the big fish comes to town

A big church came into Wenatchee, WA. back in the 1970s.  It put some other places of worship out of business.

One building had a sign that read, "church for sale, can also be used as a warehouse."  It didn't say whorehouse however. 

That big church is now gone.  Maybe some smaller churches can flourish again.

Drab Church?

Riding the Greyhound bus back home from a bike trip we sat for the longest time across the street from this bland looking church.  Inside, maybe the church isn't bad.  Who knows.  Church located in Cashmere, Washington.

My Main Menu.