Wolves and Sheep and Googling Bereans

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

I just read a blog post from an old pastor-friend of mine on one of the groups of people who Paul encounters during his evangelical journeys: The Bereans. The Bereans were some of Pauls favorite people because rather than just accepting what he told him they searched the scriptures for confirmation of the validity of his teaching. The pastor also talks about another set of people who are not good to have around – the wolves. “These people are not asking questions, they are questioning (authority (my addition)).”

So Paul is really cool with the whole questioning thing…as long as you’re playing within his rulebook. Here’s the problem: These days when you meet a group of questioning Bereans they aren’t just looking up the scriptures; they’re Googling arguments for and against every proposition you propose. Put simply, the questions have become a lot harder to answer and they’re no longer coming just from the scriptures. It becomes then much, much harder to pick out the sheep from the wolves.

I’m pretty sure I’m a wolf right now – or at least I’d be considered one. Because even though I really don’t care about advancing my own agenda (because I really don’t have one) I’m going to be asking questions that can’t be answered with your bible.

Pastor – “You see, it says here in the gospel of Luke that Jesus was born of a virgin which is prophesied in the Old Testament.”

Me – “Well pastor, I see that. But I also see that the earliest writings (Paul, Mark) don’t even mention a virgin birth of any kind. If there was one then Mary (mother of Jesus) can’t seem to remember it or the whole “You will bear the son of god” thing because she’s ready to drag Jesus to the psyche ward by the middle of Mark’s gospel. Couldn’t it be that this “born of a virgin” thing was a later tradition added to the story in order to make Jesus more “marketable” to the people of the time? Is it REALLY more reasonable to assume that the earliest writings had it wrong and there was no development to the Christ-mythos?”

“Uhhhhh”

That’s a valid question. But asking it in public makes the pastor look stupid because he’s got to tow the party line on any and all orthodox beliefs (if he wants to keep his pension). Schooling the pastor in textual criticism might also elevate you in the minds of anybody listening – which is supposedly what a “wolf” tries to do among the sheep. If you ask this question honestly (i.e. without trying to be a dick) you’re really just searching for the truth (just like the Bereans did). But in a Pastor’s mind you’re more likely “speaking twisted things” and that means you’re a wolf that he needs to drop the hammer on.

This is another reason why I can’t see myself returning to church anytime soon: Churches are not searching for the truth – they think they’ve found it…all of it. I’m more than happy to believe that within the pages of scripture there are a lot of truths. I love a lot of the bible because of its stories and, yes, even moral teachings (when it gets them right and doesn’t condone selling women or genocide or any of that). But I also recognize that we’ve come a long way these 2000 years. We no longer need to take Paul’s teaching on women’s roles in the church as set in stone because Paul had NEVER seen a woman in any kind of management position. His rulings on this and a great many other issues were not based on evidence but on the time and place he made them. I want to know the truth because I truly believe that it, no matter how scary it might be, will set us free.  But the best way to make sure you never find the truth is to fold you arms and say “I’ve already got it all figured out”. That’s exactly what churches do and this is why they are becoming more and more irrelevant. As long as the bible functions as our graven image we will never see the God who lives.

The idea I’m proposing is SO BLASPHEMOUS that no pastor today will ever take hold of it. But maybe one day, after church attendance dwindles to nothing, the coffers are no longer full, and people are no longer scared of hell….maybe then they’ll put down the Good Book and look their people in the eye and see the image of God. Maybe they’ll start learning from the God Who Is Love and set aside their seminary degrees. That day is not today. But a man can dream can’t he?

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