More God in Us, Less Us in God

Column by Rev. Dr. Mark Sandlin on 12 January 2023 0 Comments

Few progressive Christians believe that God is something we can truly ever fully understand. Yet, in constantly choosing to anthropomorphize God, we provide ourselves with fertile mental ground for believing we are doing just that.

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I am an Atheist.and wonder why is it that most Christians insist that the Gospels were essentially dictated to (inspired) by God to write his unerring Word.
Given the number of inconsistencies and that the narratives were clearly written by different authors who couldn’t even get the story straight, why is the Bible the go-to source for the answer to everything?


Dear Steven,

Thank you for this question. Many Christians simply do not understand how the Gospels, specifically and the Bible in general, were composed, and thus concoct various mystical and supernatural theories that bear no resemblance to reality. Simply raising the fact that no one followed Jesus around recording his teachings and actions, and in fact, most of his disciples were likely illiterate, can be enough to cause a crisis of faith- how then do we have the Gospels, and how can they be trusted as reliable at all?
But progressive Christians, on the other hand, have long embraced the understanding that the Bible is not a divinely composed book, that it is a product of human effort, and thus should be engaged with critically even as we engage with it with reverence as the foundational document of our faith. While many scholars believe that many of the teachings of Jesus are in fact authentic and rooted in an earlier document often called Q, we also accept that many of the details of Jesus’ life are mythological and even sometimes copies of other myths from the cultures surrounding the Gospel writers. At the same time, we still draw on these stories for guidance and inspiration because myths are profound containers of truth- it is irrelevant, for instance, whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem to a virgin. But what is relevant in the profound message beneath the details of the Christmas story- is that God is found amid the most unexpected people and places, among the poor, marginalized, hopeless, and oppressed.
All of this to say, Christians who view the Bible as the Word of God without error have a mountain of challenges to that belief- it’s not historically a Christian belief and is certainly not how the Jewish tradition viewed their Scriptures throughout much of history. Progressive Christians, on the other hand, invite critical engagement with the Bible, wrestling with the text like Jacob wrestled with God, drawing inspiration from its ancient stories and wisdom teachings while at the same time critiquing and rejecting the many places where it offers a theology or ethic that is far inferior to our modern theology of justice, inclusion, and love.

~ Rev. Brandan Robertson




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