Friday, June 5, 2009

The Bible as the Authority

We've been talking about how to decide right from wrong and what approaches, factors or authorities you might use. I read Wednesday's post a little amazed, because I didn't automatically list the Bible as my authority. Interesting that I didn't immediately go in that direction.

I was reading a recent inspirational romance by Lori Wick (she's a super spiritual writer), and the characters in this book are in various stages of learning to use the Bible as their authority in judging right from wrong. However, the minister in the story says that first, you must decide what you believe about the Bible. Do you believe it to be the literal Word of God? Do you believe it to be a literary tool to access the transcendent? Do you believe it to contain stories, written by men, that have relevance today? In this particular discussion, there is emphasis on the ability and the opportunity for each individual to make up his or her mind. Free Will. The implication is that your decision determines what role the Bible will play as your authority.

Overall, in my interpretation, the book offers a hoped-for outcome--that everyone will believe that the Bible contains the inerrant Word of God, that the Bible teaches that salvation comes only from Jesus and that we humans bring little of value to the table for salvation. The plea is that we turn to Jesus as our Savior.

I will acknowledge that my interpretation of the author's intent may be wrong. But given my interpretation, as imperfect as it may be, it poses more than one discussion point on which to base a blog post. Today, I just want to focus on the Bible's authority. I think this minister (even though a book character) has the right idea. We do need to make a decision about what we believe about the Bible. In fact, we must make that decision about any scripture that we may use as a moral authority.

And in that key decision, we humans bring some undeniably valuable skills to the salvation table: judgment, discernment, and choice. We must judge for ourselves the intent of the writer, the source of the wisdom, the spiritual direction of the writing. We must discern if the scripture holds facts or lies, Truth (not necessarily facts) or falsehood. We must choose the place of the Bible in our life to discover the Way and to follow it.

I don't believe that humans have nothing to bring to God. We bring our talents, our emotions, our relationships, our intellect. We bring a lot--but not everything. We are co-creators with Divinity, and together we affect transformation in Life's Web.

There is a rule in fiction writing to "Show, Don't Tell." Don't write, "He's angry," writing speakers often teach us, write "His fists clenched and red mist blurred his vision." For me, the Bible is a credible authority because it more often than not SHOWS me--through its stories, parables, fables and poetry--what following the Way looks like. What behavior appears when a person, Jesus specifically, walks the right path.

So add this layer to your thoughts. You have certain approaches and factors that help you choose right from wrong. Where does the Bible fit in your Christianity? How do you use it? Do you need to consult it more often or less to be a better follower of Jesus?

Announcements from the Fellowship:
Just Published. "Get Back Up & Rise Again! UUCF Revival" by LaVerne Z. Coan (that's me!). The Universalist Herald, May/June 2009, pg 20. If you're not familiar with this "oldest continuously published liberal religious magazine in North America," check it out at their web site.

Invitation to Dinner at UU General Assembly (GA).
UUCF-sponsored Gourmet Vegetarian Meal and Hymn Sing Program, Saturday, June 27, 6 to 8 pm, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, 569 S. 1300 E. Don't wait in long lines for Saturday night meals; we will help you share rides from the convention center to the church (3 miles away). Menu includes yummy salads, Angela's Manicotti or Linguini with veggies, Fresh fruit, cheeses and desserts to make your mouth water. You don't have to be registered for GA to participate in the dinner; guests welcome; if you have a program and need to come in later than 6 pm no problem. Cost is $25. RSVP asap for you and your guests to or call 918-691-3223.

For a full list of UUCF GA programs, worship, and shared programming at the UUCF, UU Buddhist Fellowship and UU Mystics in Community booth, go to


  1. I wouldn't call myself a Christian, but my first thought is Christianity finds the Bible as revelation of what God promises us. How we decide what's right and wrong doesn't necessarily have to rely on the Bible. Plenty of Pagan writers and non Christian writers can offer sensible morality and eithics. The Bible is about God's promise to us and a lot less about what we owe one another. It's not irrelevant. It's just the Bible is first and formost not about what we should do. It's about what God will do for us.

  2. In your posting I miss the fact that we Unitarians are focusing not only on the Bible, but the Bible and reason. It is this combination that is our approach to the teaching of Jesus where reason guides us.

  3. In my studies, I have found the Bible to be a very complex issue. Although I do believe a great understanding and comfort can be gained from Bible reflection caution needs to be used when using it as an end all when determining right and wrong. Just like any other literary resource the reader needs to understand the history and what the messages meant to the people whom it was originally written. For instance, one needs to understand that the Old Testament is a blend of three different traditions, the Yahwist, Elohist and Priestly Editors. Each of these traditions held different theological views and were writing to express three different positions. (This is also true when considering the gospels.) The Bible was not written in order as a self contained book. It is a collection put together from a variety of different resources and it is important to understand there were a lot of other sources not included that were used to interpret these stories. And the composition itself, which occurred several hundred years after Jesus' death, was a apologetic response to conflicts of its time. It contains several different literary styles including narratives and parables, just to name a few, but most importantly abounds in "metaphor". The stories are easily misunderstood if taken out of historical context. One quick example, the statement "an eye for an eye"has been used to justify revenge when its original message was one of restraint. It's purpose was to tell people their response was to be tempered not to exceed the damage done by the original offense.
    Anyway, for myself, the Bible, is evidence of God's interaction with his human family throughout history. It offers me hope. Just as God interacted with people in the past, I believe he continues to interact with us today. Although I believe my faith is grounded in the Bible, my personal experiences rate just as much considerations in my moral decisions for it is through my personal experience that I find my closes relationship to God. The Bible is a beginning but not the end-all. It helps to center me, gives me hope and guidance, and increases my understanding of my personal experiences.

  4. I'm liking the theme rising here. The Bible relays a message of what God can and will do for us as well as how God interacts with the human race. We employ both reason and faith to apply this resource appropriately. So we do make a decision about what the Bible is--and is not--and then place its teachings and message in the context of our experience and knowledge. And if we share that experience and knowledge among us, then we pick up more of the message. And the journey continues.