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Lv 5

Like Diogenes with his lantern, I keep looking for an honest answer...?

I tried asking this earlier, but no one seemed to want to actually address the question...:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;...

The vast majority of theists realize it'd be foolish to try to defend the Bible as 100% literal truth (Talking snakes and donkeys? A man surviving in a whale's digestive tract for three days? Seeing the entirety of a spherical world from the top of a mountain?). But once you open the floodgates and acknowledge that some parts are allegory or symbolism, where do you draw the line?

Couldn't the resurrection of Jesus be just a metaphor?

Might the threat of Hell or the promise of Heaven be strictly symbolic?

If certain parts MUST be literally true for you to keep believing, by what criteria do you make that determination?

Where's the objective yardstick by which we measure all the truth claims of the Bible?

If there actually IS one, then why do so few self-identified Christians know about or use it -- thus leading to the countless denominations and schisms over what ought to be as self-evident as the Sun in the sky?

If there ISN'T one, why should we take ANY of the Bible at face value?

And if the differences between all the thousands of different sects are just quibbling over minutiae, why not just do away with the Bible -- the source of all the conflict and division -- entirely? It seems like the entire message of Christianity would fit on the back of a postcard, if you were to strip away all the contentious and unsubstantiated bits...

Your thoughts?

27 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    What I believe is that the Bible contains a lot, a lot, a lot of historical and scientific inaccuracies. But I also believe that this is immaterial, because the Bible was not written by God, but inspired by Him, and therefore contains religious truth. And religious truth is the main thing I have to derive from the Bible. All the other parts make it a story, and also make it evident that the Bible was written by man.

    I don't believe the Resurrection was a metaphor. I think that the Resurrection was a sort of proof that hope wasn't lost after Jesus's death. Like the apostle... Timothy, I believe it was, who needed to touch Jesus's wounds before he did believe. It's that sort of religious truth. The real divine things, like heaven and hell and angels, that are intangible. But why should intangibility mean that these things are not real? To me, it doesn't.

    And to address the last part of your question, I believe that other denominations fail to recognize the difference between religious truths and historical/scientific stories in the Bible, and instead accept it all as truth. That doesn't work for me, and that's why I'm Catholic.

    Thanks for asking, and I hope I answered your question.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    But once you open the floodgates and acknowledge that some parts are allegory or symbolism, where do you draw the line?

    )))Wherever you feel you need to

    Couldn't the resurrection of Jesus be just a metaphor?

    ))) you betcha

    Might the threat of Hell or the promise of Heaven be strictly symbolic?

    ))) it might be

    If certain parts MUST be literally true for you to keep believing, by what criteria do you make that determination?

    ))) I dont base my beleif on what I have read in a book or been told by priests, I beleive in what I know from experience of having seen miracles and what is in my heart.

    Where's the objective yardstick by which we measure all the truth claims of the Bible?

    ))) in your heart. The church is a place for YOU to worship how YOU beleive. It would be impossible to try to create a standard by which to measure truths- each religion holds different things to be true. The Truth is what you beleive yourself, not what someone else claims it is.

    Bells and whistles my friend- what matters is that you live your life helping others where you can and trying to be a good person. If you were to try and teach someone that today by writing a book- would you use language and examples from the middle ages? No, If someone found that book a thousand years from now would they be able to comprehend all your meanings or would they be divided amongst the translations of your words? I think you already know the answer to that.

    If there ISN'T one, why should we take ANY of the Bible at face value?

    You dont have to take the bible to be true but perhaps the messages and lessons as they pertain to todays society (which isnt easy- I cant even hardly understand the King James Bible and Ive read it twice)

    And if the differences between all the thousands of different sects are just quibbling over minutiae, why not just do away with the Bible -- the source of all the conflict and division -- entirely? It seems like the entire message of Christianity would fit on the back of a postcard, if you were to strip away all the contentious and unsubstantiated bits...

    It would and here it is:

    Create through prayer and meditation a contact with God as you understand him

    Continuosly try to grow closer to God by attempting to remove the things that block you from him (or her if you so choose).

    Pray to God to remove your character flaws so that victory over them will help you to help others

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  • 1 decade ago

    You might be a long time looking if your idea of truth is something that has to square with your logic. So I'm going to try to jolt you out of your comfort zone with this line of reasoning.

    The Bible sometimes tells us the writer is explaining an allegorical point. In the Old Testament, there's the prophet Ezekiel being told, "The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell the house of Israel a parable..." (ch. 17 vs 1) Jeremiah was another prophet who enacted allegories, as a one-man-street-dramatist - at God's command.

    In the New Testament, Jesus spoke allegorically many times; parables and strange sayings. Then the apostle Paul spoke about Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, saying "These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants..." Then he explains the allegory (Galatians 4:21-31).

    "But once you open the floodgates and acknowledge that some parts are allegory or symbolism, where do you draw the line?" you asked. Sensible question. You draw the line where the Bible draws the line.

    And it does, for those with eyes to see (one of Jesus's favourite sayings.) Paul, for example, used Sarah and Hagar as an allegory whilst clearly believing those two women were also literally real. They were actual women who actually gave birth to the children Paul details in his allegory! Ezekiel and Jeremiah were actual men who actually spoke those words recorded in the Bible! Same with Jesus. He said many allegorical things, but he had to actually say those things before they could be taken allegorically! Jesus actually lived and spoke those words.

    I doubt if this will satisfy you because you might already have jumped into the deep end of reading purely symbolic meanings into biblical things that were meant to be taken, in the first instance, as literally true. All I'm asking you to do is to admit that an allegorical meaning could be based on a literally true event / person / statement. There can be spiritual depths to be plumbed once the reality has been accepted. But if Jesus never lived, from your point of view, then nothing attributed to Him is real. That leaves you with make-believe stories which are supposed to convey truth (like Atlas, turtles, and suchlike?) Let's start with truth (Jesus lived) and take His sayings and actions from there. THEN you can get to grips with the spiritual realities He wanted believers to understand! Your latter points about different sects can only be sorted once you've seen through the smokescreen they create, and face up to the person of Jesus Christ. Don't put the cart before the horse!

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  • 1 decade ago

    Well, *ahem* (let me clear my throat and get reflective on ya) being a Christian that also is a believer in Sacred Tradition, I don't quite have the pressure of a Sola-Scriptura Christian.

    I remember discussing the Gospels with a well-educated theologian/priest a few years back. We were talking about how the four Gospels are different, and he was saying the view from our church is that when the apostles dispersed across many lands to teach about Jesus they adapted to whatever land (and landscape) they were in. Those became official teachings. Like the Sermon on the Mount vs. The Sermon on the Plain. Regardless, we take the things we have carried throughout apostolic succession and Sacred Tradition that we believe Jesus truly wanted for his Church.

    The Eucharist, and of course the other other six sacraments.

    We don't ignore the bible, for it is equally important to tradition, but we don't ignore tradition, therefor can easily accept the bible.

    Source(s): Catholic
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Diogenes was teachable. You aren't.

    "I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so."

    Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D. -- St Augustine

    Even when I was an unbeliever I didn't think that there could be any sense to trying to distinguish literal and figurative. I am a voracious, almost Olympic, reader and I just have to instance the famous :

    This is my Body, This is my Blood.

    Now how can anyone know what to do with that UNLESS someone already has the answer !! And if they do, why try to puzzle it out for yourself ? The CHurch didn't say, Okay this is the Bible, Okay these are the books, Okay this is what's literal and what's figurative -- Okay now let's see what it is we believe . Belief HAD TO precede the Bible.

    PS As an example of your intractable indocility, you must know that the Fathers of the Church all disagreed on whether Balaam really talked and whether the snake talked, some pro and some con. BUT NONE SAID IT WAS A MATTER OF FAITH.

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  • phrog
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Clearly there’s some metaphorical expressions that have been used---And it’s a continuing struggle to know what is metaphorical (like the four corners of the earth — that’s a scriptural expression I take as metaphorical) and what is literal. That’s on a continuum. Metaphors can put us on middle-ground, and that is a tough place to stay. I don’t necessarily believe in situational ethics. I believe that truth is a knowledge of things as they are, and that includes religious truths. I think when dealing with religious truth, that religious truth cannot often be understood or 'proven' by scientific methods.

    As a christian, I have to keep my life in balance between reliance on history, or geology, or science---and reliance on spiritual witnesses and the testimony of the Holy Ghost. imho, there are two ways to truth: science and revelation. I work to keep my life in balance by continuing to do the things necessary to keep open the channels of communication to heaven as well as to scholarly journals. Possibly there are overlapping yardsticks for separate truths that cannot be verified with only one. So for me, the yardstick is that balance between the two....as to why people don't always use it? The reasons could be as numerous as the people.

    Source(s): lds
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  • 1 decade ago

    Oops, you bungled the link. But to answer this question, I understood for years that much of the Bible HAS to be allegorical. But as I examined the contradictions and mysteries of my supernatural beliefs, I came to realize that it's all a terrific story! There IS no line. It all works as metaphor and myth. Trying to pin it artificially at various points to reality just strains and distorts it all. WIth literalism, it all devolves into arguments about how many people were at this battle and which side of the wall did this character stand when the beggar went by, etc. It is the messages that matter, and those messages need to be understood in their cultural contexts before being applied to today's life.

    The last metaphysical link I had trouble letting go of was the Resurrection of Christ. But a book by John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop, helped me see that it was okay even for THAT to be metaphor. For me, it meant giving up heaven and the afterlife, but I soon came to see how ridiculously self-centered such ideas were. "Salvation" is not about self-preservation. It is about transcending the law of the jungle and indulging the potential of aggregate human development, "saving" us, together, for better things than mere subsistence. We don't really need fanciful images and stories for that, but stories illustrate ideas in ways that a textbook can't. The problem occurs when the stories become more important than the ideas they carry.

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  • 1 decade ago

    A hundred years ago

    open heart surgery was unbelievable,

    so too atomic energy,

    or

    even the idea of genetics or genetic manipulation was unheard of.

    Many things were but ideas.

    Today parts of animals are grown to fix humans.

    Hydroponics, nanotechnology, space travel, and a multitude of mathematical understandings have exploded into human consciousness in just the last several decades.

    How long before genetic manipulation begins producing organisms that are "user friendly" in ways unheard of to date.

    Perhaps OLEDs are the beginning in one area?

    Who are you to say that God can not do so much more than humans with a human mind can imagine?

    The Christian answer comes from our Lord and Master;

    John 3:12

    If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (King James Bible)

    _______

    Those that 'quibble' have not understanding. They are still learning.

    _______

    Mankind is now just forming theories about time.

    Heaven is outside of time.

    Mankind is just beginning to see a small portion of space.

    Heaven exists outside of space.

    _______

    Hell in one sense is mankind's separation from God.

    _______

    You know better than to ask so many questions and open ended ones as you have except to bash or debate.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The scriptural studies you seek are too exhaustive for all your queries to be satisfied here. Please believe me that considerable study has gone into this, beginning with so called red-letter testaments, that purport to parse what Jesus actually said versus the words that were likely attributed to Him and cannot be verified. Catholic theologians, especially, have written about the real history of the Bible, and I've been taught about the Real (Jesus' death, resurrection) and the Allegorical (Garden of Eden; Story of Jonah, etc.).

    The truth is in Jesus' life, death and Resurrection - we have been saved. We have been asked to follow His example - love G-d with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. All else is frippery.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I'm with you 100%. This is a very well put question/argument. The only objective yardstick is common sense and logic. However the same holds true for all Abrahamic religion, not just Christianity.

    Literally interpreted, they are equally unprovable and even impossible. It's impossible for the Bible to be the literal truth. A loving God cannot condemn people for not believing the impossible!

    The Bible didn't say anything that philosophers of that very same era weren't trying to say.

    The problem is, everyone has a right to their opinion, and I'm not prepare to accept anyone being denied the right. But I think people will wake up as this age of understanding progresses.

    The Bible contains many concepts of God and none are God itself.

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