m’s final observations on the authority of Scripture stirred in me too many thoughts to be confined to an email response.

So, I have switched over to IASP and will respond to m’s last reflections in two posts:

Subject: RE: Silly question

Thank you for taking the time to set out this clear answer.

I have wondered why some Christians defend the Bible at all costs with many straying into “literalism”. Scripture I suppose, is the WORD as best as it can be relayed in the context of the culture from which it arises.

Of the three legs you describe, it seems to me that tradition could be seen as the lineage of the teachings. This has to command respect. Tradition (in today’s language) may suffer the labels of “dated”, “culturally inappropriate” etc.  As for reason, perhaps it has benefited the brightest thinkers and their followers (even amid egoism and fixed positions), but doesn’t seem that useful a trajectory for regular folks.

Which brings in your fourth leg. It certainly is the proof of the pudding, is it not? And seems to be what Jesus was emphasizing to the regular folks. It’s interesting that number 4 could be considered heretical (in your comment)! I can’t see why you wouldn’t be able to ask your parishioners to validate the wisdom of the lineage on the basis of their own experience. In some way, I sense that is what your ministry is….

Yours, m


Dear m,

1. I think the feeling of needing to “defend the Bible at all costs” comes from insecurity. The Bible does not need to be defended. It is an ancient book, steeped in the thought-forms and worldview of the time in which it originated. But, if we are able to keep ourselves from getting side-tracked by the archaic perspective in so much of Scripture, it is always possible to discern beneath the surface, profound wisdom and light. The discipline of seeking to discern the truth beneath the surface trains us to be more discerning in the rest of life.

It is my experience that, when I approach the Bible with an open heart, it works powerfully in my life to deepen my consciousness of the Divine and to break my life open to beauty and truth.

We end our reading of most Bible passages in public worship saying, “The word of the Lord…” This does not mean that it is the only “word of the Lord,” but that if we are willing to hear and submit to the wisdom and truth it contains, it will be “the word of the Lord” in our lives and help us be more deeply attuned to “the word of the Lord” in the rest of life.

2. Tradition does indeed get a bad rap in much of contemporary culture. We tend to like that which is current, up-to-date and fashionable. We are addicted to the flahsy and new; we get bored easily. We want our spirituality to be entertaining, to dazzle and not to trouble.

But, there is always a possibility that the discipline of choosing an ancient wisdom tradition and attempting to allow that tradition to shape our life, may impart a wisdom and depth that we might miss if we simply go with the most recent expression of fashionable spirituality. Tradition can be a mirror held up to our face challenging us to look more honestly at our thoughts, opinions, and values.

Tradition connects me to something bigger than my own life or my immediate context. When I choose to commit myself to a tradition, I am caused to go deeper into the spiritual practice embodied in that tradition and it becomes an instrument that helps my heart open to greater light and truth. Tradition embodies the gift of stability; it does not change with the whims of the times. When I commit to a tradition, I am not free just to walk away when it becomes uncomfortable or awkward.

Tradition can be a prison; but it can also be flint rubbing against flint. It has the power to create Divine fire if I let it do its work in my life.