“NEW LIFE” BULLETIN – VOL. 24, NO. 26 & 27 – THE FLUIDITY OF TRUTH
When I look back on over seventy years of sometimes listening to preachers and teachers of the Bible tell me what I was to believe, I have mixed emotions.
I can remember, as a teenager, telling my boss at the gas station where I worked, exactly how big Heaven was. I could do that because it was right there in Revelation, and, I had been taught that it was literally true. There was no “figurative” or “apocalyptic”. I’ve also heard at least one man say, “It is not streets of gold. It is street of gold.” As if it made any difference.
Why did I once see the Bible that way? For one reason my world back then was very small. We had not yet gone to the moon. I did not ask questions about a seven, twenty-four-hour-day-creation. And I soon found that to ask such questions might be a sign you about to lose your faith.
When I began to think about becoming a minister, I knew what the church had heard and what they wanted to hear. After all, it was the truth. I read the Old Testament and remembered the stories the preachers had told in their sermons. I heard about Nadab and Abihu and their strange fire that got them turned to toast. I heard about Noah and an ark that could not have one inch of anything but gopher wood in it, or it would sink, just like I would if I added anything to the Word. The Word being what the preachers and teachers said the Word was. I was told that God had an old covenant and then a new one. The same God, but a new deal. I read in the Old (Covenant) Testament some things that God didn’t like that folks took as serious truth, even though it was not in the New Covenant.
In going to college, I began to wonder about all this, and I was fortunate enough to have some teachers who opened the door to independent thinking. I would not lose my faith by asking questions, or even exploring new ways of understanding scripture.
I can’t remember when it was that I realized that a story did not have to be literally true to be true. This helped me to understand the likes of the book of Job. I found the part about the Satan (literally, “the accuser”) wandering to and fro on the earth and then joining God and the rest God’s sons (that’s the Hebrew) for a chat. Whenever I’d heard it preached it was always preached as fact. There were even explanations for the whole heavenly scene.
It was not until I realized the story was an attempt to explain why bad things happen to good people, using the ancient understanding of God and life as they knew it. Job could be a fictional character and the story can still tell the truth in its own way. It still speaks to us today, but with the understanding of God that Jesus brought to us.
Then there was the creation story, with a walking, talking snake. There was a seven day creation where the “two lights” one to rule the day and the other the night were created on what the Bible calls the “fourth day”. There was also that thing about Cain going East of Eden and before you know it he had a pregnant wife. Who was she kin to? Then there’s Cain’s son Enoch, who married who?
Then I began to read things about apocalyptic or figurative language. I could see that Heaven, as described by John, was a vision which contained all the elements his readers needed to get them through the rough timers they were facing. I don’t know if they took it literally or not, but I doubt all of them did. Why? Because they knew a method of teaching has been almost lost in the Western World. It is the teaching method of that time in that part of the world. Remember that the parables of Jesus were not literally true. They were fiction. That’s what a parable is. But they told the truth.
Some time ago I happened to read a little book that asked me an important question: If God could only explain the wonder and glory of heaven (the new world) by using figurative language, how could God tell the wonder and glory of the creation of this world without using the same method? How can I tell a person born blind what a rainbow looks like? How can I tell a person born deaf what beautiful music sounds like. I have to tell the blind a rainbow sounds like beautiful music. I have to tell the deaf person music sounds like a rainbow looks. The wonder of God’s creations can only be understood with what we have before us at the time. And that changes as we learn more and more about everything around us.
What I mean by “fluid truth” is that one “truth” flows into a greater truth which replaces tohe original truth with the new. This is constantly true in science, and I believe in our understanding of the truth of God as well. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus states several accepted “truths”. Each one beginning with, “You have heard it said…” By “accepted truths” I mean these were accepted behavior. Jesus said, “But I tell you…” Did he say the accepted truth was a lie? No. What he did was replace it with a higher truth. What was once a “truthful” understanding of the will of God is enlarged to a greater understanding of what God wants of human beings. As I’ve said in the past, this holds true for such things as slavery and any idea held as truth that subjugates and disenfranchises another human being. It is one thing to say the truth that one should love God and others as oneself; it is another thing to do that truth.
Were all the requirements in the Law of Moses the truth? At that time and for those people, yes. How then are they no longer the truth for Christians and most Jews? It was not because God changed, but because a greater understanding, a “new truth” was reveled about life and God. When Jesus said, “But I tell you” it was not because he was the only one who had divine authority. It was because it was the truth. That has been true throughout history. The great truths about human dignity came from someone saying, “I tell you.” And then some long accepted “truth” concerning the mistreatment of others, often confirmed with scripture, was replaced with something truer. We should not be afraid to say and do the same.
CONCERNS: Roger Fisher’s son, Steve, is in Lewis-Gale Med Center and needs our prayers. Roger has had some heart related problems but is better. Connie Crites’ brother continues cancer treatment. Martha Foy’s friend, Lauren needs prayer. Jim Hunter is still making progress in his treatment for cancer. Stephanie Dixon’s boss’ son, Grayson, suffered eye injuries while setting off fireworks. He may lose the sight in one eye and the other may have permanent damage. Del Bolin asks for prayers for Sharon, a cancer patient. He also asks prayers for Billy, another cancer patient whose sister-in-law is one of Del’s students. Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, came through cancer surgery and will now have post surgery treatment. Jenn McCready, (eye issues) Mark McRoy’s friend, Ken Teatino, (cancer) Helen Nicklas, Jenni Cullum, Alma Martin, Ron Matney, Joni Beach’s mother and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: JULY 16-21
Monday: John 5:19-47
Tuesday: Philippians 1:19-30
Wednesday: Genesis 7:1-24
Thursday: Lamentations 1:8-16
Friday: Romans 8:12-25
Saturday: Psalm 133, 134
OUR DAILY BREAD: JULY 23-28
Monday: Psalm 46
Tuesday: John 14:1-11
Wednesday: Psalm 23
Thursday: Isaiah 26:1-4
Friday: Matthew 5:1-16
Saturday: I John 2:7-11, 15-17
Most of you know that a group from the 1st Congregational Church in Lee, Mass. Spent last Saturday night in our annex on their way to Damascus, Va. To work on homes that need repair. Many thanks to those of you who fed them lunch the next day after they worshipped with us. They left us a gift. Part of it is a cookbook developed with recipes from the congregation. The rest seems to be a platter of some kind. The gift will be opened for all to see today. It was a good weekend to meet and help others who help with good works.
July 15 (today) is Super Sunday. It’s always a day of good food and fellowship as we enjoy each other’s company as a family. Look forward to being there.
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING
There will be a brief steering committee meeting in the library following the fellowship meal on Sunday.
A NEW ADDRESS
After July 21st The Phelgar’s address will be 2721 Creekside Dr. Salem, Va 24153. The new Phone # will be 540-404-0185.E-mail will be email@example.com
AC Branch has returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica where she and several other young people shared their faith in that area.
BY THE WAY
This year Stephanie Dixon will be going to Guatemala to work in the Ezell Clinic for a week. She’s excited and so are we as we always see a change in the folks who go there to help with the health needs of those people.
We have decided to do a weekend Vacation Bible School in the fall. It will be Friday, October 19 and Saturday, October 20, from 6 PM – 8:30 PM. It will end on Sunday. More details later, but mark your calendars and be ready to help.
REMEMBER THE TREES
A large limb fell in the parking lot from a tree close to the entrance on Wednesday evening. There was no rain or wind, so be careful when you park.