a blog about words and faith and life by Cindy Maddox

Archive for March, 2016

Letting Go of “The”

Everybody in my congregation knows about “the chart.” I handed it out in worship one Sunday. I use it in Bible study. I give it to new members. “The chart” is the way I explain the variety of ways we as Christians interpret scripture. You can see the whole chart Here but let me share the highlights. It starts on the left with fundamentalism and moves progressively to the right.

The Bible was not only inspired by God, but dictated by God. The Bible was inspired by God, but written by humans. The Bible may have been inspired by God, but was largely influenced by humans. The Bible was written entirely by humans and does not automatically reflect God.
The Bible has authority because it is God’s words. The Bible has authority because it is the word of God. The Bible has authority because we grant it authority. The Bible has no more authority than any other sacred text.
The Bible is inerrant (without error) in all its teachings. The Bible is inerrant in doctrine but not necessarily in history or science. The Bible contains errors in history, science, and sometimes theology. The Bible is not to be taken as fact but as opinion so errors are irrelevant.


My congregation includes people in Columns 2-4. (Column 1 Christians tend to worship only with other people in Column 1.) When I preach, I am well aware of the variety of beliefs within my congregation. The problem is that many people outside the church don’t realize there are such things as Column 3 and 4 Christians. The Column 1 and 2 folks are the ones with the television shows and the best-selling books promising financial success to the faithful and hell to everyone else. Many people don’t realize that there are other ways of reading the Bible that are both intellectually honest and spiritually faithful. And so, if they don’t believe that Jonah was swallowed by a real whale, and that Noah lived on a boat with two of every animal on earth, then they don’t think they can believe anything the Bible says.

Which is the problem with Easter. People think that if they don’t believe in THE resurrection—don’t believe that Jesus came back to life after being dead for three days—then Easter is not for them. But the problem isn’t with Easter. And it isn’t with resurrection, either. The problem is the word THE.

As a pastor, it doesn’t matter that much to me if my people believe in THE resurrection. But it matters a great deal to me if they believe in resurrection. It matters a great deal if they believe in the power of God to bring life into situations thought beyond reach. It matters a great deal if they believe in the power of love to heal wounds, in the power of grace to build bridges, in the power of mercy to move mountains of bigotry. This is what resurrection is about. Resurrection is about new life where we thought none was possible. It doesn’t take a suspension of rational thought to believe in resurrection. It only takes a need, and a little hope.

Our country needs some resurrection. We also need more critical thinking. We don’t need more “God said it and I believe it and that settles it for me.” Replace the word God with the name of your least favorite political candidate, and you’ll see what I mean. We don’t need more blind faith, whether to God Almighty or to the Almighty Dollar or the Almighty “I can save the world” presidential candidate. We need people who are willing to think critically and realistically while also holding onto hope … hope that we are better than what we are showing the world right now, hope that we can stop the damage being done to our social fabric, hope that we can make a difference in the process. We need to hold onto the hope for decency, the hope for compassion, the hope for unity in our diversity. But since it appears that those things are nearly dead in our society, we need some resurrection.

Easter is almost here. It comes early this year. I’m glad. We need some resurrection. We need it now.