Friday, February 9, 2007

Bible literalism

How can I know the truth about Christianity if I question the Bible's status as the literal Word of God?

By Marcus Borg

For people who are literalists and see the Bible as a divine product, having a divine guarantee to be true, if that set of beliefs isn't getting in their way, if it's not causing them intellectual problems, and if they're not using those beliefs to judge other people and beat up on other people, then I have no need to try to change them. The spirit can work through Biblical literalism. Most often, of course, it does lead to a division of the world into the “saved” and the “unsaved .” But basically, if a literalistic way of seeing the Bible is leading to a life that is more and more filled with the spirit and filled with compassion, I have no problem with people staying in that place.

But for people who can't be literalists and for people who are literalists and are fearful if they let go of [their literalism] then the whole thing falls into ruin, I would say that in one sense of the word know, we can't know that Christianity, or any of the religions, is true in the sense of being able to demonstrate it. One use of the word "know" in the modern period is something you can verify. In that sense, we can't know.

But we can take seriously a different kind of knowing. It's a very ancient kind of knowing. The ancients called it intuition. And, unfortunately, in our world, intuition is seen as kind of a weak thing. It's associated with women's intuition, a vague hunching or something like that. But the ancient meaning of the word "intuition" or “intuitive knowing” is direct knowing, a knowing that's not dependent upon verification. A synonym for intuitive knowing would be mystical knowing. There are people in every culture who have had what they regard as direct knowing experiences of God or the sacred. That kind of knowing is possible, and for me personally, it's that direct knowing, that intuitive knowing, that is the most persuasive soft data for affirming that God or the sacred is real.

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