I guess there are certain things that go without saying: the sky is blue, the Pope is Catholic and the Holy Bible is not without contradiction.

Well, I suppose there are many people who would disagree with that assessment, but I’m perfectly confident that I’m right. As I get older and am going on five years as a “confirmed” Christian, I realize that there are certain things that will divide followers of Christ and reflect the differences between people that may never be reconciled.

Forget that believing that every word of the Bible means one must reject the overwhelming evidence that humans evolved from a lower species, that dinosaurs walked the Earth at one point and accept that the world was created in only six days. Instead let’s get to something more or less substantive as it applies to the character of Christian thought and general interpretation of the most influential man who walked the Earth, some two thousand years ago.

Take from the St. Paul’s First Letter to the church in Corinth, Turkey, written some time around the mid 1st Century:

“What I wrote was that you should not associate with a brother Christian who is leading an immoral life, or is a usurer, or idolatrous, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or is dishonest; you should not even eat a meal with people like that. It is not my business to pass judgment on those outside. Of those who are inside, you can surely be the judges. But of those who are outside, God is the judge.” 1 Corinthians 11-13.

From the Gospel of St. Matthew, written perhaps two or three decades after Paul’s letter, recounting Jesus’ ministry among the Jews:

        • When Jesus was at dinner in his house, a number of tax collectors and sinner were also sitting at the table with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many of them among his followers. When the scribes of the Pharisee party saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this he said to them, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the virtuous but sinners.”

So which is it? An honest assessment of both passages—one from a Gospel and the other from a letter—reveals a dichotomy or contradiction, if you will. If Jesus commanded people to embrace sinners and work with them for redemption, then how is it that St. Paul openly tells a community of Christians in Antiquity to run from their presence? Therein lies neither the answer nor the solution to the question, but a whole problem altogether, which is the fallibility of human recollection and recall and yes, even the Holy Bible.

There are plenty of people out there who would gasp at the assertion that the Bible could perhaps not be the inerrant Word of God Almighty. I’m willing to accept that in saying so, a whole group of Christendom would condemn me to hell (also forbidden in the Bible). But let’s be logical here. The Holy Bible was put together not by God, but by men. It was a concerted editorial process that did its best and perhaps most honest job to accurately reflect the mission of Christ as passed along from his disciples to latter disciples. A Biblical canon was not agreed upon by the Church until hundreds of years after the carpenter’s son with the sandals from Galilee made his appearance in the countryside preaching a message of repentance, love and forgiveness. Certainly, the fathers of the Church never intended for the Bible to be inerrant. They simply chose from the most relevant testimonies of Christ that were available. They didn’t sit down at tables and ask the Holy Spirit to move a pen in their hands. The Church Fathers may have sifted through dozens, perhaps a hundred Gospels of Jesus Christ before deciding on just four that they felt best reflected what had been passed down throughout the ages.

I’m not a biblical scholar (nor do I want to be) but a great example of the theological puzzle the early Church tried put together can be contained in two passages from the New Testament. The first comes from the Gospel of St. John:

I’m not a biblical scholar (nor do I want to be) but a great example of the theological puzzle the early Church tried put together can be contained in two passages from the New Testament. The first comes from the Gospel of St. John:

        • I tell you solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.

          For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. This is the bread come down from heaven; not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live forever.”

          John 6:53-58

The second piece, written decades earlier, comes again from St. Paul’s first letter to Christians in Corinth

Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.”
1 Corinthians 28-30

The Gospel of John, we are taught, was written at some point in the late 1st Century. At the time of his writing, it is speculated that the Church was in the practice of celebrating the Eucharist, which it believed and still does to be the Body and Blood of Christ. In choosing this Gospel, perhaps the Early Church saw this as an important and unifying practice for Christians to follow. The same can be said for Paul’s admonition that Christians have a clear conscience when they gathered for Communion. Whether they were right or wrong about the Body and Blood of Christ truly being present in the physical bread and wine is another story altogether (Only three mainstream denominations teach this: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism). Could it be that among other things, the Church Fathers thought that it was important to include St. Paul’s command on the Eucharist in the canon because it was an important part of their faith community? I think that there’s a good possibility that is the case

Biblical Fundamentalism will always have it’s appeal. It speaks to certitude and legalism, which people like. We are lost souls in need of direction and for some of us, memorizing and quoting from scripture helps as a guide to our lives. But this unbending devotion to words instead of spirit is in itself a form of idol worship. After all, Jesus gave people his life, not a Bible. I myself reject Biblical fundamentalism and am perfectly comfortable with the fact that there are some who will sign my ticket to hell. To me there is no compelling evidence to support the Bible’s most outrageous claims such as the Earth being created in six days, a warrior killing armies of men with the jawbone of an ass or Noah putting two of each species on a wooden boat while the world was flooded. If that doesn’t add up to scrutiny that the Bible is infallible than every other claim is suspect. Could it be that the Bible is man’s best attempt at explaining the mystery of his relationship and interaction with his Creator? I think that’s a good possibility.


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