Friday, June 26, 2009

The Writing-Researching-Publishing Process

Anyone who wants to follow my experience writing, researching, promoting, and publishing my book (Working title: Confessions of a Bible Thumper - My Sojourn as an Evangelical, Why I Left the Fold, and How I Discovered a More Reasoned Faith), follow me on Twitter:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Paul the Egalitarian

I knew Jesus was an egalitarian in the way he respected women in the first century's male-dominated society, but Paul? His infamous passages denigrating women made me shudder, along with every feminist on the planet. In my more moderate evangelical circles, we dealt with those passages as culturally conditioned anomalies of first century bias that were not applicable to our modern cultural context. But what if those passages were never in the original Greek text? That was something I never considered because the possibility was never allowed inside the narrow confines of the theologically-conservative churches I attended.

Well, you learn something new every day. In reading Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, I learned just how reasonable the case is that the I Cor. 14:34-35 passage ("It is shameful for a woman to speak in church..." That one.) is bogus. What a breath of fresh air. But the real shocker for me is that my old friend Gordon Fee (not literally--I'm a long time fan of one of his books on how to interpret the Bible), put forth this case way back in 1987 in his commentary on I Corinthians! Where the hell was I? I didn't get the memo. Ehrman cited Fee in his book. I feel slighted. All these years Fee taught part of the Bible was altered and the evangelical church never bought it. And the Bible hasn't been revised (or footnoted as far as I know) in any modern translations to reflect it.

The case is strong. Take verses 33b to 35 out and read the passage and see how much more it makes sense. And, how suddenly Paul isn't contradicting his great line "...there is no male or female in Christ... all are one," or what he says elsewhere, or contradicting Jesus and his welcoming of women. Ehrman reveals how additions to texts were not uncommon by scribes who had theologically biased reasons to alter things. Some of them never made it into our modern Bibles but some did! Ehrman (and Garry Wills) also makes the case that Paul didn't write I Timothy. Guess where the other anti-feminist verse is attributed to Paul? You got it. I Timothy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Universal Life

Two books I recently read have helped shape my rethinking of the traditional evangelical view of salvation. The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbot and The Evangelical Universalist by Gregory MacDonald (a psuedonym) make a near impenetrable case that universal reconciliation was the original intent of the apostle Paul and Jesus. How could the church be teaching exclusivism all these years and never have disclosed this fact? My theory is that traditionalism is so strong in evangelicalism and other conservative Christian movements that any diversion from it is suppressed. For example, how many evangelicals were ever taught that the church fathers Origen, Gregory of Nyassa, and several others were universalists? How many know that universliasts have included such prominent people as President John Adams and George MacDonald (a favorite author of C.S. Lewis)? How many people know that the word "everlasting" in Jesus' famous Sheep and the Goats passage is more accurately translated as "pertaining to an age" and that Jesus wasn't talking about a never-ending punishment but a punishment that pertained to the coming age? How many recognize that Paul made several statements that strongly support universalism including "as in one man, Adam, all sinned, so through one man, Jesus, all will be reconciled?" No, most aren't aware of these facts because they don't fit the traditional view and teachers and Bible commentators are either ignorant of them or are deliberately overlooking them. I bring these details and much more out in one of the chapters in my book, Confessions of a Bible Thumper.