Date   

Scripture and authority

David Markham
 

“IT’S IN THE BIBLE!” 


This statement is often used to justify a claim or argue a point by those who see scripture as a stable and reliable source of values in a time when social mores in the wider culture are shifting rapidly. On the other hand, many of those who are hostile to the idea of scripture say that it has been used as a weapon against their beliefs or identities.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 13). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In logic, the appeal to authority is considered fallacious, and is called argumentum ad verecundiam. The argument is that something is true just because someone considered an authority says it is so. Parents use this argument when children complain and challenge the parent with “Why do I have to?!” and the parent says, “Because I said so!”


The idea that a sacred text is the revealed word of God and, as such, has intrinsic, unchallengeable authority to determine truth has become highly suspect since the time of the enlightenment.


Even if the text is considered authoritative, who is to determine whether any particular interpretation is more correct, authentic, and /or definitive than another?


The text is held up as an idol for worship rather than the thing being referenced by the text.


Texts considered authoritative often get used in political ways giving one class of people domination and control over others. 


Francis David, the Unitarian Pioneer, in the Sixteenth century, said that we need not think alike to love alike. 


Jesus taught that the way to the Kingdom is Love and often condemned the Sadducees and the Pharisees for their intellectual parsing of their religious texts. 


It is written in the first verse of the Tao Te Ching that “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.” 


It is written in A Course In Miracles that “The Course does not aim at the teaching of love, for that is beyond what can be taught.”


Sacred texts are the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon. They are a light illuminating shadows in the darkness so that we might sense the Divine more clearly but they are not science textbooks to be taken literally or a great deal of politica, psychological, social, and spiritual harm can be done.


  1. What has been your experience of sacred texts? 

  2. Have they been used as instruments of coercive subjugation or tools of liberation? 

  3. Have sacred texts been used on you to exert compliance to the demands of external authorities or as vehicles for enhanced understanding and enlightenment?


Re: What's a canon?

David Markham
 

Hi Carol:

Thank you for your thoughtful and informative description of your experience with scripture.

In Unitarian Universalism, heresy is considered to be a good thing. The fourth of the seven UU principles is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. If this search takes one in heretical directions so be it. As Polonius says in Hamlet, "above all else to thine own self be true."

Francis David, the Unitarian pioneer in the sixteenth century said "We need not think alike to love alike." I think Jesus said a similar thing when He said that the way to the kingdom is to "love as I have loved." Jesus was not impressed with the rabbinical scholars of His day and often called them hypocrites, whited sepulchres etc.

I admire your bible study and your flexibility in considering the meaning and application of the scripture to your daily life. This is the best purpose to which scripture can be put.

Happy New Year!

David Markham

On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 3:44 PM Carol Mannchen <oldlawmom@...> wrote:
Okay.  I was taught in Catholic school that the Bible was the inspired word of God.  I took a class a few years ago, a 4 year class, so I guess you might call it a course, called Education for Ministry, sponsored by The University of the South (Episcopal.)  We had a year of church history, so we covered all the councils during which the canon was decided upon.  I am not as familiar with how the apocrypha got removed by the Protestants.  Anyway, the whole procedure seemed just too political for me to associate it in any way with the inspired word of God.  However, I will say that I have read some of what is sometimes called the lost Scripture, and most of it is super weird to me.  

I know that the Quran is considered to have been dictated to Mohammed by an angel, but other than that, I am not familiar with the other Scriptures.

I don't consider the Bible to be the definitive word of God.  It is too contradictory, and also portrays God as someone I would not care to know most of the time.  That is somewhat scary to me.  Having learned more about placing it in its historical context, I see it as more of a history of a people and how they came to define themselves.  The New Testament -- I am not so sure.

When we do Bible studies at my church, we don't take everything literally, but still more literally than I believe, and then we read things like Rob Bell's What is the Bible, that interpret the Bible in a way more pleasing to us.  It seems we bend the words and stories to mean what we want them to mean and what makes sense to us.

I know that all of this is extremely heretical, but, oh well...

Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 12:42 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?

 


Re: What's a canon?

Carol Mannchen
 

Okay.  I was taught in Catholic school that the Bible was the inspired word of God.  I took a class a few years ago, a 4 year class, so I guess you might call it a course, called Education for Ministry, sponsored by The University of the South (Episcopal.)  We had a year of church history, so we covered all the councils during which the canon was decided upon.  I am not as familiar with how the apocrypha got removed by the Protestants.  Anyway, the whole procedure seemed just too political for me to associate it in any way with the inspired word of God.  However, I will say that I have read some of what is sometimes called the lost Scripture, and most of it is super weird to me.  

I know that the Quran is considered to have been dictated to Mohammed by an angel, but other than that, I am not familiar with the other Scriptures.

I don't consider the Bible to be the definitive word of God.  It is too contradictory, and also portrays God as someone I would not care to know most of the time.  That is somewhat scary to me.  Having learned more about placing it in its historical context, I see it as more of a history of a people and how they came to define themselves.  The New Testament -- I am not so sure.

When we do Bible studies at my church, we don't take everything literally, but still more literally than I believe, and then we read things like Rob Bell's What is the Bible, that interpret the Bible in a way more pleasing to us.  It seems we bend the words and stories to mean what we want them to mean and what makes sense to us.

I know that all of this is extremely heretical, but, oh well...

Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 12:42 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?

 


What's a canon?

David Markham
 

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?

 


Which God are we talking about?

David Markham
 

Though we may not view the New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures as divinely inspired, the Qur’an as dictated by God, or the Vedas as apaurusheyatva, we can appreciate the texts as gifts to humanity. We understand that, through the ages, these works have shaped whole societies and civilizations. We can honor and appreciate them as sources of wisdom that speak to us across generations and cultures. This attitude toward scripture places Unitarian Universalism in a position distinct from other faiths; rather than venerate one text over others, we feel free to read each in the light of all the others.
 
Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (pp. xiv-xv). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 
 
Some people call it the “perennial wisdom,” the “perennial philosophy,” the “perennial theology,” but no matter what it is called there is a recognition that the world’s religions and scriptures have certain ideas and concepts in common. Rather than compete with each other in terms of which scripture is right and which is wrong, it is much more enriching and profitable to see how each provides a different perspective on the same phenomenon.
 
The word “God” has been used in many different traditions, in different cultures, in different texts and yet no matter what the concept is labeled, it always refers to a Transcendent power.
 
One time a student asked their professor, “Do you believe in God?” The professor replied, “It depends on which God you are asking about.”
 
Have you read different scriptures? If so, which have you found most illuminating at what point in your spiritual journey?

Moderator notes:
We have a new member today which brings our group up to 5. Our goal is to have 10 members or more by the end of January 2021. Please invite people who you think might be interested.
 


Re: Why read scripture?

David Markham
 

Hi Carol:

So good to read your post.

No need for one to change their church affiliation. God comes in many flavors. I always like the saying that "My God is too big for anyone's religion."

I was raised Roman Catholic and was in the seminary studying for the priesthood during my adolescence. I like to call myself a Roman Catholic Unitarian Universalism.

Francis David, the pioneer Unitarian in the sixteenth century that we need not think alike to love alike.

The book is available on Amazon. 

Til next time,

Keep the faith! 😊

David Makrham

On Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 9:04 PM Carol Mannchen <oldlawmom@...> wrote:
David -- I do not have this book yet.  I hate buying books, my library doesn't have it, and I am having trouble with the Inter-library loan thing.  I may just go ahead and get it from Amazon.  I feel that I am a good fit with the Unitarians, but am unwilling to give up my present church.  The Unitarian Universalist Church is way across town from me, plus, it would break my heart to give up the liturgy I know -- Catholic/Episcopalean/Lutheran.  

Anyway, I will get the book and read it.  I assume it is for a month.  As far as the fingers go, my fingers have all been people.  My grandmother was Irish, and devout, yet at the same time, she could drink like a sailor and was not at all prudish.  Then there was my convert Dad, who had to convert to marry my Irish Mom, and the Jesuits somehow got hold of him.  He became a real Catholic and actually would try to convert some of his friends.  After he died, I found his original baptismal certificate, and it was Episcopalean, I had never known.  And of course there are others, priests and ministers since then.  Now, I have this brilliant son, who I sent to a Jesuit college, who wonders how I can believe all this stuff.  I don't know.  My beliefs change from day to day.  I used to say my belief is this -- There is a God, and it is not me.

Looking forward to some good discussions.
Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 7:36 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:
There is something about reading a text that is revered by a community, with a reach that is often worldwide and handed down through millennia. The practice of applying it to our own lives can help us feel less alone and more connected to a truth larger than ourselves. It prompts us to examine how we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. This reflection is the beginning of wisdom. Scripture, then, can illuminate how, individually and collectively, we have come to where we are, and can push us toward more profound truth.
 
Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. xii). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 
 
I love the mystical story about the finger pointing at the moon which reminds us not to mistake the finger for the moon.
 
It is interesting how religious people come to worship the finger. They make an idol out of it. They make the finger their god.
 
The point of looking at the finger is to discern where and to what it is pointing. The finger is a compass to help us find our way to our destination. We read and study scripture in the hope it will help us better find the moon and arrive at our destination.
 
Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Scripture can be a road atlas that can help us journey on our way to our destination.
 
What maps have you found helpful on your spiritual journey? How were they helpful? What part of your trip did they help you be more efficient and effective in your travels? How did you use them best? How have they led you astray? Did you ever find yourself lost and found a map that helped you orient yourself so you could proceed on your way?
 


Re: Why read scripture?

Carol Mannchen
 

David -- I do not have this book yet.  I hate buying books, my library doesn't have it, and I am having trouble with the Inter-library loan thing.  I may just go ahead and get it from Amazon.  I feel that I am a good fit with the Unitarians, but am unwilling to give up my present church.  The Unitarian Universalist Church is way across town from me, plus, it would break my heart to give up the liturgy I know -- Catholic/Episcopalean/Lutheran.  

Anyway, I will get the book and read it.  I assume it is for a month.  As far as the fingers go, my fingers have all been people.  My grandmother was Irish, and devout, yet at the same time, she could drink like a sailor and was not at all prudish.  Then there was my convert Dad, who had to convert to marry my Irish Mom, and the Jesuits somehow got hold of him.  He became a real Catholic and actually would try to convert some of his friends.  After he died, I found his original baptismal certificate, and it was Episcopalean, I had never known.  And of course there are others, priests and ministers since then.  Now, I have this brilliant son, who I sent to a Jesuit college, who wonders how I can believe all this stuff.  I don't know.  My beliefs change from day to day.  I used to say my belief is this -- There is a God, and it is not me.

Looking forward to some good discussions.
Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 7:36 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:
There is something about reading a text that is revered by a community, with a reach that is often worldwide and handed down through millennia. The practice of applying it to our own lives can help us feel less alone and more connected to a truth larger than ourselves. It prompts us to examine how we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. This reflection is the beginning of wisdom. Scripture, then, can illuminate how, individually and collectively, we have come to where we are, and can push us toward more profound truth.
 
Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. xii). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 
 
I love the mystical story about the finger pointing at the moon which reminds us not to mistake the finger for the moon.
 
It is interesting how religious people come to worship the finger. They make an idol out of it. They make the finger their god.
 
The point of looking at the finger is to discern where and to what it is pointing. The finger is a compass to help us find our way to our destination. We read and study scripture in the hope it will help us better find the moon and arrive at our destination.
 
Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Scripture can be a road atlas that can help us journey on our way to our destination.
 
What maps have you found helpful on your spiritual journey? How were they helpful? What part of your trip did they help you be more efficient and effective in your travels? How did you use them best? How have they led you astray? Did you ever find yourself lost and found a map that helped you orient yourself so you could proceed on your way?
 


Why read scripture?

David Markham
 

There is something about reading a text that is revered by a community, with a reach that is often worldwide and handed down through millennia. The practice of applying it to our own lives can help us feel less alone and more connected to a truth larger than ourselves. It prompts us to examine how we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. This reflection is the beginning of wisdom. Scripture, then, can illuminate how, individually and collectively, we have come to where we are, and can push us toward more profound truth.
 
Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. xii). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 
 
I love the mystical story about the finger pointing at the moon which reminds us not to mistake the finger for the moon.
 
It is interesting how religious people come to worship the finger. They make an idol out of it. They make the finger their god.
 
The point of looking at the finger is to discern where and to what it is pointing. The finger is a compass to help us find our way to our destination. We read and study scripture in the hope it will help us better find the moon and arrive at our destination.
 
Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Scripture can be a road atlas that can help us journey on our way to our destination.
 
What maps have you found helpful on your spiritual journey? How were they helpful? What part of your trip did they help you be more efficient and effective in your travels? How did you use them best? How have they led you astray? Did you ever find yourself lost and found a map that helped you orient yourself so you could proceed on your way?
 


Welcome

David Markham
 

Welcome to Kendra, Jenny, and Carol.

It's so great to have you in the group.

The way groups.io set up their lists is that the first two messages from new members are moderated and then after that the member can post messages with no moderation. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas about the books we discuss.

The book this month is Scripture Unbound by Jonalu Johnstone.

I posted her definition of scripture in an earlier post and asked what scripture people grew up with and what scripture, if any, they favor now.

Sincerely, 

David Markham


Scripture Unbound- What is "scripture"?

David Markham
 

What is scripture according to Jonalu Johnstone?

She writes, "...scripture in this book will refer to texts that are affirmed by a community for their spiritual authority and that the community finds normative for good living, calls on for ritual, and uses to guide spiritual growth and development."

Did you have a text which guided your spiritual formation during your formative growing up years?

Do have a preferred text now that fulfills the functions which Johnstone names?

David Markham


Hello

David Markham
 

Thanks for joining the Spiritual Book Discussion group.

We have been discussing the Spiritual Child by Lisa Miller. You can access the book notes by clicking here.

If you are willing, it would be helpful if you could introduce yourself. Of particular interest is your preference for spiritual reading. What kinds of books and topics are you interested in?

Our next book for January, 2021 is Scripture Unbound by Jonalu Johnstone.

All the best, and welcome,

David Markham


Where did you get your spiritual compass?

David Markham
 

To soothe this confusion, perplexity, fear, and depression our society offers chemicals, sex, glamour, status seeking, and risk taking behaviors. The other option is to turn inward and experience a relationship with a Higher Power which provides guidance, intuitive wisdom, courage, and grace. 


From where does this inner spiritual growth and development come? 

Did you feel a connection and faith in something bigger than your ego self? 

What kind of guidance, support, and nurturance did your spirituality receive? 

From whom? From where? 

From where will your children and grandchildren receive such nurturance and guidance?


David Markham



Welcome

David Markham
 

Welcome to the Spiritual Book Discussion group.

All the best,

David Markham

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