Monday, February 2, 2009

Faith in Text, Tradition, or Life?

Dysfunctional systems are rampant within the Old Testament Scripture. Names such as Esau and Jacob, Saul, David and Jonathan, and Samson and Delilah all conjure up images that send messages about "meaning".

While most Christians understand these stories as Christian emphasis of historical revealation of God, aren't these stories also a challenge to our "modern sensiblities"?

When Jacob stole Esau's birth-right, the Christian believes this to sanction Jacob's desire to attain the "blessing of God" at "all costs", even lying to his father, with the help of his mother? Or Saul sacrificing was "out of order", which meant that he lost the Kingdom. Saul's jealousy over David, as God's choice highlights what extent jealousy will go. While some of these truths are human truths for today, some of the "spiritualized meanings" condone spiriutalized rationale for doing things that would be against modern understandings of 'justice". Most of us in the modern world would not condone this behavior. We understand such terms as fairness, which would not affirm the O.T.'s value of "attaining God's favor" through lying or pursuing God's favor through a "priesthood"'s sacrifice. Our understanding is based on the development of our laws, which protect us from lying, stealing and subterfuge.

Just recently my grandfather met with my cousin, who is the executor of his estate. In going over all of his assests, my cousin insisted that my grandfather write up the specifics to his will. This protects his interests from others doing what Jacob did, as it is not a matter of attaining God's favor, so much as doing what is just. Justice is defined by our understanding by our laws, which is equality under law. It has nothing to do with "God's favor".

Last night, a lady shared her experience with a local business that did business according to local custom. She and husband were buying a house and put up ernest money. When a three week period went by without any response from the other party, she and her husband went to investigate, only to find out that the couple had changed their minds. To this day, the lady and her husband have not gotten their ernest money back. Local custom trumped the law. Of course, I am sure that if they had pursued the case, there would have been some recourse, but would they have higher legal fees than the ernest money they paid, in the first place?

Traditions hold sway over people's minds when it comes to undestandings of justice, fairness, right and wrong. While tradition maintains a culture's values, tradition can also be misinformed and short-sighted as to a broader context and world. Tradition works at a lower level of moral development than our Constitution or legal system.

"Biblical Christians" don't even recognize that their understanding is disconnected from the real world in this sense. They are committed to the "ideals" of a Christian reality, without understanding that these realities are traditions. And even those who base their faith understandings on the text are also ill-informed to the limitations of their view because of their particular bias. This is blindness and ignorance.

I think that reason is a gift within that must be used to inform our consciences and convictions. Tradition inhibits the full use of our reason because of fear that we might displease God, because the text or the people of God are the arbitrators of truth. Believers , in this sense, are not free, but in bondage to fear. Faith is not to bring bondage and fear, but trust in life itself. Grace is the gift to be and choose in this life without fear and torment.

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