Is It Real?

As I was tucking my son, Jack, in bed last night we were talking about growing up and being responsible, being a good big brother, being tough on the football field (that is the consuming thing right now as he is in the heat of 5th grade football), learning about yourself, learning about God. While we were talking, he asked if all the stories in the bible were true, the old stories from people that lived 5,000-6,000 years ago like Adam and Eve and Noah.

All of a sudden I had an epiphany: It doesn’t really matter if they are true or not because that is not the point. The point is that these stories are telling us something about God. Whomever wrote those stories, whether is was Moses or some other dude, had an experience of/with God that they were trying to convey in a certain way. Whether they are real is not the point. The meaning of the experience is the point. What that experience says about God is the point. What that story/experience says about God is where the realness really exists. Why have I gotten so caught up in the historical realness and missed the meaning? Probably because we live in a post-Enlightenment non-mystical world where everything must be proven logically in order to be of value. We have forgotten as a culture that there are other avenues to knowing.

My friend Luke recently reminded me from one of our mutual favorites, The Matrix, how the “desert of the real” may not be what we all along thought it was. Sometimes what is real is something completely else.

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14 responses to “Is It Real?

  1. All of a sudden I had an epiphany: It doesn’t really matter if they are true or not because that is not the point.

    I have been telling that to my wife as I have dialoged with her about my acceptance of the validity of biblical criticism (that does not mean the acceptance of all biblical criticism of course). And as an extention, I have been teaching my children that as well lately. If one believes X, Y, or Z in the bible did not really happen, it does not mean one cannot disbelieve X, Y, or Z and still retain faith in the inspiration of the bible and what it says about God. My wife is finding it intriguing as a “new paradigm,” my kids are finding it makes sense as I tell them they don’t have to believe all the myths of the bible are historically accurate in order to believe in God.

    Why have I gotten so caught up in the historical realness and missed the meaning? Probably because we live in a post-Enlightenment non-mystical world where everything must be proven logically in order to be of value.

    Maybe living in the 21st century and coming from a conservative Christian background has something to do with it? I consider that the trap of fundamentalism, which is defining what they consider the fundamentals in modern, scientific terms, as you touched on. It is easy to buy into what they posit; that you must believe it all literally or you can’t have faith. I reject that fundamentalists should have the right to define what faith is, let them define it for themselves, but not for everyone else. At the end of the day, we can learn about the worldview of the ancients when the bible was written, but we cannot really step into their shoes without forgetting all we know of the scientific world.

  2. ATTR. I told Jack that we don’t really know if every little story in the bible, especially those really early stories, are true. In some cases we don’t even know who wrote them down or only have ideas about who most likely wrote them down. We can’t prove or disprove that the events really happened that way or happened at all. But this doesn’t mean that the stories don’t have meaning. They can still give us a message and tell us about God and what God may or may not be like. Movies, the current narratives of our day, do that all the time. It’s not much different really.   I have actually felt a bit of relief since the moment of this realization. My observation of what seems like a significant chunk of the atheist/agnostic world is that reading the bible in a logical science text fashion eventually just became too heavy. To try and hold all of it up against that standard of literal truth dictated by God himself when your eyes and experience scream at you with something else, well it just gets ridiculous after awhile. I seems like many then jump and run to the other end of the line where you only have to believe that which you can observe. But I feel like maybe I have unlocked a door for myself in the middle where I can acknowledge that there are other ways of knowing that are valid and that the bible doesn’t have to be used as a science text in order to understand the truth within it.

  3. It’s a tough transition to make I think. I haven’t really made it, the faith part. The easy part is to realize the stories are not all historical “truth”, the hard part is, “what are you going to do with it?” and, “what truth are you going to find?” Lots of baggage and relationships to work through.

    One other thing I enjoy working through with the kids now a lot is asking, “what do you think?” and then not having all the answers. It’s a joy to reason through things like that together with the little ones.

  4. The point is that these stories are telling us something about God. (Doug)

    Actually I think the stories are telling us one better. They are telling us something about ourselves. The G-d part is actually secondary in my opinion.

    One other thing I enjoy working through with the kids now a lot is asking, “what do you think?”(Attr)

    I believe this is the power of our storytelling. This is what brings us into community and union. The thinking and fleshing out our ideas that stem from our stories. This is the fun and loving part. Truth then comes from our application of the understanding of the story within the framework of the community. Or maybe its just having a beer together, who knows. lol. ;)

  5. Hmm, I don’t drink beer with my kids yet, hadn’t thought about it, but I’m looking forward to that part as well!

  6. maybe the truth lies within the vary’n interps of a particular story.

  7. The purpose of the Bible is to tell us how to know God and walk with him. Scientific fact is not the point, as when in the Bible the sun stood still or a shadow backed up on a staircase. But I believe the truth of the Bible is reliable in every matter necessary to knowing God.

  8. “The purpose of the Bible is to tell us how to know God and walk with him” (Larry)

    If one reads the bible carefully and focuses on the God character through-out – one will be quite amazed at His focus – 100% of the time it is humanity! Now if we want to be ‘godly’ (mimcking God so to speak) – then what should our obvious focus be?

  9. TitforTat
    I have friends who invariably answer my questions with questions. Which ends up being in effect a type of “what do you think?” It frustrates me. I want to hear people’s opinions, even if I disagree.
    However, I am not really one to talk. Because my answers are commonly “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure”.
    Julia

  10. “The purpose of the Bible is to tell us how to know God and walk with him” -Larry

    actually i’d say that the purpose of the Bible shows how others have known God and gives us some insight as to how we can go about walking with God… but it’s more of a series of questions to which i must find my own answer…

    and Doug.. ya got it! truth and fact aren’t related!

    another note: watched a video on Harold Kushner and he said “humanity is the language of God.” meaning when you’re down and out, it’s not through theology that you feel comforted, it’s through ppl. so worship that is “Godly” draws us not only to God but also together… to our neighbors.

  11. Doug, the paradigm shift comes after our willingness to. struggle with the hard questions and face the unknowing. Far too many are unwilling to embrace that middle ground long enough to get there. They intuitively know that going forward will separate them from people and going back will not be a real option.
    Congratulations

  12. I agree that God’s focus is humanity. I think that’s because he is trying to point us to himself. It all ties together relationally. Scripture says that love comes from God. As we are receiving it from him, we are able to return it to him and express and live it with each other. For me, to anchor life and identity in God frees me to love others free from comparison and competition with them for significance.

  13. Think about this. If we are eternal beings(created in G-d’s image), dont you think G-d(who is all loving), would be having a blast watching us trying to navigate around this planet of ours. Rather than waiting to “Judge” us good or evil, dont you think he/she is smiling. Just a thought. ;)

  14. You said in this post ‘The point is that these stories are telling us something about God’.

    I rather think these stories are telling us something about ourselves, that’s why they were written. We cannot ‘know’ God until we know ourselves and our true reality. We will never know him through a sense-consciousness that reveals the external world, but we will experience him through a spirit -consciousness and that’s INTERNAL and available all the time.

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