I have much appreciation for the energy, honesty, courage and openess to address anabaptism past, presence and future. A question on “radical” Anabaptism has not been raised though — or raised sufficiently enough. For this takes much courage and honest. In all actuality, it takes the greatest amount possible — because it will hurt, and for some, it will be excruciating. Because if we desire to be “radical” we must address a radical understanding of the Bible. We must get at the root (’radix’) of what the Bible is. This is scary stuff! As Anabaptists we must be radical about the nature and character of the Bible. Every issue, every question, every statement that is being talked about here on the Radical Anabaptist blog is rooted (’radix’) in the Bible. The scriptures are the foundation for all of this. Thus, we must get to the root (’radix’) of the Bible itself. We cannot stay our hand, we must — for truth’s sake — (for God is spirit and truth ) take the scalpel and dig deep. We must exise to the very root of the matter. And this is the matter: increasingly, through the ever-expanding and developing research of biblical studies, we are discovering that the Bible, the Scriptures, are ultimately shaped and determined by its historical, social, cultural and literary context. Again, CONTEXT. It is increasingly being acknowledged in biblical research that the scriptures are not literal transcriptions from God but rather are very much the product of historical, cultural, social and literary factors. In other words, much of what is in the Bible is contigent and relative and very much conditioned by these very human historical-cultural factors. One must face up with this. The biblical authors were not puppets in which God pulled the strings. The biblical writers were not made senseless by the Spirit and taken over in a ventrilaquist manner. We cannot literally interpret the Bible as truth. The authors were human — all too human. And thus, the Bible itself, in its very nature, is HUMAN. In fact, one does not need to be a biblical scholar to see this. IF one is absolutely honest, then one has to face up to the fact and admit that the scriptures are full of human foibles, inconsistencies, mistakes, prejudices, ignorance, bigotry, hate and racism and violence. It is a very flawed work coming from flawed human beings just like you and me. Thus,the bible is not inerrant. The scriptures are not literally or verbally inspired. And, if we want to be people of truth, we must face up with that fact. We must be courageous and honest and confront the rigid, oppressive and suffocating dogma about the natrue of the Bible.This issue must be addressed before we address those rigid, oppressive and suffocating elements within our Anabaptist past and tradition.
We say that the Bible is “inspired”, but what does that mean? “Inspriation” is something of an entirely different nature and phenomenon in the bible than we have traditionally habitually and unthoughtfully believed. There is inspiration in the bible, and this is absolutely true. “Inspiration” is immanent though, that is to say, it come from within the heart, the spirit of the human being — it does not come from without. More specifically, what is reckoned as “inspiration” in the scriptures are those things that point to themes such as compassion, mercy, forgiveness, peace, lovingkindness, humility and the like. We as Christians acknowledge that it is these things which come from God. It are these that are of the character and nature of God. Thus, God is the author and “inspirer” of these qualities. They are “transcedent” in nature because they are eternal and everlasting. But they don’t come from the outside and go inside. They are innately and inherent within the human being — from birth — because we have been made in the image and likeness of God. Hence we can speak of “divine inspiration” in this way. Knowing all the long that this divine inspriation is mixed up with very flawed, broken, ignorant and limited human beings — persons, biblical authors who happened to get in touch with and become aware of those divine qualities, those God-given qualities that reside within us by nature and from the get-go..
So, we must come to grips with the fact that what is divinely inspired, what is ultimately true in the bible, and from God who is spirit and truth, is found within a heap of refuse. What we are able to discern to be from God in the bible, is like looking for diamonds in a dumpster, or nuggets of gold in a pile of cow dung. This is how we need to look at the scriptures and we should come to them and understand them in this way. This is the radicalization of scripture. It is a radical surgery, done by truthful, honest and courageous exising exegesis of the bible. And, in order to be “radical Anabaptists” is to not hold back and dogmatically protect the bible from our radical faith perspective. In this way we can address the various issues, questions and concerns that radically engage our radical anabaptism. The radical questioning of the Bible is fundamental to the radical questioning of our anabaptist faith and tradition, and promises and problems therein. Thus we must radically confront the bible for what it is and isn’t and from there we can radically confront our anabaptist and Christian faith and practice.
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