(This will be the first of five blogs on my newest book)
A. Dealing with the euphemism
There is a euphemism often used in the Judeo-Christian world to refer to certain parts of the bible. The phrase is, “the difficult passages.” If the chief protagonist were anybody else except God, he’d be immediately branded as a genocidal psychopath. But God-fearing Bible believers can’t go there. Instead, they attempt to dodge the issues by claims such as, “He is God, who are we to judge his behavior?” or “God has his reasons, we just don’t understand them” or we succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome whereby prisoners who are being held captive and brutalized by a captor begin to psychologically agree with his rants and viewpoints in order to survive the ordeal.
In any case, God is given a pass by those who believe in him while, for atheists, these passages are the final proof God is simply the ‘opium of the masses.’
As a Catholic of 75 years and an ordained priest of 49 years, I’ve taken a very different tack. And that was my purpose in writing this book which I’ve titled, Setting God Free: Moving Beyond the Caricature We’ve Created in Our Own Image.
B. Putting God on Trial
The Biblical Book of Job puts God on trial for crimes against Job; and in Auschwitz, a group of incarcerated Jews, led by Elie Wiesel, put God on trial for crimes against Jews. In this book, I put God on trial for crimes against all of humanity.
The case against God is based on his own ‘journals’ (the Torah/Pentateuch) but in order to present my case, I first needed to explain what is meant by the terms ‘biblical revelation’ and ‘the inerrancy of the Scriptures’. In turn this forced me to look at how we know what we know (epistemology), how we decide what is ‘true’ or worthy of belief (ontology) and how we then organize our beliefs into a coherent paradigm (cosmology.) So, I first needed to set psychology free.
When I was in the seminary in the 1960s, psychology was included in the philosophy department. In fact, philosophy—the love of wisdom— had several branches; among them were ontology (the study of the nature of reality), epistemology (the study of how we know what we know), ethics (the study of moral behavior), and cosmology (the study of the universe—physical and metaphysical.) So, before we can set psychology free, we first need to spend some time looking at epistemology, and cosmology. And let’s take a look at ontology while we’re at it.
C. Assembling the biblical jigsaw puzzle
Imagine trying to collect all of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have been scattered throughout the house by a three-year-old child. To make matters worse, the dog has chewed up a corn flakes box, and now pieces of it are in the mix. Some faculty of yours has to be able to tell the corn flakes box pieces from the genuine jigsaw-puzzle pieces. That part of you is what you activate when you employ epistemology, which is the art/science of figuring out how you know what you know. It’s the data-gathering phase. Second comes ontology – which is how you distinguish the ‘real’ pieces from the corn flakes box pieces. Without ontology, you’d be trying to integrate corn flakes box pieces into the design, not realizing that they don’t belong. Then comes cosmology, which is the part of you that figures out how the real puzzle pieces go together. So, without cosmology, you’d have all the correct pieces but be clueless about how to assemble them into the picture.
The first task of my new book, then, was to apply this analogy to sorting out our basic worldview, religious/spiritual beliefs, personal values, etc. before attempting to evaluate the importance or message of the Bible.
Therefore, we need to gather all the data, then we’ll make sure there are no corn flakes box pieces in the mix, and finally we’ll explore how to go about recognizing which combinations of the real pieces might allow us to re-create the picture on the cover of the jigsaw puzzle box. The process involves three main questions:
- How do we know what we know?
- How do we decide what is true?
- How do we organize what we know into a philosophy of life?
With this framework in place, I created a courtroom scene to bring Yahweh to trial for crimes against humanity. The prosecution called three expert witnesses and the defense called four expert witnesses.
In the next four blogs I will cover the four parts of this new book, namely
Part I – Setting Psychology Free
Part II – Setting God Free
Part III – Setting Spirituality Free
Part IV – Setting Science Free