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The online devotional reflection by John Edgerton that the above quote is taken also includes the statement that provides the title of this post: “I believe Bible study is the best medicine for fundamentalism.” Click through to read it.
Many people often stop at that quote without taking it to a more logical and fulfilling conclusion: Bible study is the best medicine for religious belief. Study it enough and you can’t ‘honestly’ enter a church for worship again.
I think there are many ways to approach the Bible. Starting with the premise that in order to have value/be true, the Bible must demonstrate that God is what fundamentalists believe, I think a logical outcome is to end up thinking religion is illogical and unfulfilling. I delayed my baptism partly because I couldn’t reconcile my understanding of fundamentalism (which for a long time I thought WAS the Christian viewpoint) and my understanding of the world.
Starting from other premises/points of view may lead to a rich religious experience. A big part of my own conversion was reading the Bible (and a lot of supplementary material, and engaging in the church as a community) and understanding that fundamentalism isn’t the only way to approach the Bible/Christianity.
This may not lead to a positive spiritual experience for everyone who does this, but I think there are many (as I was) who are blocked from really engaging with the message of the Bible by fundamentalist portrayals of the Bible and Christianity.
I appreciate Edgerton’s post.
If it is not the book that fundamentalists believe it is, then it is just a book of myths and stories. Which is fine. So is Aesop’s fables (which actually provide more practical guidance on living life and morality). But once one realizes it is just a book of stories, why would one think it holds “the truth”? That is where Edgerton can’t go. Probably because he has been indoctrinated and would have to give up a lot of things by admitting that. (What would he do on Sunday morning?!)
You seem to be one of those atheists whose training is in Christian fundamentalism, and so although you now reject particular views you once held, you’ve never critically examined the validity of the black-or-white thinking that fundamentalism taught you. The Bible is not either the inerrant word of God or a collection of fables. It is a library of literature with a lot of different genres in it, and even in those works that include history or legend, there are often elements of the other. I hope that you can make the transition from fundamentalism and its apologetics to a view of the Bible that takes seriously what it is: a collection of human literature.
Liberal Christians have been there for a long time, and your bizarre dismissal of Edgerton as unable to draw certain conclusions because otherwise he wouldn’t know what to do with his Sunday mornings is nonsensical. I hope you can see that. Perhaps a good place to start would be by (1) examining your own fundamentalist assumptions, followed by (2) finding out what liberal Protestants, belonging as we do to a tradition that pioneered things like the historical critical study of the Bible, actually tend to think.
I agree, I was being sarcastic about what he would do on Sunday mornings 🙂 I was not raised in fundamentalism per se – just Catholic. Went to seminary and studied theology and the Bible. I do see the Bible as you have said – a library of literature with lots of different genres. Tell me, have you created a religion based on the works of Boccacio or Ovid or Chaucer? Those are also collections of great stories.
But no, no fundamentalist background here, just a critical reading of the Bible. You are like Edgerton – able to cast stones at Christians you don’t like without examining the problematic value you yourself place on the Bible and its importance.
Based on the many things I have written here on this blog, not to mention published in articles and books, what do you think the value is that I place on the Bible, and what do you think the importance is that I ascribe to it?
You are correct, I do not know the value you place on the Bible (aside from your response to my initial comment which suggested that a serious analysis of the Bible would lead to not only counteracting fundamentalism, but religious belief in general). So I do apologize, I was mistaken to assume you placed much credence in the Bible. We all get some of our assumptions wrong – e.g., your initial response to me was off quite a bit on my beliefs.
But I do stand corrected and should not have made my last comment. I just figured you placed a certain value on the Edgerton article, and he supports the Bible as a useful, meaningful text.
Texts can be useful and meaningful in a variety of ways. I don’t presume to know precisely how Edgerton views the Bible, but I did think his quote, with its rejection of bibliolatry, was worth sharing.
Totally agree – I love the quote. I just thought he stopped a little short in his analysis, that was all.
I agree completely!