Peter, It’s always good to hear from you. 🙂 Thanks for your support here, and well said too.
You make a good point about science adjusting theories according to new discoveries and knowledge which is something religion needs to do. In my opinion, science and religion aren’t that different afterall, each based on theories or beliefs and helped by living ‘evidence’ to support them. Some might argue with me on this and please feel free to do so. For instance, beliefs are perhaps more faith-related and not reliant on evidence. However I believe we are given evidence in various forms to strengthen our faith in whatever we have faith in. I’d be interested in others’ comments on this..
I think there’s a lot to learn from Buddhist practices. I watched a beautiful program some time ago about interfaith people and experiences. A catholic nun decided she needed to learn how to meditate so turned to Buddhist monks, deciding that they were the experts in that area. At first she found the focus on nothingness quite daunting, even threatening to her sense of self and God. She said that in our western way of thinking we are often used to having a focus as part of our thoughts or prayers. (From attachment theory, you might say some of us cling to a ‘transitional object’ as a toddler does to a favourite blanket to remind him of Mum, which assists him in coping when she’s not there and in the journey toward independence. So maybe if we doing a similar thing, this indicates an area for potential growth in terms of maturity and something we can learn from our eastern friends…Just my thoughts anyway…). After a while however, she realised that she really wasn’t losing anything of value but gaining quite a lot. She came to see that there were false aspects of herself that she had been quite attached to and really didn’t serve her. These were being revealed and gradually peeled away. This left her with a sense of freedom and the space to really know herself and God. She said she found great peace along the way. I loved how she described this process and the fact that it deepened her Christian understanding while giving her an appreciation of buddhists and another way of doing things.
holywoman, sorry that I’ve diverted somewhat from your original post..However this line of thought makes me think that you are still the person you were made to be and no person can ever take that away from you. Oh sure, they can potentially stop you being a priest (at least in that particular church/congregation) or gag you for being a woman, both painful, but there is always more than one way to express your true essence or calling. The church’s position maybe limited but God’s ways are not. I’m not saying it’s an easy process to find your path in that maze.. only that there is a way through. And I’m confident you’ll find it. 🙂
Dear Holywoman (and Ann Maree and Peter),
It concerns me greatly that anyone who is a current leader of the church would make a comment about taking the word of men over the word of God. I have a number of problems with this from a theological point of view.
Firstly, the bible is the word of men not the word of God. My best friend and I went to a lecture by a theologian called Bill Loader (from WA) in which he addressed the issue of literal interpretation of scripture particularly well. He pointed out that the Bible was written by men, based on their experiences of things that occurred at the time, in the social and historical context of the time, and with the same flaws and prejudices that life experience brings to us all. It is like asking 10 witnesses to a single event to describe what they saw, they will all describe the same thing with the little differences that their life experiences lead them to interpret slightly differently to the person standing next to them. Now take these little differences and add to them several translations and the effects of time and see what you get. Even the synoptic gospels have slightly different accounts of the same events in the life of Christ, as you would expect.
Secondly, in the bible can be found the word of God if and only if you have the understanding to look for the word of God by finding and interpreting correctly, in the correct context, ALL of the passages that relate to a particular issue. There is a reason why modern theology is referred to as Systematic Theology, it is because it takes into account both new and old testaments, contemporary sociological and scientific understandings, and God’s general revelation when seeking to understand an issue and in ministering to others. Anyone (and I mean anyone) who in this day and age seeks to use literal interpretations of isolated passages of scripture is a long way from modern theological practice. Be very wary of anyone who does this, in my opinion the ‘hard-right’ is made up largely of people with out-of-date understandings of theology or who have not studied theology at all. They are dangerous ill-educated people who have caused incredible harm to the church and to so many people hurt as a result of their views.
A case in point is the oft-quoted passage from Leviticus 18 that the right-wing use to attack same-sex relationships. Notwithstanding the application of modern systematic theology and the need to consider modern social and scientific understandings of same-sex relationships and leaving aside for the moment arguments about this passage being representative of discord with custom rather than biblical law, there is also the issue of the need to inconsistently apply this section of scripture to use it in the way hard-right literalists do. In my study bible the notes for Leviticus 18 speak very specifically of the ‘sin’ of homosexuality and decries all who seek a more liberal application of this section of scripture, yet the very same bible notes talk of the list of ‘sins’ in Leviticus 19 (which crops can be planted, not mixing cloth in the same weave etc) as not a literal list of sins but rather something we should seek to interpret through the general principles of living that which Christ taught us. This is the same bible interpreted by the same people telling us that Leviticus 18 must be taken literally, yet we can use Leviticus 19 as ‘representative’ of other things and not to be taken literally! It is rubbish of course, neither can be taken literally and both should be used in a systematic way and interpreted in the context of our other modern understandings, not as isolated literal text.
Studying theology is fun and a wonderful way to open your eyes to the incredible living message that is contained in the Bible, but all care should be exercised to ensure that when someone claims that Systematic Theology is being taught that is exactly what they are doing.
On the topic of the perspective of women one of my favourite authors, Naomi Reed, has written an excellent book called “The Promise” that tells key stories from the Bible from the perspective of the women of the Bible. My best friend gave it to me for my birthday and it is a wonderful book. I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in a female perspective of some of the most incredible events in human history.
Kindest thoughts and God bless,