Recently, I’ve read more tomes of scholarly disputation on the Christian religion and the Bible. Like many of the debates and dialogues on the Internet and at universities, there seems to be so many beliefs and views on which Christians disagree and on which they write endless books arguing their own doctrine and denomination are the only true one.
Do Christians ever agree on anything, even the nature of God? Apparently not. There are over 200 different denominations of Baptists in the world alone. Even the tiny Society of the Friends can’t agree, even, whether God really exists!!
In my frustration with all this, a point raised by a professor years ago came back to me—of the climatic difference between a “world perspective” versus a “world picture.”
Immediately, I saw the deep insight of these two very different ways of living Christian faith, for the latter one is where so much of current (and historical) conflict in Christianity comes from.
“World Perspective” is a term emphasizing the over-all themes of Christian faith and Scripture.
God is. God creates. God created humankind in God’s image. Jesus in his words and deeds represents God, is the image of the invisible God—God is love, goodness, truth. Humans are responsible to seek God and to live good lives through relationship with God. Sin is a reality we humans struggle with and we reap the result of our choices.
In contrast, “World Picture” deals with all the details and knowledge of the first century view of life versus the 21st century and our current knowledge of the world.
So I can trust in Existence as having Ultimate Meaning, as being personal, as ethics being of supreme importance
as a Christian I don’t have to take an ancient picture of the world as true—that the cosmos was literally created in 6 days (“and there was evening and there was morning the 1th day”) or that the cosmos is only 6,000 years old, especially when all scientific evidence shows it to be billions of years old.
I can trust and hope Existence is going (however slowly) forward toward perfection. God calls all humans into this movement away from our instinctive wants and egoistic choices and nationalistic goals.
as a Christian I don’t have to think in literal 1st century apocalyptic terms of millions of soldiers meeting soon in the near future in a valley in northern Israel to slaughter each other or that the European Common Market probably is of the Anti-Christ.
I can think government as a form was instituted by the Creator to limit the evil inclinations of humans,
I don’t have to agree with the Apostle Paul when he says all governments have been established by God. Other passages of Scripture offer different views.
I can believe the ultimate purpose of existence is ethical and spiritual—egalitarian relationships of love in relationship with God who is Love
Of thinking many of the specifics (often eternally false) of the Old and New Testament are to be followed. There are so many but here are a few controversies which have caused so much evil and confusion in the name of Christ over many centuries--the institution of slavery is to be obeyed, women are to be subservient, people should slaughter their enemies, and are “blessed” if they bash their enemies’ infants to death on the rocks, the 4th Commandment is to be taken literally, doing no work on Friday night and Saturday, we are to give others a holy kissing in greeting, false religious teachers are to be executed, clothing worn by religious leaders if it is used to touch sick persons will heal them, God hates some people and creates them for evil, women must wear veils because of the angels, etc.
If some people complain that such a thematic perspective instead of a literal perspective is “picking and choosing”—cafeteria-style religion, we need to remember Jesus was accused of this as well and guilty as charged. For he chose the great truths of God and held them against other specific parts of Scripture which were not to be followed. The most famous case, of course, was when he disagreed with the literalists concerning divorce, explaining to everyone not to follow the Law of Moses!
To be continued
In the Light,