Taking Doubt One Step Further

Sabio Lantz – “Taking Doubt one step Further: If we are rightfully willing to doubt the various spins people put on the Bible, and to doubt the uninspired biases of the various authors collected in the Bible, can’t we also doubt the teachings of Jesus himself?” (from Naked Pastor’s post ‘Just Stick My Name on It’.

My answer: Yes.

The ideas/teachings of Jesus are meant to be built and elaborated upon – until you arrive at your own wisdom as well – for your life and your experiences. The teachings have to be looked at from many angles – one of them is doubt (about their effectiveness). Like a hypothesis, how can one elaborate on something they do not test?

Luke 14:33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

This teaching is very interesting. The intent of the teaching is to not be so materialistic and to recognize how the things you own can actually skew your perspective/value system. However, in it’s literal form it is asking someone to ‘give up all their possessions‘.  Not a single Christian I know (or have ever met) follows this directive.

So…do they doubt? Do they think this doesn’t apply to them?

I don’t have a problem whatsoever with that teaching, in fact, I like it. But I’m also not a literalist, I interpret based on day and age, taking historical context into the present (era) conversation. So what I see there will be different from someone that can only read the words on a page. Am I making a mistake interpreting this way?

Here is what I see. Jesus and his disciples could forsake everything, which they did not, but they could – based on climate and ability to have land access in a variety of places. One could give up all their possessions, travel around, and live quite nicely in some respects. Also, if one wanted ‘off the grid‘ and forsake the money system – they could – see the Essenes of that era; it may have been possible. Also, it’s very possible these people thought the kingdom of God would come immediately – thus no need for possessions.

Try that in Canada. Cold weather would kill you. Can’t just park anywhere and sleep – need land ownership. Forsake the monetary system, better have some pretty deadly fishing and hunting licenses; would need land as well for gardening. It really cannot be done, just a fact.

So…still follow Jesus’ teaching? I say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. The intent makes sense. The literal teaching does not.

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4 thoughts on “Taking Doubt One Step Further

  1. You said:

    The ideas/teachings of Jesus are meant to be built and elaborated upon – until you arrive at your own wisdom as well – for your life and your experiences.

    Who said that? Who “meant” that? Did Jesus? How do you know Jesus felt that? Or is that just what you want?

    So, how do you decide when Jesus was literal or not? Let’s say Jesus was being literal and you disagreed with him, is that OK?

    How do you know that Jesus did not preach some outrageous stupid stuff along with some wisdom?

  2. “Who said that? Who “meant” that? Did Jesus? How do you know Jesus felt that? Or is that just what you want?” (Sabio)

    2 things – common sense and Jewish interpretation

    (1) Common sense: The teaching could be ‘treat others how you want to be treated’. Cool. Isn’t that vague? Treat who? Who are others? How – I need specifics? Treatment – how do I like to be treated? Does this require some self examination of who I am? The teaching is meant to be vague so as to be applicable to a wider context, the contexts we all face and have to define for ourselves. So yes, we need to elaborate for ourselves.

    (2) Jewish Interpretation: I did much writing on this prior – but ever hear of PARDES? Here is brief breakdown from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardes_%28Jewish_exegesis%29:

    a. Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — “plain” (“simple”) or the direct meaning
    b. Remez (רֶמֶז) — “hints” or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
    c. Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: “inquire” (“seek”) — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
    d. Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in ‘bone’) — “secret” (“mystery”) or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.

    Texts have various depths to them and reading a passage one has to take a literary and historical aspects into account – compare – and develop the various meanings that may exist.

    Once you have a list of relevant points – since each text does not necessarily have a single meaning – from there you start to develop your own teaching from it for the modern era. Similar but not exact.

  3. “So, how do you decide when Jesus was literal or not? Let’s say Jesus was being literal and you disagreed with him, is that OK?” (Sabio)

    I think each passage has to be examined case by case IMO.

    For example, my favorite one, the teaching from John 14:6 “Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

    Is this passage literal? Well, in some way – yes. That is how it gets used a lot in modern interpretations in Evangelical churches. However, upon a close and obvious literary examination – how can someone be ‘the way/truth/life’ – these are not physical things we can be. How can someone ‘go through Jesus’ to get to the ‘Father’? That’s not physically possible either.

    In some sense, this is allegory or metaphor. Jesus is a pathway to truth and life – to sound wisdom and smart ideas for enhancing a life. His teachings lead to God, which would be a literal interpretation of the metaphor he uses.

    So, yeah…this takes work and an easy and cross cut solution for the whole problem is not manageable…it really is case by case – but PARDES as a guide helps to some degree.

  4. “How do you know that Jesus did not preach some outrageous stupid stuff along with some wisdom?” (Sabio)

    He did, many people say he did – namely atheists and people that don’t like the oldness of Jesus’ words. As far as Heaven’s gate type ideas or Koresh-like stuff – hard to say he did – his communities were not killing themselves in the early periods…not sure how far out his teachings were based on that alone.

    As for doubt, from the last question, there is room and needs to be. True growth comes from doubt and questioning. I, for example, disagree with the literalness of ‘giving up everything’ and even ‘I am the (only) way’ ideas.

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