Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Languages of God

Note: I wrote very briefly to "Mike" late yesterday, in which I said "I obviously do not take the bible literally. I believe that the bible contains the words of God as interpreted in certain times and certain places by certain human men who are, as are all humans, flawed and faulted. Jesus is the only Word of God. I believe in that Word, that Logos, that Wisdom, and I try, best I can, to follow His Way.

In many ways, we are talking in two different languages. Where is the 'common ground' in those two different languages, those two very different world views? How do we communicate without talking past each other?

I'm not sure I know how to answer that. This is what I've been praying over and wrestling with before I respond to you, because I believe your questions to be honest and true. It's why I asked for help from my friends."

"Mike" wrote back to me, and ended with these words: "So, while I won't say that we will ever be enemies (I certainly hope not!), I know that I can say that we are not exactly on the same side in any arena of Christianity, and it all falls on our beliefs of the Bible. Then again, I knew that from the start. But now that I've gotten to know you a little bit, I sure wish it didn't have to be this way.

This is perhaps the most confused emotion I've ever had in my whole life.

I didn't mean to go on this long, ma'am. It's just that, even though it all SEEMS like ecumenical thinking could just bring the walls down and usher in an era of utopian sunshine and roses -- I know it can't be that way. Because I staunchly believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and all that that entails. And, of course, you do not. This would hinder fellowship and breed contempt faster than Satan fell from heaven!

What a paradox. Because I think highly of you otherwise.

So, I guess that is what I've learned. Thanks for helping, ma'am.

Here's my "open letter" to my young friend, "Mike". Thanks to each and every one of you for helping me to write it.

Dear Mike,

I woke this morning, just before dawn, put on a pot of coffee and said my prayers while it perked. After all these many years, my morning devotions are almost in sync with the time it takes to brew a good, strong, hot pot of coffee. It's a mystery to me how that happens, but it always does.

I poured myself my first cup and took it with me out onto the deck, which faces east, overlooking the marsh directly ahead of me. To the north, Rehoboth Bay stretches out before me. To the south, I can see the beginning of Indian River, just past Highway 23 which heads down toward Massey's Landing.

As I took my seat in my old wooden chair, I heard myself sigh with deep contentment as my face was caressed by a gentle south breeze coming up from Indian River.

The sun began to rise hot in the sky - a large, round ball of red slowly emerging from the horizon line in the marsh, its heat already radiating in the pre-dawn-blue-purplish-gray sky.

Suddenly, and without warning, a large flock of snowy white egrets took off from the marsh and flew directly into the rising sun. A few fish jumped in the water, apparently as startled as I was by the unannounced flurry of wings.

A group of seagulls who were perched on my roof and that of several of my neighbors began to raise a loud, cacophonous noise which seemed to cheer on their sister and brother egrets as they flew to meet the rising sun.

To my ears, it sounded like Hosannas to the Lord of Life.

Perhaps that is because I had just read, as part of the Office of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, "A Song of Creation" Benedicite, omnia opera Domini - from Song of the Three Young Men, 35-65.

These are the prayers attributed to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known by their Babylonian names - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - the three young men who praised God after they had been placed in the midst of the fiery furnace during a persecution of Jews in Babylon, as told in the Book of Daniel.

This part seemed especially appropriate:
Let the earth glorify you, O God,
praise and highly exalt you forever.
Glorify God, O mountains and hills,
and all that grows upon the earth.
praise and highly exalt God forever.

Glorify God, O springs of waters, seas and streams,
O whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify God.
praise and highly exalt God forever.

Glorify God, O beasts of the wild,
and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere
praise and highly exalt God forever.

I had read prayers - ancient prayers originally written in ancient Hebrew, translated to English - which had found a home in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

They have found a home, as well, on the lips and in the heart of this second generation Portuguese American woman for whom English is not a Mother Tongue - which may well be the genesis of my inability to embrace a 'literal' translation of scripture or anything, for that matter. My experience is quite different from yours.

I had said these ancient prayers, but then, by the grace and abundant generosity of God, saw them lived out and heard them spoken in another language, by another tribe of God's creation.

That they spoke their prayers differently, worship and and believe in God differently from me did not diminish one iota of their prayers.

Nor did their prayers diminish mine. We prayed to and praised God, each in our own way.

I do believe The Lord of All Life was greatly pleased.

And, here's the thing, Mike: Life - all of life - is a gift, a sacred mystery.

Over and over and over again, the various voices in Scripture tell us that no one can know the mind of God. The Psalmists are pretty clear about that in all their magnificent poetic prayers and songs of praise.

The Book of Job contains these words from Elihu: "The voice of God thunders wondrously and does great things which we cannot comprehend." (37:5)

The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes writes: "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things." (11:4-6)

The prophet Isaiah asks: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom." (40:27-29)

Jesus asked of Nicodemus, "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (Jn 3:12)

And Jesus comforts his disciples before his betrayal and crucifixion with these words, "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." (16:12)

There are many languages of God, Mike. Many ways to understand God and what God did in Christ Jesus. There are many things God has yet to say to us, but we cannot bear them now. They will be revealed.

All in good time. All in God's time.

Here's my best advice: If you want to be an effective minister of God and a good pastor to the people of God - as I know you want most in your heart - try to learn as many of those languages as you can.

It will not diminish by one iota your literal understanding of what scripture tells you about God, but it will enable you to be a better pastor to all of God's people.

Instead of seeing a "long chain link fence with no gate" - as you have seen in your mind's eye - try to imagine a large, luscious green field, filled with beautiful flowers and creatures of all kind, which has a picket fence and a gate that has a latch on your side.

You have control over when you go out and when you come back in. You have control over the ones you will let in and the ones you keep out.

Do not be concerned about your confusion. Indeed, rejoice and be glad in it, for the Psalmist tells us that "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (51:16-18).

The question marks in your mind and in your heart are the stirring of God within your soul, calling you to stretch out your arms, as Jesus did on the hard wood of the cross, to embrace all of God's people.

You are not being called to change what is authentically you and what it is you believe in your heart. This is not a challenge to compromise your integrity. You are being called to be more of who God created you to be - the image of you which God had in mind when you were called into being - to grow into what St. Paul says is "the full stature of Christ".

Indeed, I believe you are being called to serve all of God's people with deeper authenticity and even greater integrity - which may or may not require a transformation of what you now believe.

The bible is full of the stories of these kinds of transformations - from Moses to David to every one of the disciples, including St. Paul - as well as those like Jonah, who resisted and was left to sulk under a withering plant.

That journey always calls us to what Martin Smith writes are the 'crucifyingly obscure boundaries of faith." Confusion is often the beginning of that journey.

I pray you have the courage of those snowy white egrets and fly through your confusion and directly into the Son.

When you find yourself, like those three young men, in the midst of that fiery furnace - "heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated" - know that the "fourth figure" with you is the God of your understanding (Daniel 3).

All who see and know these things will join you in your praises of God - each in their own way.

And, I believe the Lord of All Life will be well pleased.

I will leave you with this blessing, which is one of my favorites, frequently used by the Rt. Rev'd Stacy Sauls, a bishop in The Episcopal Church.

Be careful as you go into God’s creation, for it does not belong to you.

Be gentle with yourself and with others, for we are the dwelling place of the Most High.

Be alert and be silent, for God is a whisper.

And the blessing of the eternally loving Triune God be with you and remain with you always.


For those of you who wish, here is the entirety of "Mike's" letter to me:

Well, I suppose that it comes down to something that I never really anticipated (you see, I did learn something after all! Amen!) -- it comes down to the issue of taking the Bible literally.


Well, it's like we've heard -- we're basically speaking two different languages. It's fascinating. I feel something like I've never felt before, like I'm looking at a chain-link fence that separates us, and I'm looking far down both sides, but I don't see an opening, you know? I believe in a literal, infallible Bible, preserved in English through God's providence upon those human translators (that would have indeed been erroneous were it not for said providence). You believe in a allegorical/figurative, imperfect Bible, translated with some loss of power and inspiration through the process of translation.

Hmm... It's almost frustrating. Sometimes, when I am talking with people about Christ, they say, "I don't believe the Bible." It's then that I am stopped dead in my tracks with whatever I was speaking about, and I have nothing to say only because we have no common ground -- they don't believe the Bible. It's almost like that with you, ma'am... except that you DO believe the Bible, just not the way I do.

...Most interesting. I'm taking a few seconds to compile all this in my head.

I'm very glad I wrote you, though perhaps not for the same reasons that many people would be.

I am glad that I know more about what you believe, and I now know that there is a whole other side, or, world-view, to approaching the Bible.

You know, one of the comments on your blog said that I was just trying to get things that I could use against you. That was, well... kind of ignorant, to put it frankly. I am not trying to get data or info to use against Elizabeth Kaeton. I am trying to learn more about other people's beliefs for more than one obtuse or cabalistic reason; I'm not just trying to gather "ammo." I just want to be informed about what other people believe.

In my mind, the most important impact of our communication is that I now know more about someone else's bibliology, and its impact upon what I believe are important moral and familial spheres of life. For this, I thank you.

You know, as I go about my ministry, I will encounter some people that may not be willing to accept the free gift of salvation because they are shrouded with doubt about the Bible. They may have heard some people say, "Well, I don't believe the Bible," or perhaps, "Well, I believe part of it," and even, "Now, this part is literal and this part is not," or, "The Bible is not to be taken literally." And now I can say, "Yes, I have actually spoken with a person that believes in a non-literal translation of the Bible. Maybe we could talk about that." I would rather be able to say that instead of, "I have no idea what you're talking about," and then watch them die without Christ to suffer eternally because of my ignorance.

As you have known all along, I believe in a literal translation. I believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins, was buried, and then He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures to be our One and Only Mediator between God and man. I believe that this is what the Scripture teaches. I could not embrace this without a literal translation (remember when one commentator asked, "Would this destroy your faith?" At first I didn't know what it would do. Now I know it would.), nor do I expect others that I share Christ with to be able to, either. Therefore, it is so important that I understand where everyone is coming from.

Finally, I say this. As I read your site a couple of days ago (specifically about how you had been in a same-sex relationship for such a long time while performing the office of rector), I was filled with indignation, confusion, compassion, and love all at the same time.

BUT --

Now, all those feelings are mingled and woven together with a certain tapestry of respect that was not there before. It is not respect for your paths of life (i.e. homosexuality, women clergy), as I have been transparent about my beliefs of the Bible's teachings and how I embrace the literal translation, thus believing that those things are wrong and abominable before God. However, I do respect your affable and courteous way of addressing my questions, even in the midst of many of your readers proclaiming nothing less than anathema on me. And I do respect that you seek the counsel of others. And I do respect that you just come right out there and say it: "I believe what I believe because I do not believe in a literal translation of the Bible." You don't hide behind creeds and confessions, nor do you seek shelter behind some other man's sayings or quotes. You didn't try to impress me theologically nor slam me into the ground bibliologically.

You respected me, despite our vast and vital differences in belief about the Bible. For that, I respect you.

Have you ever seen a show or movie where the protagonist and antagonist meet up at a certain point and No fighting? This is usually the result of at least SOME common ground or a unity against a common enemy; or perhaps they just don't have the strength to fight, since they're tired from all the OTHER fighting. They usually say something like, "Today, we're friends; but tomorrow, we have to be enemies again." You know what I'm talking about? In a certain sense, that's how I feel. Let me explain:

You know that I believe SO STRONGLY that the Bible is to be taken literally. I believe that the Bible must be taken literally to at least a certain extent in order for us to be saved -- after all, if Christ's death and subsitutionary atonement was not literal, then we are in big trouble! I believe so strongly that God meant every literal word. Thus, I know that, if we were ever called to debate each other in some college somewhere, we'd probably go at each other tooth and nail (cordially, of course!).

So, while I won't say that we will ever be enemies (I certainly hope not!), I know that I can say that we are not exactly on the same side in any arena of Christianity, and it all falls on our beliefs of the Bible. Then again, I knew that from the start. But now that I've gotten to know you a little bit, I sure wish it didn't have to be this way.

This is perhaps the most confused emotion I've ever had in my whole life.

I didn't mean to go on this long, ma'am. It's just that, even though it all SEEMS like ecumenical thinking could just bring the walls down and usher in an era of utopian sunshine and roses -- I know it can't be that way. Because I staunchly believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and all that that entails. And, of course, you do not. This would hinder fellowship and breed contempt faster than Satan fell from heaven!

What a paradox. Because I think highly of you otherwise.

So, I guess that is what I've learned. Thanks for helping, ma'am.

For His sake,


Fr Craig said...

well done, EK... you demonstrate God's kindness and grace in the face of (however kindly put) condemnation. thus is how the KoG is built. And perhaps God's grace, through your kind loving words, will touch this sincere young man's heart. If he reads this, I would only add this: which is the greatest commandment? To which the answer is, love God with all you've got and prove that love by loving others as much as you love yourself. Jesus didn't qualify that according to sinner or non-sinner, straight or gay, male or female, etc. If we take that literally, from the mouth of God's word made flesh, I think we can safely rely on that to trump anything else in Scripture.
blessings -

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Fr. Craig. I'm remembering a quote attributed to St. Francis: "Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words."

Gloriamarie Amalfitano said...

I hope "Mike" is continuing to read the comments because there is something he wrote that I want to respond to.

First, though, something that impresses me about both "Mike" and EK is their willingness to be taught. They are teachable people. To me, that is a crucial factor missing in the debate which rages across The Episcopal Church. So many on all sides of The Issue are convinced no one has anything to teach them.

But because "Mike" has demonstrated his own teachableness. I make bold to respond to this bit:

"You know that I believe SO STRONGLY that the Bible is to be taken literally. I believe that the Bible must be taken literally to at least a certain extent in order for us to be saved -- after all, if Christ's death and subsitutionary atonement was not literal, then we are in big trouble! I believe so strongly that God meant every literal word. "

Before I proceed, I'd like to establish my own evangelical credentials. I no longer consider myself evangelical, but it is part of my background. I have a BA in Bible from Gordon College in Wenham, MA and an MATS from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA. These days people call me a "progressive Christian". I have no idea what that means or what I did to earn the title as I hold to fairly conservative theology such as believe the Nicene Creed talks about actual historic events.

In both college and seminary classes, we were taught that there is a sharp difference between a literalistic reading of Scripture and a literal one. To read the Bible literalistically was to read it without reference to anything except the way we understand English today.

It was stressed that in order to know the literal meaning of Scripture, we had to know what the first author was saying to their first audience. We had to understand the cultural, grammatical, historical, linguistic, social contexts which created the various Biblical documents.

Unless we do so, we run the risk of making the Bible contradict itself. Did that cock crow 3 times or 9 as Peter betrayed Jesus? A literalistic reading demands us to say 9.

It is the same with I Timothy 2:1. To read that literalistically creates conflict with Galatians 3:28, which when read in context, demolishes all those boundaries between who can do what and when.

My question to "Mike" is this: do you read the Bible literalistically or literally as I've defined it above?

How literally do you take Scripture, "Mike"? Do you wear clothing with mixed fiber blends? That is specifically forbidden in Leviticus. When you look a woman to whom you are not married and feel lust for her, do you gouge out your eyes?

Times have changed and we all wear clothing of mixed fibers. If any of us gouged out our eyeballs the men in white coats would come and put us into a straitjacket before hauling us off to the hospital to have the eyes reattached.

My sense is that there are some portions of the Bible which you read literalistically (1 Tim 2:1) and others which you read in terms of their context, not only within the Biblical text but within the text's place in history such as Matt 18:9.

I suggest that no one, not even God, is served by a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. I think, though, God's church is crying out for more people to read the Bible literally, according to the way that was taught at Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Sister Gloriamarie

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Sister. You've given me much to consider in my thoughts and prayers. I suspect "Mike" will continue to read this and will also take your words into careful, prayerful consideration.

Anonymous said...

Good show, EK. I do want to comment on something that Mike said, though. I'm, of course, assuming that since Mike graduated recently he's fairly young, and that he's lived in a fairly insular world in that you're the first non-literal Bible believing person he's spoken to about the Bible.

I apologize, Mike, if both of these assumptions are false.

Mike said:
You know, one of the comments on your blog said that I was just trying to get things that I could use against you. That was, well... kind of ignorant, to put it frankly.

The problem, though, which you stated in the earlier post, is that it's based on your own earlier experiences with people who come around asking these kinds of questions. And I am sure that the commentor has had those experiences. Shoot, my blog is named after the joke we came up with in the Gay Christian Chat back in the old AOL chat rooms, where someone would come in and demand we answer for what they percieved as our sins based on two words.

EK, if Mike had emailed me, I wouldn't have responded. I've been burned very, very badly by people who just 'want to understand'.

Mike, I'm not sure if you're familiar with the healing process that is involved with severe burns. First, the heat goes past the skin and into the deep tissue, so that after the heat source is removed the burn continues to do its damage. The nerves die from the heat, and therefore your body keeps telling the brain you're in pain, often for weeks and months after the burn. The burned area needs to be kept moist and loosely covered to reduce infection. Not stop, but reduce. Skin grafts and physical therapy take years, and even decades, to restore part of the range of motion destroyed by the burn. The worse the burn, the less likely you will be able to move normally. You tend to favor the burned area, curl your body to protect it, keep it covered so no one stops and stares at your disfigurement.

For all my burns, Mike, received from people who called themselves Christian*, I am still trying to run the race Paul talks about in his letters to the Romans and the Colossians. I hobble along and fall on my butt a lot, I do the spiritual equivalent of physical therapy to restore my range of soul motion, but I keep trying. Can't run, the injuries are too great, but I keep moving forward at my own pace with Christ Jesus as my race support.

So please, Mike, do not judge those of us who hear your request and curl up to protect our injured souls. You know what your intentions are, but we've had too many others come by whose intentions are to injure, destroy, devour, tear, and burn.

*I'm not God, I do not presume to say who is in and who is out of the club, but boy, some days do I wish I could vote some people off the island!

Bill said...

"Mike" wrote: "So, while I won't say that we will ever be enemies (I certainly hope not!), I know that I can say that we are not exactly on the same side in any arena of Christianity, and it all falls on our beliefs of the Bible.

His choice of the words “enemies and arena” disturb me. Maybe it was inadvertent or even Freudian, but the words implies a contest between adversaries. I might have phrased it as “not exactly on the same side in any debate on Christianity”. In a debate we are talking about a dialogue with different points of view while an “arena” implies (at least in my mind), physical struggle where two opponents try to best one another. I know it might seem like nit-picking but in any discussion, all we have to express ourselves are words and a single word can change the meaning of any piece of writing.

Since the original letter is all about literal translation and understanding, I want to point out that the Bible is replete with words that can be translated in many different ways and with many different meanings. The King James version is notorious for just such errors in translation and that is not my opinion but that of biblical scholars. The ancient Fathers of the Church constantly criticized the work of scribes and translators for exactly the same thing.

As far as a literal view of the Bible goes, that’s fine. If that’s what you believe then that’s what you believe. Problems, however, arise when you try to use belief as a basis for argument. Belief really has no place in a debate simply because it cannot be proven. If belief equates to reality, then stories handed down from Greek and Norse Mythology have just as much validity as stories from Genesis. What makes Genesis real? Is it because it comes from the Judeo/Christian heritage? The folklore of the American Indian is beautiful in it’s message. It respects the earth and all creatures of the earth. The Pagan beliefs handed down from the time of the Druids flowed into the Celtic understanding of the world, and are similarly beautiful. All things come from God and are of God. Therefore all of God’s creations are good. If belief is the only criteria then all these and others are of equal weight in any debate. Compare those beliefs to the story of the Fall in Genesis where everything is now flawed because of Original Sin. As far as looking at humanity as a whole, the Celtic and American Indian perspectives have a much healthier view of the human condition then what came out of the mind of Augustine.

I find it ironic when we choose to see the Bible cast in stone (no pun intended) while our Jewish brothers and sisters who have a somewhat more legitimate claim on the Five Books of Torah than we do, point out, that what is written is meant to be argued and discussed from generation to generation.

Elizabeth makes a valid point when she advises Mike to be open and not closed to other beliefs. It is arrogant in the extreme to assume that we and only we are right.


What a gift this exchange of deeply held thoughts and beliefs is to those of us with whom you've shared it. Thank you, Elizabeth. The mutual respect leaps off the screen and is an example to us all. Thank you, both.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Blessing be on this young man and Blessings on you, dear Elizabeth! Hope all good will come out of this.

ps. next time tell him about the Quadriga ;=)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Order - your insight about 'burns' is very astute. As a former nurse, as well as someone who has been 'burned' by many fundamentalists, your words strike a deep cord with me. Thankfully, my wounds have mostly healed. I have my limits, of course, as I wrote in my note above where you can leave a comment. But, the healing can and does happen. Thanks be to God.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Bill. Your words echo those of Sr. Gloriamarie about literalistic vs. literal interpretation. I hope this is all of some help to "Mike" whom I think has a compassionate heart and not wanting to "burn" anyone.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm honored by your visit here, Lelanda. Thanks for stopping by and for your words of encouragement.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey there, Göran, thanks for your visit and for your blessing, my brother.

Gloriamarie Amalfitano said...

Thank you, Elizabeth.

...sigh... Where is my brain today? I left out another point I wanted to make about reading the Bible literally or literalistically.

Given my own evangelical and prior to that Roman Catholic background it was a struggle for me to come to see that full inclusion of GLBT is more in keeping with a literal reading of Scripture, as defined by professors at those schools I attended. Whereas exclusion is merely a literalistic reading of the texts.

Part of my journey was the development of my personal journey with God Who led me to see He wants me busy about loving Him with everything I've got and to allow that love He and I share to spill out to love my neighbor as myself.

Something else He drummed into me is that in judging others, in deciding who is and who is not fit for God's service or who can or cannot have a call to this or that vocation, I was failing in both the literal and literalistic meaning of loving my neighbor as myself. Not to mention failing to allow God's love to change me.

I've come to see that GLBTs are discriminated against. To my mind no Christians can be a party to discrimination because it means we are not loving our neighbor as ourselves.

I see 2 comparisons with the discrimination. One is the Civil Rights movement. GLBTs have been ostracized and treated as less than human or even non-human as once the non-white folk living in the USA were treated.

The other comparison has to do with how the Evangelicals I've known treat the mentally ill.
Once upon a time those we label mentally ill were thought to be privileged messengers of the gods.

Evangelicals said to me ( I am disabled for Major Depressive Disorder, I have severe clinical depression), as they say to GLBTs, that I am this way because I am a sinner , have unconfessed sin in my life, am not right with Jesus and if I would just do such and such, I would no longer have depression. This treatment was abusive and certainly not loving.

I can no more change the fact that I have the hardwiring that gives me brain disorder than can GLBTs change their own hardwiring.

Now please allow me to hasten that I do not think it is a brain disorder to be GLBT. I most certainly and emphatically do not. The comparison is solely in the treatment received. Evangelicals, or at least the ones I've known, treat GLBTS as if they were mentally ill and Evangelicals are none too loving of the mentally ill.

Thanks, Elizabeth, for allowing me to add this bit.

Sister Gloriamarie

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, I did not weigh in with a comment to your original post, because I didn't have much of value to say. I love your response to Mike. It's beautiful and inspiring. I love that you and Mike treated one another with respect and attempted to understand each another, without insistence on trying to bring the other around to the same view. This is an example of a loving and meaningful exchange between two Christians of quite different viewpoints.

Well done!

Grace said...

You write beautifully, Mother Kaeton.

At the risk of sounding naive, I think anyone who is truly committed to Jesus Christ as Savior, and Lord is ultimately on my side. All other differences pale in comparison, I think.

Is our unity based in Him, around the gospel, or in total agreement concerning the nature, and interpretation of every part of the Scripture.

Even the most conservative Christian people I know don't interpret every passage of the Bible in a literal sense, depending upon the context.

I also agree with Gloria Marie's comment. Sort of relates to what I'm saying as well.

Gloria, I spent a year studying at Gordon-Conwell,too.. :) An awesome experience.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sr. Gloriana and Grace - thanks for your comments. I wish I could connect "Mike" to the two of you and then sit in a corner and listen to the three of you talk. I'm sure I would learn a great deal.

Kay & Sarah said...

There is a field out beyond right and wrong. I will meet you there. -rumi

Beautiful example of this quote.

Lerewayah said...

I am struck by the extraordinary courtesy of the exchange between Mike and Elizabeth, and the further courtesy of all who have written additional comments. That's fairly rare in the blogosphere. Alleluia! Oh, and Elizabeth: outstanding response! So compassionate, well written, and loving.


Allie said...

To what you posted, to your patience, and to what has been said: "Amen" is all I have to offer, but it is a strong "Amen."

Jim said...

Lovely inspired writing. I wonder if it will be heard, not only by Mike.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Mimi, you know that I do not entertain fools gladly and I have been known to dress down a foolish troll or two in this space, but Mike was neither a fool or a troll. He was respectful from jump street so it was easy to be respectful to him.

Besides, I knew you'd be watching, so I was on my best behavior. ;~D

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lovely, Two Aunties. I loves me some Rumi poetry.

Thanks, Gretchen and Allie (waves vigorously with both hands).

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, God gives us the gifts we need at the proper time. I had nothing to give you in the way of advice beforehand, but Lady Sophia did rather well by you when you needed her. I always defer to Lady Sophia.

Anonymous said...

I say an AMEN to what Allie said. I would have commented early on but open ID AIM would not transmit any of my comments today.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whiteycat. Always good to hear from you. Thanks for your persistence.

it's margaret said...

What a wonderful response Elizabeth. I hope this encounter is what he purported it to be, and not some research for some paper or directed by a purple shirt looking for "evidence...." --what a horrific experience that must have been.

Although I come late to this conversation, may I please add my two cents?! --that I respond to such discussion by saying I am not a biblical literalist because I am a sacramentalist --the transection of eternal reality with living flesh and blood at this moment and every moment-- and holding an understanding of living flesh and blood as wild and diverse as known in creation in a manner very similar to what you so wonderfully described as "God's tribes."

An experience by which I also respond was given to me by a Cherokee man, when I was asking him about some tradition I had learned with the Lakota, he looked at me simply and said, "That is not my way." You responded so wonderfully in such similar words, saying, 'that is not the way I am called by God.'

Thank you dear sister --

oh, and what a wonderful word thingy --panfert --having something to do with pan --bread.... hmmmm....

Paul (A.) said...

I am struck by Mike's repetition of the phrase that he "believes in a literal translation of the Bible". Were he to learn Koine Greek (I'm guessing that this wasn't part of his theological education) and discovered that the King James English is a false translation of what Paul, for example, actually said, what then? Does Paul lose out to the translators?

And as a matter of curiosity, what is the source of the belief in "God's providence upon those human translators" that prevented them from error in their work? Surely that cannot be a matter of Scripture!

Or is Mike required by his teachers to not ask those questions? It would appear to me that a theology "with blinders on" is not the best route to God.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Justin Martyr c:a 150 is credited with the idea of "inspiration". This was obviously in answer to criticism from the Jews of his day that the versions used by him and other Christians were faulty.

This apparently revolved on the question if Jesaja had used the word parthénos; virgin and the understanding virgo intacta in Jesaja 7:14, or simply néantis: young woman.

To which he is said to have claimed that the Greek translation (the Septuagint the LXX) was more inspired than the Hebrew originals...

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

The Hebrew words involved are bethulà and almà, respectively.

JCF said...

You know that I believe SO STRONGLY that the Bible is to be taken literally. I believe that the Bible must be taken literally to at least a certain extent in order for us to be saved -- after all, if Christ's death and subsitutionary atonement was not literal, then we are in big trouble! I believe so strongly that God meant every literal word.

But where, Dear Mike, is THIS in your KJV?


Of course, it isn't anywhere in there.

Ergo, your faith-claim in an inerrant, infallible "God meant every literal word" does NOT come from the Bible.

It's a received teaching (if I may be so bold, a received dogma).

Now, my question to you: from whom did you receive it? And what is their claim to be infallible, inerrant? [At least we know where the Roman Catholics get their "infallible" claim---as dubious as it is! ;-/]

Seriously, Mike: where did you get this dogma?

And if it's above the Word of God Who is Christ, wouldn't you agree that this dogma is, well, an idol?

Gracious God, grant ALL Your people More Light!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

GREAT point, JCF. Thank you. I have a feeling "Mike" may no loner be reading. It's just a sense. My site meter went WAYYY up the other day so I wonder if some of the members of his church started reading this. I wonder what they might have "advised" him. Or, perhaps he's just taking all this in, soaking himself in it, letting it sink it.

Either way, I've been praying daily for you, "Mike".

Thanks to all who posted here. I trust you words have found a home in "Mike's" heart.

Edwin Cox said...

If "Mike" is still reading, I offer this for his considering as he continues to use the KJV -- the English language has changed! The following is an excerpt from the preface to the old RSV:

*The greatest problem, however, is presented by the English words which are still in constant use but now convey a different meaning from that which they had in 1611 and in the King James Version. These words were once accurate translations of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures; but now, having changed in meaning, they have become misleading. They no longer say what the King James translators meant them to say.

Thus, the King James Version uses the word "let" in the sense of "hinder," "prevent" to mean "precede," "allow" in the sense of "approve," "communicate" for "share," "conversation" for "conduct," "comprehend" for "overcome," "ghost" for "spirit," "wealth" for "well-being," "allege" for "prove," "demand" for "ask," "take no thought" for "be not anxious," etc.*

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Edwin. I hope "Mike" still reads this from time to time. Your contribution is very valuable.