Saturday, December 15, 2012
New Wine in Old Wineskins is an elegant and succinct post on how the author realized that his wholesale symbolic interpretation of Bible amounted to being disingenuous. An excerpt:
"I’ve travelled along the Christian spectrum from one end to the other, from Church of Christ to Universal Unitarianism. In the last few years that I called myself a Christian in the late 1990s, I kept edging further and further toward a broader interpretation of the Christian narrative until I had discovered I had fallen off that edge! In those last few years, my understanding of what was symbolic or metaphorical encompassed the whole of the Bible. It was finally the resurrection of Jesus understood as symbolic that I had to face up to the fact that calling myself a Christian was disingenuous....
There is no reason to have a sense of loyalty to a religious narrative just because it has been around for ages. It seems to me a lazy way of doing a kind of pseudo-philosophy rather than engaging with the world directly oneself and understanding it on your own ever-evolving terms. Why translate your own unique experience today in the religious terms of someone else from another time? Talk of putting new wine in old wineskins! Where an image helps shed light on one’s own situation, by all means, utilise it. But there’s no need to jump through hoops in order to make the Bible mean something other than what it meant for Christians over the past several centuries. It is in this sense that I find Christianity—even of the well-meaning, tolerant, liberal kind—lacking."
This pretty much applies as it is to Islam as well. I don't mean to say that all modern and liberal interpretations of Islam are delusory. All theology is interpretative, I maintain, but there is a certain point beyond which you are just stretching it, and the distinctive essence is lost. Furthermore, there is a difference between appreciating that a religion has something of value to offer and being a believer of that religion. The latter is not necessary for the former. This is my minimum standard, and I think it to be reasonable: To be a believer is to believe in the collective truth of the scriptures, and that the religious tradition is still relevant to the modern condition of man and serves as the primary source of moral guidance. This is a huge commitment to make, and if all you want to do is cherry-pick, why make this insincere commitment when you can give a more authentic expression to your perception of religious reality 'on your own ever-evolving terms'?