Oh, My God!: Moving Beyond Emerald City

Oh, My God!: Moving Beyond Emerald City

by Javier J. Farias

Paperback

$17.99
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, March 28

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504339964
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 02/17/2016
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Oh, My God!

Moving Beyond Emerald City


By Javier J. Farias

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2016 Javier J. Farias
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-3996-4



CHAPTER 1

A Manual for Moral Living


As I was saying in the introduction, there will be a few statements made in these pages regarding religion and the world's most popular god which will seem outlandish or even irreverent. However, none of them are made lightly or without solid biblical support. Where a statement is an opinion, I will say so. Since the Holy Bible itself will provide the support for all of my assertions, we should take a few moments for a brief review of its reputation as an undisputable source for "proving" practically anything we humans can say about anything – as long as we can somehow connect it to anything mentioned in the bible.

It is also well established that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, with estimated annual sales of around 100 million copies and has been translated into over 500 languages. Also an undeniable "fact" is that it has been a major influence on world literature and history, especially in the West. As for its historical record, the Bible has also earned special status as the first mass-printed book. Very impressive, no?

Amazingly enough, even with all that popularity and world-wide distribution, I contend here that few people have a good working knowledge of what it actually says. In fact, I will predict that most who claim to be thoroughly familiar with its pages, and can even quote lots of its verses, will be utterly shocked by their ignorance (nothing personal) of its contents. Honestly though, their lack of familiarity is really not their fault. The reason for that being that it is the pastors, ministers and theologians who intentionally steer us only toward what I call the "pretty" or prosaic passages. If you read much further, you will see what I mean by that.


How Many?

Now, one small problem I have with "the" bible – and gosh this is almost too petty to bring up – is that there are so many versions of them in print. Even more bothersome, they all say the same thing – but differently. If you own or have read more than one translation, you've no doubt noticed that. So let me see now ... at my last attempt to count, I came up with about 117 translations – and that would be in the English language alone. In case you're wondering, no, I did not attempt to count all the other versions of the 500-plus languages that may be out there.

Since the first English language bible, Wycliffe's Bible, was published back in 1382, and especially after the invention of the printing press, there is no telling how many trees have been felled to meet the ever increasing demand for more. A simple internet search for "number of bible translations" will yield enough to occupy your free time for quite a while. Basically, there are now about a dozen "Standard" bibles of some type or other, about as many King James versions and "Living" (or "simple") bible versions, about seven or so "International" versions, as well as a few "American" versions. And no, I don't have any idea what makes the American ones any more relevant or special. You would probably need a degree in theology or something to understand that.


To Make It Easy

In the chapters that follow I will be quoting extensively from the New International Version of the Holy Bible (Zondervan Publishing House), and from The Living Bible Paraphrased (Tyndale House). The former because it seems to be one of the more popular and widely recognized versions and (according to the Preface) was the result of the efforts of "over a hundred scholars," and the latter simply because this version often renders a much more plain spoken interpretation of what the ancient writers meant or intended to convey in the original text. This according to their carefully selected panel of biblical scholars as explained in the Preface of that Bible. Not surprisingly, this sometimes results in much more blunt translations than many theologians, evangelists or otherwise "devout believers" are comfortable with. As their Preface also makes clear, the publisher endeavored to transcribe the scriptures "under the careful scrutiny" of a group of highly respected experts on the complexities of the original Greek and Hebrew. So I'm thinkin' those verses should be as "God breathed" as any other.

Less frequently, I'll also use verses from the ever-popular King James Version. This seems to be, for many, the preferred version because of its "beautiful, eloquent old English" phrases. But I quote from its pages for a more practical reason – a better insight into the ways the use of an archaic language like Old English can seriously distort the original meanings of the text and create significant misunderstandings upon which our spiritual ... understanding is based. If you are not already familiar, you will soon find that quite often, some truly objectionable events are described in such a polite or "eloquent" way they are rendered inoffensive to the less astute reader. Upon closer scrutiny, many of those events turn out to be anything but harmless – never-mind spiritually inspiring. In my opinion, those who have relied primarily on this version for their spiritual edification have almost no concept of what is actually being said in some of the most significant passages.

Then there is The Jerusalem Bible which was useful as well because, like my TLB, it was written as a modern bible for modern readers with heavy reliance on what they call "the original pioneer work of the School of Biblical Studies in Jerusalem." That sounds authoritative enough for me. Moreover, the publisher's heavy emphasis on providing a "modern clarity of the text" to modern readers is something sorely needed when translating texts which are several thousand years old. For ease of writing, I will sometimes abbreviate the bibles I use most by their generally accepted acronyms such as NIV for the New International Version, TLB for The Living Bible, KJV for the King James Version, TJB for The Jerusalem Bible and GNT for The Good News Translation.

It is also well established (just run an internet search) that many theologians insist that our Holy Bible is a "manual for modern moral living" and that it should be used exactly as such if we hope to find our way through the complexities and trials of modern life. You may have also heard at one time or another that the Bible is "God's instruction manual for life" or many similar statements. Additionally, the book some well-meaning, sincere pastors like to refer to as "God's Book" is also said to give you "stability and new meaning to life." Some give us the inspiring assurance that since it is God's Word, and since God is "perfect," then it stands to reason that it must "forever endure." Well ... I'll admit that does sound reasonable enough. Time will tell, I guess.


Make No Mistake

Of course, we've certainly all heard it said by theologians (and others who make a good living from what I call "Religion Inc.") that the Holy Bible is the absolute, perfect and inerrant Word of God. Preachers seem to love to remind us of that before they take a verse (usually out of context) from it and lecture us about "proper living," and "right conduct" and ... that sort of thing. Since the Word of God is perfect, their sermons must be too, I guess.

Yes, practically everyone agrees that "The Bible" represents absolute and undeniable spiritual authority. So by relying entirely upon "the Word of God," in whatever version you prefer, for this updated modern tour (of sorts) through "Holy Scripture" there should be no question as to the validity and truth of the many previously un-noticed images that turn up as I shine my flashlight into some of the darkest (and least explored) spiritual nooks and crannies in our "Good Book."

Now, I refer to this as a "modern" tour because everybody else seems to still be using the original guidebook from back in, oh ... Solomon's time or thereabouts. Hopefully, by the time our informal little tour is over, you will have a much clearer view of just who you have been "looking up to" for so long.


Chicago, Chicago

Anyway, it turns out that numerous theological groups representing Christian denominations meet regularly to discuss points of doctrine and topics like the infallibility and the inerrancy of the Bible. In your internet search on this topic, you will likely find the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy," which was made during a conference of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society back in 1978. This get-together of "evangelical scholars" was sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and, as the name implies, was held in Chicago. Here is how they put it:

"The source of all Scripture is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is God, by His very nature He is completely without error. Therefore, the Scriptures which He breathed out are also without error (inerrant)."


While they did not go into any detail about just how they determined that "His very nature" makes Him so flawless and therefore incapable of error, nor how it was determined that all scripture was "breathed" into existence, the leap of spiritual logic which leads to the Doctrine of Inerrancy seems to stand unquestioned – certainly among evangelicals and the like. All of these considered scholarly opinions about perfection are, well, perfectly fine with me since they can easily be applied to anybody's opinion about what a verse means. Since the Word is perfect, then your position on its interpretation has to be equally flawless. Simple, right?

Now according to my research, it appears that this doctrine itself was the product of another conference of sorts – the Second Vatican Council, held in 1962. Somehow, it just strikes me odd that something so fundamental to our millennia old religious system (we could say it is the foundation of the metaphorical Emerald City) has come to be decided upon only in the past half-century.

An interesting comment (in Article IV) further states that the "authority" of the Word is "inescapably impaired" without total acceptance of its inerrancy. Inescapably impaired, huh? Well, I'll say a big "Amen" to that! After all, where would we be without total acceptance of dogma?

Moving along then, there is also a comment (still in Article IV) about our human language not being limited by "our creatureliness" (their word, not mine) in a way as to make it "inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation." Hmmm ... so that means, well ... I'll have to get back to you on that.

Anyway, Article X of that "statement" further affirms that all "copies and translations of Scripture are [my emphasis] the Word of God ..." Also in the Summary Statement of that document, they proclaim that "God is Himself Truth and speaks truth only." Again, while that sounds plausible enough, no biblical basis for that spiritual axiom was offered. But then again, it is probably because their opinions are much more learned and valid than yours or mine.

Interestingly enough, one of the objections to the findings of the council, by a group calling themselves "Traditionalist Catholics," was that its "modernising reforms" somehow undermined the Church's "longstanding pious practices of religiosity." Although I have met more than a few devoutly religious people who seem to imply that their life exhibits something like that quality, I have often wondered (and still do) just what "religiosity" is. It has something to do with how "good" you are, I think.

Well anyway, I could go on with many other similar statements in that document, but I think you begin to get the idea here. Understandably enough, those who make comfortable livings preaching from "the" bible depend totally upon unquestioning belief in biblical authority. The bible just has to be absolutely above questioning by us unworthy sinners, you see.


Only Human

In the interest of fairness, I offer a few Biblical verses which may provide some of the basis for these lofty, but still human, positions on the subject. These few should make the point though there are, no doubt, many others. For example, verses like this one in 2Sa 22:31 (NIV); "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless." As for God's Word itself, there is this in Pr30:5 (NIV); "Every word of God is flawless." An even more comprehensive claim is made in 2Ti 3:16 (NIV); "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work."

Basically, it goes something like this; God is perfect, the bible is His Word, therefore, it stands to reason that the Bible is equally perfect, or inerrant. While human understanding regarding "the Ineffable One" are by their very nature limited, with these and similar lines of scripture to back us up, there is just no limit to what we can say about all the perfection and infallibility of everything in our Bible.

Yet, one small, teeny, tiny problem I see here is that this is all based on the assumptions ... yes, assumptions ... of mortal men. Of course they usually wear bright, elaborate robes but they are mortal men nonetheless. Specifically, the biggest assumption regarding scripture, and one which is rarely questioned, is that spiritual "revelations" are always claimed by ordinary men who had no independent witnesses to their "vision" or visitation from "God" or some angel or other. From such humble (and unverifiable) beginnings, entire works of "Holy Scripture" (and even entire world religions) have been birthed. Come to think of it, that would neatly explain their insistence on us having unquestioning "faith" in the legitimacy of their vision.

Anyway, once their "authenticity" is established beyond question, their new body of scripture becomes the unassailable basis for a lot of new rules, regulations, ceremonies and obligations for us common folks who were not considered special enough for a personal message from "God" or one of his emissaries. Furthermore, since their freshly written words are based on God's perfection, then it is also reasonable that their heaven-inspired text would be useful to us as "a standard for morality." It also naturally follows that it would be a "Guide to all our problems" or, better yet, an "ethical compass" which will unerringly guide us through the "storms of life." These and innumerable similar statements are easily found through even a casual internet search on inerrancy.


A Few Teasers

In the interest of offering what might be a fresh approach to a familiar (and admittedly often boring) subject, I'll wager that these next few paragraphs have not been discussed by your pastor or Sunday school teacher – ever. Now, I'm sure you all know your bible backward and forward, so I won't presume to try to educate you on the contents of the book that most of humanity relies on for guidance in their daily activities and their spiritual salvation. But in all fairness, I should warn you that these next few tidbits of biblical lore may challenge some of your assumptions about what you may think you know about "God's Word."

Now, if you've attended a few sermons in your day, your pastor or minister has certainly offered scripturally based advice on God's way of dealing with unruly teenagers. But probably not from this passage. Our journey begins.


A Stubborn Son

To start with, let's look at God's suggestion for how best to deal with those sometimes too independent young people. Turn with me now to the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 21, verse 18 (NIV). There we find this gem of advice from our Heavenly Father who loves us all dearly and who, as we'll see in the next chapter, is "compassionate and gracious."

After a discussion about "The Right of the Firstborn," as applies to those who have "two wives" (you see, back then there was nothing wrong with that), the Word goes on to explain; "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them ... his father and mother shall take hold of him [physically, I'm guessin'] and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death."

Here ends the reading on that subject. Any questions? Didn't think so. If your preacher has somehow failed to cover this kind of moral guidance for modern living, you might suggest that future sermons should be more bible based.


With the Lord's Help

Furthermore, the previous chapter (20), sub-titled "Going to War," offers much inspiration to those who find themselves about to face enemies of their country. There the Lord provides total assurance that when His people encounter any army, no matter how large or fearsome, they need never fear, as is explained in the first verse; "When you go to war against your enemies ... do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God ... will be with you ... Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes before you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory." In much the same spirit, the TLB is also clear on these points; "don't be afraid as you go out to fight today! For the Lord God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Oh, My God! by Javier J. Farias. Copyright © 2016 Javier J. Farias. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface, xi,
Introduction, xv,
Chapter 1 A Manual for Moral Living, 1,
Chapter 2 Names of God, 27,
Chapter 3 Got Slaves?, 39,
Chapter 4 Virgins Anyone?, 51,
Chapter 5 Suffer the Children, 71,
Chapter 6 The Ultimate Sacrifice, 95,
Chapter 7 Great Slaughters, 125,
Chapter 8 Sweet Savors, 143,
Chapter 9 That Precious Blood, 163,
Chapter 10 Pulling Back the Curtain, 175,
Conclusion, 199,
About the Author, 229,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews