I work in a university. The cry from such institutions is “intellectual freedom”, and this is part of the reason tenure is so very important. In a healthy institution, especially an educational one, it is absolutely vital that different voices be heard. Fellow faculty, staff, and students are not, of course, required to accept all these different voices, but they ought to be faced with them. Educational discourse involves disagreement, argument, logic, and open-mindedness.
More than a year ago now, I came to the conclusion that the bible is simply a collection of writings from peoples who were primitive and superstitious. That conclusion was probably one of the most freeing of my life. No longer do I have to bend my intellect this way and that to “explain” what is written therein. I don’t have to be upset about Job losing everything and then, at the end, getting a new wife and children… as if that makes it all all right! Replacing a wife and children?? WTF!
No longer do I have to fret about God telling people to sell women into sex-slavery, about Lot sending his daughters out to be raped, about God sending a bear to rip the throats of 42 children who did nothing more than laugh at a man with a bald head. And what about God, the one who forbids murder, telling Abraham to kill his son? Or commanding the Israelites to kill everything in the cities they took (men, women, children, asses… EVERYTHING)? I could go on, but my point here is that I had to do intellectual gymnastics to try and understand all this, especially in the framework of a so-called God of love. Sometimes, the gymnastics involved “the writers were bound by their times and culture” YET other times, things are pulled from the bible and we’re told they should be applied exactly.
I would ask questions, especially when in bible school, but never got answers that helped. Once, I remember a pastor I admired just saying that one had to have faith. But faith in what? Inside, I was screaming “Is Christianity intellectually viable or not?” I was told I “thought too much”. So, my own intellect, that which makes me me, was to be denied, repressed, sneered at.
I tried, oh I TRIED to ignore all the things that bothered me, and as long as I didn’t think about it, I was ok. But I DID think about things. And I never, ever got answers that really made sense. Why not? Because, I think, Christians (at least evangelical ones) start with the premise that the bible is inerrant. Everything, just everything emanates from that. And that’s a problem. We can’t say that God commanding the taking of sex slaves was an error in the bible, because there are no errors. So, no matter WHAT the bible says, we have to find ways to make it “work”. And that’s where the intellectual gymnastics comes in.
I am so, so glad that I no longer have to pretzel my brain.