Thanks to Travellinbaen for letting me publish the post below on his most interesting site called Missing The Ground.
Mac’s discussion on belief, science, and religion in general got me to thinking about the Bible. Here in the Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt, you can walk out your front door and, within half a block, find someone who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
Most of these folks know that the Bible is not one book, but rather a collection of 66 books. Some of those folks will know that the 66 books were written over a period of about 1600 years. A much smaller subset of those folks will know the complex process by which the Bible came to be the Bible. But if more knew about that process and the disagreement that still exists, they might not take a stance that can only be described as Bible worship – acting as if the Bible itself were God, which breaks the very first commandment.
Imagine the scene. It’s 1547, one year after the Council of Trent (Catholic Church) has announced, “By God, these are the real books of the Bible and not what you Protestants say are the real books of the Bible. And we’re inspired by God in making these choices and you Protestants aren’t.” (See the problem already?)
It’s a small village outside the city of Mainz in what is now Germany. A Lutheran (Protestant) minister walks up to a peasant laboring in the field.
“Pardon me, sir, I’m Pastor Heinrich, a Lutheran minister. How are you this fine day?”
The peasant looks up from his plowing. “Fine. Well, other than the fact that I’m bound to this land for the duration of my natural life.” (Despite their German nationality, these characters talk like something from Monty Python.)
“I won’t keep you from your work. I just wanted to ask you if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. So, have you?”
“No, sir. My Lord and Savior is right over there. You see the tree branch that’s a little crooked but then points straight up to the heavens? That’s my Lord.”
“A tree branch? You mean to say you worship a stick?”
“Yes, sir. I read about it in an ancient writing that a traveler brought to me. The text says, ‘Behold the tree branch that pointeth toward me, which is to say, upward, toward the sky; definitely not down toward the ground. It’ll probably be on an elm, but maybe an oak – most assuredly on a deciduous tree. That much I know for sure. And everything written here is true. Oh, and I don’t mean to be such a bother, but if you don’t believe this writing, you’ll burn in a lake of fire suffering unimaginable pain for all of eternity. Now that we have that out of the way, I love you and you need to love others. And keep watch for the upward pointing stick…on an elm, or maybe an oak.’
When I read that passage, I knew this particular tree branch was the living incarnation of God.”
“Pointeth? Your ancient text uses the language of the King James Bible?”
“Well, sir, the King James Bible won’t be written for at least another 50 years from now, but I understand that for purposes of this ridiculous skit, the man pecking out our words on a keyboard is more interested in humor than being factually correct.”
“Quite right, but surely you don’t believe in a stick?”
“Why shouldn’t I? It was written down in an old scroll. Very authoritative looking.”
“What’s the name of this old scroll?
“The Book of Rick.”
“The Book of Rick? What a pathetic, unimaginative name.”
“Well, how do you know your Bible is real then?”
“Because it says so in the Book of John.”
“The Book of John? That’s a quite common name now, isn’t it? I don’t know why I should believe a John, but not a Rick.”
“Stop quibbling. This Bible is the inerrant word of God.”
“Dear Learned Minister, you see nothing circular about asserting the truth of a book because the book says it’s true? If I went on that assumption, I’d be worshipping that tree branch as well as your Jesus Christ and some guy named Allah. And who’s got time to do all that worshipping? A man would be up all night trying to work a full day and then get in some worshipping to all those folks.”
The peasant continues, “And when you say ‘this Bible,’ are you talking about the one with the books with those weird names like Esdras and Maccabee?”
“Oh, heavens, no. Those books are not holy and inspired like, say, Obadiah and Malachi.”
“But the Catholic Church says they are inspired. And the Catholic Church uses them.”
“Yeah, well, what do they know? The great giant Martin Luther judged those books to be inadequate.”
“But they were in the Bible for centuries. Why would your God allow people to read those books for centuries believing them to be part of the Holy Word only to have them chunked out by this Luther fellow?”
“You sure seem to know a lot for a 16th century feudal peasant.”
“Feudalism ended about 100 years ago.”
“But you’re still working your poor body to death and living in a hovel. Worshipping a tree branch to boot. What’s the difference?”
“Ah, now I’m no longer a glorified slave. Now I’m a small business. I’m told that if I work hard and don’t cause trouble, great wealth will trickle down to me.”