Talking with Jesus (Oh yeah?) 12

“….. And as soon as I heard her say that, I turned the radio off!”

“Sorry, I missed the first bit, who was she and what was she saying?”

“Yes, yes, Jesus, Sorry, I was angry and babbling. It was this nice Muslim woman on Radio 4 Thought for the Day. She was commenting on the harm done by the man who assassinated Salman Rushdie. She admitted that his book was offensive to many Muslims, but argued that everyone should have patience with verbal insults. Then she said, “In fact, that’s what God says in the Qur’an.” I turned her off because she’s so sure that God spoke the Qur’an. Because that’s the problem. As soon as you think you have direct access to what God wants, of course you’re going to kill anyone who makes jokes about it!”

“I seem to remember that the Holy Bible also has direct quotes from God.”

“I suppose there are some but they are contained in books ascribed to human authors, Moses, Isaiah, Samuel and the like. They tell us what God said. So it’s second hand and we can always suspect them of exaggeration or invention, no?”

“You are speaking for yourself….”

“No, Jesus, I’m speaking for every sane Christian. Scholars, historians and scientists have examined our Bible, dated its writings, pointed out its errors of fact, its contradictions, its out-of-date assumptions about the universe, its patriarchal attitudes. So we know it is not literally God’s word.”

“Oh, so how do we know that?”

Aren’t you listening Jesus? Because it’s a human book with human errors. How can that be called the Word of God?”

“Well, I was a human person who made human errors, and I’m called the Son of God.”

“Ah. Right. Jesus, are you saying that The Bible is a human book with human errors because God wants it to be like that?”

“Yes.”

“So God never wanted people to think it was without mistakes….God was pleased when atheists and scientists took it to bits and pointed out its mistakes, because he never wanted believers to think it was a magic book, almost a God in itself.”

“The father doesn’t want people to trust in a book, remember he’s a jealous God. It’s like when the man called me ‘good teacher’ and I said, ‘Why do you call me good? Only one is good, God himself.’”

“Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have scriptures at all?”

“The Bible is wonderful: it gives some history, some splendid stories of faith, some teachings about right and wrong, some knowledge of my life, death and resurrection, some inspiration, some encouragement, much truth. But we have to read it like any human book of its time.”

“So the father doesn’t mind if we call him ‘mother’ rather than ‘father’ although he’s pretty masculine in the Bible.”

“Remember I compared God to a mother hen? Of course She’s delighted that her feminine side is increasingly discovered.”

“Can we define the Bible as a human witness to God, an essential witness, but one we are meant to study and argue over rather than the inerrant word of God?”

“Yes, that’s a way of putting it. The Noble Qur’an is wonderful in many ways, it contains so much that is beneficial. But it has to be accepted as the words dictated from God to Mohammed, peace be upon him. It cannot be scientifically or historically investigated. It cannot be interpreted in the light of the place and time of its composition, because its composer is Allah, God himself, and disagreement is a crime against God, punishable by death. The holy book of Islam is not a human book.”

“” And until Islam admits that the Qur’an is a human book, Islam will be dangerous.”

“Although so many Muslims honour God and serve their neighbours. Let’s remember also how many Christians are just as fundamentalist and just as dangerous as some Muslims.”

“But what about you and me? Am I not to treat your words as God’s word?

“Certainly not!”

“No?”

“No indeed. As I have pointed out many times, you don’t know if you’re listening to me or your own imagination. Or both. Faith is a matter of trust and love, not certainty.

“At school I learned the words of George Meredith:

Oh what a dusty answer gets the soul / when hot for certainties in this our life!

Thanks for your dusty answers, Jesus.”

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