Friday, February 12, 2016

Thomas Merton on the Bible

"The Bible claims to contain a message which will not merely instruct you, not merely inform you about the distant past, not merely teach you certain ethical principles, or map out a satisfying hypothesis to explain your place in the universe and give your life meaning--much more than that, the Bible claims to be: The Word of God. But what is this 'word of God'? Is it simply a word of extreme and incontestable authority? Does it impose on man an outrageous doctrine which as no real meaning for his life, but which has to be accepted under penalty of going to hell? Once again, this utter distortion of the Bible is the result of fragmentation, division, and partiality. The prophets themselves protested, in God's name, against the perversion of the word of God in the interests of sectarianism, nationalism, power, politics. (See Jeremiah 23:23-40.) To set up some limited human interest as an absolute to be blindly believed, followed and obeyed even unto death is to set up a 'dead word,' a destructive and idolatrous word in the place of the 'living word' of God. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).  The basic claim made by the Bible for the word of God is not so much that it is to be blindly accepted because of God's authority, but that it is recognized by its transforming and liberating power. The 'word of God' is recognized in actual experience because it does something to anyone who actually 'hears' it: it transforms his entire existence."  -Opening the Bible, 17-18

4 comments:

Daniel said...

Fascinating. I am going to get that book. So much great stuff to read, so little time.

rolf said...

I still have to read 'The seven storey mountain' which I have had for years!

Evergreen Guy said...

Merton can be a fountain of insight when he is in the zone. Here, he is definitely in the zone. The power of the Bible is precisely that it is transformative. Modern biblical scholarship often overlooks this -- the Bible is not a dead book like the Code of Hammurabi or the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Bible contains the living Word of God, not simply old stories or legends or history or philosophy or theology. It is more, as Merton so wisely points out. It changes us if we are open to its power.

Sadly much of modern biblical scholarship is designed to protect us from this power, to keep it from transforming us through the Holy Spirit. As Kierkegaard pointed out in his critique of 19th century German scholarship.

owen swain said...

Good ol'Mert. Love'im.