What do I believe?

I was running earlier today with a good friend of mine and we were talking about the Bible study. We started talking about what people believe when it comes to the Bible. I mentioned how most in the Episcopal Church view the Bible (not as a literal document) and he said something along the lines of I didn’t have to just believe what the Episcopal Church says I should believe. That got me thinking and led to this post: What do I believe? I anticipate that my answers to this question will change throughout this experience, but I thought I’d take a crack at it now.

First, I want to touch on what the Episcopal Church believes. Thankfully the national website was a page titled “What We Believe” that will help me. So instead of regurgitating what they say, I recommend people just look there for information.

Second, now what I believe at this moment in time. Obviously there are a lot of things that I believe about a lot of different topics, but I want to focus on just a few aspects of religion (and maybe some science). (NOTE: For full transparency, I am writing this part before I read over what the Episcopal Church says we believe on the above website.)

With respect to the Bible, I don’t believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. Instead, I believe the Bible is our interpretation of what God has said. I’m actually bothered by the notion of accepting the Bible in a literal way. At this point in the Bible study I’ve noticed many things that don’t seem to mesh and the amount of violence is troubling. As is the polygamy. One thing I learned from Father Kevin was to consistently ask myself “where is God” when I’m reading the Bible. Where is God in the passages? That is something that I continue to ask and honestly, it is a question that sometimes I can’t answer. Each time the Israelites destroyed all living things (include women and children) after winning a battle, I definitely wondered is that what God would really want. Does God really want us to completely destroy an entire civilization? Even if he were telling me that right now, I would still question it. Why would that amount of violence and destruction be necessary? That is something I have never understood.

I believe that God loves all people without exception. I find it troubling when I hear pastors make absolutely outlandish comments about homosexuality (read about Baptist Pastor Charles L. Worley here). In summary, Pastor Worley said we should lock up all gay men in one camp and all lesbians in another camp until they all die off. Seriously, how can someone say something so inflammatory, especially from the pulpit! It makes no sense to me at all. One of the things I want to learn from this Bible study is what the Bible says about loving all people.

When it comes to science, I don’t “believe” science. I accept scientific explanations based on the available evidence. I actually used to say “I believe in evolution” or “I believe in climate change.” I did this until my Ph.D. advisor pointed out that science isn’t based on beliefs. I already knew this and he understood what I was saying, but the point he was trying to make is for me to be careful when using this type of language. Now when someone says to me “I don’t believe in evolution,” I say “neither do I. I accept the conclusions of the scientific community when it comes to evolution because they are based on the overwhelming amount of available evidence.” Or something along those lines. I also don’t “believe” in climate change. I accept the conclusions of the scientific community when it comes to climate change. Some may say this is semantics, but I disagree. I’ve heard many people use the “evolution is a belief” argument. This tells me that they don’t understand science.

That’s about all I want to address for now. I think that in the future I’m going to try to focus on things like this more often. It is something I need to address, especially as I read different passages in the Bible.

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4 thoughts on “What do I believe?

    1. Ian Binns Post author

      Yep! It doesn’t always work, but it’s a solid argument. It sends the message that science isn’t based on belief like religion, it’s based on evidence. That’s what makes it so powerful. But, I would also argue that religion is also powerful, it just answers different questions.

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  1. Elizabeth Hardin

    Whoa, I don’t have long enough to write on this one . . . yes, your friend is right that you do not have to believe what – or only what – the Episcopal Church (or any church) states as a belief. in fact, the Episcopal Church cannot “believe for you.” So, essentially the Church states what its theology is, and we “choose to accept the evidence” – in this case, interpretation or theological understanding. As its most basic, I find the Episcopal Church’s statement of understanding, probably most distinct in its reference to “all things necessary for salvation”, something the I can accept. What I cannot accept is a limited literal interpretation of the texts. For me, the literal interpretation hits the skids early on, taken down by what we know now that was not known at the time of writing. While not dismissing facts (history, context) if they are a part of a literal interpretation, i find a more metaphorical or contextual understanding of the scripture to be far more compelling and far, far more challenging.

    In the Youth Hour, we are asking the questions, “Who is Jesus?” “Who are you?” Who are we together?” We started with the Isaiah 9:6 passage and are working through the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. Well, last week we attempted to discuss Tamar. I had to talk around it – it’s too much for middle schoolers (and ours are bright). So a woman called out in the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament is a really tough story. Makes us “get real,” to quote a fine bishop-to-be.

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  2. Matt Hopper

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! As I read along for the first time as well I find myself really raising eyebrows with all of the violence and exploitation… pretty sure I have decided that of all of the books on my bookshelf, the Bible is the one I don’t want my child to read until they are way older…

    So far, the my readings have seem to be repeated examples of how we fail to not be mean to each other…

    re: Tamar and the women mentioned in the Matthew geneology, I believe there is some understanding to be had there, but I can’t quite piece it together yet, but hits up against that not being mean and judgemental idea…

    (taking a moment to shrug off commenting on how “geneology” comes from someone presumably not one’s father…)

    In regards to science I still use the term “belief” quite comfortaby as I view science as giving us strong well tested models to represent the underlying reality and I choose to believe or have faith in their validity or not… I tend to use this same thinking in regards to religions being models of the underlying realities of which I choose to have belief and or faith in as well. I do not believe science or religions give us the “ultimate truth” as I don’t believe we humans can fully comprehend what that is being a part of that reality ourselves. The story of the Flatlanders comes to mind here… but we’re probably splicing definitions again, I think I view believing in something the same as accepting something as true.

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