About this blog

The purpose of this blog is for Quakers and interested fellow travelers to explore the Bible together as it speaks to our condition as individuals.

This discussion is open to Christians, non-Christians, atheists and Pagans; to those who are often confused or angered by the Bible and to those who see scripture as inerrant; to good Quakers and to not-so-good Quakers--to name just a few points of view.

All comments should be given in humility and tenderness, especially where the original poster's perspective is different from your own.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Lamp Unto My Feet, A Light Unto My Path

When people learn I’m a Quaker, one of the first things they ask (after “Why don’t you wear black?”) is “How do Quakers feel about the Bible?”

“That,” I reply, “depends on the Quakers – or more specifically, the Quaker – you’re asking about.” Then I go on to explain that Evangelical Friends are very much like their Evangelical counterparts of other denominations and believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Then there are Quakers at the other end of the theological spectrum who have complete disdain for it, feeling it is completely outdated and worthless. And then there are those of us who fill in the middle of this spectrum – which is vast.

That said, I think it is those of us in this vast middle who struggle the most with reading the Bible and what it means for us. If we can, like one the end of Quaker faith maintains, disregard it as irrelevant, than there’s no struggle. Likewise, if it is seen as inspired and inerrant, that, too, narrows the surface on which to wrestle. I have heard some of my very Evangelical brothers and sisters in faith say “God said it (referring to the words of the Bible), I believe it, that settles it.”

I grew up among the very Evangelical Friends. And so I read the Bible and memorized huge chunks of it (my Catholic friends said they were pretty sure I did that because I was looking for a loophole). And the Bible remains a very important part of my faith as a Friend. I take it very seriously both as the story of God’s interaction with God’s people and as a guide for living.

Having said that though, even as a kid I struggled with the ways the Bible was to be a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105), because, frankly, some of it just didn’t make sense to me. And still doesn’t.

For example, as kids we were urged at church camp to pick “life verses.” A life verse was a piece of scripture that we would use to keep us faithful and on our way to being good Christian kids. Many of my young friends picked the standard ones – John 3:16 (For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life) or Psalm 23 (The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.). Some, to prove they knew that the Bible was their beacon of faith chose Psalm 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Others chose “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Roman 3:23) or “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6). These were kids that really struggled, at least from my vantage point, with the sin we heard about all the time. All our verses were from the King James Version, of course. If it was good enough for Moses, it was good enough for us.

My verse, in case you’re wondering, was a bit more obscure. It was I Chronicles 26:18. It reads, “At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar.” Makes absolutely no sense as a life verse – or in some ways a Bible verse. When I was asked to recite my life verse I would do so dutifully and enjoy the blank looks and the hurried scrambling to see if that was really in the Bible. I guess I was a bad Quaker even back then.

But that verse was actually a good life verse for me precisely because it was so ambiguous and for the questions it raised. It allowed me space to wrestle with questions of faith and the role of scripture and all the other stuff.

So I wonder, as part of this sort of on-line Bible study, what verses – life or otherwise – have been important to you? And why? And how do you see the Bible? And why?

The Bible remains very important to me (though I don’t memorize it -- looking for loopholes or for edification – as much as I should). It does remain a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – even when I’m trying to puzzle it out.

-- Brent

Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, writer, and photographer. Learn more about him at www.brentbill.com or holyordinary.blogspot.com


  1. Brent -
    I'm loooooooving this! As a pastor's daughter (one of the goody-two-shoes kind), people treated me as though I should be pious and know the Bible by heart, and it's nice to know there are others who STILL fifty-some years later read it differently each time they pick it up.

  2. I do wish whoever put chapters and verse numbers in the Bible had done so intelligently. It was never written to be studied by chapter and verse but in chunks. Chunks work best for me anyway. It always seems that those who know the Bible the most are the furthest from God, theologians for example, and yes, I know that is a sweeping statement that won't apply to every theologian! Personally I believe there is a lot more to God than is written in the Bible. Christ is the Word of God, the Bible only records a fraction.
    Having said that, I find the Bible very inspiring and essential for speaking to my condition. I wouldn't want to walk this road without it.

  3. Here is my life verse - "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but rather a Spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7.

    I love the Bible and believe that if you read it in the light of the Spirit of the love of God it really is inerrant. I also like to read many different versions and combine the most beautiful parts of each. Of course this means that when I quote a passage you might not be able to find the exact quote in any single version. The Bible is definitely the light to my path.

  4. I like your "life verse" rebellion, much better than the "Jesus wept" choice that we used. Yours is much more studious and intelligent as a rebellion!! Too bad you never had a clever counselor or SS teacher who could say, "Wow, Brent, interesting choice. When I was your age that also meant a lot to me. I guess we have a lot in common!"

    My life verse for the past 10 years or so has been Romans 8:26 ff. as annotated by my dear grandmother. She taught me that Romans 8:28 is best translated as "GOD WORKS all things together..." rather than "...all things work together ... " God takes whatever happens in ourselves and to ourselves, the sins and the mistakes and the bad stuff from the outside, and he works it, he fashions it, he REDEEMS it for our good and His glory, if we love Him and continue to follow hard after Him. That's a philosophy I can live into.

  5. The Bible has been and is important to my spiritual journey. I had my "Damascus Road" moment some years ago and have struggled ever since to understand it. The Bible plays a part in that, but not in the literalist/fundamentalist sense of my childhood. For me it's a continuing search for Truth and understanding and along with the Bible I rely on the teachings of the Buddha, Paramahansa Yogananda, George Fox, the Christ within and the Kingdom among us, the continuing Revelation found in the Silence, et al.
    I belive in many ways Jesus was misunderstood by His followers in His time, and accordingly is misunderstood today. Unfortunately the Bible often adds to that misunderstanding.

  6. A verse that I keep going back to is John 16:33, "I have told you these things so in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Christ has already overcome. I need continually to be reminded of that.

    I have come to look at the Bible mainly through a narrative lens. It is part of the story that I am in. Its stories reveal truths. I think the "inerrant" approach misses the point and doesn't allow for the full power of the scriptures.

  7. Esther 4:16 "if I perish I perish"

    Even as a girl, so useful in so many situations

  8. Any thoughtful account of where I am, currently, in this discussion would take pages. And I'm not that good a writer.

    Suffice for now to say that I have found much more understanding since I began seeing the writers of the Bible as fellow travelors on this spiritual search for truth. And it's a lot more fun to read that way.

  9. I was raised Catholic, and reading the Bible was generally discouraged (except for the parts that were read at Mass). So I came late to the book. I learned a lot while teaching First Day school, and I've been dipping my toes in it of late, with the help of some Adelphi Friends who are extraordinarily biblically literate, one of whom leads a Bible study discussion every First Day. But I not only don't have a life verse, but I don't even have a favorite translation. Anyone want to recommend one? One of our number today brought The Green Bible -- passages in green signal a concern for the environment.

  10. I was raised Catholic, too, but knew more about the bible than all the kids in the neighborhood that weren't - the nuns beat it into our heads but good.

  11. Ann Marie -- I strongly recommend a combination of the New English Bible and The Message, which is Eugene Peterson's para-trans-phrase-lation. The New English is so beautiful, poetic and the language is such a pleasure. But The Message does carry more of the meaning, in my opionion, for the modern reader. The language isn't bad, but at times just a little... well, prosaic. Still, when I wonder what a section means, The Message is the "go to guy" for me.

  12. I had the usual Presbyterian upbringing, whatever that is, and was generally not very reflective about the Bible until studying it in seminary - then it really opened up for me as a testimony of a long experiment in living in connection with the Source. I just yesterday bought a new (used) Oxford NRSV Bible because that translation of Psalm 139 knocks my socks off. Here's a bit:

    7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
    8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
    9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
    10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
    12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
    13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

  13. Thanks for the concise description of things Biblical among friends. I am one of those on the far end of the spectrum; excepting the Sermon on the Mount; which I find pure inspiration and complete. The rest you can keep.

    I am amazed how often when I talk to Christians of various denominations (including my students; I teach high school) many don't know the Sermon. They don't see, as I do, the fundamental contradiction for a Christian to bear arms. They cite me other phrases from the Bible that support war. I just ask; but how do you reconcile that with the words of Jesus? They never can.

    For me, it doesn't matter where the truth comes from. The Sermon could have appeared somewhere else other than the Bible. It would have the same force for me, as it rings true in my heart and mind. That's where I find the resonating board for reality and the light. So, no time for trying to reconcile contradictory passages in the Bible; too much to do. :)


  14. Thanks to everyone for the comments so far. It's been a delight to read them.

    Regarding versions of the Bible, I must have a copy of almost every translation (except the New King James -- just don't "get" that at all!). My "old" standard is the Revised Standard Version. I also love the New Jerusalem Bible -- with all its Yahwehs! My favorite paraphrase -- also old -- is JB Phillips. I started reading it back in my high school days. I think he captures the beauty of the New Testament (especially the Gospels) without "dumbing down."

    For beauty of language -- though not accuracy -- I especially love the Psalms in the King James. Could be because that's what I grew up hearing, but somehow the language feels like it fits the language. But then I also like a version called "Psalms Now!"

  15. I’d like to share a variation of the comment I offered on your Facebook page, Bill — properly modified to reflect our conversation there — so that other readers here can see and respond to it. I’d be very interested in their responses.

    What’s on my mind is the obvious fact that Psalm 119 does not say the Bible is “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”; it says that God’s word is that lamp and light. And the Bible didn’t yet exist at the time this psalm was written.

    Writing itself was only beginning to appear on Hebrew coins at this time. Most the books of the Bible had not yet even been imagined. And the idea of a designated superbook, a Bible, that would collect all divinely inspired writings and contain nothing more was still eleven long centuries in the future.

    It is true, as you have pointed out, that from the Evangelical perspective, the Bible is God's word, and was foreordained by Him from the beginning of time; and it is true that Evangelicals therefore conclude that this verse refers to the Bible.

    But those ideas are not stated in the Bible itself. They are later even than the Bible (although two or three passages in the last works of the New Testament hint in their direction), and they are certainly later, in human thought anyway, than the psalmist.

    And since the Bible didn’t yet exist, I find it very hard to believe that the psalmist was talking about it when he sang of “God’s word”.

    Early Friends, including George Fox, explicitly denied that when scripture spoke of “God’s word” it was referring to the Bible. They, and those traditional Friends who followed in their footsteps, believed that God’s “word” is His living intimations to us, in the place of our heart and our conscience. Such a reading, in my opinion, fits this text much better.

  16. Re Dale Graves' comment,"I have found much more understanding since I began seeing the writers of the Bible as fellow travelors on this spiritual search for truth. And it's a lot more fun to read that way"--this Friend speaks my mind.

    To Marshall: I did not know that Early Friends "believed that God’s “word” is His living intimations to us, in the place of our heart and our conscience." I find that rather heartening... though I don't at all mean that as disrespect to others who may a different understanding. Certainly, there's more that I don't know or understand about the history of Friends than that I do! But it is interesting that a Friend who has studied as carefully as I know you have, Marshall, would make this point. How about that?

    Of course, as useful and important as the historical and scholarly insights are and will (I hope) continue to be, this Bible study is going to focus on the personal and experiential aspects of individual encounters with the Bible. Hopefully that will at least sometimes get us closer to those "living intimations" of Spirit in our lives than if we forget to speak and listen from our hearts and our own sometimes quirky experiences with God.

    I know I'm enjoying reading all the comments here, as well as Brent's personal history with the Bible. Thanks for posting, Brent!

  17. Ooo, I can tell I'm gonna love this blog! I grew up Christian fundementalist, so the Bible was absolutely central to all we did. I memorized the books in order, competed on our church's "Bible Bowl" team (think Quiz bowl with all the questions from the Bible), and was a crack memorizer of entire passages.

    But since leaving that kind of understanding of Christianity, I must admit that my Bible has been allowed to gather some dust. I am grateful to the author Marcus Borg for helping me approach the Bible from a different angle. Still, it is hard to do so when one approaching it from a literal point of view has been so ingrained from childhood. It's like meeting an old, dear friend after many years and finding that both you and the friend are much different than you used to be. It takes some re-aquainting and some time.

    I'd have to think a little longer to specify a passage that has been especially meaningful to me. There have been different ones at different times. I'll pass for now and look forward to future conversations and insights here on this blog.

    Marshall, I like your point about the Pslam. I know that verse set to a pleasant little tune. Your reminder that it need not refer to the *Bible* makes it all the more pleasant and useful to me.

  18. Naturalmom, I competed in the Bible Bowl, too! At the Methodist church my friend next door attended. They were all kind of offended that the Catholic girl knew more answers but I did have religion class every day at school so it was sort of an unfair advantage.

    To me, the Old Testament is fascinating like a novel sometimes but scary. That angry, vengeful God with low self esteem is not the one I know. I love the Gospels - the life and words of Jesus and the messages of His parables speak to me. I am less comfortable with the post-Resurrection evangelism of the apostles, although I guess Jesus might have been forgotten without it. Still. Those messages don't resonate with me much.

  19. I'd like to comment a little on the topic of "inerrancy". I've struggled with this a lot because I believe that the Bible is "the word of God" (although not the only Word), and I was raised to believe it was "inerrant" but that was never explained very well.

    Obviously, the King James version, as read with a modern vocabulary, isn't unerring!! because so many of the words have different meanings now. And many idioms are almost incomprehensible.

    On the other hand, it's impossible for me to take the Bible as just another collection of "wise teachings" or interesting myths and stories.

    I can't believe that God audibly spoke these words into the ears of the writers and that isn't what the Bible says about itself.

    Yet there is an authority about so much of the teachings and writings that is above our own purely human musing.

    What I have come to is that the Bible is inerrant in what it purported to say, but that can have more than one layer. For instance, when Genesis says that God created the earth in 7 days, it doesn't mean what we call one week, or 168 hours. But still God did create the earth. That's the point, that's the message. We aren't just a random batch of DNA trying to perpetuate ourselves. We were created by a personal God for a purpose (fellowship with God). The mechanisms of that can be discussed and explored, but the spiritual truth is that those mechanisms were actively propelled by The One Who Loves.

    I'm not saying this in a way to convince, but just to explain my own take on inerrancy. It has been a useful exercise for me through the years, to try to reconcile my own experience of what the Bible teaches with what the Spirit breathes to me through the Bible.

  20. Wow (again!) -- rich comments and commentary.

    Regarding Bible Bowls, I can go one better -- "Bible Sword Drills." The Bible as "the sword of the Lord" based on our reading of Ephesians -- "...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God..." We would stand at attention, our Bibles at the ready, and the leader would call out a Bible reference (ex: John 4:12) and we would rifle through our Bibles to be the first there.

    You could always tell the faithful kids from the imposters when the leader would call something like Hezekiah 4:12 and they would start looking for it. We faithful knew that there was no book of Hezekiah -- smug saints that we were.

    Ah, the uses and mis-uses of this book we call the Bible.

  21. I want to add that my view of the Bible now is in someways far different from some of the ideas expressed in my post. For example, as Marshall points out, I don't believe the Psalmist refers to the Bible when he refers to "God's word." Indeed, one would have to ask "which Bible?" The Jewish Bible? Protestant? Catholic? Which books get included and which left out?

    I tend to view it much more as Dale Graves does than as God leaning over the writer's ears and whispering the words into them. I do read the words there as the story of God's reaching out to God's people -- and humanity's trying to put this myterious interaction into words (which are limited by all the baggage of centuries of meaning and misunderstandings).

    Still, I take it very seriously as "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16)... Now to nuance what Paul meant by "scripture" (back to what "scripture?"). I think I most need to read the Bible for instruction in righteousness -- something that eludes me far too often!

  22. Brent, maybe the next post could be a discussion of "righteousness?"

  23. Oh, Cat. So they didn’t tell you, in your yearly meeting, that early Friends believed God’s “word” is His living intimations to us, in the place of our heart and our conscience?

    What do they teach of Quakerism in those liberal yearly meetings, anyway?

    George Fox, in his “Short Journal”, describing his experiences in 1653: “They asked me whether the Scripture was the word of God; I said God was the word, and the Scriptures were writings; and the word was before writings were, which word did fulfill them.”

    Isaac Penington wrote, in his 1658 essay The Way of Life and Death Made Manifest and Set Before Men..., “The Scriptures are not that living Word, which is appointed by God to be the rule of a Christian; but they contain words spoken by the spirit of God, testifying of that Word, and pointing to that Word which is to be the rule.” In his 1660 essay The New Covenant of the Gospel distinguished from the Old Covenant of the Law..., Penington wrote, “...The Lord writes these things new in his people's hearts, to know the Lord, as their God, and as the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and as their Father in him; and to love their brethren as Christ loved them. And he writes this law also in their hearts, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods but me; make not image, exalt my name, keep holy the sabbath,’ &c. ... If God write these things in the heart, are they not to be read there? ...Shall not I read them there? And if I can read there in this living book what God writes in it by his Spirit, is not this nearer to me, and clearer, and read by a more certain eye, than what I can read with my outward eye in tables of stone?”

    Samuel Fisher wrote, in his “Preface” to his great work Rusticus ad Academicos ... The Rustick’s Alarm to the Rabbies, Or The Country Correcting the University and Clergy... (1660), “ ... we own not the ... alterable and much altered outward text, but the holy truth and inward light and spirit to be the Word of God, which is living [and] the true touchstone....”

    Robert Barclay wrote in his great Apology (1676-78), Props. V & VI. §13, that “...By this ... word of God ... we understand a spiritual, heavenly, and invisible principle, in which God, as Father, Son, and Spirit, dwells; a measure of which divine and glorious life is in all men as a seed, which of its own nature draws, invites, and inclines to God; and this some call vehiculum Dei, or the spiritual body of Christ, the flesh and blood of Christ, which came down from heaven, of which all the saints do feed, and are thereby nourished unto eternal life. ...Every unrighteous action is witnessed against and reproved by this light and seed....”

    I could add many other examples, but this comment is already long.

  24. I think this site might be good for me. I grew up in a Restoration Movement church. One of the innovations they're best known for is Bible Bowl, in which competitors memorise up to 50 chapters of the Bible a year. (Other denominations do this, but the Christian Church/Churches of Christ's version of it is a lot more demanding and fast-paced.) I did this for five years with various degrees of success, but by the end, it really burnt me out. Then I went straight from that to Bible college, where, in many classes, our only textbook was the Bible. By the time all was done, after I'd migrated from there to other evangelical churches and onto liberal churches, I got burnt out on the Bible outright.

    Now my big trouble is how I feel Christians abuse the Hebrew Scriptures in order to get them to fit Christian theology. It makes me want to avoid the Christian Scriptures outright.

    I'm hoping that this little site may help me come back to the Bible with fresh eyes.


  25. Wow, you-all! Every posting has been a wonderful read. I love the part where we can see differently but are still able to respect where the other is coming from.
    Thanks, Marshall, for the early Quaker quotations.
    My current life verse (we get to change them don't we?) is "The first and greatest commandment is 'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.' And the second is like unto it, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.'"
    Keep the postings coming, I am getting a blessing from this...

  26. Whittier Strong, my church of origin was a restoration movement Church of Christ as well. (You weren't in Michigan were you? If so, perhaps we competed against each other in Bible Bowl! :o)

    B.B. -- Bible Sword Drills! We didn't call them that, but the speed look-up game was standard fare for Children's church. I was very good at it and never fooled by the "fake" book call-out, smug saint that I was. Fun memories, lol!

  27. Hezekiah, though, makes a good "book" to quote made up Bible verses from. My favorite is Hezekiah 4:12 -- "Thou shalt not drink of the fruit of the coffee bean." A commandment I often break... ;-)

  28. @ Marshall: *laughing* I may well have been absent the day they covered these matters in my Yearly Meeting. Or maybe I was hanging out in the girl's bathroom with the other Bad Quakers that day, putting on too much eyeliner and trying to look cool?

    Seriously--it has only been in the past few years that I have begun taking the Bible seriously at all; I think before that point, I may not have attended to what other members of NEYM might have had to teach me on the subject! But I hope I am listening, and learning, now.

    Certainly, one of my hopes for this blog is that we will all be able to listen with care and kindness to one another, however different our views on what role the Bible plays in our personal religious lives may be. At the moment, I'm really appreciating the range of experiences and approaches people are bringing to their comments here, from the scholarly, to memories of childhood Bible study, Bible college, and more.

    @ Brent Bill: Hezekiah is a TERRIBLE book! Of all the thou shalt nots! Phew! I am so relieved it can be relegated to the Apocrypha's apocrypha! I would never be able to teach again, if I were to attempt to follow literally Hkia 4:12!

  29. @Cat Chapin-Bishop... you know, you may have rasied a good point about Hezekiah. It set me thinking about the OT's emphasis on "thou shalt not..." and Jesus' emphasis on "thou shalt." The not so subtle shift from "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) to "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:20).

    The above is, of course, an oversimplification of any differences between the two testaments, but still... the second seems much more hospitable/invitational. More welcoming.

  30. Oversimplification, indeed! Jesus’s language is “Thou shalt love the Lord,” etc. But the OT’s language on the same topic quite often approaches song: “I’m gonna make you love me! Yes I will! Yes I will!” See Deuteronomy 30:6; compare the wonderful Hosea 2:14-23; and consider the Psalms.

    Christ’s teachings contain plenty of “thou shalt nots” — look to the Sermon on the Mount for easy examples — and there is also Matthew 5:17-19. Christ does not exactly come across as a permissive liberal in such passages.

  31. Ah, Marshall, I was not implying that Jesus was anything approaching a "permissive liberal." What I was suggesting was the difference in tone -- and I admitted it was an oversimplification. Still, I was bringing up many people's perception of the messages of the 2 tesaments and how they differ (whether the perception is entirely correct or not).

    I do find it interesting, though, that when the Law is given, the commandments first emphasis stands in stark contrast to what Jesus says the commandments is -- hence the invitational nature of it.

    As a person who started seminary intending to be an OT scholar, I have a deep appreciation for its messages and am concerned that Friends ignore it (because of its war stories and emphasis on patriarchy -- again a simplification) and lose a great deal because of it.

  32. I particularly would regret any ignoring of the prophets. It is clear to me that The Word was heard loud and clear as well as understood by several of the prophets. As a reference to another chain of thought I personally add to SPICE "testimonies" with the P representing Prophetic.

    I like the JB Phillips translation of the NT. (For those of you who don't know my sense of humor, or lack there of, Warning: the following is a joke I appreciated in earlier times when the Phillips translation was relatively better known and a certain chain of gas stations had a different name.) I just wish he had translated the OT and NT then we could have the Phillips 66.

    Hopefully I can contain myself to more thoughtful expressions as the "study" moves along.

  33. When I "center down" at meeting for worship and really succeed in putting the dregs of the past week out of my mind, a verse from one of the Gospels usually pops into my head. Last First Day it was this one:
    "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit." (Jn 15:5)

    Sometimes I give vocal ministry on what the verse "says" to me, other times I don't. This past First Day I was led to stand to speak. I said that Jesus was reminding us always to stay connected to God (whatever be our concept of God) so that when we "branch out" and speak or act it will be truly from God. It is so easy for us to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are doing God's work or speaking God's will, when we are really serving our own ego. So Jesus told us to keep the connection flowing.

  34. When I started studying economics in my teend I also started rereading the Bible and was struck by Levitucus 19:16b, "Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor." That's a hard one to follow, but I';ve been working on it these last ten years...

    I was lucky in my introduction to the Bible. My mother grew up very conservative Baptist, and knew the Bible well; she passed on her knowledge of and love for the Bible, and didn't pass on the other stuff abut the role of women and the need to support our government, and the vivid fear of hell....

  35. In the 1980s, when learning Dutch, I would listened to cassette tapes of the Gospel of John in Dutch as a way of training my ear in the language. Just last week, on the Internet, I found an MP3 version of the Dutch Bible and gave John a re-listen. It was a different version than what I knew - a modern language translation - which was interesting. What was more interesting was the way it was read.

    The text was broken up in chunks and read by a number of different people - volunteers no doubt. The differences in gender, accent, and everything else that makes each voice distinct made me really aware of the humanity of the text. It wasn't the Word of God I was listening to, but the words of God in the form of a community narrative.

    So, in addition to the various print version people might consider, they might also try an audio version. The Dutch audio version I listened to in the 1980s was read by a professional (the tapes came from a library for the blind). The impact was entirely different than what I had with the MP3 version. The readers weren't professionals, but they were prepared and weren't stumbling through the text. The reading was imperfect enough to sound natural, but perfect enough to avoid distractions from what was being communicated. I don't know anything about what's available in English but maybe someone else does.

  36. Hello Everyone. My life verses are as follows:

    You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.
    James 1:19 NRSV AKA The spiritual speed limits

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
    Micah 6:8 NRSV

  37. Ah, so the ingenious plot to lure Marshall Massey into the company of Bad Friends has succeeded!

  38. Come within his gates giving thanks,
    to his courts singing praise,
    give thanks to him and bless his name!

    Psalms 100:4 (New Jerusalem Bible)

  39. Thanks so much - looking forward to more.

    I've been working with John 12:27 for a while:

    "Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? 'Father, get me out of this'? No, this is why I came in the first place. I'll say, 'Father, put your glory on display.'"

    It speaks to me of prayer as the foundation of our christian faith and life: every trouble can be offered to God as an opportunity for the holy power to bring the glory of God and the healing of the world through it. Following Jesus is going to get us into storms and troubles: he shows us the way through is to put the situation into the power of God.

  40. Hello all, I'm so glad this blog has started. I just started listening to an audio version of The Message, determined to listen to the entire Bible and in Exodus, am finding myself depressed. This God in the Bible is vengeful, exclusionary, capricious favoring one child over another, requiring fear and sacrifice of innocent life.... and frankly, none of the characters in it so far have inspired me or recommended any behavior to me. The one message I did get out of it so far was that God still loved those people, despite their lying, manipulations and greed, that perhaps it was a testimony that there was hope for me after all!

    I'm going to continue and I hope the conversations here will help me come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the old testament God. Thanks for all the comments so far, they have been very helpful and thought-provoking and thanks Cat for getting this going.

  41. p.s. My life verse is ...Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

    As a young child up to my full adult years I was terrified of thunderstorms. Frightened enough that as one approached I would retreat to the cellar. Then in my forties, as I began my spiritual quest I began reciting that line whenever a storm approached, sometimes just repeating "for Thou art with me." again and again.... It didn't happen in a moment or a day but the fear left me. Praise God.

    And a wonderful rendition of the Psalms is Psalms for Praying - An Invitation To Wholeness by Nan C Merrill. It is not a literal translation but a re-working of the psalms with a positive love-based language... here's the last part of Psalm 83...

    O Beloved, let all that is unholy
    within us be cleansed,
    erased as chalk from a slate,
    As fire consumes the forest,
    as the flame reaches up to the heavens,
    Let the refining Fire of your Love
    reach into the hidden places
    within open hearts!
    Forgive us and let the deep regret
    of our souls
    rise up as contrite offerings.
    Let the people seek your Word,
    let the nations turn from violence and destruction.
    Let them know that You alone,
    You who reign with Love,
    are the Most High over all the earth!

  42. "Be always ready to give an answer to the hope you have in you. But do so with gentleness and respect keeping a clear concience."
    1Peter 3 15/16
    Just how we should treat others. Some evangelists seem very far from this behaviour
    Liz Collinson

  43. In the last few years, I have come to understand the Bible as a record of the growing awareness of one ethnic group of the nature of God, keeping in mind that the times and culture of the Old Testament were far more violent and exclusionary group oriented (God is OUR God). I think this concept might be a help to Aggie and so many others horrified by someof the expressions in the Old Testament.
    I find it interesting that my "life verse," Romans 8:38-9 about how we can't be separated from God's love parallel's Mary Ellen's Psalm is some respects, and sort of forms a foundation for Peggy's "If I die, I die."

  44. @Lone Star Ma and others: Regarding the image of God as angry and vengeful in the Old Testament, I found this the other evening and was greatly heartened, from Ezekiel 18:30: Throw off the load of your past misdeeds; get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. I have no desire for the death of anyone."

    Nate's point about the culture of the time is an important one. Has the nature of God changed, or the nature of humanity, evolving over the years in relationship with God?

    Brent: Regarding OT "shalt not" vs. NT "shalt," I side more with Marshall. After all, Jesus is himself quoting the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:5: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

  45. Thanks again to everybody who read and commented. Rich conversation -- and good insights. I look forward to reading Cat's post tomorrow -- and the comments on it.

    Have a blessed Firstday.

  46. Today in Meeting I sat with our conversations here and my struggle. I was reminded of a conversation I was part of with David Spangler where he talked about the incarnation of Christ as being on ongoing and long-going process. One where Spirit has been trying to be transmitted to us for a really long time. He gave the image of trying to dial in a radio station. Sometimes you get static, sometimes you hear a word or two. And then you have moments, like when Jesus incarnated when it was dialed right on the station and WOW!! loud and clear.

    So thank you Nate for your suggestion of an evolution of a people's idea of God. I think I need to remember that as I read. It is not necessary for me to be able to see it as infallible. But keep my heart open as I go to see those wonderful indications of what is yet to come.

  47. Dave Carl: I feel clear to participate (in moderation) here because this blog does not require me to identify myself as a “bad Friend”. I think what we identify ourselves as is a pretty important matter, no? If we identify ourselves as failures, do we not set ourselves up to be failures —

    Chris Mohr: I can’t imagine it’s a matter of sides here, but I appreciate the fact that you agree!

  48. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  49. Since this is the 'Bad Quaker' blog, I'll come straight to the point.

    Having studied the Bible in English and in its original languages over these past forty years and more, I have come to agree with the person who once said "We don't need the Bible to learn how to love, but few other books have so often been quoted to justify hatred."

    My favourite meditation piece at the moment is the story of Christ's response when Jairus said his daughter was dying. No fanfare or self-advertisement, no whipping up the crowd's emotions, no ostentatious prayers for a miracle, no singing or other stimulants to mob-mentality -
    Just: 'come outside, my girl' (as we would put it).

  50. Hi Badquakers,

    This is Bad Quaker Jo. I am so bad that I don't
    know the bible well enough to quote it -- have
    read primarily the gospels and see many passages as comforting and at times transcendent.
    But the word of God is separate for me than the
    writings of men. We seek to understand
    The Teacher, who is constant in his love, but he manifests in ways unique to our times which may be quite different than other times on earth.

  51. With mixed feelings and with regret, I have deleted a comment from this blog that appeared to me to have little or no point but to mock those whose feelings about the Bible and about religion differed from his/hers.

    I wrestled with this a bit, as I am hoping that this forum will not need moderation. However, maybe it's for the best that someone whose theology is as "out-there" and not Christ-centered as mine be the one to make the call this time. While I am far from locating either Jesus or the Bible at the heart of my religion, I will not allow those who do to be ridiculed here.

    Speak your mind and your heart in tenderness, and your comments will be welcome, no matter how "Bad" a Quaker you may be. But if you use humor, please be aware that it needs to be yoked with kindness. No matter how funny, this is not a forum for put-downs or disrespect of others.

    Speak your Truth. But don't dump on somebody else's.

    There are plenty of uncivil places on the Internet. I don't want this to be one of them.

  52. My life verse has always been... "I knew you then only by report, but now I see you with my own eyes." Job 42:5 (Revised English Bible)

    I accept scripture as inspired but not inerrant since it is a record and reflection of human relationship and experience with God. I cannot believe that any of the authors of scripture had any greater access to "God's Word" than you or I. I know that my own relationship and experience with the Divine continues to evolve as does my understanding and is imperfect and hardly inerrant. That does not diminish for me the helpful wisdom that I derive from scripture and from the ministry of my fellow Friends and human beings, imperfect as it may be as we, like the children of Israel and early Christians, are on this continuing journey together toward fullness of the Christ Nature, who we are created to be. But it only resonates for me through my own personal experience and relationship and is assimilated as such.

    Like many early Friends my experience is that God’s “word” is God's living intimations to us. My experience resonates with the words of Samuel Fisher(1660), “ ... we own not the ... alterable and much altered outward text, but the holy truth and inward light and spirit to be the Word of God, which is living [and] the true touchstone....”

    When I perceive the calling and leading of God's Spirit within my own heart and soul I find it useful to test such intimations against the experience of the authors of scripture, other historic people of faith as well as my contemporary fellow Friends and spiritual travelers. But the final authority for me is always the voice of Spirit within my own conscience and the Light of God within me that gives the Divine Light of clear vision on a moment by moment basis as I remain open to it.

  53. My verse would be "The Kingdom of Heaven is all around you" because it expresses for me that "heaven" is here and now on this beautiful planet, and in the beloved community.