A critical approach to spirituality

I received a very liberal, Christian seminary education at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, CA. I was taught by Christian professors to look at the Bible and teachings of the church using the critical, analytical method. To not accept everything at face value. These techniques were taught to those who were preparing to enter ordained ministry and preach the faith to their congregations. I feel this type of understanding of scripture gives a better perspective from which to preach. One is better able to see the gray areas in life and not be as heavy handed as a literal, fundamentalist may be. My internship mentor told me to always remember my “truth” was truth with a small “t.” The GTU includes Protestants, Catholics and Jews who share a common understanding.

Some pastors try to bring some of this thinking to their congregations, while others feel this is too risky. However, the public is getting this knowledge from the Jesus Seminar, books and even television. I do not feel an enlightened, post-modern view of scripture and tradition is detrimental to devotion. I feel such an approach helps preachers reach educated Westerners who are more open to this approach than “Believe it because it’s in this old book and my guru said it’s true.”

Also, it makes it difficult to make adjustments to the teachings and practices of devotion in order to adapt to various times and places when they are said to be writen by an incarnation of God or an eternally liberated soul who just popped in from the spiritual world to give us this message. If we can see the scripture authors and gurus as persons who are giving us their best understanding of spiritual life at the time they lived, and that it is up to us in each generation to further adapt and develop the teachings for current circumstances, we would be much better able to present a living faith rather than a dead faith that is stuck in the past.

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