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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thoughts on Bible and Christianity


Thoughts on Bible and Christianity


"Do you believe the Bible is a holy book and it is from God?" This is a question I have encountered many times in my life. Well, Bible is certainly a holy book because God is the centre theme of the book. The intention of the book is to lead mankind to good deeds.

When I said Bible is a holy book, I did not mean that Bible is the only holy book in the world. In fact, Bible is one of the holy books of its kind. The intention of every holy book is the spiritual upbringing of mankind. Bhagavat Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, Quran etc, there is a long array of holy books. 

To the best of my understanding and reasoning, God did not make any book. To speak to human beings, God needs no book. God is omniscient, omni-potent and omni-present. God is present in the mind of every human being. All good things coming to my mind is from God. All good things I do are from Godliness within me. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge. God can speak to me without a mediator or a book. God did speak to me even in those days when I was unable to read and understand the content of any book. 

Though God did not make any book (because there was no need for him to make one), mankind made many books about God. The books referred earlier are classic masterpieces in this category. There are several such books in the world. 

All holy books are books written or compiled by men based on information passed from generation to generation. Since the central theme of these books was God and the intentions behind writing them were holy in nature, it can be ascertained that the writers have been blessed and they were gifted with above-humane insights and abilities at the time of writing or compiling these books. 

There are indications in history that Bible was rewritten many times over the course of time. It was translated into many languages. Committees and boards responsible for revision and translation of Bible in old days were under direct supervision and control of rulers of the time. Naturally, many verses or chapters would have been added or deleted according to the convenience and to suit the requirements of the rulers. Many words were omitted and many reinstated to make the meaning different either slightly or drastically to suit the immediate purposes. 

Over and above, take any holy book as example, we don’t see the entire world of today as the stage or scenario. Only a small region or a community is focused. It is probably because that other parts of today’s world were not discovered and known to the writers at that time. How can we attribute such omissions to God almighty, the creator of entire universe? 

These are the predominant thoughts coming to my mind while thinking about Bible. Certainly, the holy book Bible is not a gift to mankind in the existing form delivered directly by God. But it is about God, and, that is why it is considered to be holy. 

The Bible is many things to many Christians. Some take advantage of the incoherent interpretations of verses to find excuses from Bible for their greediness and selfishness. Some take Bible as a weapon to terrorize ignorant people by saying that once you hear the Word and do not heed to the word, you are doomed for hell. There are many others who always keep a small Bible underneath the pillow, sometimes along with a rosary, believing that it will induce sound sleep and keep away bad dreams. 

There is a question bible fanatics normally ask, “How many times have you read Bible?” Well, is the number of times significant? In my opinion one should go for the core message and grasp it. It is like a diver spending time at the ocean bed in search of a very special treasure fell into the waters during his expedition. Once the valuable is found, he surfaces immediately as there is no point in spending any more time in water. Similarly, if the message of Bible is understood the first time itself, there is no need of continuing the ritual of reading for the sake of reading. On the other hand, what is important is to put what one learned from Bible into practice. 

It appears that we tend to get lost in the fathoms of interpretations and interpretations to interpretations and reach at no conclusion and conviction even after many years of reading the Bible. Another drawback is our unwillingness to read other holy books. Being Christians, we consider it a sin to read Quran or Gita or any holy book of other religions. There are religious fanatics among us who shut down all windows of information like TV, Internet etc, often with the view that Bible contains all the information one needs. 

There are Christians who believe that at least one chapter or a few verses of Bible should be recited daily as an obligation to God. Some of the verses might be by-heart for them. They could easily recall instantaneously that a given reference is from so and so book, so and so chapter and they could even remember the verse number. But, ask them what the real message of Bible is; they are confused. Imagine a man living for 70-80 years reading bible on almost every day from his childhood and dying without understanding what was the message the book really carried. Well, what benefit he accrued from that ritual he had been religiously following a lifetime? But there were, and are, people who read it only once in their life and grasped the full message clearly so that their lives from that moment were of true Christians. 

As far as I know, non-Christians always understood the core message of Bible, especially the New Testament, quickly and clearly. This, I believe, is because they always approach the book in an academic sense, without any vested interest or without any prejudice. The enthusiasm of a student to reach at the truth lying under the depth of an ocean-like book always works. 

Gandhiji, as explained in his works, adored Jesus Christ and his teachings. He practiced the teachings of Christ in his life. For me, Gandhiji is a true Christian- more Christian than any so-called Christians of today. His words and deeds matched, a sign of a true Christian. This is the reason why I consider Gandhiji as the greatest human being of the contemporary age.

Whereas, Christians, by and large, lacked the enthusiasm to find the core message of Bible and compare it with the messages of other holy books. As such they tend to believe that Bible is the only holy book and every human being on the face of earth should become a Christian in order to enter paradise. For such people, Bible stands as a symbol of Christianity in which theories of revival, conversion, organization of church, collection of levy (1/10), propagation of religion etc are predominant. They prefer to ignore the core message from Jesus Christ. 

If I am asked to sum up the teachings of Jesus Christ or Bible in one word, I would go for the word Love. There is nothing more and nothing less to understand from Bible. This word will explain everything. What is the use of talking for hours and days to propagate Christianity? Just practice Love and it is done. Love one another. Love the nature. Let our hearts overflow with Love. Let there be no place for hatred for any one in our minds. Let there be no place for greed in our minds. If I can do this, I am propagating the Good News of Jesus. It can be done silently; just by loving; as Mother Theresa did.

 

Love without sacrifice is meaningless. If I love someone, I should be ready to make sacrifices for that individual. Similarly, if I love God, I shall be ready to submit myself to God’s schemes. According to Christianity, God has a scheme for everyone. Only his schemes shall work out. Life is a mixture of happiness and unhappiness. I should obey God and continue willingly in the direction he is leading me. I shall not bother where he is taking me or what is in store for me. I must have full faith in him that he will take me to the green pastures ultimately. If I find wilderness on the way, I shall not be afraid, for God is with me and he is the one taking me. If I love God, I shall be ready to accept the package as it is. There is no room for complaints. This is what Jesus taught us. Correct me if I am wrong, please. 

If the message of Bible is understood, there is no point in reading it over and over. More than reading, what is important is to practice what the holy book stands for. If I am convinced of the message, I must start practicing it. If I am not practicing it, there is no point in asking someone else to practice it. Following this religion is simple. Start loving God. Start loving each other. Everything will follow. If my body and mind is pure with godly thoughts and love, God will dwell within me. God will tell me what to do. God will lead me; guide me; control me. 

In my opinion, if it’s written in a book intended to promote a religion that what’s written in that book is the  final word and nobody should add anything to that teaching and what is written  should be believed by all and applying logic to any part of it is forbidden,  there is something inappropriate in attributing that book to God. There is nothing godly in such language. Also, if God has to say that everybody should relentlessly praise him continuously and if anyone stops in between he would be punished harshly, definitely God is pictured as a very weak God and as a godfearing person, I cannot accept such a picture. I am unable to conceive the idea of a cruel God. But a God who is understanding the hard conditions of the world his creatures are expected to undergo for survival is forgiving and supporting in nature. 

It is not important whether I am called a Christian or Hindu or Sikh or Islam. These are meaningless tags attached to men by men. God has no part in it whatsoever. God gives no value for these tags. These tags will not qualify me to enter paradise. My deeds will ultimately determine my entry to paradise, if at all there is a paradise. Of course, such thoughts may be forbidden in the religion.


Mathews Jacob
Published on
www.chackosir.org

22-April-2004


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