One of my office building’s two elevators is down for repairs. (One repairman was overhead saying, “This is the oldest elevator I’ve seen.”)

Tenants groused for the first day. Now, day five, they allow extra time to exit the building, they enter the lobby with smartphones ready for action, and, believe it or not, people are talking to each other. Adversity, it seems, has lowered the masks we normally wear.

That’s nothing new, of course. Storms bring people out to talk and help. Layoffs lead to support groups. Death draws a crowd of people carrying food and flowers. I’m told 9/11 got an entire city talking.

I think God made us this way. The hurts of life evoke compassion. Suffering invites caregiving. Loss sends people out to search. For all the masks we wear, I think we are basically decent human beings who appreciate a chance to help.

FAITH Q & A

Q: Don’t we need to rethink the Bible as being the Word of God?

A: Perhaps the greatest divide in Christianity today is over this question. Fundamentalists want to understand Scripture as God’s literal word – written or inspired directly by God, every word flowing as if from God’s mouth, absolutely inerrant and authoritative, all that we need to know about God. (I hope I do justice to fundamentalism’s beliefs. I don’t intend any disrespect.)

Progressive Christianity takes a different view: Scripture’s books were written by believers over a long stretch of time. They are words about God, not words that God directly wrote. They tell the story of a Hebrew people who know God as their creator and redeemer, and they tell the story of a much shorter period of time in which Jesus of Nazareth lived, died and rose again, inspiring many to consider him the Christ (Messiah), changing their lives, and through them, beginning to change human history.

In this progressive view, the New Testament isn’t a single cohesive narrative, but separate books that arose from specific Christian communities and reflected their unique beliefs. Moreover, progressive Christianity believes that God has continued to speak throughout history.

So, yes, the rethinking of Scripture began a long time ago, and it is a ongoing process. Every new age makes its own peace with Scripture and brings to that process its emerging views of science, history, human psychology, later Biblical manuscripts, as well as books from the Biblical era that weren’t included in the official Canon of the New Testament.

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