If I’ve never actually had the following conversation with my Christian friend Josh, could it still contain truth?
Damon: I been reading in the Bible for Sunday School and it has some truly horrible things in it. The Old Testament is full of violence, sex, and violent sex…
Josh: You have to look at it as a whole to really understand its message.
Damon: I mean God sent a bear to maul 42 children who were making fun of a prophet’s bald head.
Josh: That is a lesson to be respectful of the priesthood leaders.
Damon: Is it a lesson or did it really happen?
Josh: Well, we believe the Bible to be the Word of God.
Damon: So it really happened?
Josh: As far as it is translated correctly.
Damon: So the examples of God causing the death of thousands of innocent Egyptian firstborn might not be translated correctly.
Josh: We just need to understand it in the context…
Damon: What about….
Josh: Yes, yes, I’m sure you could come up with a few other examples. But if you look at the general theme of the Bible.
Damon: But it’s not just a few examples. It IS the general theme of the Old Testament.
Josh: Think of them as examples of how obedience to the commandments leads to blessings.
Damon: They seem to be more like lessons of how disobedience leads to punishment from a homicidal, vengeful God.
Josh: Okay, what about the New Testament…
Damon: Oh yeah, the happy half!
Josh: …where we learn that Jesus came to fulfill the law and show us a higher way. The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this higher law.
Damon: But even Jesus said some questionable things.
Josh: What are you talking about? Give me one example!
Damon: In Matthew Jesus said:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Josh: You have to understand the context.
Damon: What do I do to understand the context?
Josh: You have to read it with the spirit to discern the truths…
Damon: So some of it is true?
Josh: Yes, the spirit will guide you.
Damon: Can the spirit also help me find truths in other religious texts?
Josh: Of course.
Damon: Like the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita?
Josh: I’m sure it contains many universal truths.
Damon: Check this one out:
“He alone sees truly who sees the Lord the same in every creature…seeing the same Lord everywhere, he does not harm himself or others.”
Damon: That’s as Christian as anything Christ said!
Josh: Now don’t be sacrilegious! That just confirms the truthfulness of the Bible and Jesus’s message.
Damon: Could it be the Bible confirms the truthfulness of the Bhagavad Gita?
Damon: So could the Buddhist scripture, the Dhammapada, contain universal truths?
Damon: What about the Taoist book, the Tao Te Ching?
Josh: I suppose…
Damon: What about Harry Potter?
Josh: Wait, what?
Damon: If I am relying on the Spirit to reveal the truths, I can find truth anywhere, right?
Josh: Um, I guess.
Damon: So I can find truths in Harry Potter?
Josh: I don’t think there are any universal truths in Harry Potter.
Damon: Of course there are. Here are some quotes.
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Damon: That’s just from the gay character…
Josh: Okay so Harry Potter has some lessons on how to treat other people and make better choices.
Damon: Isn’t that what we hope to find in the Bible? Lessons about how to treat other people and make better choices?
Josh: But does Harry Potter have lessons about life and death?
Damon: Of course! It’s actually a major theme throughout the books. Here are some more quotes:
“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”
“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself plainly when you have need of him.”
Josh: I suppose there are truths everywhere.
Damon: So I can feel the Spirit by reading other texts?
Damon: And I can learn universal truths from them by relying on the Spirit?
Josh: I suppose.
Damon: If I am relying on the Spirit… Do I really need the Scriptures?