Criticism. Seems like an ugly word. No one wants to be criticized. It means someone doesn’t approve of something you are doing or have done. It means, at least to some, that we may be “less than” when we are criticized. I suppose, our society has lost part of what “criticism” means.
Interestingly, Webster’s Dictionary of 1938 defines “criticism” as: “A criticizing, esp. unfavorably; censure; also, a critical observation, judgment, or review.” The first part of that definition is dangerous to spiritual inquiry, while the latter part fits perfectly well with spiritual observation and investigation.
When we think of the “critical study” of Holy Scripture, we are not blaspheming God, or questioning the power and one-ness of God. We are not degrading the Scripture or offending God when we ask questions. That is what the critical study of Scripture, history, and tradition means; to ask questions.
Many “religious” people believe asking questions is sinful. They may teach that we should accept what Holy Scripture says without asking questions. If that is true, Christians may be the most psychotic people on the planet. For example, at Matthew 5:30, Jesus is quoted as saying, “If your right hand is sinning, cut it off…” Really?! I don’t know about you, but I think some critical thinking and study are warranted here.
Jesus is not telling people to maim themselves. He was speaking to Jews that believed they would enter the next life crippled if they didn’t go to the grave in-tact. Jesus is simply using an allegorical statement to indicate that it would be better to be crippled in the next life than to go on living in darkness now.
There are innumerable instances in Holy Scripture that demand critical study. How do we interpret, for our day, an ancient collection of letters, prophecies, and Gospels that were written to specific people in a time and place where the culture was nothing like ours?
I have extreme confidence that God is real, and Jesus really lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven. I firmly believe that this life is not all there is. I thoroughly believe that we were created out of love and the Creator wants only the best for humankind.
I also believe that the Creator gave us not only free will, but a wonderful mind capable of asking questions, learning, gathering and interpreting information, and learning to better understand God, ourselves, and each other. I believe if we don’t ask questions, we may fall subject to false teaching that cripples the human spirit rather than guide us to achieve the greatness implanted in all of us.
Go ahead, ask questions. Think critically. Think for yourself. Find a healthy “spiritual” life rather than a crippling “religious” life. The “new” Jesus Movement is an invitation to a spiritual re-birth. The Episcopal Church welcomes you just as you are.
Blessings and Peace to You All,
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at email@example.com. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.