“We can’t pick and choose with scripture. It’s either all true or none of it is true.” Rev. Clovis Jones concluded his sermon with an unintentional glance at Texas Buddha to see whether he was listening. He was.
After church the two met at a diner for lunch. “Well? What did you think of my sermon?”
“It was good.” TB replied, obviously being polite.
Rev. Jones tried to focus on his chicken fried steak, but eventually laid his fork down and blurted, “Okay, I know you think scripture isn’t really true. So why do you read it so much? You know scripture better than I do. “
Not wanting to be unpleasant, TB responded, “For me the question isn’t whether a symbol is true, but how it’s true. And also how it isn’t true. We need to know both of those realities because every religious symbol reveals something and hides something.”
“Explain.” Rev. Jones implored, biting into the corner of his Texas toast and staring at the teeth marks.
“A good map isn’t true or false. It is symbolic.” TB continued. “The map is smaller, flattened and simplified. A map exaggerates the roads to make them visible. It flattens the mountains to get them out of the way. A map that really looked like the world, with the same size and detail, would be useless. And that’s the problem with literalism in my opinion. That approach turns the map into an alternative reality rather than an actual guide for life’s journey.”
“If the Bible is just a bunch of symbols, then I’m not interested.” Rev. Jones frowned, “If that were the case, we would have to rewrite the Bible every time science made a new discovery. I believe God’s word is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.”
TB asked for the ketchup and then said, “Fortunately, the topography of soul doesn’t change so quickly. Religion is more about our subjective journey than our objective world. If we took your approach to a map we would be disillusioned when we discovered the roads aren’t really blue or red, and that capital cities don’t really have a giant star in them. If we know the map is a symbol, we can adapt when something unexpected happen like traffic jams or when a road is under construction. If we think the map is an actual picture of the world, we have to plow into whatever lies ahead.”
“I still say the word of God is either true or it is false.” Clovis said with finality, signaling that he wanted to talk about something else.
“I understand that Clovis. I was just answering the question you asked me. That is how we see scripture differently. You say scripture is an accurate description of the outer world, and I say it is a map of the human psyche that only becomes true as we make our journey. Almost any objective claim religion makes about the world will eventually be disproven by science and by experience. But human beings have been singing the song of life since we emerged from the primoridal mists. It is only in symbols of our deepest human subjectivity that we hear a word that is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.”