Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weigh Anchor

I have been an almost daily Bible reader for years (with some significant "breaks" in between.) I read with joy, frustration, gratitude, anger, boredom and excitement...but I keep reading. This from William Phillips Tilden on reading he Bible. Its a fair view of a Boston Unitarian reading scripture:

"Paul who had learned from his own experience that God had not spoken his last word, could say with the unction of personal conviction, 'The word of god is not bound.'...This scriptural view of the word of God is important for many reasons.

It liberates the Scriptures from the necessity of infallibility, which the old views of plenary inspiration imposed upon them and which has proved a stumbling-block to so many, honest and earnest seekers after divine truth; and so enables us to read and study them with entire freedom, and with the full and rightful excercise of the reason which God has given us...But it will be asked, "What is the Bible worth, it it be not infallible?...This objection, perfectly natural and most sincerely made, overlooks the fact that the divine method of educating the race, in every other department of knowledge, is not by infallible books, or infallible teachers, but by books and teachers which reflect the best light of the past, and stimulate to fresh study and research for the new light yet to be revealed."

Tilden the shipbuilder turned minister then uses a nautical illustration:

"Indeed, to be anchored in any other branch of knowledge, except religion is no thought at all desirable. Anchored ships can only hold on where they are, and swing lazily with wind and tide; to do their legitimate work,-the work for which they were built, and launched and rigged, and provided with a costly outfit,-they must weigh anchor, set sail, and head for the open sea, trusting to such knowledge as they are able to gain from charts not infallible, and compass not free from variations; and reckonings not above mistakes; all needing to be rectified by daily observations of the log, the chronometer, and the heavenly bodies too, it they would make the voyage in safety. Why should we not expect it to be so in religion? Why should we look for infallibility here, when we find it nowhere else?"


fausto said...

Tilden's view of dynamic rather than static truth stands in an unbroken line reaching not only forward to us today, but also backward to the Pilgrims of Plymouth, who founded the UUA's oldest congregation. I traced this lineage briefly in one of my own blog posts a while back.

slt said...

Many thanks for sending the link-its an excellent post and quite a discussion. Blessings, BU

PeaceBang said...

It seems that rivers are a theme in my day -- I was just reading Howard Thurman's essay on the spiritual, "Deep River" and also a book on loneliness by a Catholic theologian (forget his name, but it's very much in the style of Henri Nouwen)that talks about human life as a river....
and now our shipbuilding friend doing the same. Thanks for the beautiful touch of New England water-based spirituality. Not much of that out here in the Texas Panhandle.

slt said...

Hi Peacebang,
Its great to hear from you and glad that Brother Tilden could add to your day. Hope all continues well in Texas! BU