Of Science, Religion, and Humanity
I was reading by the age of three. My mother, an elementary teacher by profession, was proud of that. I was the oldest. She had quit teaching the year I was born and used every effort to make sure my sisters and I could read at an early age, giving us access to everything in the house. She didn’t believe in limitations.
Unaware in my early childhood that I was raised in a privileged home, my mother’s mother, a noted concert pianist in the Midwest and an Associate in the American Guild of Organists (A.A.G.O.), trained me to follow in her footsteps and introduced me to her friend Artur Rubinstein when I was still very young. I also remember spending many years singing publicly with my siblings, starting at the age of 9.
My greatest and first striking childhood memory, though, was in studying the Bible. I started reading the King James Version of the Bible when I was six. Even at that age, things I had been told in Sunday school did not match up to what was written in the Bible. Could there be mistakes?
I found many seeming contradictions and marked them. The story of the burning bush that Moses experienced in Exodus 3 was unbelievable to me. Why weren’t there more books of the Bible written by women – and none at all in the New Testament? I couldn’t fathom Mary’s virgin birth at all. I suspected Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was a setup, especially since he was a disciple and seemed to love Jesus very much all the rest of the time. Mark’s portrayal of an angry Jesus, when Matthew and Luke would talk about the same situations and show a compassionate Jesus was a major conflict to me, since they were all three disciples.
By the time I was eight, I was overflowing with questions. Our Presbyterian pastor, Dr. Almes, was an imposing man – extremely tall, white-haired, always dressed in a suit, a seemingly gruff voice – and I was completely afraid to approach him with my questions. I didn’t want him to yell at me, even though I knew he really wouldn’t. Instead, I went to my grandfather, a Methodist minister, whose lap was soothing and comfortable and he smelled of Old Spice aftershave, a very satisfying and cozy smell to a young child like me. I wasn’t in the least afraid of his reactions to my questions.
Here I was in his office, then, bombarding him with those questions. I seemed to find contradictions between the science lessons they taught in school and the perception of man and God, and how could man profess that the entire Bible was inspired by God? There was never any mention of real science in the Bible, at least not the science they were teaching us. And I had that list of Biblical passages that seemed to contradict each other, written neatly in eight-year-old cursive still being taught in the early 1960s.
It seems to me I was most bothered by the contradictions in the writings of the apostles, especially the odd differences between Mark and everyone else. That was the very first time I considered perception. To be honest, I found Mark’s more heartfelt and true and wasn’t surprised that it seemed, in further reading, that Matthew and Luke looked up to him. They just thought he was a bit strong in his writings and attempted with their own to make him more “politically correct”.
My grandfather’s response to most of my questions was a loving but very blunt “Look it up.” He had myriad resources, including Matthew Henry’s Commentary in six volumes. He expected me to limit my research to his library. He didn’t expect me to research science, too, but he taught me research skills that I use for just about everything even up to this day, more than 60 years later.
My grandfather kept my secret for me for many years regarding my meetings with him. My questions were known only to him. I certainly didn’t want my parents or anyone else to find out I was such a blasphemous child! It was because of him, though, that I had a different view of an agnostic God without any of religion’s strident tenets toward “Our way is the right way,” even the Methodist religion’s extreme liberalist tendencies.
We spent a number of hours together, my grandfather and I. He would always try to fit the Biblical time frame especially when talking about prehistoric issues. He steadfastly backed up the Bible with his library, and that convinced me even more that, as much as I loved him, he would never be right until he started using other resources and logic, rather than his form of mysticism. His scope was narrow. To me, every real conflict in the Bible had a base in rhinos they called unicorns and fairy stories, not logic. What couldn’t be logically explained was mystically created out of thin air “because”.
Remember, I was very young at the time. While I never became an atheist, I grew up believing less in the different factions of Christianity and their theories and more in my own, based on common logic and a deep and abiding love for what I felt was the real Christ.
Even though I knew my grandfather’s scope was narrow, I was never disappointed in him. I understood him to be a believer, but in a different way. As I got older, it was easier to pigeon-hole him, not just as a die-hard Methodist, but as what they called an Antiadoptionist, among other things.
I learned a great deal about Christianity through him, but I was on my own when I researched further my interest in science. In the 1960s, my research was limited to the city library, the school library, and two very good science teachers when I was in junior high and high school. Astronomy fascinated me. So did simple things like gravity and that famous quote, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The science surrounding light and sound also piqued my interest.
As I studied these things further, I made a concerted effort to integrate it all with my faith. Unlike millions who can’t make the correlation, I’m one who can. In my opinion, God did two things by 1) starting the evolution process in all things, and 2) providing man with the ability to learn and understand historical processes and the propagation and decline of all things over time in its own way. He also instilled in us the ability to use these things – all of them – to benefit the earth. It is only the ego of man that causes failure to use properly those things He has given us.
Accordingly, it was the ego of English speakers, led most notably by King Henry VIII at the time, who subtly, or not so subtly, promoted the monarchy and The Church of England in many parts of their interpretation of The Bible.
As I look at the row of books on my computer table, I note that there isn’t a computer book among them. I’m retired from both networking and web design, so I haven’t needed such things for some time. This is my “serious books” row now. This is where my Matthew Henry, Russian literature, and various religious studies books can be found. This is where my 1560 Geneva Bible rests.
I have long been disheartened by the ardent use of The King James version and all the modern extensions to date. Too much of original Christianity was lost to the Church of England, the running of the church by Kings, and, these days, the DEs – Damned Evangelicals.
Anyway, this 1560 Geneva Bible takes me back on a personal level to the days of my ancestors, some of the first to break from the Church of England during the English Civil War, and deeply rooted in the Reformed Presbyterian form of Calvinism in Scotland, on my mother’s side especially. On my father’s side rests Methodism, whose liberal changes have been embraced by much of my family for many generations. I don’t fault them for that, but I am too conservative in my belief structure to follow suit.
I remain old-school. I honestly have tried to revamp my philosophy, but I cannot do so with a clear conscience. I won’t modernize my belief system. That’s how today’s Evangelicals came to be in America, and we all know how they’ve attempted to butcher Christianity.
I can’t put Jesus in a business suit or in tie-dye T-shirts. I can’t cater to the ruling class or various monarchies through verbiage in the Word, as every monarchy in England has attempted to do, going from The Great Bible belonging to King Henry VIII’s Church of England in the early 1500s to Queen Elizabeth I’s Bishop’s Bible of 1568 refuting The Geneva Bible’s annotations to the King James Version in 1611 to every modern misinterpretation of the Greek texts for the last 500 years. Good News for Modern Man? Remember that travesty? No, it wasn’t good news at all.
As far as I am concerned, the Geneva Bible is the English translation that is the absolute best that man can do without adhering to a human selfish agenda. No one since has done this effectively. It belongs to Christianity more so than any Catholic bible, Lutheran incarnation of the same or modern form of evangelical so-called Christianity.
The Geneva bible was preferred by Scots before the Tudors, and especially the weak King James. They were once required by law to have a bible at home. The 1560 and the 1599 Geneva bibles were what were most chosen to comply with the law well into the 1600s. The Tudors and their Church of England incarnations, including the King James Version, could not do the same at the beginning. King James had to ban the Geneva, and force the acceptance of his own KJV. The English also retaliated politically in the 1700s, but that’s another essay entirely.
Why not the very popular King James Version? Just as the Catholic Church had its version of those linguistics that adhered to its strong Roman Catholic agenda, the Great Bible, followed by the Bishop’s bible, and then followed by the original King James 1611 version and the 1769 unauthorized adaptation, all adhered to the episcopal philosophy of the Church of England and her ruling monarchies. Even then, the 1769 KJV excludes the 14 books of the Apocrypha and is thus considered the unqualified version even though it is the most widely distributed worldwide. I discount the Church of England’s episcopal hold.
As stated in several sources regarding its history, the Geneva Bible did not conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy. The Catholic hierarchy and the ruling English monarchy refused to sanction this version.
King James cited two passages in the Geneva translation where he found the marginal notes offensive to the principles of divinely ordained royal supremacy : Exodus 1:19, where the Geneva Bible notes had commended the example of civil disobedience to the Egyptian Pharaoh shown by the Hebrew midwives, and also II Chronicles 15:16, where the Geneva Bible had criticized King Asa for not having executed his idolatrous ‘mother’, Queen Maachah (Maachah had actually been Asa’s grandmother, but James considered the Geneva Bible reference as sanctioning the execution of his own mother Mary, Queen of Scots. He completely misinterpreted the reference.).
Further, the King gave the translators instructions designed to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England. Certain Greek and Hebrew words were to be translated in a manner that reflected the traditional usage of the church. For example, old ecclesiastical words such as the word “church” were to be retained and not to be translated as “congregation”. The new translation would reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and traditional beliefs about ordained clergy.
Apparently, his distaste for the Geneva Bible was not necessarily upon all the translations of the numerous passages into English, but mostly the annotations in the margins. He felt strongly many of the annotations were “very partial, untrue, seditious, and savoring too much of dangerous and traitorous conceits…” In all likelihood, he saw the Geneva’s interpretations of biblical passages as anti-clerical “republicanism”, which could imply church hierarchy was unnecessary. Hypothetically, it followed that the need for a king as head of church and state could be questioned also. He had been dealing with similar issues with his Presbyterian-Calvinist religious leaders back in Scotland, and he wanted none of the same controversies in England. Also, if annotations were in print, readers might believe these interpretations correct and fixed, making it more difficult to change his subjects’ minds about the meanings of particular passages.
Shortly after the first edition of the KJV, King James banned the printing of new editions of the Geneva Bible to further entrench his version. However, Robert Barker, the royal printer, continued to print Geneva Bibles even after the ban. He placed the erroneous date 1599 on new copies of the Geneva Bible which were actually printed circa 1616 to 1625.
Despite popular misconception, the Bible initially brought to North America by the Puritan Separatists or Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1620 was the Geneva Bible, not the King James Version. At that time, because the Geneva was banned by the monarchy, it was considered a treasonous behavior and caused the monarchy and most of England to turn its collective back on the new colony.
I am sure if I continued my study of American history I would find that the colonists who promoted religious freedom, both in Jamestown and in the Plymouth colony, were then pressured to adhere strictly to the “divine ordination” of following laws and the current Church of England, with new laws created just for them by the ruling monarchy in England. For example, I suspect this accounts heavily for the imposed tax on tea to the colonies and the subsequent Boston Tea Party of 1771, though never outwardly mentioned in the annals of history. The oppression at that time had continued openly for over a decade but had been increasingly strident for more than 100 years.
The King James Version of the Bible, unauthorized and unqualified since 1769, was the beginning of the end of true Christianity. Every English incarnation of the Bible touting its origin and rewording as based on the current KJV, and not on the Greek, Hebrew and/or Latin Vulgate, is heretical in nature.
All English Bibles contain verse misinterpretations because of word definitions and usage in context. Unless we became fluent in Greek, Latin and Hebrew as toddlers, we cannot do anything but accept some of those misinterpretations because we are humans. It is true that the Church of England and the Dissenters were deadlocked over much of it. Many of today’s users of both versions seem to think that the translation errors were minor. I disagree, but what I say won’t change their perception. I have just become comfortable in how I use my version, the 1560 Geneva.
Every TV motivational speaker including Joel Osteen, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Robert Schuller, and others, mention God, but really know nothing of the real God, no matter how many Bible verses they quote, only what fits their agenda. They don’t really feel him or walk in his path. It is because of them that cults like the Westboro Baptist church feel their militarism is just, the Moonies brainwash and continue to thrive, Jim Jones existed, the Aryan Nation and Ku Klux Klan are still prevalent, and we had Scientology.
Until we let go of the divine ordination of man, take faith seriously, and learn to walk in His path faithfully independent of others, Christianity as it originally was intended will fade.
My grandfather would be shocked by my research and understanding. I’m not really sure he ever understood what really happened to the Bible during this time or studied much about the Dissenters or Pilgrims. He certainly didn’t spend any time outside the unauthorized 1769 KJV or its more modern incarnations, always excluding The Apocrypha and other forgotten books of the Old and New Testaments. He fully believed in the work of The Nicene Council even while dismissing the papal authority of The Roman Catholic Church. It didn’t seem to bother him that divine ordination bore a striking resemblance to papal authority. Church buildings were necessary. Congregations outside of the church building were not.
This is where I am glad I was actually raised Presbyterian. I understand the premise of the work of John Knox, the Dissenters, Thomas Guillame, George Wishart, and John Greenwood (one of my ancestors and considered one of the English Puritan divines).
One thing I cannot understand is why so many millions of humans think there cannot be an integration of science and God. I also don’t understand why they don’t realize that all of our religions, including atheism, are based solely on their interpretation of their society, civilization, and history. I chose what fits best in my interpretations. None of us are right or wrong any more than anyone else. There isn’t a Great Divide, but man’s propensity to create one, then point fingers at everyone else is a human quality that cannot be avoided.
Why? Because we’re human. Did God arbitrarily make us so? Maybe, maybe not. But there are certainly errors in our awareness of ourselves and others. It’s not perfect. Was that God’s intention? I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I think we’re human through evolution, which was designed by God. I think God, in His own way, is what we would call a scientist of sorts, and experiments with various things, animate and inanimate. The awareness in Homo sapiens was an experiment and continues to evolve and develop through that initial experiment.
I think in real terms. I always have, even as a child. I never have believed in “magic” or “mysticism”. Everything happens in real terms. To me, God is a lesson in reality. Just because we don’t understand how something works doesn’t mean it is “mystical”. We have just not advanced far enough in intelligence to reach the level of God’s wisdom. For instance, consider the human development of Intelligence Quotients, or IQs. The average is 130. Mine is 170. Just imagine the intelligence level of God, the measure created by man and n0w antiquated, but so off those old charts it will never be reached. We can’t touch it. It can’t even be measured.
We are learning. God points the way, even in science. We have come far, but not all the way yet because of our innate ego. The Bible refers to earth as a sphere (Isaiah 40:22). We went a long time believing it was flat, come back to its existence as a sphere, and some of us, out of pure idiocy, have once again become Flat Earthers, even though we have proof otherwise. The Bible says there are innumerable stars (Jeremiah 33:22). At one time we thought there was only a little over 1,000. We know better now and that the stars are truly innumerable. Air has weight (Job 28:25). It is not without gravitational pull ever. Just some places the gravitational pull is less dense than that to which we are accustomed. This caused us to believe for a long time that we were weightless, as in on the moon. Even God knew better.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an average man with determination. He is proof that the IQ system is flawed. He claims to be some sort of atheist. He really has done more for the promotion of God’s word than almost all of the rest of us. He doesn’t believe in mysticism. Many of us don’t, and the fact that so many do was never God’s intention. Eventually the world will come around. It will take time because so many parts of civilization have blinders. When they stop believing their egos and start believing God, the world in general will be a better place.