My apologies for incorporating my musical taste into a blog title. There is a good reason for bringing The Who into this conversation. In the next piece of "The Religious Case Against Belief," Carse writes about the exegetical dynamic of the Protestant Reformation. He discusses various interpretations of the Gospels during the Enlightenment period, each in terms of the ideological movements of the day. He does so in a chronological manner (despite large gaps in time), in my mind, setting up a framework of generations in the family that is the Christian church. As the lyrics in The Who's rock and roll anthem suggest, a new generation offers a new spin- many spins in fact.
So why, as the church, do we seem surprised by this? Why, when I describe my rather unconventional beliefs, do I get wide-eyes and dropped jaws? It seems that we have forgotten that change has always been a part of faith. We think of the infant religion just after Jesus' death as an ideal, cooperative, agreeing faith community- a community stronger because of it's consensus. However, as Carse points out, that was never the case. Disagreement existed even before the Bible was written, and as the Bible was written, as we see in the conflicting Gospel stories. How, as Christians distant from Christ, linked only by faith and text, are we to cope with a text that disagrees with itself?! Literal interpretations of the Bible are feeble at best, but offer security within the structure. Going beyond the text opens up so many doors that the security of consensus is lost. How can we keep the text pertinent, without foisting contradicting stories and beliefs as a monolithic and correct view?
Carse offers what I believe is brilliant and reassuring wisdom for this generation of generators: "We can read it for what we think it says, or we can read it for what it allows us to say. We can regard the text as definitive, containing all we need to know, or as generative, leading beyond itself to what is not yet known." Besides being extraordinarily eloquent, Carse doesn't hold the Bible responsible for having all of the answers.