Is the Bible the word of God or the Bible includes the word of God? As a non-Jew with an intimate affinity with oppressed classes, I do not read the Bible for absolute facts, I read it for clues. Until the lions learn to produce their own historians, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunters. In writing the Torah, the synoptic gospels, the epistles and letters of the apostles that make up the bible today, the authors did not have in mind a global audience or other cultures besides the Jews and in some meagre parts of the New Testament (NT), the Corinthians, Romans etc. The Old Testament (OT) is totally about the edification of the Israelites, denying, demeaning, desecrating and destroying the other people’s cultures and God in order to raise the stock of their own Yahweh. This is what the Bible is about. What is worse, they would mould God their God in their own image and likeness, shape him according to their own whims and self-indulgence and still present him as the Most High. With ‘thus says the Lord’, the ‘men of God’ pontificated and invited the people to assent to their own idiosyncrasies and prejudices. The authority of the word of God was being used to justify truths and untruths, individual caprices and Israel’s national whims. The fact that God speaks through men is not disputable, but the moment his voice enters the human sphere, it suffers a degree of corruption.
Moreover, it is not easy to know where the objective content of the divine revelation ends and where the subjective biases of the biblical writers and those interpreting it begin. It takes a critical sense to discriminate. Today among the prophets, evangelists, pastors, and other ‘men of God’, statements are being formulated; rules are being manufactured, exploitative tithes are being decreed as being directly transmitted from the throne of God. Thus they require their followers to believe them as articles of faith. They go on further to suppress in their followers, the critical sense by deluding them with the falsehood that reason cannot be used to fathom things of God. Even though this review does not prefer articulating a case for rationalism in the religious domain, on the other hand, it does not wish to stand for dogmatism. Indeed faith alone cannot be used to grasp supernatural and metaphysical realities; it is faith and reason. They are the two wings with which the mind rises higher and higher to the contemplation of truth. They do not despise each other instead they work together and the balance between them is that which is necessary to maintain the critical sense.
In his outspoken essay Yahweh And The Middle East Conflict, serialized in The Sunday Guardian of August 3 and 7, 2003, Yemi Ogunshola’s fulminations against certain aspects of the Bible are not merely the nuts in the kernels that break human teeth; they also bury the kernels in hot embers and dare a person’s fingers to draw them out. Yemi argues that there is a basic harmony between the biblical narratives of war, the unprovoked and merciless slaughtering of other nation’s women and children, usurpation of other people’s lands, and in recent times, the current war project in Iraq and the protracted conflict between Palestinians and Israelis today. That basic harmony is Yahweh, the centuries old invention to justify killing and maiming. He marshals quotes to buttress his thesis that Yahweh is a bloodthirsty vampire local deity of Israelites who authorised “great slaughter”, “utter destruction of both men and women, infants and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” of the enemies of “the chosen people of God”. So that next time “not a man would move his tongue against the people of Israel”. What nonsense!!!
Nevertheless, what is untidy, Yemi does not bother to sufficiently balance his description of Yahweh with the humane NT references to him. This leaves one with the impression that his agenda to demonize Yahweh superintends over his call to defend intellectual rectitude and thoroughness. Although negating his aspiration is of petite concern here, only that it has to be defensible in the court of reason or renounce every claim to existence. There is no conceptual disjunction between the God of now, the God of the NT or the God of the OT. He is oftentimes referred to on the word of Yemi Ogunshola, “Yahweh, the Lord, El-Shaddai, and Jehovah”. Also the essayist does not examine the possibility that the Bible characters and the story writers may be more interested in equating their views and traditions with those of Yahweh, of which evidence abounds, before he joins voice with Nieztche: “Yahweh’s credentials must be re-examined” or “Yahweh must be toppled”.
Truly, Joshua and his accolades should be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is no way they can wash themselves clean. Afterall all is not fair in warfare. Yemi however does not convince his critical readers whether Joshua being authorized by the value system of the Israelites those days committed these crimes or that God’s signature was first on those brutal killings before it became their value system; or that since the biblical yarns were written several years after they happened could it be then that it was the writers that historicized the stories to the forms in currency? It is not only Joshua, even David, the harp of God, is another warrior for the divine word. “ Yahweh killed Og the king of Bashan, killed Sihoh king of the Amorites”, hence, “his love is eternal”. Nonsense. David continues in Psalms 136, “he gave their lands to Israel as inheritance, his love is eternal”. Even Elijah. Because Yahweh proved himself to be ‘superior’, the next thing was to go and murder, not convert, the worshippers of Baal. How again could somebody promise God that if he gives him victory over his enemies, he would sacrifice the first person he meets on his way back home? That person happened to be his daughter. He did sacrifice her in thanksgiving to God. Also, granted God did retract later, but why would he demand the blood of Isaac from Abraham? And we do not find these criminal because God or the bible is concerned? Yet these are being inscribed into subconscious mind.
The belief that anything is right if it finds reference in the Bible or Koran is enhancing the rise of scripture fundamentalism. We have to understand the limitations of these religious scriptures. There’s need to be a mark of their limits and the probe of their extended possibilities, especially in contexts other than those that first gave rise to them. Each book in the Bible was written with its own particular end in view and has its own particular meaning. Those texts exist in a context; therefore they must not be used out of context. The spirit and the letter of these scriptures are so much vulnerable to being inverted in their origins, twisted in their interpretations and perverted in their applications to support faddishness. Needless to say, the nexus between a religion, the bad behaviours and violence carried out by the adherents is scripture fundamentalism.
However there are some factors specific to the rise of scripture fundamentalism. First, that the scriptures being word of God or text from Allah are free from error. Two, that the scriptures are impervious to reason or the critical sense. Three, reading the scriptures outside their origins, objectives, political exigencies and historical circumstances. Four, when a scripture-based religious mode of worship has a strange talent of creating mass hysteria and mass intoxication common to Pentecostal movements nowadays. Five, disdain for religious freedom and cultural pluralism. Six, ignorance. Enslavement begins with ignorance. Seven, mind-closure. Eight, that the human purpose and vision in life should be based on absolute pleasure and comfort, dominion and power to ‘conquer the earth’. This has made, especially Christianity to be an organized capacity for lies, dishonesties and fraud that somebody could stand in front of the church to be giving testimony that she deposited N1 500 in the bank and later when she got back for another transaction she saw N15 000, telling the congregation that its God’s work and the congregation accepted this fraud without a squawk. What is ominous, they were even clapping and praising God’s beneficence. Or what about somebody justifying her divorce on the grounds of “spiritual incompatibility” claiming to have prayed with faith and have received illumination from the Holy Spirit? Or a man killing his mother because she was allegedly a witch impeding his ‘God’s anointed progress’ still citing excuses in the bible? Or someone who declared that it is a sin for him to vote for another person when his pastor is in the presidential race? Or those that are insisting that let no one raise his/her voice against pre-marital sex. Let us all agree that it is good. Afterall, the bible says whatever you agree on earth shall be agreed to in heaven?
In politics and civil governance, religion must be very wary not to overstep its competence. It must always function at the other side of power. Indeed we need good governance but to achieve this, it is morality flowing from the religions that we need not the religions themselves. No power is God given. Politics must remain secular. Negating this is with the aid of the Koran or Bible is scripture fundamentalism. Nigeria, for instance is not God’s will. Lord Lugard willed it, and it was. But the nation is not wrong because someone willed it or a God did not will it. If bad or good things are happening to this country, they have no relations to the scriptures. This is a fact that one Martin Ben Simon Ukegbe, a divine warrior for the sovereignty of Biafra ought to bring himself to understand. In justifying his project, he vilifies those who are in the habit of praying for Nigeria for wasting their time, ‘pray not for this nation’, he writes, ‘do not help it in anyway. This is the counsel of the Lord…Even if Moses and Samuel, (and the) great prophets famed for their intercession should stand before God and plead for Nigeria, he would not change his mind concerning the determined disintegration of (this) amalgamation (of 1914)’. No doubt, Ukegbe belongs to the fanatical realm. He calls Nigeria a rogue state, an embassy of hell and continues,
‘Right now in heaven, in Elohim’s register of nations there is nothing like Nigeria. What we see are Arewa republic, Oodua republic and the Christian Republic of B’Ephrayim’ (Biafra).