How dogma can create Christian Pharisees

DAY 16 REFLECTION: How dogma can create Christian Pharisees

In a recent Gallop poll, only one in four Americans said they believed the Bible was the actual word of God and should be taken literally. About one-fourth viewed the Bible as a book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts. The other half fell in the middle, believing that the Bible was inspired but should not be taken literally. 

Is dogmatic literalism Christianity’s one true way or an unconscious act? Dogmatists seem to take the wrong lessons away from the arguments between Jesus and the religious elite, where Jesus said that love fulfilled the law.

There are more than 200 Christian denominations in the United States alone. They all interpret the Bible a little differently—except in one respect: their church’s doctrine is superior to all others. This has resulted in Christians and various Christian churches viewing the Bible in many ways. Some view the Bible as inerrant, others as inspirational, and some as religious swords. 

Regardless of one’s theology, the Bible is an undeniably important book. It has stood the test of time for thousands of years, serves as a common denominator for more than 2 billion people around the world, and continues to inspire millions of people every day. 

John wrote about “the Word” non-dualistically in the first verse of the first chapter of the third gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John used “the Word” as he described something that was not in a book—something that seems much closer to a state of spiritual consciousness.

Even though Christianity was created without today’s Bible, the problems associated with the dogmatic battles that Jesus had in the New Testament with the Pharisees continue to this day. Pharisaic Christians have emerged in 21st century Christianity. They battle over Bible verses while ignoring the sick and hungry people laying outside their churches and seminaries. 

Imagine if Christians were able to do a better job at reading, reflecting upon, and practicing what was in the Bible through a Jesus-centric lens. Imagine if as Christians we could use the Bible to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love others as ourselves. What if we didn’t use it to disobey Jesus and focus on the specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the beams in our own?

As a point of reflection, consider how Christians have become more like the Pharisees and less like Jesus as they have become more dogmatically legalistic.