Thursday, March 11, 2010

Carl Jung & the Bible

I was looking for a quote attributed to Joseph Campbell. In reality, it was Campbell quoting Carl Jung, famous psychoanalyst. It comes from Campbell's The Power of Myth. It is so very wonderful: "Religion is a defense against religious experience."

If nothing else, that is the nugget for the day; however, in reading this article regarding an analysis of Answering Job by Jung, it dawned on me a very important point that I've always felt, but never heard articulated: The Bible must stay together, lest we turn God into a horrid beast, sub-human, something less than worthy of our worship.

Jung argues that the God of the book of Job is amazingly self-serving. God allows ha-satan, the adversary in Hebrew...something akin to " the prosecutor," to set a wager of Job's response. Jung uses the word "bamboozles." All in all, Jung, a believer in God (not necessarily the God of orthodox Christianity...but shaped by the Church and Scripture), makes some blasphemous statements...

But, I had a hard time arguing with him...I wanted to, but there are some really crazy things in that book. That got me started on the book of Joshua....more crazy things. Yet, each of these books have some beautiful things, too.

I think perhaps what Jung is pointing to is the incarnational nature of Scripture. Job was never meant to stand alone. It is a book of a community talking about suffering. Joshua was book of national identity and power. The book of Judges is about survival. The Gospels are books of hope and salvation. The Epistles are about community conduct (ironically so are Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).

Taking a glimpse of God given to us by these inspired men and women allows us only to see in St. Paul says, "We see through the mirror dimly..."

Looking at the Bible as such takes some faith because it's not neat, pretty, and concise. It takes work, hope, and faith to see the God of the Universe behind the pages, behind the stories.

It takes courage to sit through the argumentation of having a book like Ezra in the same Bible as Ruth....or the Epistle of James alongside St. Paul's writings.

Jung and Campbell are men I love to converse with (through their writings...they're both dead), and I often leave conversations with them provoked, disturbed, and questioning...

And for that I thank God for them, for their minds, and for their courage to write uncomfortable questions and thoughts...I also thank God for the Spirit giving me the courage to cling to faith and question at the same time.

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