“? James talks about Christianity having been thought of as grasping onto a theory about what God has done for us and then acting according to a moral code. Is that what Christianity has been like for you? How or how not?”
Yes, this conception of Christianity has and continues to confront me frequently.
“? What is your relationship to the Bible? Do you think of it as an act of communication from God? If so, what do you think God is communicating to us in our particular time and place?”
I have a hard to thinking of the Bible as an “act of a communication from God,” because communication seems to imply that the parties communicating are on equal footing. Yes, superiors and subordinates communicate all the time—I’m not questioning the possibility of that—but, when we communicators communicate, it seems that we all become equal in service to the content of our communication. In other words, we can all bumble the message—superiors and subordinates alike—just as we can all achieve eloquent clarity. So, to think of communicating with God is, for me, to think of putting ourselves on par with God is some sort of exchange among peers—which seems presumptuous and farfetched. Although I admittedly don’t have a clear conception of God’s nature, I am strongly inclined to affirm divine transcendence.
Of course, I realize that I can hardly fault Christians for affirming that we are in some respects on the same level as God and therefore capable of communicating with the divine, because the incarnation is a fundamental Christian tenant. All the same, I am in good faith attempting to remain within Christian doctrine when I say that, at the time and place of God’s incarnation, we do NOT see Jesus writing an early manuscript of the Bible. At that moment at which humanity possesses the parity with God that would permit communication, it is not the Bible that appears—rather, it’s a ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is why I struggle to think of the Bible as an act of communication from God; it seems to carry inside it a seed for the destruction of God’s transcendence. (The partner in crime to this destructive view of scripture—at least in the circles I run in—is the misconception of prayer as when you just talk to God as you would anyone else in the room. In fact, ‘personal devotions’—if you are familiar with the term—are when people deliberately foster the habit of conjoining these two assaults on divine transcendence.)
Perhaps I don’t understand what is meant by “communication” in the prompt above; maybe it doesn’t imply any sort of parity among the interlocutors. Now, if “communication” did NOT imply not anything like what happens (sobremesa) between my Dad and I when we drink coffee, but rather if “communication” is likened to what happens when I cough in my Dad’s proximity and he contracts my bug—then I could perhaps start to see the Bible as an act of “communication,” i.e. as an instantiation of “communicability.” With communicable diseases there is no parity in contagion; there is always a clear distinction between the source the microbes and the one who contracts them, and this spares God a peerless position among the acts of communication, viz. patient zero.
On account of the ambiguity I tried to unpack above, I can’t answer the question “what do you think God is communicating to us (through the Bible) in our particular time and place?” without risking confusion. For the sake of clarity, I prefer to be asked “What do you think God is infecting us with (through the Bible) at this particular time and place?” That isn’t an easy question but I’ll take a stab (and maybe I’m missing the point because I think this is what God is doing with the Bible at all times everywhere): the Bible infects us with a manner of living that is impervious to death.