Archive for the 'The Church and the Bible' Category

PART – 3

Sunday, March 9th, 2008


One of the consequences of the Christian belief that the New Testament is sealed is that rather than God being closer to His people He has become more distant. Jesus supposedly lay down His life to draw us infinitely deeper into the life of God. After the resurrection He tells the woman, Mary Magdalene, at the tomb “…go to My brothers and say to them I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God”. If we are called into this intimate relationship where we are no longer slaves but friends, brothers of the Lord, sharing in common a Father and a God, then our words should be constantly alive and relevant, and rather than being sealed up in a book, words bearing life should still be flowing from our lips.
Under the Law God's people knew of His love and grace because through the generations He sent His prophets, spokesmen, to correct them, whose words were His words and to be respected and obeyed. But in sealing up scripture the Church has put a distance between itself and God. The Church has acted in much the same way as the people in the time of Moses acted when they were so terrified by their encounter with God, when He appeared with fire on the mountain to deliver the ten commandments, that they declared to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die.” We are told that “… the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was”. The Church too has acted in this way keeping a 'respectful' distance, a very long way down the mountain, from the Lord.
The curious effect of this distancing itself from God has created within the Church the art of theological posturing. Because the Church believes that they are children of God, because in there understanding the scripture says that they are, they create for themselves an intellectual illusion of their relationship with God, without ever becoming what they proclaim themselves to be. It is therefore possible for Christians to declare that they are saved, and washed in the blood, and children of God, while still declaring their absolute enslavement to sin. “None of us are perfect” they declare, “God doesn't see me when He looks at me, but rather he sees Jesus”. These and similarly juvenile utterances are what I call 'God wearing rose coloured glasses' theology and speaking such nonsense is part of the reason that the Church is held, quite rightly, in derision by the unbeliever.
It is a strange fact that those born under the Law had more expectation of a word from God than those who are supposedly born under grace! It is also surprising that those who believe that they are living under a New Covenant have less expectation of a revelation from God than those who lived under the Old Covenant. So because Paul writes that the Law, though good, resulted in death for those who stumbled in it, that must mean that Christians, who supposedly live according to grace but stumble in the same way as those who live under Law, have to be in a worse state. For if neither the Law nor love poured out through the Spirit can transform us what way is there left for us to keep the commands of God?

The Church and the Bible (Part 2)

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

The next thing I would add on the subject of Scripture is that mainly when Scripture is mentioned in the letters of Paul the writer is referring to the Old Testament. If the New Testament, as Scripture, was essential for salvation then no one in the very early Church could have been saved, for what we call the New Testament was still a work in progress!

The absorption of the Church in the writings that have been labelled Scripture, and defined as being a closed book, has resulted in a Church rich in theology, argument and schism, but poor in spiritual authority and, more importantly, the love of God. Paul writing to the Corinthians had this to say, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of hearts of flesh”

What Paul is knowing is that it is not knowledge of the recorded word that gives life but rather it is the real, life-giving knowledge of the living God. Paul is seeing in the lives of those gathering in the fledgling Church a fulfilment of God’s words to Ezekiel, “And I shall give them one heart and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh”. And God doesn't stop there for He goes on to say, “that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God.”

In other words it is not the scripture that should be held up as a record of God’s works and His dealings with men, but rather it should be the Church itself bearing witness to the working of God within it. The Church in its claim that the perfect has come, in the guise of Scripture, sidesteps the truth that the perfect, if it has come, should be seen being made manifest in them. For it is not the Book they hold on to that gives them glory but whether or not God is being revealed in their midst. For if God was really with them then the Church would be a ‘living book’ of the works and deeds of God, a ‘living testament’ to the power of His glory and His saving acts of grace. As it is the Church argues over doctrine, is divided over issues of biblical interpretation, and declares salvation based on an understanding of Scripture rather than a life saving knowledge of God.

The Church and the Bible (Part 1)

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

 

The Church’s teaching that Scripture is now closed is wrong. When the 3rd Century Church met and decided which of their inherited writings were to be declared canonical and final, on what authority did they make this stand? Has God Himself declared it so? By making this claim the Church has pre-empted God and declared it impossible that He might raise up for Himself a prophet to speak words of admonishment to the Church, a prophet whose words carried all of the authority that the Church has decided can only reside in the books which they have declared Canonical.

The tradition of the Church that there are no further words that God will speak to it is a curious one indeed. This notion not only effectively silences God, if indeed He can ever be silenced, but also gives rise to the legitimisation of the persecution of His spokesmen. For if a man sent by God arrived to speak God’s words to the Church, the Church would feel justified in declaring the man a fraud and an impostor.

It was never the habit of the Jews to declare that their scripture was sealed. If God raised up a prophet, even if the prophet’s words were ignored, the Jews eventually incorporated the words that the prophet had written or spoken into their sacred writings. For they recognized, even belatedly, that the prophet was from God and his words were important and true and worthy of respect. Unfortunately the words were honoured but the message was lost and this too is a deep problem in the Christian community.

Not only do Christians hold in great honour the words they deem to be Scripture, but they do not live by these words and no longer understand what the words themselves mean. This should not surprise us for the Jews did not understand the words which Jesus spoke. In fact He spoke to them in parables “lest they see with their eyes, understand with their heart and return and be saved”. His words are often enigmatic and can only be understood by those “to whom it has been given”. It is this “to whom it has been given” which I wish now to investigate.

After His resurrection Jesus explained to the travellers He met on the road to Emmaus all that the Scriptures revealed concerning the Christ. Even while their hearts burned within them, marvelling at the mystery which Jesus was revealing to them, they did not recognize who He was. It was only when Jesus gave them Communion, blessing the bread and giving it to them, that their eyes were opened.

This surely has a deep message for Christians who believe that Scripture alone gives them all the insight they need to have faith, to be guided in their lives and to know all the things pertaining to salvation. The apostle Paul knew a thing or two concerning faith and said to the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstrations of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God”. This leads me to say that Scripture is always secondary to the Spirit concerning our ability to have faith in God.