Archive for October, 2007

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.