Some Closing Thoughts on the View of Scripture
The last two posts have generated some really deep discussion, and not a little discomfort on the part of some! For those of you who have participated, thank you for taking the time to talk through this topic.
Ray commented that he wasn't sure where we were headed with some of this discussion, and so I want to take a few minutes to sort of wrap up some of my thoughts on this subject, and then see where we go from there. Admittedly, the subject has introduced a few rabbit trails, and there is way too much temptation to chase all of those trails!
As I mentioned in a brief response to Ray, much of this discussion (from my standpoint) is a reaction against my own perception of what could be called "bibliolatry". Specifically, I have been put off by the insistence by some on other blogs that we have a relationship with a book, and the reference to the book itself as "the living word of God". (For some other interesting reading on this problem, see this essay by the Internet Monk.)
I'm trying to find the balance (middle-ground) position of respecting the writings for what they are, and seeing them as a means to a relationship and revelation of Jesus Christ Himself.
Like with some other doctrines, I think we (and by "we" here, I mean Christianity as a whole) settle on certain points of doctrine, deduced from what has been revealed, and then over time, those deductions become as firm in our collective minds as the word of God itself. Eventually, we build other deductions on those previous deductions, but continue to say that it is "clearly taught in Scripture".
I fear sometimes that the sola scriptura position of the Reformers, in reaction to the convoluted (at least in their mind) elevation of Tradition by the RCC, was a healthy position that, over the last 450 years has evolved into an unhealthy "worship" of the revelation that is designed to point us to the true object of worship -- Jesus.
In other words, if we step back and look at the "forest" (the over-arching story of God's dealing with man) instead of the "trees" (the little stories that take place at any point in time), we see a desire on God's part to have face-to-face interaction with His people.
God walked in the Garden after Adam sinned, saying, "Adam where are you?" Then, after selecting a people for Himself, He called all of them to the mountain. They were scared, and asked Moses to represent them and tell them what God said. This set in motion centuries and centuries of prophets speaking the word of God to the people.
Finally, God comes in human flesh Himself and reveals Himself to us through the person of Jesus. And through the written Scripture, we can come to a place where we can believe the testimony of those who saw Him and walked with Him and talked with Him. And through their report, then, we can come to a place of knowing Him ourselves.
When we then know Him (and I don't want to, for this moment, get bogged down in Calvinistic vs. Arminian language, so bear with me while I just write from my heart here!), He has promised to indwell us -- this is the "hope of glory"...Christ dwells in us!!
We, on this side of the incarnation, have something available to us that was only foreshadowed in the Old Testament! Based on what I see in the prophets, God has followed through on His promises (more physical fulfillment still to come, I believe) of dwelling with us, writing His law on our hearts, etc.
If our handling of Scripture does not lead us to this kind of intimacy, then we have mishandled the Scriptures, I believe. And it is this perceived mishandling that I am reacting to.
It's not that anyone here has promoted this idea, or anything like that. I'm reacting to what I have seen and heard for many years, and more recently in the blogosphere.
Dan Phillips, in the post that started this mess, claims that we cannot "know" anything about Jesus other than what we have in the Bible. And there is an immensely strong reaction against anyone who says that we can know Him in any way apart from what we read.
But if this is true, Jesus never needed to come in the flesh. And, quite frankly, we really don't need the Holy Spirit inside of us. If all that is needed for a relationship with the Father is a book, we already had that! And this is where the doctrine of inspiration can start to actually cause some difficulty. Because the Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, we need the Holy Spirit to "illumine" the text for us, and teach us what it means. But to be rather blunt, Scripture itself does not mention anything about the Spirit "illuminating" the written Word.
Yes, yes, He uses that word as part of the process. Don't ever think that I'm arguing against that. But to restrict His work to that goes beyond what is actually revealed in Scripture itself. And that's one of the basic points I've been trying to make in this. We cannot let our derived doctrines then force us to a position that goes beyond what the text says to begin with!
But as soon as someone mentions this kind of idea of an intimate relationship, it is assumed that we are talking about wacky, subjective insanity. The mockery of Dan Phillips to my questions about the Holy Spirit show either 1) fear of something greater than he is willing to acknowledge, or 2) lack of understanding of what God revealed in Jesus.
When Paul talked about knowing Jesus, I don't believe he was referring merely to knowing facts about him. He was not referring to reading historical accounts about Jesus. I believe he was speaking to an intimate knowledge of a relationship with Jesus. The metaphors that Jesus Himself used (such as the vine and branches in John 15) reflect a relationship that is far different from a relationship with a book.
This position does not equate to "discontentment" with anything that God has given. To be misrepresented as such shows an unwillingness by the critic to even consider the merits of this position. And I would humbly suggest that there are merits for this position within the very Bible from which some claim to get all of their doctrine. We can look at those together, if anyone is interested, but quite frankly, I don't think you need me to spell it out! :)
Until next time,