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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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,

steve :)

18 comment(s):

Beautifully articulated!

By Blogger Jada's Gigi, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 9:26:00 AM  

Honestly, I think this may be a miscommunication -- I do not believe that Dan means there is NOTHING that can be known, or experienced outside of the Written Word.

Maybe he did mean that, but I have talked with him enough to know that this seems to be folks talking past one another...

Anyway, with that being said -- I agree, there are those who elevate the Bible itself to an idol, but I think if we look at this there are a few things which I can comfortably state:

1. The Bible is God's revelation to mankind about Himself. We know of Him because of what He has revealed about Himself in the Word of God (written).

2. With that being said -- There is nowehere in the Bible where it says that all we have to do is garner enough information and we become children of God -- there is a definitive spiritual aspect to it. An approach that states that all we need to do is get 'smart enough' by reading the Bible denies the work of the Holy Spirit, (Steve, I believe that this is part of your point).

3. However, the slippery slope that I think many are reacting to is this: when we begin to view the Bible as a set of good ideas, and we really depend on our own experiences to validate what is true and untrue about God, this is an invalid approach. (I do not know that this is what Steve is advocating)

Bottom line -- The Bible is God's revelation of Himself and His Son; it also provides revelation not only of the fact that He is, but also what He is like (attributes).

Yes, simple knowledge without the work of the Holy Spirit is not saving knowledge, but in a continuing way, the Holy Spirit will work with us to bring to light God's Word.

So, I believe that both are necessary -- A high view of Scripture, AND the work of the Holy Spirit -- I do not believe that anyone is denying this.

I do believe that there is a great danger is relegating the Bible to some good readings, and relying completely and totally on emotive, experiental events.

The Bible should be used as our canon (yardstick) when evaluating experiences, thoughts etc.

By Blogger Ray, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 11:10:00 AM  

Ray, I think you were very fair in representing what you thought I was saying. Thank you! :)

While I don't necessarily disagree with anything you said, I might push on a couple of points.

Dan wrote in the post I linked to in my first post on this subject:

God tells us that we have fellowship with Him by means of the words that He moved men to write. (emphasis his)

That sounds like an overstatement to me, and unnecessarily emphasizes the written word, in my opinion. In fact, I would even go further and say that I'm not even sure this statement of Dan's is true. I am not aware of anywhere that God told us we have fellowship with Him through the written word.

Earlier in that post, he also wrote:

Therefore, "fellowship" with the First and Second Person of the Trinity comes by means of "fellowship" with the verbal revelation which the apostles passed on....Thus we know what we know of the Father and the Son, and we enjoy the fellowship we have with the Father and the Son, by means of the words of the apostles. (again, emphasis his)

These statements, and a continual emphasis on the written word as the only way in which we have fellowship are what prompted me to ask about the role of the Spirit. His responses in the comments section boiled down to, "The Spirit wrote the sixty-six books of the Bible. What more do you want?"

The other thing I would say (and this is definitely nit-picking, if not outright semantics) is with regard to a statement you made twice in your commment. I think it is inaccurate to say, "The Bible is God's revelation to mankind about Himself." I would think it would be more accurate to say, "The Bible is part of God's revelation to mankind about Himself." (Hear me out on this, please.)

The reason I think that clarification is necessary is because, even according to Scripture, Jesus is God's revelation to mankind about Himself.

Now, I think (to be somewhat fair to Dan) Dan's point may be that we can only know facts about Jesus by the written word. However, the reality is that none of Christianity that I am aware of derives all of their factual information about Jesus from the Bible.

People use Josephus, they use the Early Church Fathers, they use other historical traditions to supplement the information we have about the life and ministry of Jesus recorded in the Bible. Even the authors of the New Testament sometimes quoted from extra-biblical sources in making their points about Jesus. And Paul says that all men are without excuse because of the revelation of God gained even through viewing creation around us.

So, the Bible is one of the ways in which God has chosen to reveal things about Himself.

Ultimately, though, the goal of the believer is to be "in Christ", and that involves His Spirit living in us, guiding us in all areas of our life, giving us the "out" from any temptation (1 Cor 10:13), and manifesting (among other fruit) love through us.

Paul said that it was no longer he that lived, but that Christ lived in him. That goes way beyond fellowshiping with Christ only through the Scripture. That is, as I said in this post, the hope of glory -- Christ in us!

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:16:00 PM  

A more general comment to everyone reading:

Anytime this subject comes up, people want to make sure that we aren't condoning an "anything goes" mentality with "the Lord told me" as the defense.

This, however, is nothing but a false dichotomy. Ray made the comment that Scripture should be the yardstick by which we measure anything. I don't think I can disagree with this.

But there is an element in which, having come to a knowledge of God's character through Scripture, we should be able to recognize the voice of the Spirit within us in any situation.

For example, I mentioned in my last comment that one of the roles the Spirit plays in a believer is helping us find the "out" in any temptation. 1 Cor 10:13 says that with any temptation, God is faithful to provide a way of escape. That way of escape can take many different forms. There are no Scripture references that can tell you what that "way of escape" is in any situation, but the Spirit is able to tell you that.

The only way to be able to discern the voice of the Spirit (say, from your own thoughts, or the voice of the enemy) is by being in a close relationship with Him. Yes, that requires knowing the Scripture, but I do believe there is an inward testimony that we all have.

Obvious disclaimer: The Spirit will never tell you to do something that contradicts the character of God. That should be able to go without saying.

So this whole concept that I'm talking about has nothing to do with strange new words from God that would somehow modify the revelation He has already given us.

Jesus said that He would give us the Holy Spirit. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to lead into all truth, convict of sin, etc. There is nothing in Jesus' words that would indicate that He meant something different for the disciples listening to Him at that point than he did for us (i.e., "I'll give you the Holy Spirit, and He will help you write the New Testament, and then others will read what the Holy Spirit said through you, and that will serve as their guide.")

We talked about this some six months ago when we discussed whether or not the gift of prophecy necessitated an "open canon". Frankly, I get quite tired of hearing others (again, not here, but on other blogs) mock this thinking as "leaky canon".

Now, if you're a strict cessationist, there's not a whole lot I can do to help you understand this because you're going to see it through the grid of cessationism. But please take my word for it that the idea of a Spirit-led life is biblical, and does not necessitate any kind of open or "leaky" canon.

Sorry for the rant! ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 1:40:00 PM  

Steve, thanks for this post. I like the balance you've found on this subject.

Barbara

By Anonymous wordsworth, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 2:37:00 PM  

I am a bit grieved over the last two posts. Not with anything you said, Steve, but with the state of Christendom. The earth groans for sons of God to be revealed. Who are these? The ones with their doctrine "perfectly" figured out, who then have a basis for excluding and snubbing those with "failing" theology? Or, perhaps, those who walk in the wondrous love of God toward their neighbors? I would that there were more Samaritans. You know, a loving, giving, sacrificing fellow who has a faulty worship place in Samaria (read that: his doctrine is wrong), but who knows about stopping along the road to help an injured human being. Interesting that Jesus held up the Samaritan for our instruction. Interesting, also, that He did not instruct us to be sure and check the "credential", doctinally, of either the Samaritan helping or the injured person he helped.

Speaking of credentials, isn't that what this discussion is turning on? We Christians, don't want to listen unless what is being heard is based on Scripture. (Of course, Scripture is important!! Ray, I really appreciate your input on this one.) The problem, as I see it, is that we Christians never trust someone's actions of love (actions which taste, smell and look like Jesus), if the words connected to those actions aren't spoken in approved theological positions verifiable as absolute truth through sutiable quotes from the Holy Writ.

Something is really wrong here! What? We Christians are almost clueless about love. Check out
I Cor. 13...roughly paraphrased, If my doctrine is perfectly straight and I have not love, I am a clanging cymbal.

I think too many Christians confuse being able to "control" a situation by lining up up every person involved according to "correct interpretation" of Scripture as holiness. Isn't holiness only Jesus? Why is the basic principle here so obscured? Humans are not holy individuals! Christians are not holy individuals because of their doctrine! Doctrine is not holy! Jesus is holy!!!! His presence guiding our actions is all that produces a holy effect in the world at large. A doctrinal stance, no matter what Scripture may seem to justify it, is not holy.

The Pharisees were not held up to us because they represented lost people. (That has got to be the worst interpretation of Scripture I have read recently!! No disrespect intended toward the person who held such, I only comment on the intellectual position.) The Phar. represented the religious elite who manipulated power over people's lives without any God-based authority. They trusted fully in their intellect and sanctioned proclamations without realizing their hearts and actions were EMPTY of God's love.

Entering into the love of God is accomplished completely by what God has ordained through the Cross and Resurrection. Individuals find the forgiveness which frees their guilty consciences in the Cross, so that they may have faith to believe that God would in-dwell them for His purposes in a new, resurrected life while on this earth. The ultimate fulfillment of such power, understood and appled individually, is to be able to have security in the hope of being resurrected eternally.

The gospel message is much simpler than systematic theology! Praise God for that!!

Steve, I commend you for challenging people to recognize that idolatry of the written word is not living in the Word, who became flesh. Oh yeah, such idolatry leads to supertitious actions and attitudes (annointing every available doorstop, etc.), but I have talked too much once again. There is coming a day and now is, when those who worship, will worship in SPIRIT and TRUTH. Note: not the written word alone, but what is known in the heart...a spiritual state.

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 8:42:00 PM  

Barbara, nice to see you comment here. Thanks for reading! My wife or I will probably be emailing you soon re: homeschool stuff.

ded, thank you, my dear brother, for your passionate words. I am so blessed to call you brother.

It's no secret to our group of readers here that you and I agree on many things, so there's no point in me denying the fact that I agree with what you wrote! ;)

May God help us all appropriate the grace He has given to attain the level of love for one another that identifies us as Christ's disciples.

To my entire community of readers: I love you. Thank you all for being part of this forum. You all show me such grace and patience here, and I appreciate that! If anything on this blog brings you to a new level of intimacy with Christ, may God receive all of the glory from it.

Under His Grace,
steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 9:19:00 PM  

To all, I would just say that sometimes we need to grapple with some of the thornier issues in order to understand them more...

Steve, you have made me think, many times when I would have preferred a knee-jerk reaction.

ded, of course it was good to hear from you as well...

By Blogger Ray, at Wednesday, June 28, 2006 10:17:00 PM  

Amen to all you have shared Steve, you and ded both have hit upon the very thoughts I was thinking as i read Rays comments...Jesus Christ is Himself God's revelation about Himself! He is the yardstick...holding a book in higher esteem than He can be nothing less than idolatry. God IS Spirit, therefore communication, inspiration, and direction must be spiritual...never to negate the value of scripture but certianly to maintain it as written words in subjection to Christ Himself...all things are under His feet....He is Central and supreme while the written word testifies of Him.

I'm with ded on this one...I bemoan the state of Christendom that a spiritual realationship with a living God as our primary focus and source of living the Christian life is called into question ....frightening really.

By Blogger Jada's Gigi, at Thursday, June 29, 2006 9:46:00 AM  

Very interesting blog you've got going here, Steve. I just found you through following a trail of comments on HSB. I'm very interested in theology/doctrine so I'm sure I'll be back.

Blessing to you~

By Anonymous Angela, at Thursday, June 29, 2006 9:46:00 AM  

Angela, thanks for stopping by! It gets very interesting around here. I love the interaction on this blog because we deal with some really interesting topics, but without dragging each other through the mud.

Frequent commenters here run the gamut in terms of their theology, and yet we all discuss things and reason together with a foundation of love for one another, and above all, a love for our Lord Jesus Christ!

Enjoy your time here, and feel free to comment on anything that captures your attention.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, June 29, 2006 12:06:00 PM  

Steve, thanks for the welcome. I've added you to my blogroll. I'm not new to having opinions, but I am fairly new to blogging...so I hope that it's okay with you that I added you.

By Anonymous wordsworth, at Thursday, June 29, 2006 3:47:00 PM  

Remember our discussion a few weeks back about crossing a line with our passion? I have been reflecting on that since my last post. The line between righteous passion/anger (Jesus in the Temple) and self-righteous indignation is hard for me to draw. Sometimes, I think, I enter into passionate discourse just because it feels "strong" to speak so, and that is somehow gratifying. I don't know if I crossed a line or not in my heart. No one has challenged me for my words, or suggested I might express myself differently. I guess that is a good sign. Such is among the reasons we need each other.

I agree, Steve, there is always some measure of subjectivity in our thoughts and perpsectives.

Focusing back on the blog entry and the question, "What is the Word of God?", I wanted to post one additional comment.

Jesus is the Word, and we have some of Him recorded in print.

By Anonymous ded, at Friday, June 30, 2006 7:12:00 AM  

Steve,

I read the comments at Team Pyro that lead to your posts here and even visited earlier but did not have time to read these psots in detail until now. So hopefully you will not mind if I start by addressing some things from your second post and maybe that will lead us back to this post.

First, let me state that I think you have raised one of the problems the church faces continually - accepting doctrine without ever making it your own. What I mean is that we do not wrestle with Scripture like we should (your rapture example being a major one today where I think we have accepted something that the Bible doesn't teach). I have to find truth in the Scriptures before I really embrace the truth as my own.

With reference to what the Bible authors mean when they speak of the word, like most things I think the context has to be understood first. There are a number of passages in the NT where Word is a reference to Jesus, even outside of John 1 (e.g. Revelation 19:13).

However, I would propose that in passages like Psalm 119, while the the Psalmist clearly has in mind the revelation that they had in that day (primarily the Law of Moses), it has application for the entirety of Scripture in our day.

How do I apply this? When Paul tells Timothy, "Preach the 'logos'" what does he mean? Is he saying preach the Bible? Or preach Jesus? I would answer yes. "Logos," more than being a spoken word, is a thought or idea. The Greek comes into the English as "logic." So I think Paul is telling Timothy to preach the "message" of gospel.

And the key thing for me is where is that message collected today? It is collected in the 66 books of our Bible. When we preach and teach, that is the source we must (and I use the imperative intentionally) use.

Let me make one more point and maybe we can discuss other points later. You cite 1 Corinthians 7:25 in reference to Paul saying "not the Lord, but I say" and ask what that means for inerrancy. I view Paul as saying that what he writes here should not be viewed as binding, much like Proverbs. Nearly every commentator and theologian agrees that Proverbs contains general rules for godly living, not guarantees. In other words, sometimes the industrious person ends up poor.

Likewise, Paul is saying that the following is good advice, given the situation (v.26), but not required. The Bible gives this kind of practical instruction in many places, so why did Paul say, "not the Lord, but I?" Because in v. 10 he had said, "not I, but the Lord" to emphasize that what followed was a command. Now he feels bound to say "not the Lord, but I" to draw a distinction.

So, to come back around to a point I think we agree on, I see the Spirit not merely inspiring Scripture, but helping us to apply it wisely (Hebrews 5:14). Does Paul's exhortation apply to my situation? I have to know Scripture (this goes beyond memorizing verses, which I'm not against, but if you memorize you need to understand the context) so that the Spirit can guide me in my daily walk (per your temptation example).

I hope all that was clear. I found some points of disagreement with what you had written, but I see a lot of commonality as well.

By Blogger Taliesin, at Saturday, July 01, 2006 11:05:00 PM  

We cannot let our derived doctrines then force us to a position that goes beyond what the text says to begin with!

Amen. Good thoughts here, Steve.

Brad

By Blogger Broken Messenger, at Monday, July 03, 2006 10:10:00 PM  

I was stopping by to let you know of a fellow homeschool blogger who has lost a baby (still born). Please keep her and her family in prayer. I've posted the links on my blog.

Thank you for joining together at the throne of God to lift another in prayer. (Also, because the list of those joining S&BIC is getting longer, I will just be emailing those who would like to be informed of prayer requests or other important information, so if you'd like to be a part of that (and I don't have your email address already), then please email me and put "S&BIC" in the subject line and I'll add you to the list (that won't be disclosed). Then, please take time to post and share the request on your blog to spread the word. Thanks so much, and again, thanks for praying.

In Him,
Amy

By Blogger Dandelion Seeds, at Thursday, July 06, 2006 3:30:00 PM  

I have recently done two posts on this very topic. Talk about God wanting me to look at an issue!
I'm going to back-read these posts now.

MDM

By Blogger Modern Day Magi, at Saturday, July 08, 2006 4:58:00 PM  

firstly, I'd like to admit that I have not had time to read the comments for these posts, so if what I am about to say has already been addressed I apologise.

The Scripture or Bible and the Holy Spirit are not a one or the other option for Christians. The Pharisees knew the scriptures backward but were still spiritually dead. Life is only found IN Jesus given by Jesus, not by simply reading the Word.

That said, there needs to be a test of the truth of a spiritual revelation. The bible warns us of the devil masquerading as an angel of light. The test then is the Written word of God. If anything is ever in conflict with the scriptures, then the scriptures are correct, and the conflicting thought, 'spiritual revelation', tradition, or doctorine is incorrect.

Christians will all agree that the most important thing to believe and preach is the Gospel of Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 tells us what that gospel is: "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."

thats my 2 cents, this topic could go on for ages so I will end by thanking you for your thoughts on the matter and with a quoted comment from joe, a reader at my blog

"Everything we need to know about God is in the Word of God. Nothing we need to know about God is NOT found in the Word of God and everything we THINK we know about God that is not in the Word of God we just made up."

MDM

By Blogger Modern Day Magi, at Saturday, July 08, 2006 5:26:00 PM  

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