To sort of follow up on my last post, I'd like to take a look at the larger point I've been attempting to make (probably poorly) from a couple of different angles. I was involved in a conversation elsewhere yesterday (some of you may have followed it) that got into some of these issues. Now, in the course of this exchange, the only doctrinal position I stood upon was "Christ crucified is enough for our salvation". Strangely, but still falling within the realm of expectation, those with whom I was interacting soon began circling the wagons to defend "the bible" and its role in salvation. I contend that it has no essential role, whatsoever, in salvation, but merely a supplemental one. In other words, it doesn't take Jesus AND the bible to reconcile me to God. I'll be up front in telling you that no man will ever move me from that belief.
Beyond that stance, I didn't take any dogmatic doctrinal positions, but preferred to ask questions to get right down to the core of what was being said. For instance, if you don't truly believe the bible is necessary to salvation, a simple "no" should suffice when asked if you believe as much. If it takes more than a simple "no"...well, seems to me that such would remove reasonable doubt that you're venturing into bible worship territory. I made it expressly clear that no man, council, or creed could speak for me when I stand before Christ, and that being the case, why should I let them now? That isn't to say that I disagree with what men may say, or what various councils or creeds have concluded, but rather, I won't let them determine what I believe on my behalf. The Holy Spirit has to have a say in the matter.
To me, theological debates are like a Lifetime Movie Network marathon - lots of tangled emotions, lots of pointless posturing and boring dialog, lots of colons and semi-colons...they're just a good excuse to take a nap. No one wins. Particularly those unfortunate enough to have to sit through them. Kinda like eating a bowl of grits without salt and butter. What's the point in it? (You southerners will know what I mean) It's one reason I've never had a desire to pursue any theological studies or attend a bible college.
In the course of the exchange yesterday, I was labeled, in essence, gnostic in my beliefs (that was a new one), accused of rejecting the bible, then accused of using the thing I was rejecting to disprove itself - when I hadn't rejected anything except the opinions of those I was communicating with, was accused of considering myself more spiritually astute than others and wanting to determine for them what was holy - despite having made it clear that such was for a person to decide on their own (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and despite having made no claims about what should and shouldn't be considered holy. This didn't bother me on a personal level (some of the messages I've received since starting this blog might rock your world, and I've been called just about everything) although the passive/aggressive manner was admittedly annoying, but it did sadden me. I'm pretty firm in my belief that if you give those who slant to the legalistic side of things enough rope, they'll hang themselves, and like I said, some of my questions were simplistic questions which get to the core. Some may consider that inciting, and if so, I apologize publically and profusely to the person whose platform served as the arena of the exchange.
A couple of things that came up in the exchange illustrate perfectly what I was attempting to say in Canon Fodder. In that post, I said the following...
I was asked recently, "If you don't consider the bible infallible, inerrant, and the absolute arbiter of truth, how do you even know who Jesus is?" My answer: The same way Simon Peter did.
And sure as Sunday, I got hit with that yesterday, and my answer was the same, as it will be tomorrow, as it will be next week, and on and on. That question is becoming a personal favorite (SA).
So then, that's when I was hit with "Aren't you using the very thing you reject to prove your point?" First of all, I haven't rejected anything, including the biblical canon despite not being fully confident in its total construct, and second, I wasn't using "the bible" to make my point, I was using the Gospel of Matthew, specifically chapter 16 verses 15-17. The Gospel of Matthew isn't "the bible". The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel of Matthew. It just happens to be included in the construct of what we now call "the bible". I also said the following in my last post, which illustrates my point...
Many Christians seem to view the bible in the same manner they'd view a Stephen King novel - ONE book written by ONE author. You might say "But it DOES have only one author: God!" Well, SOME of it definitively has only one source (God), but as I said earlier, the early church would differ with the modern church about much of the New Testament being "holy writ". I think it's unhealthy to look at the scripture as one entity. The bible as we know it is a collection of 66 different books written by many different men. The authorship of some books (such as Job and Hebrews) is completely unknown. Proverbs doesn't speak for Philippians, Acts doesn't speak for Habakkuk, and so forth.
I saw the full impact of that mindset yesterday.
Toward the end, in attempting to prove that the 1st century church considered Paul's letters "holy writ", I was hit with this passage from 2nd Peter 3...
15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable peopletwist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Some of you may recognize that passage as containing Stacy McDonald's original scripture quote in the sub-header of her first manifestation of Steadfast Daughters. Yikes. Not a good way to counter an impression of legalism.
But let's look at this as evidence of Paul's epistles being considered "holy"...The Greek word translated there as "Scriptures" is "graphe". It means writings. Modern biblical translators went a step further, since these epistles were included in the most holy biblical canon, and told us that, instead of "writings", which is the common use of "graphe", Peter actually meant Scriptures. That's not scriptures, mind you - that's Scriptures. I hope all can see the point I'm getting at there.
How quickly we forget that Paul constantly dealt with unscrupulous men attempting to misrepresent the words and simple message he wrote to these churches. Peter wasn't declaring Paul's writings, or those of anyone else, to be "Holy". He was declaring the gospel message IN them to be Holy, just as it is today when someone writes something containing the gospel of Christ in its most basic of forms. Christ is the wisdom of God. Christ is the wisdom that was given Paul. You and I have the exact same access to that wisdom that Paul did. There's no middleman, including "the bible", necessary to come to Christ.
I like the Message paraphrase of John 5:39-40...
You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want.
I don't claim to have anything figured out beyond my own salvation. I try to be clear that what I write here is merely where I'm at right now in my own personal journey with Christ, as I look to hold on to whatever is right and true. Heck, I may very well be wrong and false, and that's a responsibility that I don't take lightly. It's the primary reason that I don't delve into a whole lot of doctrine beyond "Christ crucified". I do know, however, that it troubles me deeply to see people rush to defend, so passionately, a theology, a non-essential doctrine, and a human constructed and influenced (through various translations and interpretations) collection of books...totally oblivious to all of the wounded that they pass in their mad rush who are piled up in the ditches - having been wounded by these very theologies, non-essential doctrines, and the human imbibling and handling of this collection of books.