Paul Vander Klay
November 3, 2010
According to Jesus, the core message of the Bible is: "Love God with everything you've got, and love your neighbour as yourself." Anyone making claims to the contrary is contradicting our Lord and Saviour.
Paul's instructions to Timothy recognized there would be fruitless arguments and to steer clear of them. Paul in Galatians 5 juxtaposed deeds for the flesh vs fruits of the spirit within the context of false teachers. This leads to two discerning questions: 1)Is the issue worth the debate? 2)Is the fruit of the teacher of this movement merit discussion and engagement?<br><br>In the Gospel I believe the Bible talks about how we have equal and direct access to God. Baptists would call this individual soul liberty and priesthood of the believer. These alone create the mess addressed, and given the choice, I'd rather have the mess than a teaching that we must go through a mediator or priest to gain access to God.<br><br>The mess brings in faith, something God prizes highly. Faith is hard to define and often is nebulous if we're honest with ourselves. Our definitions are helpful, but sometimes in trying to define it we lose fully what it is. It is interesting that the same book that promotes faith as pleasing God (Heb 5) also strongly promotes discernment (Heb 5).<br><br>I think God wants theological engagement. And when there is a point where we decide between two direction, we must act on our choice in good faith. A key aspect of this is we're saved and secured in what God did, not how correct our theology is. The mess is worthwhile when its centered on pursuing God and who He is with the understanding that He is our foundation and our security. <br><br>It's worth the mess. The alternative is far worse.
What is amazing to me is not the diversity of belief in the Protestant Christian community, but the high degree of unanimity about core doctrine despite this dangerous idea. The inerrancy of the Bible, the divinity of Jesus, his atonement for our sins, His resurrection, His exclusive role as Savior, His future return, the reality of the Holy Spirit, the need for baptism, the promise of heaven. There will always be exceptions and fringe groups that some will hold up as proof of the dangers of the priesthood of believers, or pockets of modernist gadflys in seminaries ever ready to puncture the faith of fundamentalists. Yet the trans-cultural unanimity of the worldwide evangelical experience is astounding. It goes beyond doctrinal agreement. I can experience heart-felt worship and fellowship with native eskimo believers, Chinese Christians, Haitians, Peruvians, Iranians and we all feel the presence of God and adoration for the savior. It has always amazed me to see videos of Chinese Christians singing in worship with hands raised or natives from Mozambique lost in worship with hands raised. They know the same God I know, have experienced the same personality. In part this is due to the fairly explicit teaching of the New Testament. I also believe when we are born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit, we have the author of the Bible living inside of us, constantly teaching. Alister McGrathâ€™s dangerous idea is only dangerous if you doubt the reality of the Holy Spirit inhabiting the believer and donâ€™t trust Jesusâ€™ ability to build a world-wide church. If anything, I believe world Christians are closer in belief, experience and communion than when the doctrinal police (whether Catholic or Reformed) enforced conformity.<br><br>But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representativeâ€”that is, the Holy Spiritâ€”he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26
I would suggest that while that is the core *command* of the Bible, it's far too human-centric to be the core *message* or *story* of the Bible. Instead, that core message might be, "God created humanity for his glory, loves us for his glory, sacrificed himself for his glory, and will redeem us for his glory."
I find this statement a bit tricky these days: <i> OK, so we can agree that the Bible is the place to start.</i> I hope I'm not splitting hairs and I know I'm not <b>intentionally</b> misunderstanding, but I feel more and more that the starting point is not the Bible, but an experience with the real and living person of Jesus Christ. It sounds sillyâ€”"Of COURSE Jesus is at the center" you might sayâ€”but I think it's deceptively important.<br><br>Starting with the Bible is, in a sense, far simpler than starting with a relationship with Jesus. After all, so much of the Bible lends itself to misinterpretation as a manual for living, rather than a love story from our Creator. Given a manual, I can measure up myself against various checklists and "do's and don't's" to see how I'm doing. That is the danger, I mean.<br><br>Starting with a relationship with Jesus is, frankly, far more messy. It's not condensable into a creed. It's certainly not something you can categorize or produce a checklist from. And while you can learn a ton about your relationship with Jesus through the Bible, the Bible can <b>never</b> replace that relationship.<br><br>What does this have to do with diversity? It's about our response. If I start with the Bible and have my (perhaps very narrow) interpretation, I'm likely to get pretty ugly with those "so-called Christians" who don't agree with me. After all, they clearly aren't Getting It Right, based on my understanding of Scripture.<br><br>But if I start with Jesus, I'm not too worried about those people who claim to have the same relationship as I do with Jesus, but who disagree with me. Consider this: I have friends at work and friends at church (none of whom I work with). Most of my friends at one place would vehemently disagree with most of my friends at the other. Guess what: they don't <b>have</b> to agree to remain my friends. What's more, the diversity of my friends celebrates my own diversity of interests and beliefs; how much more is an infinite God celebrated when his followers demonstrate a diversity of their own interests and beliefs, for his glory?! (All of this has a limit, of course; those interests and beliefs simply <b>cannot</b> violate God's nature.)<br><br>God is far too large to boil down into a creed or "core message"; with him as our center, I don't see how we can do anything BUT disagree on what's most important besides.
Yes and no. Very quickly after the Reformation the debate was "how far to reform?" Should we keep the ancient church councils from which we define Christology and the Trinity? The unity vs. diversity question has to be seen against both the RC and the Orthodox churches who do unity and diversity in a very different way than Protestants. Protestants tend to multiply structures and find commonalities across those structures while RC and Orthodox tend to do the opposite. How exactly do we define Christian unity? <br><br>pvk
Very interesting. <br><br>From God's direction I think you are very right, but the difficulty of this is how it works with respect to human community. The second most difficult pastor I had to deal with when I was a missionary was a dead pastor. Different people, including his widow were politicking on the basis of what he wanted and their claim to truth was their relationship with him. The difficulty was of course that he wasn't publicly accessible in a meaningful way for the public discussion and decision making. Everyone's claim to his authority via their relationship was subject to disagreement. This has also proven true of the Bible, yet on objective book allows for a forum for discussion rather than simply appeals to memory. <br><br>You are very right, however, that a book cannot replace a person or a relationship. I think some of your idea is found in the idea of apostolic succession that is deep within the Roman Catholic tradition surrounding the Papacy. The Reformers appealed to apostolic succession as mediated by the apostolic witness which they claimed was the Bible. <br><br>Thanks for introducing this wonderful thread into this discussion. I hope more people pick up on it and add their two cents. pvk
McGrath's claim is much like what is in the Catholic Encyc's article on the Prot. Ref. The "mess", in my view may not have been worth it, especially in light of the persecution and wars which followed the Ref.<br>The greatest radicalism of the Ref., in my view, was/is historical literalism. As scholars get farther back into what literally was meant and said, all sorts of conflicts has followed - thus the need for really competent biblical scholars (and preaching).
I've read a decent amount of McGrath and I find him one of the more interesting popular theologians. His Introduction to Christian Theology is one of the better ones I've looked at recently. <br><br> The whole protestant reformation was based on the five solas (scripture, faith, grace, Christ and God). I think your right in saying that the sola fide (faith) is seen as the number one issue coming out of the reformation. This may be due to modern history's unhealthy adoration of Luther and its unwillingness to look at other figures in the reformation's history.
Paul, you have created a straw man here. The issue is not pick a side but pick the life. Jesus did not live his life from his Godness but his humanity, phil.2, jn 1; jn 5 to name a few examples. In John 17 he prays in the same way you sent me into the world so send I them into the world. He obeyed the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.<br><br>So here we are the little christs confronted with text through which we need to find mean (logos) and from it we act in faith trusting God that we have understood the words, grammar, history and cultural context. We have the same potential as Christ made complex by our remaining <br>sin. So we from time to time have a mess. Is the mess worth it, yes. We still must live and act through faith leaving the results to God the Father just like Jesus. <br><br>Bob<br>[email protected]
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