Friday, October 31, 2014

We must live the scriptures

Our knowledge and understanding of the scriptures mean little if that knowledge and understanding is not converted into change; change in our thinking, change in our speaking, and change in our acting. It is the goal of scripture to change us. Paul wrote to Timothy, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) Paul taught, not for the purpose of information and education, but for transformation; to change the inner man, or woman, of the listener. He used his words, and the message he had received from Christ, to effect real and lasting change in his hearers. His goal was the production of love in those whom he taught, and he did this by addressing the needs of the heart, the conscience, and their faith. By affecting these things he hoped to see love as the fruit of their transformation.

If we are to grow in the scriptures, we must let them change us. James wrote,
"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:22-25)
When we look into the scriptures, we not only see God and His love, plan, and will for our lives, but we also see ourselves; who we are, how we relate to God, and how we relate to others. However, most of us prefer a form a self-deception; preferring to believe what we think about ourselves rather than what God declares about ourselves, We read the word, see what it has to say, then leave unchanged, deceiving ourselves that all is well. We must allow the scriptures to change us if they are ever to produce any fruit in our lives. We must not simply "look into the scriptures," we must incorporate them into our lives; to make them an active part of our life, to let them change how we think and act.

Therefore, James says, "Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21) Very few seeds will germinate if left on top of the soil. We must take the scriptures and plant them deep inside our hearts. We must let them germinate and take root in our soul. Only them will they furnish and bare much fruit in our lives. This process of implantation is more than just learning or memorizing the scriptures; it is the incorporation of the scriptures into our daily lives. To take them and allow them to change how we live. To begin to live according to their instruction rather than the instruction of the world. To being, by faith, to live as if its message is true; putting every exhortation, promise, and command into practice. To take seriously what Jesus said, "But go and learn what this means..." (Matthew 9:13) It's only by doing the scriptures that we will really come to know them and to experience their benefits in our lives.

David Robison

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We must submit our experiences to the scriptures

From time-to-time we all fall prey to the "but as for me..." syndrome. Even the psalmist Asaph was not immune to its lure. "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped." (Psalm 73:1-2) Surely God is good to all who love Him and call upon His name, but as for me... We acknowledge the goodness and faithfulness of God for everyone else, but doubt it when it comes to our own lives. God is good to other people but my experiences and circumstances cause be to wonder if maybe He has forgotten my name and has lost sight of the plight I'm currently in. It's not that we do not know the truth, but the truth gets lost in the blinding light of our present everyday struggles and difficulties. At times like these, we often trade the truth of God's word in our lives for our present experience.

If we are to grow in the scriptures then we must learn to elevate them above our experience and to submit our circumstances to its truth. God's Word carries weight. David spoke of God's Word saying, "I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name." (Psalm 138:2 NKJV) God has exalted His Word even above His name. When God speaks something, He means it. We have all heard people say, "My word is my bond." For God, this is especially true. Everything He says, He means and everything He says He will do, He will do. God told Jeremiah, "You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it." (Jeremiah 1:12) God is so concerned about His word that He is ever watching over it to perform it lest one jot or tittle of it should go unfulfilled. When God says something we can believe it, even if our circumstances lie against the truth. This trust in God and His word is at the center of our faith in God. Consider what is written of Abraham, our father according to the faith,
"Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:19-22
Abraham believed God even when his circumstances told him to doubt!

There are two ways we can submit our circumstances to the word of God. First is to place our faith and obedience it God's word over the demands of our circumstances. "And after He [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."'" (Matthew 4:2-4) Jesus was hungry yet He did not submit Himself to His carnal desires and passions, rather He submitted Himself to the will and word of God. Even though His body told Him to do one thing, He still knew what God required of Him and He remained obedient to God's will. There are times we just want to get angry or we want to withdraw and feel sorry for ourselves, but it's times like these that we must press into God and remain faithful to His word and His commands for our lives. We must say "No!" to our flesh and "Yes" to God. We must not let our circumstances dictate our behavior, rather we must submit in unyielding obedience to God;s word.

Secondly, we submit our experiences to God's word when we prefer His word to our experiences. "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him." (Acts 8:35) Philip did not preach himself or his experiences, but from the scriptures he preached Jesus to his traveling companion. Paul had a similar commitment to the scriptures over his experiences, "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord." (2 Corinthians 4:5) There are many people going around preaching about all the wonderful things they are doing, or that God is doing through them, and, while this may be all well and good, there is little preaching of Christ from the scriptures. Our experiences may be wonderful and even supernatural, but what people need, what they can trust and depend on, is God's word. When, in our preaching and conversations, we prefer our experiences to God's word then we are communicating something that is changeable, unreliable, and that lacks the power to change people's lives. Let us return to preferring God, His Word, and His Scriptures to our experiences.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We must take time for the scriptures

It is good to read the scriptures, but we also need to make time for the scriptures to have place in our lives; to have time for their study, contemplation, and communication. Sirach wrote before the time of Christ saying, "Leisure gives the scribe the chance to acquire wisdom; a man with few commitments can grow wise." (Sirach 38:24) There is nothing more noble, more beneficial, and more singularly salutary to the soul than the contemplation of God. However, such pursuits, especially those which we pursue through the scriptures, require the discipline of time in our lives. Many of us are so hurried that we have little margin left in our lives for anything else. Every waking moment is filled with activities and, when we do have some idle time, we entertain ourselves with our favorite technology or vice. We run through each day with little or no margin left for contemplation, meditation, or relationships. We have a deep seated sense that we aught to pursue God and other relationships, but we medicate that feeling with even more activity and busyness. If we are to grow in the scriptures and to lay hold of its benefits, then we must make room in our lives for the scriptures; we must provide margin in our lives for God and for His still small voice in our lives.

Luke wrote of the more noble minded Jews in Berea, saying,
"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men." (Acts 17:11-12
The Jews of Berea were more noble than the Thessalonicans because they had a readiness of mind to receive the things of God. Some people read the scriptures out of curiosity and others out of a since of duty, but the Bereans searched the scriptures with a desire and readiness to receive something from God. Their hearts were open and their minds were engaged. We need regular involvement with the scriptures; not just reading, but searching, studying, and listening. Peter similarly exhorts us, "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19) The Greek word here for "pay attention" literally means to hold our mind towards; it is an active engagement of our rational faculties in examining and comprehending the scriptures as we wrestle with their import in our lives. However, such activities take time and discipline.

The scriptures are more than just an old book which we aught to read. It is our history, our purpose, our glory, and our hope. Moses said of the Law,
"So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" (Deuteronomy 4:6-8
If this be true of the Old Covenant, how much more of the New? How much more glorious, beneficial, and significant should the scriptures be to us who have been born anew from above? The scriptures are not ancillary to our faith, but the central voice of history recording for us the things God has done and said and the things He has yet promised to do. Instead of seeing the scriptures as something separate from our faith, something we aught to do but never find time to do, we should seek to make it a regular part of our daily lives. Moses command the people,
"You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them," (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
The scriptures aught to be part of us; part of our daily lives; part of our daily conversations, thoughts, and discussions. It should be part of our fellowship and our encouragement of each other. It should salt everything we do and say. Let us discipline our lives to make time for the scriptures that they may become an essential part of our lives and of all we say and do.

David Robison

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We must read the scriptures

Finally, as we conclude this series on the scriptures, I want to look at some ways we can grow in the scriptures. The scriptures are latent with benefits that few people actually realize in their lives. These benefits come not to the casual participant in the scriptures but to the one who labor, persists and, as it were, mines these benefits from the depths of its pages. Our participation in the scriptures, and thus its benefits in our life, grows over time as we do the things that nurtures its growth in our lives. Here are a couple of things we can do to grow in the scriptures.

Of first importance, we must read the scriptures. Paul commanded Timothy, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." (1 Timothy 4:13) The early church was committed to the public reading of the scriptures, and in this case, they were almost exclusively the Old Testament Scriptures since that was all they had at the time. Later on, the writing of the Apostles would be included in their public readings. Towards the middle of the second century, Justine Martyr wrote of the typical church gathering in his day.
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things." (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 67)
Later on, as the church liturgy began to take shape, the public reading of the scriptures was organized so that people would hear the key portions of scriptures read a loud over the course of one year. "The Greek church has a division according to the four Gospels, which are read entire in course; Matthew next after Pentecost, Luke beginning on the fourteenth of September, Mark at the Easter fast, and John on the first Sunday after Easter." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Chapter 76) The public reading of the scriptures was prominent for two important reasons. First, because of the high illiteracy rates at that time. Many believers, especially in the anti-Nicene era were poor, uneducated, and even slaves, Many of them were unable to read the scriptures for themselves. Secondly, the cost of such books were often prohibitive except for the wealthier believers. Even if an early believer could read, they often could not afford their own copies of the scriptures. For these reasons, the scriptures were publicly read as part of their weekly gathering together as believers.

Today, in most developed nations, literacy is high and the cost of the scriptures is low. We have no excuse for not reading the scriptures ourselves; we are no longer dependent on someone reading them to us. However, there are many things vying for our time and many books sitting on our shelves waiting to be read. With the availability of so much information, it is easy for the scriptures to be pushed aside in preference for something more entertaining or for something easier to comprehend. For some, it is easier to read what others say about the scriptures than to actually read the scriptures themselves. However, the truth is, that without opening the scriptures and reading them for ourselves, we will never come to know what they contain or to hear the message they have for us and for our lives today. We cannot know the scriptures without reading them and we cannot benefit from the scriptures without knowing them. Therefore, the first step in growing in, and benefiting from, the scriptures is to read them.

David Robison.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The scriptures are more progressive than innovative

God is an infinite God. He dwells outside of time and space. He is not limited by the finiteness of this creation or the limitations of our mind, understanding, and imagination. As God is infinite, so is His knowledge and understanding. The Psalmist says, "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." (Psalms 147:5) and the prophet speaks for God saying, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9) Seeing we serve such a God, it is reasonable to expect that such a full knowledge and understanding of God is incapable of being written down in a few thousand pages of any single book, even within the Holy Scriptures. The scriptures have just scratched the surface of who God is and what He wants to reveal of Himself to us.

However, knowing that there is so much more of God to understand and learn, we must always be cognizant that the revelation of God is more progressive (building upon and clarifying past revelations) than it is innovative (making large unexpected or disconnected leaps to new doctrines and/or ideas). Phillip Schaff, in reference to Vincentius, a fifth century monk, put it this way.
"In like manner Vincentius Lerinensis teaches, that the church doctrine passes indeed through various stages of growth in knowledge, and becomes more and more clearly defined in opposition to ever rising errors, but can never become altered or dismembered... The criterion of the antiquity of a doctrine, which he required, involves apostolicity, hence agreement with the spirit and substance of the New Testament. The church, says he, as the solicitous guardian of that which is intrusted to her, changes, diminishes, increases nothing. Her sole effort is to shape, or confirm, or preserve the old. Innovation is the business of heretics not of orthodox believers. The canon of Scripture is complete in itself, and more than sufficient." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume III, Chapter 118).
With the appearing of Jesus Christ, the Word of God was once for all revealed to mankind; the fullness of God's revelation being revealed for all to see and hear. Having seen and heard Jesus, we have seen and heard the Word of God. Further, Jude reminds us of, "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." (Jude 3) When we consider the continued revelation of God, we must acknowledge it as a continuation in scope and depth and not in innovation and evolution. The revelation of God, especially as recorded in the scriptures, paints a continuous line of knowledge stretching from the very beginning, with the creation of the world and of Mankind, and running to the end of all things, with the destruction of the world and the eternal reward and punishment of mankind. Along that line we have the revelations of the prophets and the teachings of the apostles. Progressive revelation is that which builds upon the words of these prophets and apostles. However, innovation, new "revelation," that is not traceable back to their words, is automatically suspect and oftentimes heresy. Paul said that our lives and our faith should be "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone," (Ephesians 2:20) Revelation built upon anything else should be shunned or at least approached very cautiously. Everything we think we know, or believe we have received, should first be run through the filter of the prophets and the apostles; it must some how stretch back and be connected to that continuous line of revaluation and knowledge.

Turtullian warns us of receiving that which is innovative or novel in comparison to the scriptures we have already received.
"For in as far as what was delivered in times past and from the beginning will be held as truth, in so far will that be accounted heresy which is brought in later. But another brief treatise will maintain this position against heretics, who ought to be refuted even without a consideration of their doctrines, on the ground that they are heretical by reason of the novelty of their opinions." (Tertullian, Book 1, Chapter 1, Against Marcion)
God's word is always true; truth descends from truth and revelation from revelation. With great assurance we know that God spoke to the prophets and that the apostles taught the message that was personally delivered to them by Jesus Christ. All other and subsequent revelation must be based upon, and must be in agreement to, these previous revelations and teachings. In our search for more of God, we must never allow ourselves to wander outside the bound of truth as laid our for us in the scriptures. These scriptures, and their teachings, should form for us an orthodoxy that serve as the white lines marking the edge of a roadway; guiding us safely down the path and keeping us from the perilous cliffs that line the sides of the roadway. Within the lines we are free to roam, search, wonder, and discover, but outside the lines lies danger and shipwreck. In this case, the lines truly are our friends.

It has been my experience that, with each new wave of God, there is also a lot of debris that rides in on the wave; not all that comes in is clean and preteen. Along with the new thing that God is doing, there often comes some of the old heresies wrapped up in new clothing. Often times, in our excitement, we are all too willing to receive all the new teachings and revelation the "new wave" has to offer without properly vetting each new doctrine we receive. Paul warns us to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) There is much to know and learn about God, but let us be careful to examine every new thought or idea to make sure it is consistent with, and connected to, the eternal revelation of God as recorded in the scriptures.

David Robison

Monday, October 20, 2014

The scriptures are more practical than educational

By this I mean that the scriptures are meant to be obeyed more than learnt; they are meant to motivate towards action more than to fill our minds with information. Paul said, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5) However, these things do not come simply by hearing the scriptures, they require the outworking of the scriptures in our lives. It is not enough to hear that we need to love each other from a pure heart, we actually need to express that love through tangible acts and behaviors. Even faith, without working through love, is of little use and benefit to our lives. James says, "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) The goal of the scriptures are not to inform us, but to produce their works within us; works that give life to our faith and to the things we profess to believe.

Paul writes of the import of the scriptures in our lives, saying,
"Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.' Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
Many of these examples have become the Bible stories we were taught as children and that we ourselves taught our children. However, for some, they are just that, stories. Stories we have remembered, stories from our past, stories of a people long ago and very distant and different from ourselves. However, they are more than just stories. These are meant for our instruction; to teach us how to live and how to live a life pleasing to God. These stories are meant to inspire change and to promote salutary actions on our behalf. They are stories that are meant to produce action. They are stories with practical lessons for us today.

Amos prophesied of a time of famine, saying, "'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord God, 'when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.' "(Amos 8:11) However, we now live in a time and age where the Word of God has never been more accessible. Twenty-four hours a day you can turn on the television and radio and hear the Word of God spoken and taught. There is hardly a language in to which the scriptures have not been translated. We have a famine, but it is not a famine of the Word of God, rather a famine of obedience and the practical assimilation of the Word of God into our lives. It is not enough to hear the Word of God, it must be acted upon for it to benefit our lives. Jesus said,
"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great." (Luke 6:47-49)
Both men heard the same words of God but only one acted upon them. Our foundation in the Word of God is not based on what we know but on what we do. Many know the Word of God yet they lack the foundation of the Word of God that is build by the doing of what they know. The scriptures were never meant to fill us with information, but rather to construct a foundation for eternal life; a foundation that is build through the practical use and application of those scriptures. Jesus told the people, especially those religious people, "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:17) It is not enough to be willing to hear the Word of God, we must also be willing to do the Word of God, for it is only in doing that we reap its true rewards.

David Robison

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The scriptures are more ancient than modern

During one of his missionary journeys, Paul had occasion to pass through Athens where he caused quite a stir with his preaching of the Gospel and of the resurrection of the dead.
"And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, 'What would this idle babbler wish to say?' Others, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,' — because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.' (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)" (Acts 17:18-21)
We too like new things. We like hearing and telling things we just learned and others have yet to know. We are excited by the newest fads, the present sensations. and the things everyone is talking about. Even these Greeks, though they possessed some of the most ancient of philosophies, were always looking for something new.

When something is old or ancient we often dismiss it as outdated or out-of-touch with today's realities. This is true of philosophy and it is also true of religions as well. Not all religions are ancient and old. Some, like Scientology, have come into existence within the last fifty to a hundred years. Even the Muslim religion, as established in the Koran, dates back only to seventh century AD. However, the religion and philosophy, as described through the scriptures, are much more ancient and their existence much more anterior to all other religions and philosophies today. The scriptures, as a recording of religious thought, philosophy, and history, is far more ancient and is from a time that long existed before all other religions and philosophies and is from an age much older than our modern times.

The Greeks, who believed themselves to have been the original developers of philosophies and the religious system used by both the Greeks and Romans, are actually more recent than Moses and most of the prophets and borrowed much of their philosophy from them. Justin Martyr wrote of the antiquity of the scriptures, especially when compared to Greek philosophy and mythology, saying,
"I will begin, then, with our first prophet and lawgiver, Moses; first explaining the times in which he lived, on authorities which among you are worthy of all credit. For I do not propose to prove these things only from our own divine histories, which as yet you are unwilling to credit on account of the inveterate error of your forefathers, but also from your own histories, and such, too, as have no reference to our worship, that you may know that, of all your teachers, whether sages, poets, historians, philosophers, or lawgivers, by far the oldest, as the Greek histories show us, was Moses, who was our first religious teacher. For in the times of Ogyges and Inachus, whom some of your poets suppose to have been earth-born, Moses is mentioned as the leader and ruler of the Jewish nation." (Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 9)
Similarly, Theophilus, in his letter to Autolycus, testified of the antiquity of the Jewish religion and of the written revelation of God from the scriptures.
"That Moses, and not he only, but also most of the prophets who followed him, is proved to be older than all writers, and than Saturn and Belus and the Trojan war, is manifest. For according to the history of Thallus, Belus is found to be 322 years prior to the Trojan war. But we have shown above that Moses lived somewhere about 900 or 1000 years before the sack of Troy." (Theophilus to Autolycus, Book 3, Chapter 29)
The antiquity of the scriptures is unique. The scriptures are not a modern innovation but an accurate ancient record of the entire history of the world and of mankind. It begins with the creation of the world and especially of mankind. In recording God's revelation to man, even from the beginning, it demonstrates a God who can be known and who wants to be know. It helps us understand the order of history, the development of man, the formation of religion, and the future hope of all living things. It gives context to knowledge and understanding in the form of a bigger picture. It is not limited by modern ideas or present knowledge but shows forth the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of one who never changes. It helps us understand where we came from, how we got here, and where we are going. It gives us a comprehensive view of life and the desires of the One who created and gave us that life. The scriptures alone answer the questions of our heart, teach us to live according to how we were created, and give us hope for the future. The scriptures are ancient because they came from one who always existed and exists outside of time, in fact, from the one who actually created time and space. The antiquity of the scriptures are our reason to trust them and to build our lives upon them for the reveal that which is, and will always be, true. It is time we turn aside from all modern inventions and ideas and return to learn afresh the ancient truths of the scriptures.

David Robison

Friday, October 17, 2014

The scriptures are more genuine than inerrant

The theory of inerrancy, in general, refers to the belief that the scriptures we have today have come down to us intact, without errors, omissions, or corruptions. Inerrancy asserts, not only the apostolic origin of the scriptures, but also their preservation in their present forms. Inerrancy, as some believe it, also asserts that each individual word selected by the authors was chosen by the Holy Spirit, "From His lips to their pen," therefore rendering each word in each passage as the exact and precise word of God.

In my opinion, inerrancy, as a theory, has many rational difficulties especially when placed against the nearly two thousand years of intervening history. For example, is it the Hebrew words Jesus spoke, the Greek words recorded by the apostles, or the English words we read today that are inerrant? Of the many manuscripts and fragments, which one is the inerrant manuscript? How can we select one over the other and declare one inerrant ant the other errant? Where the apostles differ in their recollections of events, which one is the inerrant memory? Finally, how can we assign inerrancy to scriptures that the early church themselves struggled to declare as genuine?

My problem with inerrancy is two fold. First it is often used as a wedge to divide the church between those who are "true believers" and adherents to one version or translation of the scriptures against those who prefer another. Inerrency has been used as justification to to divide the church and as a weapon to wage war against others who differ in their beliefs. Secondly, inerrancy can place too great an obstacle for those who wish to believe in God. For some, while they believe the Gospel message, to require faith in the inerrancy of scriptures is an obstacle they cannot get over. For some, inerrancy seems to require the deliberate suspension of their rational faculties in order for them to accept such a belief,

My position on the scriptures is that they are genuine. not inerrant. By this I mean that, the scriptures as they have come down to us, are the genuine production of the apostles and of other apostolic men. They are the works of whom they claim to be. They are the genuine teachings, memories, and inspiration of those who actually lived and experienced those events. The historical evidence lends much credibility to the genuineness of the scriptures. In fact, quoting from Phillip Shaff, some of the most convincing evidence comes from early enemies of Christianity.
"These heretical testimonies are almost decisive by themselves. The Gnostics wouldrather have rejected the fourth Gospel altogether, as Marcion actually did, from doctrinal objection. They certainly would not have received it from the Catholic church, as little as the church would have received it from the Gnostics. The concurrent reception of the Gospel by both at so early a date is conclusive evidence of its genuineness." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol 1., Chapter 83)
There is no historical, or even intellectual, reason not to believe that these scriptures are anything other than what they purport to be. Where differences do occur among the memories of the apostles, its not a question of forcing inerrancy upon their memories, but an acknowledgement that each one remembered the events as they affected them personally. Speaking of the writings of the Apostles, Clement of Alexandria says,
"These things are written in the Gospel according to Mark; and in all the rest correspondingly; although perchance the expressions vary slightly in each, yet all show identical agreement in meaning." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 5)
Clement acknowledged that differences of memory may exist between the apostles, but the message is the same. What is important is not the words chosen but the message conveyed. What is inerrant is not that part that is human, the choice of words or the precision of their memory, but the message which their words and memories contain, for the message is not human but divine. This is how we should approach the scriptures, as the genuine and accurate communication of the divine message as recorded and expressed through human agents. We should not fear the scriptures or the words they contain for the message they deliver is from God.

David Robison

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The scriptures are more historical than theological

One of the things that will help us to understand and grow in the scriptures is to know how we ought to think about and approach the scriptures. Here are a few suggestions.

The scriptures, in large part, are a historical record of God's interaction with mankind. From his creation, his fall, his instruction, his redemption, and his expectations for the future, the scriptures paint for us a panoramic view of God's love, provision, plan, and action on behalf of mankind. To try an understand the scriptures apart from its historical context and the historical connectedness between its included books is like trying to understand your own life apart from an understanding your personal history that has brought you to where you stand now. The scriptures invite our faith, not into a system of beliefs, but to the reality of a history that still has power to save and reform our lives today. The message of the Gospel is not a doctrine of theology but the recounting of a historical event that, if we choose to believe, can offer salvation to our souls and the promise of eternal life to come. We are called not to a theology of salvation but to the reality of salvation as it was accomplished and recorded in history.

The problem comes when we turn the scriptures into a theology book, full of doctrines and dogmas. While it is true that the scriptures have much to teach and have been the foundation of dogmas down throughout history, the one who comes to the scriptures is first drawn to its recorded history and that history's efficacy in their lives. Only secondarily is it drawn to the theology of that history. Paul gave this promise to the church at Thessalonica, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 4:14) Notice that their belief is historical. Believing in the historical truth that Jesus was raised from the dead, they can also have confidence that those who die in Christ will also rise from the dead. Consider also what Paul said,
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Notice that what Paul relates as "first importance" in the Gospel that he received personally from Christ is largely historical in nature. However, often our preaching and our transmission of the Gospel is theological in nature; we preach doctrine and theology, inviting those to join us in our beliefs. We have made Christianity the conformance to a system of beliefs and dogmas not faith in a historical realities. Rather, instead of calling people to belief, we ought to call them to faith; faith in who Jesus was, what He said, what He did, and what He promised. We ought to call them to faith in the historical Jesus who, though being one with the Father, was born in human flesh, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose again that we too might have eternal life. This faith is a faith rooted in history; rooted in events that actually happened. Faith in history can save us, even if a person's theology is wrong or lacking. It is the reality of what Christ did so many years ago that has the power of salvation in our lives today, not the dim light of theology that our mind holds to. When we come to the scriptures, we come to a history; a history that is to be believed, a history that calls us to faith, and a history that has power to save.

David Robison

Thursday, October 09, 2014

We fail to understand the scriptures because of our pride

The scriptures must be approached based on their own right, power, and value. If we place too high a value on our own knowledge and understanding, over that of the scriptures, then they will forever seem foolish and objectionable to us.
"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. " (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)
God is beyond all wisdom and understanding of men. If we try to know Him and understand His word based solely on our own wisdom and learning then we will never find what we seek. To many people the scriptures are both foolish and rude; foolish in their simplicity and appeal to the lowly and common among us, and rude in what they command. For many the commands of the scriptures seem out-of-date, old-fashion, and not befitting a modern world. However, these appearances expose merely the surface of the scriptures and belie the deep hidden truth and wisdom contained within.

Methetes, though his moniker not his real name, in his letter to Diognetus, wrote of the need to leave behind our preconceived ideas, expectations, and notions if we are to fully understand the the plan and message of God.
"Come, then, after you have freed yourself from all prejudices possessing your mind, and laid aside what you have been accustomed to, as something apt to deceive you, and being made, as if from the beginning, a new man, inasmuch as, according to your own confession, you are to be the hearer of a new [system of] doctrine; come and contemplate, not with your eyes only, but with your understanding." (Mathetes Chapter 2)
A man must humble himself if he is to come and learn from the scriptures. He must be willing to admit that there is something he must yet learn, that his learning is not yet complete, and that the scriptures have something valuable to teach him. Regardless of what others might think, he must approach the scriptures without prejudice or preconceptions and let it speak for itself. I had a friend who was reading the Gospels for the first time and, whenever reading a parable, would try to guess the ending but he was always wrong and surprised by the lessons Jesus was teaching. It is this kind of honesty, openness, and willingness to learn that is necessary when we approach the scriptures.

Furthermore, Augustine reminds us that we must yield our interpretations of scripture and our narratives of Christianity to that of the Scriptures.
"Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. Nevertheless, as I was going to say, if his mistaken interpretation tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, he goes astray in much the same way as a man who by mistake quits the high road, but yet reaches through the fields the same place to which the road leads. He is to be corrected, however, and to be shown how much better it is not to quit the straight road, lest, if he get into a habit of going astray, he may sometimes take cross roads, or even go in the wrong direction altogether." (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Chapter 36)
It is possible to misinterpret some scriptures but still arrive at the correct conclusion, yet our interpretation is still incorrect and we must allow it to be corrected by the truth of the scriptures. The problem is that, often times, in our pride, we have greater love for our own ideas and interpretations than we do for the scriptures themselves and, when latter on the scriptures oppose our favorite doctrines, we choose our ideas over the teachings of the scripture; loving our imagination over the truth, Augustine continued to say,
"For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. And if he should once permit that evil to creep in, it will utterly destroy him." (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Chapter 37)
Pride closes our mind to the truth that is without and darkens our understanding to the scriptures. If we are to learn and understand then we must humble ourselves and become as little children and let our teacher, who is Christ, teach us His word from His scriptures.

David Robison