Friday, August 22, 2003

Why One Way? 2

Objectivity

Why One Way? by John MacArthur

One of the discussion participants posted: "The Bible in the UCC is viewed as "the authoritative witness to the Word of God" that's us right?"

Although I didn't participate in the survey you mentioned, I'd call the biblical witness "authoritative," though technically my description of its authority most likely would place me within the 30%. As we teach in Sunday school the Bible's not a history textbook, not a science textbook, not a book of rules and not a book of general religious platitudes, but a highly specific witness to the saving acts of a Holy, Transcendent, still-Living God as that Sovereign God calls and forms a covenant people, completing the redemption, liberation and deliverance of all creation in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of the human one, Jesus of Nazareth, whom we affirm and celebrate as the ultimate and definitive manifestation of God.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority: for me, the biblical text has authority to the degree it "shows forth Christ," to paraphrase Martin Luther, which some passages do splendidly, others really not at all.

why one way coverCurrently I'm without call, but people in the congregations I've served literally have been all over the map in their views of biblical authority, from a scattered few who openly said they wanted "nothing to do with that old Bible stuff," to folks who were literalists to the last comma and period – though not necessarily KJV adherents – to some others who considered the Bible an authority in a vague, exceptionally freewheeling manner, to a bunch that pretty much concurred with most of my interpretations (must've been listening to me!).

M said, "And sometimes God-truth gets made the most real in story, myth and song. Then as now." And I respond, "Amen, amen, and AMEN!!!"

Dr. Mac "truthfully" loses me when he writes (page 24), "But if we really believe Scripture is the Word of God, why should we balk at saying it has an objective meaning, it is absolutely true, and all other interpretations are false!...The Bible is God's revelation to us." The cultures into which the biblical texts were revealed and recorded simply didn't run with the same post-enlightenment view of truth, objectivity and accuracy we've inherited from the Enlightenment, and which, as he admits, post-modernism has pretty much discredited. As I said last evening, for me, as a Reformation Christian, Jesus Christ is the "true" Word of God; the sacraments are visible words, too. Although casually I frequently refer to scripture as the "Word of God," Christ Jesus is God's definitive Word of revelation, telling us of our created-in-the Divine-image-humanity, God's Word insisting on justice (the righteousness of God!) for all creation, the still-speaking Divine Word of Life.

Dr. Mac claims, "Scripture…is also sufficient to equip us thoroughly with all the spiritual truth we need." If by "spiritual truth" he means revelation about the Holy and Transcendent Other self-revealed in Jesus Christ, I'll agree. And for sure there are many times that the written words of scripture leap off the Bible's pages to become incarnate and human in various ways, but Dr. Mac appears to be seeking the kinds of cut-and-dried answers we can't obtain anywhere as we live in this world.

Our author uses the expressions, "authentic Christianity" and "historic Christianity." But it seems as if he's not particularly in touch with Christianity's historic and cultural – and religious – origins! So I'm struggling to converse with Dr. Mac, since he and I seem to be running on divergent tracks.

But I'm still thinking!

J, excellent points, thanks! Some of Dr. Mac's writing does sound biblio-idolatrous, and indeed, the decision to canonize which books was very rooted in culture and history; IOW, for cultural and historical reasons we (on this thread) might decide different writings "should" be canonical.

I don't hear enough about the person and work of Jesus Christ from Dr. Mac, though the book's title references the "One Way" of Jesus Christ. Go figure.

W wrote, "I worry when we take the Bible as THE ONLY word of God. God speaks in so many ways…when I disagree with the "message" do I ignore it because I disagree... when MAYBE the message is coming from God?"

Part of F's response included, "Perhaps some of us dwell too much on the written Word and do not stop to listen to God's spoken Word in our hearts and minds. In learning to listen to God's spoken Word, we may also learn to listen to God's written Word in a new way!"

Yes, yes, yes – it's about the Word again becoming a reality we can sense and therefore really appreciate and appropriate as a part of us, part of our very living, breathing and relating – an incarnate word! W, I know discerning the spirit behind the message has gotta be one of the most difficult things we do, and despite all the classical "tests" we can perform to decide the validity of the message, sheer human obstinacy still often remains in the foreground and in the background…you KWIM! The day finally arrives when all a person can do is what they see as the most likely and least unlikely choice.

M, your words remind me of my writing a couple of days ago that I think I was a better preacher and teacher before I'd learned quite so much about the incredible complexities of biblical interpretation! As I just said to W, as the deadlines loom, sometimes you need to Just do it ® – to quote and credit Nike from a couple years back.

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