Saturday, January 23, 2010

What is the Bible?

A friend of mine has encouraged me to have a look at the teachings of Andrew Wommack. And so I had a look at the website. I wasn't particularly thrilled. Oh, I like his attitude as a netizen, -- most of his material is right out there to read. You don't have to buy all his teachings to get an idea of what his message is. It's his message I have some difficulty with. It's not that new as an idea -- it's somewhat what I grew up with. But I can't really stomach some of it any more.

It's his theory of the Bible that bugs me. Take this from the currently featured article -- "A Sure Foundation"

A true revelation of God’s Word is the single most important element of a victorious Christian life. The Word of God often refers to itself as a seed...
Okay, why is this a problem? First of all I take issue with the superimposition of the phrase "The Word of God" over what is really meant, which is the Bible. Why is this a problem? Because it defeats any thought process we might have when we read the Bible. If something is "the Word of God," then we better not think about it at all-- straight ahead obedience is all that is in order. But that does not work when it comes to the Bible; as Christians, there are are parts that we obey and others we clearly don't. There's a clearly established thought process that has gone before us to highlight that which is relevant and background that which is not. That process is not over and must continue. But if we persist in using religious titles like this our necessary critical judgement is emasculated.

Secondly, (actually firstly, but I really needed to make the earlier point first so that what I say now makes sense) how can any Christian make the Bible, or the revelation thereof, "the single most important element" of his life? I thought Christ was supposed to have that place. No? Or maybe we should try to be known as word-of-god-ians. But it is not to be borne. Everything in the Bible is subservient to knowing Jesus, and even the Bible must be the same. So, boom! there goes the main premise of Wommack's article. But there's one thing more. And it's probably the thing that sparked this response in the first place.

So thirdly, the phrase "the word of God often refers to itself as a seed" is a problem. What it assumes is a book that is somehow self aware across all the diverse and time divided writings contained there in, a book that somehow exists in a plane above itself, so that discrete words and phrases spoken to specific people for specific purposes in specific situation, all somehow suddenly lose their meaning in the new emergent larger context. And many people seem to believe that about the Bible. Problem is, it can't be true.

Why not? Let's start with an argument I found in the a book by Peter Kreeft regarding Catholicism (very likely it was Catholic Christianity but I don't have the book on hand right now so I can't check.) He successfully attacks the sola scriptura position of the post-reformation protestants and demonstrates (sufficient to my mind) that if you are going to take that view, you have to actually accept sola ecclesia because it was the "ecclesia" (i.e. the Catholic Church) that brought you the "scriptura." You can't take the fruit of a poison tree and arbitrarily declare it good while condemning the tree. I'm not going to examine sola vs. sola just now. What I am going to say is that it was the church acting in an authority given it by Jesus, who chose the books of the Bible. It was not the books of the Bible somehow assembling themselves mystically in the heavens and appearing to us as "THE WORD OF GOD."

Another reason why it can't be true is that there is no clear prophetic reference in the Bible, especially in the Gospels, where you'd expect it if it was so important to Jesus' church that he would build, to the present day existence of the Bible. Something like "After me a book will be formed which..." But there's nothing like that. You'd expect that if "a true revelation of the [Bible]" was so "important," Jesus would point us in that direction. There are lots of references to the books we now call the Old Testament, that many teachers, not caring what damage they do the text they claim to defend, have extended to cover the whole collection. But you cannot really make the case from the Bible for the Bible.

For the Bible is a collection of writings, a library that has come down to us from our spiritual forefathers in ancient times. It was gathered and canonized by authorities we respect (although some of us do feel free to disagree with those same authorities on other points... more in later posts I'm sure.) and we are thankful for the resource it is. It does not speak with only one voice. It speaks in a chorus. And to my mind acquires much more authority thereby. Some voices we must listen to closer than others. Jesus' voice must be the clearest, or we are lost.

Why do I read the Bible? Knowing that what I seek is more caught than taught, as the saying goes. I read it that I may somehow catch what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, Luke had. I read and listen to their voices so that I might actually know (grok: see below) them, because it was them, not their mere words, that was the temple of the Holy Spirit in their time and I want to be such a temple, now. I do not ignore direct commands, but I recognise that much in the Bible is a conversation I am listening in on and I need to take what I hear to God to see how it applies to me.

So to say it positively, thereby to negate what I take as an insidious first premise of Wommack's article: A true revelation of Jesus is the single most important element of a victorious Christian life. The rest of his article is an interesting read, and there'd be lots of stuff to discuss there, but this is a blog post and I don't really have time to go into all that...

1 comment:

  1. i am engaged...

    thank you for being ornery

    am looking forward to more