Friday, January 29, 2010

Speaking Where The Bible Speaks ...

Over on the Church_of_Christ@yahoogroups.com Yahoo!Group, Norman wrote:
I believe we will all agree that the *motto*; speak where the Bible speaks and silent where is silent is a good pattern to follow regardless of where it started. That is teaching of the churches of Christ today.
But Wendy wrote a response which I find to be full of wisdom, and I'd like to share it here. She wrote:
The simple matter is that the Bible does not speak. We interpret. And we bring our cultural, educational and experiential backgrounds into the interpreting process.

So what the Bible "says" to a Chinese convert may be very different from what it "said" to a Syrian Christian of the 2nd century, and from what it "says" to an American Christian of the 21st century brought up in a Restoration faith tradition or an Australian recent convert who was raised in a nominally Christian highchurch Anglican South African home (me).
So the ideal of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent sounds good on paper; it's a noble ideal. But in practice, it too fails to provide a definitive method for determining "gospel truth". It seems to me that until Christians realize that fallible human logic and interpretation color greatly our understandings of the Bible, we're going to continue believing that "we have the answers and everyone else is wrong", thus dividing the body of Christ, against his very wishes, on various and sundry issues that God never made clear(!) are issues.

2 comments:

wjcsydney said...

I'm honoured that you quoted me!

Chyntt said...

This post was cross-posted to Facebook, wherein Evelyn asks (trimmed):

Since it seems that men's fallibility in "human logic and interpretation color greatly the understanding of the Bible" then where are the answers and who has them?

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?

[snip]

Men's interpretation of the Bible isn't the problem its men's unwillingness to be honest with the Scriptures and be holy as He is holy. The Bible DOES speak we are just trying to find loopholes to keep from obeying God when He speaks.

I am sorry but you may have found her statement to be full of wisdom but it is not wisdom that comes from above. Consider the following Scriptures in the book of John they may be helpful. Jn 1:(entire chapter), Jn 2:25, Jn 5:39, Jn 6:63, Jn 12:48


The conclusion of the whole matter is to love God with all your being, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When it comes to "issues", we are to accept one another, even if they differ on those issues, even when it is "obvious" to us that we are right and they are wrong. Reading Romans 14:1-10, some of these people were absolutely convinced that eating meat was sinful, just as some of us are absolutely convinced that smoking a cigarette, or having a beer, or not working on Saturday for religious reasons, or thinking Christmas is holy, is sinful. But Paul, by the inspiration of God, said, "don't look down on the other person; don't criticize him; accept him".

I'm not saying there's not a right and a wrong; I'm saying that Christians can hold a wrong position and still be Christians, and that sometimes our cultural baggage, etc, will blind us to what is obvious to another Christian, such that we hold opposing viewpoints, vehemently. That's no reason to divide; we are to accept each other on such disputable matters, and many matters we think are not disputable, are.

In my post above, I'm just saying that our methodology for determining God's will is not the fool-proof method we've grown up believing it is; it's greatly influenced by our cultural baggage.

One of the passages referenced, John 5:39, points out this very issue. It says:
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.

These scholars with whom Yahshua was in debate knew the scriptures forward, backward, up, down, in, out. They knew the scriptures, far better than I'm likely to ever know them. Yet they missed what was obvious to Yashua.

Why?

Was it because they didn't know the scriptures? No.

Was it because they didn't have a passion for keeping the commandments of God? No.

Was it because they had bad attitudes? No.

It was because their cultural baggage blinded them, just as my cultural baggage might be blinding me, or yours might be blinding you, no matter how well we know the scriptures.

Yahshua scolded this mentality of "we have the answers" when he said that ignorance was an excuse, but claiming to have the answers would get you condemned (John 9:41).

For me, I'm going to trust in Yahshua to save me, not in my ability to understand perfectly and get the details right.

To answer Evelyn's question, I don't have the answers, other than the very, very clear ones, and the most important is to love God with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else hangs on these two things (Matt 22:37-40).