questioning the Bible and stuff

OK, here is the scenario. We have a bunch of ordinary men following Jesus, men like Peter who doesn’t exactly cover himself in glory in the Gospel accounts but are still men of faith.
Then years down the line they are the leaders of the church, men who write letters that are more than letters but scripture and God’s Word. The memory of Peter the bumbler seems long gone when we read 1 or 2 Peter, almost as if a different man has been writing the book.

There is an authority in his words that is used as the measuring tool against which Christians 2000 years later still measure their lives by.

But there is something in this all that doesn’t measure up.

Yes, Peter was older and wiser and far more importantly he had witnessed the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He had changed. Who wouldn’t?

Yes there was something profound that happened but did  Peter the bumbler still exist after all that or did he become (for want of a better description) ‘super-spiritual‘?
I expect that as Peter got older and older he did become more and more like Jesus, but did he become so like Jesus that the impulsive, ‘speak-before-you-think’ type of guy completely disappear?

The impression I’ve gathered over the years are that there are two Peter’s.  The  ‘get behind me Satan’ fisherman Peter of the Gospels and the eloquent church leader Peter.

I guess this is all coming from thinking about the character of any Christian leader I’ve encountered.
They are far from perfect men(like us all!),
they all have deep character flaws even if they’ve been Christian’s for decades. Of course those character flaws might be less pronounced than when they started following but still, they persist (like us all!). There are human and sinful and it’s to be expected. Nobody is perfect.

Yet they are also adopted into the family of God like Peter and Paul, the same Holy Spirit who was in Paul is also in their lives and the life of any Christian you know.

So should we expect the leaders of a church to be any less holy than the Apostles?
Should we expect the Apostles to be any more Holy than our church leaders or Christians we know?

Or as I should have put this at the start and saved out wading through all that, where the Apostles special?

Of course they where in a way because they witnessed Jesus and all that happened back 2000years ago which I certainly didn’t.
In the regard they are special.

And yet they were also men like me.

The reason I’m struggling with this is (once again) reading church history.

There is so much in the way that we do church that isn’t in the Bible but has been the work of early church leaders or from tradition and what has ‘worked’.

To pick one example ‘The Holy Trinity’ isn’t mentioned in the Bible.
To pick another the way that a church might be organised with bishops and archbishops being more powerful(?) than those priests or vicars below them doesn’t really seem to be in the Bible.

Or to pick another the books that made it into the New Testament where not decided by someone in the Bible, but by early church leaders centuries afterwards.

I find this lack of acknowledgement of the early church leaders and their reasons for closing the canon of scripture or for saying ‘Yes, the book is divinely inspired and should be in while this one isn’t‘ a bit disturbing or dishonest, or maybe false?
I’m not trying to go all da Vinci code with conspiracy theories either, just that it doesn’t seem to me to be as simple as some pastor saying that everything you need to know about life is in the Bible as it’s divinely inspired by God. That’s not to say that isn’t true either, just that history is important as well. Especially history that makes a decision as fundamental as the formation of the Bible.

Bruce Shelly writes in his book ‘Church History in Plain Language’
‘To this day we find it almost impossible to think of the Christian faith without the Bible. It is the foundation of Christianity’s evangelism, its teaching, its worship, and its morality. When we look over Christian history, we find few – if any – decisions more basic than those made during the first three centuries surrounding the formation of the Bible….We need to ask, then, how did we get the Bible?’

And that’s the whole problem there. Never once was it deemed important to question the Bible in my evangelical, Christian bubble.
In fact it was the opposite. You should never question the Bible, the Bible and Scripture should question you.
Much of my Christian bubble has been based on this premise that the Bible is God’s Word and that it’s our supreme measuring rod. You don’t question it, you obey it. Often it was a rod to beat down rebellion or to beat down those who might be homosexual or Roman Catholic or a woman in ministry.

Yet here is the thing just to say it again.
There is a history of the Bible that is vitally important yet is never mentioned or deemed important of mention. As Bruce Shelley writes
‘When we look over Christian history, we find few – if any – decisions more basic than those made during the first three centuries surrounding the formation of the Bible

The formation of the Bible isn’t deemed to be important even though few decisions have been as important to our entire faith. The decision of what should go into the canon came from church leaders who I know absolutely nothing about, as if what they did wasn’t really that important.

I’m not sure why this is disturbing me so much. I guess that it might have something to do with having to trust leaders I know nothing about, who if they are anything like the men and women I know will make bad calls even though Godly and expect that they made a decision that had immense importance (When we look over Christian history, we find few – if any – decisions more basic than those made during the first three centuries surrounding the formation of the Bible.) and that it was completely spot on and Holy.



13 thoughts on “questioning the Bible and stuff”

  1. “Or to pick another the books that made it into the New Testament where not decided by someone in the Bible, but by early church leaders centuries afterwards.”

    How could the Bible books be selected by people in the Bible?

    I don’t think asking questions is wrong, that doesn’t mean we can’t end up asking the wrong questions… 🙂

    1. you this is all John Stott’s fault….

      ‘The Reformers were of a different mind. Sola Scriptura was one of the rocks on which they built. They knew that the early church had had good reason to fix and close the canon of the New Testament’

      But I guess that unlike the Reformers (and John Stott etc) I don’t know why early church had good reason to close the canon of scripture….they are like the editors but aren’t ever mentioned in a sermon or church (or at least any I’ve been involved with)…

      Or as another bit in the book I’m reading says

      ‘The question is, out of this growing body of Christian literature, how did the twenty-seven books we know as the New Testament come to be set apart as Scripture? HOw and when did they cross the line between books regarded as important and even authorative, and books regarded as holy and the Word of God? To put it in one word, how did they become canonical?’

      It’s that crossing of the line bit and editing and closing seems really important yet never mentioned

      look at me commenting on the Biblical Canon while listening to She Wolf……awww…oOOHHHHHHH:)

  2. This has been in my head recently too- You have this big council filled with, doubtless well-meaning, men who make a decision and suddenly the decision they make is elevated to the level of some kind of magic book that is both necessary and sufficient for living the Christian life. All future revelation is discounted. This may in fact be the most insidious form of idolatry current in our church- Biblicism. Think about it- I’d love to do a survey that compared how much time we spend teaching our kids the Bible and it’s correct interpretation vs prayer/confession of sin/meditation/repentance/the work of the Holy Spirit that can really be felt and experienced RIGHT NOW. It’s all about “what God did then”. I’m not suggesting we sideline the Bible altogether, and I’m fairly confident that the Nicean fellers used all the “sound” material they had available=- But even John himself claims that the whole world would not be sufficient to contain the books that would be written about Jesus- And then we come to it- The Word of God- Who is the Word of God- Isd it this book? Or is it Jesus himself? And can Jesus himself through the HS still teach us today? Of course he can! Then there’s the question of whether people who don’t have scripture can still in fact be Christians, which is of course ridiculous because the church went for 300 odd years without them. Thing is, say this out loud and you will face raised eyebrows and sympathetic glances that people reserve for the lost..

    1. thanks for that, yeah that’s some of the stuff I’m thinking about as well…but you’re right about saying the stuff out loud, I feel that as well. Sometimes I would link a blog post here to my Facebook account but I never feel comfortable doing it with stuff like this…..not sure why really.
      if you’re Presbyterian (like me) the Bible was far more important than the Holy Spirit…it might even be more important than Jesus and God sometimes.

      One time I went on a conference called ‘The Bible Centred Youth Worker’ and asked a few leaders etc would it not be better to have a Jesus centred youth worker? But they just looked at me as I’d two head.

      1. Yeah, I was joining an organisation recently where I had to sign a declaration of belief (to show I was a Christian). I have no problem with this per say, but one statement was “I accept that the Bible is the ultimate authority on all matters” or some such.. I signed it, but a little hypocritically..

      2. that statement would be had for me to sign as well…I think the story in it is true I guess but I’m not sure about it being the ultimate authority

  3. Thinking this through a bit more it could have done a lot to consolidate the authority in church in ther hands of the literate and the scholars. It goes further than just scripture though- People are not only Biblicists, but now some would hesistate before questioning Luther and Calvin- Respectively a bigoted anti-semite and a murderer..

  4. To claim Calvin is a murderer is like claiming I am a murderer if I work for Dublin City Council and a lamp-post falls over and it lands on someone, killing them. To suggest that Calvin and Luther were deeply flawed men is to admit that which they positively proclaim on every page of their own writings.

    Lads, what is missing here is not a robust theology of the Bible. It’s a theology of church. Dave, I don’t think your questioning is unhealthy but I do think it is mis-described. Your problem isn’t with the reformers or the Bible (they’ll stick around for problems on another day). Your problem is with the Church Catholic. I think you’ll chew more happily if you think in those terms.

    Peace out homeboys. I’m off to my Catholic college…

    1. yo homeboy, is it not more like you working for Dublin City Council and thinking that the lamp-post deserved to fall / should fall on that person and kill them even though you didn’t/couldn’t push it? and didn’t you sort of get Servetus to stand under the lamp-post?

      I think you’re right, it is a theology of the church but I guess that implicates the Bible as well…it’s questions about Paul’s authority in the Bible with stuff to do with women in ‘THE MINISTRY’ or what it means to be a manly man….these words in a song I’ve been listening to the last few weeks isn’t far from the truth sometimes…I know that it’s very imbalanced but just reading through some of this stuff for the first time it does seem like that..just finished the chapter about the Spanish claiming South America
      ‘By sword and gun and crucifix
      Christ’s gospel has been spread
      And two thousand cruel years have shown
      The way that Jesus led
      The heretics burned and tortured
      And the butchering bloody Crusaders
      The bombs and rockets sanctified
      That rain down death from heaven
      They followed Jesus, they knew the answer
      All unbelievers must be believers
      Or else be broken’

  5. Fascinating.
    I’m not sure the Calvin / Dublin City Council analogy holds up but anyway.
    I’ve had those moments of panic thinking; what about Psalm 151, or the book of Enoch that is quoted in our own Bible etc etc. I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that God is a lot bigger than the saints and idiots who compiled the 66 books. Hebrews and Revelation got in there by the skin of their teeth, that freaks me out. But they’re there and I celebrate that. It’s one of those avenues I don’t venture down much, there are plenty more avenues to look into. I guess I trust that God sorted that one out. I’m a strong believer in free will (actually free will, not pretend we’re free but it’s all ordained free will) but I’m also aware that God sometimes makes sure that what God wants to happen happens and that’s how I view the cannon of scripture.

    You’re suggestion for the Youth Leader conference was dead on. One of my most hated phrases which I heard all the time in my last church was “It’s all about the word”. When they say that they mean the Bible and while I love the Bible and get revelation from it etc etc; it’s all about the word that became flesh not pages. It’s all about Jesus. It’s about relationship and revelation not just knowledge and learning. We’d survive on a desert island without the bible but we wouldn’t survive anywhere without Jesus.

    1. yeah, that youth conference really was something. Most of the people there (it was in England) took great pride in their biblical soundness…(it was these guys)…but it was the same attitude that I’ve seen over and over again, that it’s a closed book and there is no room for debate.

      I was thinking some more about Kevin saying that it was the church I was asking questions about rather that the Bible…guess there are blurred lines as men like Paul, Peter, John etc where the church and wrote the bible as well. Not sure the two can be seperated or something

  6. Lads, to clarify, 2 pertinent facts to end forever the ahistorical, anachronistic, uncharitable, wrong-headed nonsense about Calvin and Servetus.
    1. Calvin had no juridical power in Geneva.
    2. Calvin lobbied hard against Servertus’ punishment.

    I apologise for being distracted; back to Dave’s point. Paul quotes Aratus in Athens but that doesn’t mean Aratus is canonical. Hebrews 11 directly references 2 Macc 17 but again, it doesn’t indicate canonical status.

    That the Bible is not a Koranic transmittal should be a source of great comfort to us!

    1. ah now,he lobbied hard to give Servertus a quick death instead of a horrible death drawn out death…but he still thought he deserved to die for his heresy or did he not?

      Maybe it’s like saying ‘I Question the Daily Mail’….it’s the articles that appear in the Daily Mail that annoy me but ultimately it’s the editors and owners and their agendas (to make profit) that control the content, it’s not the Daily Mail.

      When it comes to church and the Bible there where editors who decided that it was time to close the Bible, many years after the events it describes…and I don’t know the good reasons they had for doing this. Reading church history and knowing what we’re like doesn’t give me huge confidence that they made a right decision…..I want to know that they did…and if you make a huge decision like that which has shaped Christianity it should be acknowledged by churches, especially by the one’s who make the biggest noise about the Bible being a Holy Book……..but it never was once mentioned to me in a church

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