In the ecclesiastical tribe that raised and trained me, we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as absolute followers of Scripture. If the Bible says the earth is about 6,000 years old (which it does), then it is, and carbon dating be hanged. Some other explanation for the C-14 ratios must be found. If the Bible says that the whole world was covered by water in Noah’s flood, then it won’t do to postulate that someone’s bathtub overflowed in Mesopotamia somewhere, and that’s all it was really talking about. If the biblical account of the Exodus doesn’t fit with our timeline of Egyptology? Crying shame those poor historians put in all that work without taking account of the most important primary source we have…. Better luck on the next attempt, guys.
We take it all, straight up the middle, no matter who says “You can’t say that!” We’re famous for it.
Except, of course, that we don’t. I have to admit, I had believed our propaganda, and it was therefore with considerable surprise that I discovered that it just wasn’t true. Not only that, but “I was quoting the Bible” turned out to be a highly inadequate defense for saying things that my community found uncomfortable. With no further ado, I present to you seven such things.
- Baptism saves you.
- Belief takes place in the heart.
- The purpose of holiness is eternal life.
- In communion, we are sharing the body and blood of Christ.
- The things that happened to the Exodus generation are all types for our benefit.
- A cheerful Christian should be singing Psalms.
- God’s children don’t sin.
See 1 Peter 3:21, Romans 10:9-10, Romans 6:22, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 10:11, James 5:13, 1 John 5:18.
Feel free to question, challenge, or discuss. The more the merrier.
I know you well enough to see where you’re going with this. I know you’re not just trying to be divisive for the sake of controversy, as some will no doubt complain. So, what is the practical direction we should then take? How do you believe God will stop the downhill slide of His people into increasing fragmentation and draw them back to the kind of unity that attends the sharing of his body and blood?
You’ve gone and done it this time, Tim. You made me comment again. Can you clarify / elaborate on #7 for me before I start foaming at the mouth?
Probably sharing in His body and blood together would be a good start. 😉
But we have a hard time doing even that. We’re so convinced that our tradition Got It Right that anything that deviates from what we expect is automatically an occasion for serious balking. “We can’t worship with those people!”
I don’t know where this journey goes, but for me, one of the key waypoints along the path was the realization that we are not the philistine biblicists that we think we are. That realization turned out to be the price of admission for a whole bunch of other things. It relativizes our strand of the tradition, weakens its grip on us. There are certain things that aren’t okay to say in our strand of the tradition, even though they’re in the Bible — and we don’t tolerate anybody saying them, even when the guy points out chapter and verse. There are strands of the tradition out there that obey biblical commands that we just slide by without noticing (a subject for future posts), or worse, commands that we were specifically taught not to obey. There are actually people out there that get some of these things right, while we get them wrong. If we are willing to learn from them, we can.
That realization allows me to profit from the whole Body, not just the narrow sect where I was raised. It’s one of the things at the very core of River Ecclesiology. The way I got there was hard experience, and in a post like this, I am challenging other people from similar backgrounds to recognize and learn from their own experience.
I know how this sounds, but I really am just following Jesus’ example here. I’m not speaking on my own authority; I am repeating what I heard the Father say. If God said it, I shouldn’t be embarrassed to speak the way He did. If He inscripturated it so people today can read it, I shouldn’t be ashamed to say it that way to people today. Take #4 for example: Time after time, I have heard evangelical pastors carefully mincing about at communion time, at such pains to explain what the Supper does not mean that they couldn’t even bring themselves to repeat the words that Jesus said over the bread and cup. The heirs of the Reformation, blundering headlong where even Zwingli feared to tread! It’s pathetic. And some of these same fellows have sternly cautioned me after hearing me unapologetically say “This is the body of Christ, broken for you….This is the blood of Christ, shed for you.”
When I start talking about Christian unity, the question I hear most often is, “How can you tell when you really shouldn’t work with someone?” One of my answers is that if the person claims the Bible as ultimate authority, and then gets offended when it says something he doesn’t like, we’re probably going to have a hard time working together.
Think about what’s happening when you get out the Dad Voice to say something like, “Landon, we don’t hit people.”
In 1 John, John speaks as a father to his children, not as a professor to a classroom full of theology students.
While may “have a hard time working together” when we disagree over something the Bible says that we don’t like, that’s why Body Life isn’t really realized until we “eat” Jesus (Jn 6:25-59). Only then—through a unity of the Body that can only be orchestrated by His Spirit—can our differences be harnessed into the strength of diversity God meant, from the beginning, to empower within us.
Eric (& Tim),
Yeah, and #7 should work for theology students, too: We choke on verses like 1 Jn 5:18 due to a faulty practical anthropology—we don’t really think that the Old Man in Adam is still there, ready to be appropriated by the flesh the moment we feel like we need a taste of life from the world. Our flesh is unredeemed, so it is always gassed up—on “high alert”—anytime we feel like taking a nostalgic trip back to Egypt, even if it’s “Grade A, USDA-inspected” flesh (Rom 7:14-25).
Whenever “we” do that, “we” are not born of God—“we” are driving around in the Adam with which we have re-clothed ourselves. But whenever “we” abide in our new identity in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), then his seed abides in us—“we” do not sin, and that enables us to swallow “whole” some of the other “chicken bones” in First John: 1 John 3:6- 9.