Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sola Scriptura...right?


"Sola Scriptura!" That is, "Only Scripture!", in Latin. It's the bedrock principle of being a protestant. The Bible is inspired by God, and its authority is above anything men may say. Hooray! It's all so simple!

Except that...it's not. What exactly does the Bible say, after all? It kinda depends on who you ask, doesn't it? Not that God is confused; the words themselves are pretty clear. But people can get kinda hard headed. And just as sure as you can fashion a pile of bricks into either a church or a brothel, men have fashioned the holy scriptures into all sorts of odd doctrinal structures.

That's when the fun begins. Because people "explain" the Bible, and "simplify it" into a list of things you must believe. Or else. Then "faith" becomes a matter of agreeing with the "10 Truths" or what-not. Sola Scriptura, my eye.

Sola Scriptura, plus 100 years of church traditions.
Sola Scriptura, plus 1000 volumes of systematic theology.
Sola Scriptura, minus all the pages that don't support your position.
Sola Scriptura, minus the Holy Spirit, and plus a hundred coats of paint.

It's time for a New Year's resolution, Loved Ones. So how about this one?

Read the Bible, even if you never have before. Read it in spite of the barbed wire that men with big hair and pinstripe robes have wrapped it in. Read it without feeling like you need to have understood it the first time through. Read it listening for God's voice as God's Spirit blows right through you. Read it without picking it apart. Read it without cramming it into an interpretive frame you bought at Bible Store, Inc. Read it without searching for rebuttals to those pesky Baptists or Lutherans or Democrats or whatever. Read it like you never heard any of it before, without supposing you know everything in it already.

Let's resolve in 2009 to shut up and let the "guy in sandals" do the talking!

"The anointing that you received from God abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him.
[1 John 2:27]

Not sure that makes sense to you? Try this: That odd word "anointing"? In Greek it says "smear". And it refers to the ceremony in which a priest is consecrated for his office. Dude, that is you God is talking to. And NObody can teach you--not in a lifetime--what God can smear on you in just a moment.
Joe B
Joe Bradford's Facebook profile

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Man that hits a bullseye for me. Good post Joe B.

But what I mean WHAT is that picyure of the hot chix abot and where the hek did u even find it?? At Sola Hot Ones dot com?

Tonya said...

I have recently rediscovered the Bible and it continues to speak to me differently every time I open it. I read every night with Aly ... that will open your eyes --read it to a 10 yr old.

It was only through Bible and prayer that I'm here today, seriously, so I'm not letting anyone take that away from me and make it into some Presbylutherathic doctrine.

Christi R said...

So, since I'm Catholic, I guess this doesn't apply to me?? Interesting post, Joe B. The Wikipedia article was interesting too. Personally though I think there is some validity in letting people with more knowledge than I have interpret the Bible for me. I'd rather have someone guide me than get the message wrong if left to my own interpretations.

Joe B said...

Thanks Christi. I think if there is any point in my rant, it is that protestants do the same thing as catholics and pharisees: we paper over the word of God with our own interpretations. The other point is that catholic believers do the same thing as protestant believers: they know God one-to-one as they allow the holy spirit to live and stir in their hearts.

After all, our interpretations vary and sometimes they are plain wrong. I'll bet you have ALL seen me get things wrong! But in the end, it's not what you know that matters most, it's who you know. Jesus said the greatest commandment is this: "God is One! Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves."

So actually it applies to all of us the same. For you catholics handed down the scripture to us protestants that says:

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1Ti 2:5)

Smudge, smudge, smudge. Love, love, love!

scott said...

On the surface, this sounds great, and I agree. It's a great suggestion for ANYONE to read the Bible more, and specifically to attempt to read without preconceived notions (as is so difficult to do).

But if I may get nitpicky for a moment... This is a tricky subject, and I'll tell you why.

There is a LOT of stuff that I, or anyone else, can glean from the Bible. But every word in it wasn't written specifically to ME. There is great value in studying the scriptures themselves, but there is also great value in studying the history and context of who those letters and books were written TO. Knowing about the audience in many cases (the gospels notwithstanding) can be quite helpful. It may not be vital, but it's helpful.

No, we don't need a doctorate or a "Rev" before our names to read, study, and listen to the Holy Spirit. And there is seldom harm in just reading and praying on what we've read. I'm definitely not for large "heirarchies of authority" in church-dom. There is definitely something to be said for discussing with others -- some of the biggest "aha!" Bible-moments for me have been while discussing something Bible-related with other people.

Plus, Sola Scriptura is sort of misleading, as the early church didn't even have the complete canon for hundreds of years after Jesus left. Not that I disagree with the principle, but God is more than the sum of the parts of the OT and the NT. See, even the basic idea of Sola Scriptura can get broken down and be debated!

I hesitate to say any of this because of what Christi wrote above -- It's easy for us to justify "leaving it to the experts" and just let someone else teach us once a week or a few times a year, rather than digging in for ourselves. That's NOT what I'm suggesting. Your idea is spot-on, as long as we don't extrapolate it to mean that God intends for us to go it "alone" -- just me, myself, and my handy English-translated, 1974-published, New International Version of the Bible.

[See how I broke down and got overly-technical on your overly-simple post? Use this comment as a case study on what NOT to do.]

Joe B said...

Okay, Anonymous, you really want me to tell about that photo? Are you SURE??

Jan Kelley said...

Joe, I accept the challenge to read it for myself. I have just purchased a chronological Study Bible (boy is it thick with stuff besides God's word.)and I am going to go to the store today to get a chronological Bible all by itself to read. (I just completed listening to the Old Testament and I am now "in the groove" of wanting to read it for myself, but in the order in which it occurred.) Unlike Christi R., I believe that God created me with the brain capacity to read and to understand. No offense meant to you, Christi R. If there is something I dont understand, then I will ask a question. But I want to be smeared on myself and not just try to make something out of someone else's smear. Thanks, Joe, for the challenge.

Joe B said...

Loved-One's, my hyper-simplistic post was just BEGGING to be back-talked! We are all doing just what Scott said: we are grappling together with the Word. Did you know that the Greek bible-word for "understand" is suniemi,the identical word used for "to engage in combat"?

Even Christi, the chick who SAYS she prefers a teacher to explain it...what'd she do? She stuck it right back in my face! Sweeeeet! Grappling. In fact, the name Israel means what? "One who wrestles with God." Word!

And like Christi, each one of us is throwing God's light on this scene from a different angle, right? We're all carried along by the same holy spirit that inspired the bible, so long as we seek to obey Jesus' great command.

Anonymous said...

Yer too dang sissyfied. Better let ME xplain it

Joe B said...

i'll tell you what, Anonymous is right. Instead of ME commenting on teh photo, how about it YOU all comment on it? How about some literary criticism. Why did this picture grab me for this post?

Jan Kelley said...

Re: why the graphic was chosen for this post: Were you trying to draw a parallel between people using other people or things besides the Bible for their spiritual foundation (thus creating a flimsy foundation at best without the benefit of spiritual insight that comes from meaningful Bible study) and individuals who look for meaningful relationships in the area of prostitution (thus having the sensation of intimacy, without ever really knowing what true intimacy is)? Is that why Joe b. is it, is it?

Joe B said...

That's the spirit, Jan K! These two sweet kids and their mommas may be a bit surprised to find out that they've been promoted to prostitute status. Before I cropped the photo they were actually doing a tango. But the faces were SO beautifully ambiguous.
And when I papered over their eyes they started looking very cheap and false, didn't they? Hmmmm....

Denise W said...

Challenge accepted. My New Year's Resolution was to simplify my life in every possible aspect. So why didn't this cross my mind?
So, OK, I will break my habit of occasionally letting someone else do the thinking for me. (Those of you who really know me know that I have always challenged the status quo [a little more Latin for you!]) That's pretty simple.
I will not let anyone label me as a follower of a particular Church. I am a follower of Christ, my main man! :) Pretty straight forward.
I will not be goaded into "looking for validation" in the Scripture for any political (or other) agenda. Easy enough.

So let's see, no habits, no labels, no agendas-no worries! I an in His hands!

I also wanted to point out that every single time I re-read a Book of the Bible, or even just a Verse or two I get a little more insight. Many times it means something totally different than it did a year ago, or even a month ago! I believe He wants it that way. He knows my life has changed and His Word touches me differently based on what He has set into motion for me. No one else could teach me that lesson. No one else would know how to relate to me like He does. Of course, He places vessels here and there throughout my path to help guide and enlighten me. Sometimes these people challenge my views and thoughts to the point where our discussions lead to an "a-ha" moment. But there is no one person, group or Church on Earth that can always do so. Only the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit can lead me and let me discover for myself!

Happy reading, discussing and discovering in 2009!

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting choice of picture. For some reason it struck me as reminiscent of that great 30’s classic movie “Reefer Madness.” Here we see two innocents about to pass through the door leading down into the bowels of Hades; pausing to take one final, dare we say fateful look back at the life they are leaving. Or it could just be a picture from Joe’s college yearbook, which I suppose could represent the same thing as two innocents are about to enter the frat house or perhaps in a more uplifting view, they are escaping from the depravity and sin of the frat house.

Now as far as the Rant. Is this the beginning of the Fifth Great Awakening? Have Campbell and Stone risen to once again call for Christian Unity based solely on the word of God, devoid of man made creed and man made tests of faith? Could we see a regeneration of religious life in this country spring forth from this simple plea; “let us come together as brothers and sister in love and unity with God’s word?” Naw, probably not.

It is the hubris and fate of man to assume to know God and speak more eloquently for Him, filling in the blanks as though God somehow left the message incomplete. As long as that remains true, people will argue over the nature of the dirt while missing the majesty of the forest and the sky.

void77 said...

Personally, I think Joe just found the picture to be erotic, so he used it!

Anyway, regarding Bible reading. I'm in Christi's camp .. For me to get anything real out of simply "reading" the Bible, I need some interaction with people. Now, I if I sit down and meditate, pray, have a quiet time, and read some scripture - well then a whole lot more than simply reading is going on. But studying the word - really studying it - is very difficult for me. And fortunately I have enough smart friends to help me out!

And before I peace-out, let me sing you a song:

"Ancient words, ever true....Changing me, changing you ........"

-Eric

Anonymous said...

"Here we see two innocents about to pass through the door leading down into the bowels of Hades; pausing to take one final, dare we say fateful look back at the life they are leaving."

I see it, other-anon. But they also look like they might be emerging from dark. Like they are just teetering. Whatever, they are, they're bustin' out with life...under all those paper scraps.

Joe B said...

Re: Jan K

"having the sensation of intimacy, without ever really knowing what true intimacy is."

Man that's deep and insightful. Hmmm...that's got me rubbing my chin-stubble.

Hey, anon #2, you write just like me. You wouldn't happen to be my bro, ay?

Jillian said...

a literary interpretation of the chosen photo:

isn't it ironic? don't you think?

good point, alanis. the words "sola sciptura" having been created by cutting individual letters from different pages of a magazine reminds me of some church doctrines and individuals' beliefs about god: cut and pasted. as you said in your post, so many times we as imperfect human beings take pieces of scripture out of context and put them together to make our own statement. and what we end up with is something incongruous and choppy, at best. or like a ransom letter - so you can't recognize the handwriting of the author. just like some of the church (ok, most) has thoroughly ignored the big picture of the Bible, thus erasing God's fingerprints from his masterpiece.

i was going to choose not to comment on the underlying photo, but i changed my mind. it reminds me of all those facebook and myspace photos that teenage girls take of themselves, looking into the camera as sexily as a 13 year old possibly can, for no one at all, and yet for the whole world. it's like how we parade our doctrines to the whole world, trying to look like something we certainly aren't. trying to appeal to the masses.

but isn't jesus more... i don't know, unattractive than that? he is dangerous! he'll wreck your life! he's the DEFINITION of a revolutionary and a dissenter. he was a pariah. and God is downright SCARY sometimes. so, we put on this mask. we paint up scripture with coats of candy and makeup to make it pretty to look at and easy to go down. to make it something that it certainly isn't. because we have trouble swallowing what it really is.

that's why God had to send the Holy Spirit to help us. otherwise we're doomed.

Jan Kelley said...

My mercy, Jillian, what a post! Filled with such insight...great analogy regarding cutting the letters up and various interpretations of scripture. This is the danger of one having someone else interpret the scriptures for you. The only way to know the scripture is cut up and taken out of context or whatever, is for us to be knowledgeable of what the text actually says. Those of us who choose to believe we cant understand it by ourselves, are at the mercy of our interpreter and their desire to remain true to the scripture or their desire to have you follow them and their interpretation. the Bible can stand on its own. And, yes, it does require "study", to get to the meat. Casual reading, however, can give a good appetizer. I, took want to be identifies with my Savior Jesus Christ....i am a Christian only....no other name to identify me.

darin said...

love it Joe...
to quote the great theologian Avril Lavigne - "Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you're actin' like you're somebody else
Gets me frustrated
Life's like this you
You fall and you crawl and you break
And you take what you get, and you turn it into
Honestly, you promised me
I'm never gonna find you fake it
No no no
(No no no)
No no
(No no no)
No no
(No no no)
No no

the no part is my favorite

Delegatus said...

The interesting thing about Doctrine is that it is solely dependent on a person’s willingness to give someone or something authority.

For example, in ‘My” church, the one I created, it is a sin to wear anything other than black shoes to service and red shoes are really naughty; that’s a big time sin. I’ve found this works quite well until some smarty pant asks me for the Biblical foundation for my shoe color ban. It is in those situations that I can feel my authority slipping away.

Now even if you rest all your faith and doctrine on Biblical example, you have two avenues to follow. In one case you could say if it isn’t specifically prohibited it is allowed and in the other if you can’t find it in the Bible it isn’t to be done. Anything else is cafeteria style and that is cheating. So even if you say “Sola Scriptura” you’ll naturally find people wanting to define what that means by one of the two formulas above. And this doesn’t even include the issue of supremacy of the NT over OT or if they are equal.

It is De Natura Rerum (The Nature of Things) that people will become invested in these details. After all you take someone who went to all the trouble of leaving or splitting off from one group, to founding another, building a church, hiring a suitable minister, printing up business cards etc., they just have to make that difference a matter of acceptable faith to differentiate themselves from the heathens who don’t agree. And if they are really invested they may go so far as to claim, as I do, that people who wear red shoes to church are headed for the lower regions of Hades or whatever it was that got them riled up to begin with. Claiming that you are the exclusive provider of salvation, although rather egotistical and flat wrong, can be good for business.

This is why we have churches created in the Sola Scriptura tradition who don’t allow instrumental music at services and those that do. It is why we have Christian (in the broad sense) Churches that tell you infant baptism is meaningless versus those that claim baptism is required for infant salvation, that woman must not wear pants, churches shouldn’t form missionary societies, and people shouldn’t dance… ad nasuem. All this based on the fallible interpretations of man of the infallible word of God; hence the problem. Given an opportunity, people will get it wrong and miss the point.

Is this a modern problem? Just consider all the squabbles between Paul and Peter over the issue of circumcision for new converts. The folks who came from a Jewish tradition wanted to make circumcision a condition for becoming Christian. Those coming from the Greek side of things thought that was a singularly bad, let alone uncomfortable idea and not supported by what Jesus said and did. In this case Paul won but not because Paul said so but by Christ’s example and words.

That to me is the problem in allowing others to define your faith, at least too much so. People get invested in their own ideas rather than the spirit of Christ and His example. Quite simply, things that divide Christians runs contrary to what Christ clearly desired; a community of believers unified under Him. So, I guess my red shoes are out.

Jan Kelley said...

Delegatus, who wrote that last paragraph? It is brilliant! Did you copy it from me? It is exactly as I would have said it...and, believe me, that is one enviable compliment...(to think you are using the words that i would have selected.) you dont know me, but life is all about me and what i think is important and right.

Brad said...

Great blog Joe! And not just because of the two hotties…

I think it is a great idea. I think a big part of what Jesus was about was taking God directly to the people – hence his not-so-fluffy relationship with church power of the day. In my estimation, the most crucial and important lessons and messages in the Bible are pretty straightforward. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s not a lot that a Biblical scholar is going to be able to tell me about that that I don’t already know when I’m pissed off and honking my horn at the guy who just cut me off.

Besides, when I think about it, Jesus was always correcting the disciples who were standing there right next to him in the flesh. So I don’t sink too much faith in someone telling what a scripture “means” if I can’t understand it on my own. I trust that the God who created the universe is capable of getting the point to me. And so far, the point I keep getting is that I’m not very good at loving god and loving my neighbor, the two most important commandments according to Jesus. I can’t see worrying too much about scriptures that are thick and difficult to understand when the most basic and clear ones are the also the toughest for us to live up to on a day to day basis.

Delegatus said...

Jan:
I see a problem in your statement. Everything cannot be about you and also be all about me at the same time. It might be possible for these two to coexist as long as the interests do not conflict, but when it does it will produce a singularity which could rip the very fabric of the universe. The fact that the universe is still here proves the fault. Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided that you are in error. Sorry.

Also to claim partial ownership of my closing statement in the previous entry you would need to know something of the process by which it was derived. You see my church which remained un-named for many years came about from a combining of all the great doctrines of Christianity. We took the writings of Luther, Wesley, Calvin, Williams, the Cathocism, Baptist, Anabaptist, etc; all of them and combined them as our articles of faith. Well we actually cut and pasted them off web sites.

Now naturally you might suspect we discovered conflicts. When discovered we would examine the writings and if a clear victor did not appear we adopted the one which contained the most verbiage and the most number of words we did not understand and or which was the most obtuse. Our logic was simple, yet we modestly feel is brilliant, that only really smart people with lots of letters after their names use big words that no one understands or will or spend page after page defending some obscure point; therefore, most likely that person has it right.

After years of tedious examination we had our article of faith; all eleven hundred pages of it single spaced in ten point type. We felt it was the crowning achievement of Christian Doctrine. Then we actually read it.

We came to the inevitable conclusion that we were un-washed, un-select, individual sinners who had no great revelation of the Spirit. In fact when we added up our failings when compared to our Doctrine, most of us were in the mid triple digits. Well one person wasn’t but chief among his faults was that he was a chronic liar and we suspected the rest of his answers.

We quite correctly, by our Doctrine, concluded that we were doomed. Services became rather gloomy affairs after that. As a side note, it was about this time that we selected a name for our church; “The Church of No Hope.” Then the great split came and it was over a light bulb. One of our congregation suggested that if we tried we could probably manage to change a burned out light bulb. Needless to say, half the congregation was outraged and stormed out. Those that remained became known as the Church of Little Hope. Those of us who remained faithful to the doctrine kept the name of the true church.

But the real problems began at the services. Since there wasn’t really a whole lot to be said most folks just sat there and read; the Bible as it happens. From there people began questioning our Doctrine, pointing out inconsistencies and conflicts with the words of God and Christ. Slowly but surely our numbers dwindled. To be honest, I concluded that our Doctrine was full of it a long time ago but I just can’t bring myself to break the hearts of the other two guys.

So based on this experience I’ve pretty well eschewed all formal doctrine unless it comes directly, clearly and unambiguously from the Bible. I’ve learned that letters after a name doesn’t make you right, nor does it make you wrong but the true test comes from the Spirit within and if it doesn’t feel right, true, just and filled with love, then it is probably wrong. But, that’s just my opinion.