Dear Christian Leaders,
I write to you because I am concerned about the future of the Church.
Many of you are godly men and women. But you are godly not because you accept particular doctrines as true; you are godly because you trust and obey Jesus. I understand that questioning certain "established" doctrines in the Protestant Church is about as welcome as Martin Luther questioning the established doctrines of the Catholic Church or Jesus questioning the Pharisees. Both the Pharisees and Catholic leaders thought they could not possibly be wrong because they had spent so much time studying the scriptures. But did Jesus teach that the way to understand him rightly was to study the scriptures or to trust and obey him?
A wise man once said, "Obedience is the opener of eyes." It's a mistake to think we can understand everything Jesus taught simply by studying the scriptures.
When we don't understand something, or we're not sure if we do, we should set our hearts on the things we do understand, instead of trying to understand the things we do not. We don't have to understand everything Jesus taught in order to begin to obey. Even a child understands, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
The more we set our hearts on seeking God's Kingdom and doing His will, the more godly we will become. The more Christlike we become, the more we will see things as Jesus sees them. If we obey Him, He will slowly reveal those things we do not yet understand. "Obedience is the opener of eyes."
Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, we've set our hearts on understanding instead of obeying. We seek to control, not to trust. Please be aware of the trap of thinking that simply by using the correct method of hermeneutics one can arrive at a correct understanding of all scripture. Some things are simply not meant to be understood that way.
One of the reasons I write these things is because I want to see those who claim to be followers of Jesus actually obeying Jesus. The world needs more love and kindness. With this I'm sure every sane person agrees.
But I also write these things because of the way some of you treat those you disagree with. Some of you have treated some very godly men and women shamefully. Why? Because you did not judge them by their obedience to Christ, you judged them by their adherence to your own doctrines. Some of you are so convinced that you are right and others are wrong that you think that anyone who agrees with you is agreeing with God, and anyone who is against what you teach is against God. Were not our minds corrupted by the fall? Is it possible that even after much study you could be wrong? No doubt some of those you claim are heretics actually are heretics, but that does not justify treating them unfairly.
Be careful that in your zeal you do not fall into the trap Calvin fell into (See "A Legacy of Fear and Persecution" in Thomas Talbott's book The Inescapable Love of God ).
I hope this letter has not fallen upon deaf ears.
A servant of Christ the King,
Perhaps you are wondering where I stand in regard to Biblical inerrancy.
I am in full agreement with the following section of the ‘Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy’ with the heading “Transmission and Translation.”
‘Since God has nowhere promised an inerrant transmission of Scripture, it is necessary to affirm that [of the original 66 books of the Bible] only the autographic text of the original documents was inspired and to maintain the need of textual criticism as a means of detecting any slips that may have crept into the text in the course of its transmission. The verdict of this science, however, is that the Hebrew and Greek text appear to be amazingly well preserved, so that we are amply justified in affirming, with the Westminster Confession, a singular providence of God in this matter and in declaring that the authority of Scripture is in no way jeopardized by the fact that the copies we possess are not entirely error-free.
Similarly, no translation is or can be perfect, and all translations are an additional step away from the autographa. Yet the verdict of linguistic science is that English-speaking Christians, at least, are exceedingly well served in these days with a host of excellent translations and have no cause for hesitating to conclude that the true Word of God is within their reach. Indeed, in view of the frequent repetition in Scripture of the main matters with which it deals and also of the Holy Spirit’s constant witness to and through the Word, no serious translation of Holy Scripture will so destroy its meaning as to render it unable to make its reader “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).’
I’m also in agreement with Dennis Prager when he writes:
“It is only because of belief in a God-made Torah that I have worked to understand and explain difficult passages of the Torah. If you believe the Torah is man-made, when you encounter a morally or intellectually problematic verse or passage, you have an easy explanation: Men wrote it (ancient men, at that). And then you are free to dismiss it. But those of us who believe God is the source of the Torah do not have that option. We need to try to understand the verse or passage morally and intellectually.”(The Rational Bible: Deuteronomy: God, Blessings, and Curses (p. XXIV). Regnery Faith. Kindle Edition.)
To illustrate his point, Prager goes on to use a verse about how a particularly rebellious sons are to be taken before the elders of the city and then be stoned to death.
“…since I do not believe people wrote the Torah, I do not dismiss that law or the Torah: I have to look for rational explanations for seemingly irrational laws and passages and moral explanations for seemingly immoral laws and passages. I have almost always found them. In this case, for example, I came to understand that this law was one of the great moral leaps forward in the history of mankind. In this law, the Torah brilliantly preserved parental authority while permanently depriving parents of the right to kill their child, a commonplace occurrence in the ancient world and even today (such as “honor killings” in parts of the Muslim world). The law permits only a duly established court (“the elders”), not parents, to take the life of their child. And we have no record of a Jewish court ever executing a “wayward” son.” (Prager, Dennis. The Rational Bible: Deuteronomy: God, Blessings, and Curses (pp. XXIV-XXV). Regnery Faith. Kindle Edition.)
And finally, I do not limit revelation from God to the Bible. See the Beyond the Box Podcast "The B-I-B-L-E parts 1 & 2." God also speaks to us through our conscience, dreams, other people etc. (Conscience is of particular importance. See Conscience.)
Having said this, it is important to note that if someone suggests we do something which contradicts what is taught in the Bible, we should not do it.
Ep. 128 Is Christian Universalism heretical? - a discussion with Dr. Steven Nemes - author of Orthodoxy and Heresy and Theological Authority in the Church