Thursday, December 4, 2008

Concerning Doctrine

In my wanderings across this vast wasteland known as the internet, I stumbled across something attacking not only my denomination's beliefs on Scripture, but personally naming my university as responsible for what he deemed to be a "seed of heresy". You can read this "Open Letter Concerning the Authority of Scriptures" in its entirety here, but the basis of his argument is a problem with the Nazarene Manual's doctrine on Scripture:

"We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith."

This basically means that while we believe that entirety of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired word of God, that inspiration was interpreted by human beings, and as such is possibly subject to some degree of fallibility, except in the matter of salvation. So, to make a long statement short: If it will save your soul, then it's infallible. Otherwise, it need not be necessarily 100% accurate.

Mr. McDonald (the writer of this letter) believes that this position on scripture is not strong enough, and that scripture (supported in his letter by quoting scripture) is entirely infallible. After all, "God is perfect in all His works, in regards to anything. He did not even allow a man's interpretation, will, or opinion to enter His Word."

As a solution to the problem of our scriptural heresy, MacDonald offers this as alternative to our current doctrine: "Scripture, being found as eternally inerrent and inspired of God, is veracious and authoritative concerning every aspect of physical and spiritual existence. The Bible has been provided as our only completely truthful standard of theology, ethics, science, history, and every other realm into which its limitless grasp extends."


"O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to ushe who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." (Psalm 137:8-9)

"When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it." (Joshua 8:24)

"While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp." So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses." (Numbers 15:32-36)


"He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." (Psalm 104:5)

"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?" (Job 38:22-23)

"What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?" (Job 38:24)

"Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?" (Job 38:35)

So, I leave the choice to you, dear reader, as to whether you want to be believe that scripture might be wrong in the areas of science, and that the bloodlust of the Israelites may have occasionally taken things too far, or whether you want to believe that God condones baby crushing, snow is kept in storehouses in the sky, the earth has a foundation, and God talks to lightning bolts. Your choice.

“The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.”


Anonymous said...

Look, you think you are really somehow more cleaver than the fundamentalist chap, since you don't believe all of it's somehow magically dropped by God into an driver's manual for life. The problem is, you still think that some guy died, and three days later hopped back-up like a guru, wall-walking zombie. Furthermore, you think that this zombie guy's take on life 2000 years ago, long before science was even dreamt of, should somehow be trusted today. "Oh, he's God!" You'll still say, just like the fundamentalist you decry. But you only believe that because you read it in the magic book. So now who is using circular reasoning? Geesh--liberal Christians are still stupid, it's just their island of stupidity is a bit smaller than their fundamentalist cro-mag neighbors.

The Wanderer said...

The reason I believe in Christ is not entirely based on the fact that this book I read says so. There are several other factors at play. I'd certainly be willing to discuss them with you, but for that to happen, you'd have to be somewhat less than anonymous.

Freethinker at large said...

It's interesting to read an article written by someone who has a polar opposite view of scripture than I. However, I will say that Mr. MacDonald is someone misguided, with a fetish for the word "veracious." Even I know that for scripture to be coherent, it must be seen as something pointing to God, rather than something that gives an actual newspaper report of God. Some of it may not be relevant to us now (such as the ol' 'don't eat pork' rule), but it doesn't stop pointing to God.

Well, if there even is a God that is. :)

To Mr. Anon,

While I, like you, have problems seeing the divinity of scripture, you have to admit it certainly is a fantastic story. The scale at which Jesus loved other people, and described a God who loves us, is absolutely beautiful. I think Jesus was a great moral example, even if I do not accept him as divine.

One thing is for sure though. If atheists like you and I are to converse with Christians (which is quite necessary) then we have to move beyond name calling. It makes you no better than the fundamentalist shouting "Heathen!"

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is good news for modern man: One guy believes religious fantasy for reasons he won't reveal ON HIS OWN BLOG, while another guy, who doesn't believe the religious fantasy, defends the first guy, not on the basis of it being TRUE, but because its a fantastic, absolutely beautiful story. Yes, yes -- that's a sure sign of a "freethinker" working at his best.

The Wanderer said...

I'm sorry not all of us are as "cleaver" as you, Mr. Anonymous. As for your comments, (a) I never said that I wouldn't reveal the reasons why I believe in Christianity. I'll even write a whole blog about it, if you wish (look for that to come soon), and (b) I'm not even sure you should be putting the burden of proof on me. Atheism is a fairly recent development in human history, and if you want to try and defeat the status quo, i.e., theism, you're going to have to do a lot better than name calling and hatemongering.

NewSpace: The Brownstone said...

wow, this went in an interesting direction. In reading the letter, there is a reasonable answer - the statement of faith talks about Faith and Practice. This is the entirety of the person: Faith being a disposition toward God, and Practice being that which one says or does at all times. Therefore, For scripture to be perfect in salvation is for scripture to be perfect in changing the entire disposition of the person, the very nature of their being.

Sure, this allows room for scientific and historical fact...Dare I say that Evolution may be true, and that science and religion can actually get along!!!!

However, this mere fact does not change my disposition toward God, nor does it really change my practice as a person, which makes at a secondary, almost irrelevant point.

THE PRIMARY QUESTION: Does it cause one to become like Jesus to the world. If that is yes, then Scripture has done its job, the kingdom is advanced through the Spirit enabling Christ disposed people act as Christ in renewing the world.

As far as Christianity goes, all else is secondary