Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

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using the bible

8/13/12

Since all of the Bible books were written at a time when the Bible, as we know it and the  Christian religion as we experience it did not exist, why do we think that its words are directed to us as 21st century Americans? The Bible implies that the OT was directed to those of the circumcision (Romans 3), meaning that its message was for their ears only. Jesus supposedly quoted from all OT books but a few, thereby validating their authenticity, but there again, Paul tells us that the OT was the oracles of God for the Jews, not the Gentiles. In addition, the newness of Christ supplanted the oldness of Judaism (II Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 8:13). Despite this fact, the church routinely cites Old Testament scriptures to support its doctrinal pronouncements.

 

When the NT scriptures were written, most books were directed specifically to certain local groups. To apply these directives universally and eternally involves nothing more than assumption. When even the NT books refer to "the scriptures", we can know for certainty that those scriptures were not the words of the NT books we now have, because all those books had not even been written, much less vetted and collected by subsequent church councils centuries later. The church's handling of what we now know as the Bible has been one long exercise in assumption, assertion, and self preservation, aided not a little by elements of human government, to their mutual benefit.

 

No, the prevailing present days use of the scriptures to establish right doctrine and practice and to enforce conformity to church prescriptions is a totally misguided effort. Nothing about the Bible, including what it says, supports what the church has made of it.

 

The Bible  is admittedly the work of multiple authors, written over many centuries, under circumstances which are unknown and widely debated. The process by which certain writings were deemed to be appropriately included in the OT canon was not completed until after Christ, according to many scholars. We know that the NT canon was determined by a group of men some centuries after the death of Christ, meaning that what we might assume to be earliest Christianity operated without a completed sacred text. Clearly, Christianity as an institutional, doctrinally driven, religion as we now see it, could not have existed in these first centuries. Additionally and even more significantly, even after the canonization process produced what we know as the Bible, the lack of copies, translations, and reading skills prevented the wide dissemination of the Bible for more than 1000 years. A religious faith, for which the Bible is critical, could not realistically survive for more than a dozen centuries, uncorrupted and effective, if that Bible was essentially unavailable.  

 

Even in our day of electronic copies, multiple translations, and ready access, most people know about the Bible only what the church tells them. Church doctrine goes on unchallenged, not because it is proven, but because it has been preserved by long standing tradition which predates the availability of the Bible to all but a few. Scriptural ignorance is the life's blood of institutional Christianity, despite the church's supposed interest in individual Bible study. Long experience indicates that the vast majority have no real interest in attempting to untangle the web of church sponsored confusion by personal Bible study. Those who do attempt that effort are mostly so predisposed to church doctrine that they see only what they already have been taught to believe and simply ignore the rest. In either case, the preservation of the church and its influence is assured.

 

Consideration of the above should lead one to question the use of the Bible that we routinely see in our society. That is especially so, when we encounter portions of the Bible which seem to countenance gross injustice and cruelty under God's mandate. These examples exist in the same church sanctioned Bible as the universally admired ethical standards of Christ, with His emphasis on self sacrifice, humility, and forgiveness. We thus encounter cross currents in these scriptures, various themes which appear starkly at odds with one another. Instead of these variants stimulating real effort to understand their origin, significance, and current day relevance, all we hear out of the church is an insistence that we just accept the sacred record as perfect and true and just on the basis of faith, a faith which is unquestioning and essential to our eternal well-being. This manner of using the Bible shows no real respect for the text because it makes much of it irrelevant to our understanding. We are called upon either to ignore it or render it subservient to scriptures which more readily serve to support church doctrine. It is a clearly a religious shell game, designed to maintain the supremacy of institutional religion over individual religious freedom and expression.