Sunday, June 27, 2010

Figuring Out Theological Things

Blogger Finnell asked the question, "Where to go for answers to theological issues?" His basic premise is that the Bible is the only place where answers for the Christian can be found. I agree that the first source of answer is the Bible, and that is the first place a Christian ought to go.

However, to throw out all commentary because it is written by humans is a disservice to the Body of Christ. Most significantly, it negates the role of the Holy Spirit. Who says the Holy Spirit cannot inspire men and women to find the Truth of a passage of Scripture and move them to record that finding? If I am reading a passage, and I have applied hermeneutic principles to the passage, and I am not clear on the reading, even after prayerful consideration, why can I not consult with a scholar (via a book) who has studied the passage more, can work in the original language, and has presented himself and his gifts to the church body for recognition? Also, why reinvent the wheel over and over again? The Holy Spirit--the same Holy Spirit that works today in believers' lives--is the very same Holy Spirit that inspired John Wesley and warmed his heart (for example).

The trouble comes up because all interpretation of Scripture, even with the work of the Holy Spirit is done by humans who are finite in intelligence, and limited in vision. Which means, wait now, hold your breath--we could be at least partial--here it comes now--wrong or only partially right or just not quite getting it or a little confused. This means that there is potential for disagreement. And when there is potential for disagreement, in difficult passages, there is potential for sinful behavior as we decide that those who interpreted differently are not proper Christians. (Well, in your last post, you ruled the Mormons out of the Christian church, whose to say their take on Christ is wrong? We are not talking here about basics that are easy to figure out, like who Jesus is in the Holy Bible. We may struggle to understand His nature as very God and very Man, but it is crystal clear that is His nature. Also, Mormons add writings that are not recognized as inspired by the Church, so the error is multiplied. Yeah, yeah that opens up another issue--establishing the canon. We are already saying that Holy Spirit filled believers yesterday and today can make theological decisions--including what writings are truly "God breathed".)

So in the end, we need to remember our limits. The Bible is our first source, and sometimes Scripture is plain in its meaning, and sometimes it is not so plain. We use the brains God gave us and the Spirit He filled us with to guide us as we work on our interpretation of more difficult passages and points. We are not afraid to consult church fathers to help us in our work. We are free to disagree with them, or to find them helpful in our work. Always guided by the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that all will not be crystal clear now. Remembering that in the end, to be loving like Jesus is our goal, and God is more interested in the state of our hearts than our "rightness". Paul promised, after his discussion of the importance and primacy of love in 1 Corinthians 13, that we would see "face to face."

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith,hope and love, But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)

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