Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2 Timothy 3:16

[16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I've been reading a lot of other people's blogs recently. One verse which crops up again and again on the blogs of Christians (particularly those trying to defend things like creationism) is 2 Timothy 3:16 (and 17). This verse is used to defend all sorts of issues that it says nothing about. In fact, I'm sure many folk out there manage to interpret the words above to mean:

Every verse in the bible was dictated by God and is completely accurate in terms of historicity and scientific content, and it can be used to counter any argument about science or history, however much actual evidence supports the opposing arguement.
Which frustrates me immensely! The bible has an agenda - it is for 'training in righteousness', it is not actually that interested in science (largely because 'science' didn't really exist when the bible was written) and, while it does contain some history, it is not primarily a history book.

Let's have a look at that verse in detail:
  • 'All scripture is God-breathed' - what does that mean? In fact, I see this statement as a bit of a truism - if it wasn't God breathed it wouldn't be scripture. But (as you will see from my earlier posts) I'm not utterly convinced that everything that is in the compiled book that we call the bible is actually divinely inspired. I believe this collection of writings contains scripture, but not that it is all scripture. And does 'God-breathed' mean that God chose the words or that He inspired the writer? Whenever I've been 'inspired' to do something or write something, I've often found that the end result of my actions or writings is somewhat different to the original inspiration - yes, it contains the inspiration but it also contains a lot of me and my ideas too. I believe the same is true of the bible - Paul's letters (for example) contain the inspiration of God, but they also contain the writings of Paul. And, just to rock the boat slightly, are there 'scriptures' that aren't part of the current canonical bible?
  • 'and is useful' - useful? Not 'essential' or 'invaluable' but merely 'useful'??? This suggests to me that it does not actually answer every question, and isn't the only thing to rely on when training in righteousness, etc.
  • 'teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness' - as I said above, this agenda does not include 'teaching history' or 'correcting scientific theories'.
  • 'so that the man of God' - who is the scripture for? Not for bashing the non-believer with, but for equipping the disciple. That's not to say that folk can't come to know the Lord through the bible, but it is pointless to try and argue a case with someone who doesn't believe in God by relying on the 'authority of the bible' - it won't get you anywhere. Take the non-believer to a church gathering and let them see God in His people.
  • 'may be thoroughly equipped for every good work' - the agenda of the bible is not to persuade people to believe certain things, it is to equip disciples to do.

I am pretty firmly of the opinion that arguing with non-believers over issues like creation/evolution and trying to assert the authority of the bible to folk who don't know the Lord is generally a waste of time. Take them to meet Jesus - either in the words of the bible (and while I'll agree with Chris that Genesis etc. do point to Christ, nothing does it better than the actual Gospels) or to a church meeting where He is present.

Oh, and use the bible to equip yourselves and each other for the task!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Getting ecumenical

I must be getting old or something. Recently I've been getting more and more ecumenical in my outlook. I can remember the days when I used to avoid ecumenical church gatherings (i.e. meetings between members of different church denominations, often to discuss common ground or share communion together - and I suppose that is more or less common ground for us all), largely because I thought that the part of the church that I adhered to was more correct than many of the other parts who would be joining in in the meeting. I guess I thought that meetings in a church who do things wrong were largely a waste of time.

However, recently my thoughts have been more along these lines:

  1. The whole point of the church (global - including protestant, catholic and orthodox) is to be the bride of Christ - a body of people in relationship with God.
  2. God is continually preparing the bride for her wedding - He is actively involved in getting the church to the state He wants it to be in.
  3. Therefore, the majority of the church cannot be 'wrong'. Sure there might be bits that stray too far from the truth and need removed - the bride might need to loose a few pounds here and there - but on the whole the majority must be more or less on the right lines.
  4. Therefore, it is the common ground between the denominations (e.g. the Lordship of Christ, celebrating communion, etc.) that is important and not those little things that separate us (e.g. infant or believers baptism, veneration of the virgin Mary, etc.)
I now believe that we should be seeking to abolish the boundaries between all the different denominations of the church - between presbyterian and baptist, between protestant and catholic, etc. and ecumenical services may be part of the way ahead.

The joint Good Friday service in my community today is in the Catholic chapel. Perhaps I should go...