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The Reformation’s Greatest Weapon November 5, 2011

Posted by arkwork in Cessationism.
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There are those who teach that, “Scripture alone” is the source of absolute truth, and that it is the only voice of God that we have today. These people contend that God has spoken in a clear manner through the Scriptures, and that only Scripture can interpret Scripture (with no Scripture to support their view). Yet there is something like 25,000 Protestant denominations, and most of them espouse solo scriptura, which means “Scripture alone.”

This would force some people to a logical deduction that concludes: God has spoken 25,000 clear but different messages.

God forbid!

The great motto of the Reformation, solo scriptura, was initially penned in reaction to the indiscriminate instituting of Christian doctrines by the popes, many of whom were actually in conflict with the Scriptures. The justification for this was the Papal claim that the residing Pope’s authority exceeded that of the Scriptures.

This practice by church leaders led to the greatest spiritual darkness—the Dark Ages—that the world has ever known, and this motto—solo scriptura—could be cited as the primary force to break that darkness and begin the release of every true spiritual advance since. But one can go too far with a great motto, especially after it has served its purpose in history. Today this motto must be challenged as a philosophical system called rationalism. Here is why:

It takes reasoning power to determine when, where, and how Scripture has, in fact, interpreted Scripture. So, “Scripture alone” boils down to “reason alone”.

With our human reasoning power we compare Scripture to Scripture to see what we think it says. And our reasoning power boils down to the sum total of our experience, which is a muddled mindset. In short, many conservative Evangelicals trust more in rationalism than in a relationship with Jesus.

RATIONALISM & BIBLIOLATRY

The post-enlightenment culture has gained an understanding of the natural world primarily through the use of reason and intellect: The world, we believe, is accurately mediated to us through our intellects and our reason, rather than intuition and emotion.

The priority that westerners place on human reason and the corresponding devaluation of emotion, intuition, and experience is called rationalism.

Western conservative Evangelicals are regularly told not to base their relationship with God on their experience, but on the truth! Who would not agree that we ought to base our relationship with God on the truth? But why would anyone implicitly assume that our experience would not be a vehicle for communicating the truth to us?

Experience and feelings are so often called into question that one might begin to believe that only human reason was left untouched by the Fall.

But every part of our being, including our reason, has been corrupted as a result of the fall. Nevertheless, the idea persists in Evangelical circles that feelings, experience, and intuition are, by definition, suspect while reason is not.

Bibliolatry” is another word related to rationalism. Daniel Wallace, assistant professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, has said that “while charismatics sometimes give a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic Evangelicals give a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. Both of these miss the mark.”1

Wallace goes on to speak of his own brush with Bibliolatry.

For me, as a New Testament professor, the text is my task—but I made it my God. The text became my idol . . . The net effect of such Bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God. Eventually, we no longer relate to him. God becomes the object of our investigation . . . the vitality of our religion gets sucked out. As God gets dissected, our stance changes from ‘I trust in . . .’ to ‘I believe that . . .’”■

Since each one of us is a unique being, our reasoning, and therefore our doctrine, is also unique—one of a kind. But a church of one is not very practical or scriptural, so we seek out others with similar views and join ranks with them.

That is how we come up with an excess of 25,000 denominations, each one claiming they alone have the correct interpretation of Scripture. The human tendency is to forget that our goal is transformation, not information.

By what authority do we interpret the Bible? Surely, that authority is not “reason alone.” We can conclude that we will never find all truth in the Scriptures by reasoning power alone. Surely, the same authority that inspired and authored the Scriptures is the only authority for interpreting Scriptures. In other words: the Holy Spirit will instruct us—if we know His voice.

Over the centuries, cultures changed, languages changed, and, therefore, the human co-authors (with the Holy Spirit) of Scripture changed, BUT the Holy Spirit did not change. He alone is what kept the continuity and integrity of Scripture intact. The Holy Spirit still knows what He said, and He alone knows exactly what He meant. Therefore, our best chance of knowing what is true is to ask the Holy Spirit! Here is our text.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 14:26

And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

1 John 2:27

9. Just as it is written, Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.

10. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

11. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God,

13. which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words [i.e., the gift of knowledge and wisdom, and discerning of spirits?].

1 Corinthians 2:9-13 [My insert]

17. [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insights into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him,

18. By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),

19. And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength.

Ephesians 1: (The Amplified Bible).

Even if we ask the Holy Spirit what is true, and we hear His voice, we will still have some diversity in understanding. We will still see in a glass darkly because we are human. We will still see a poor reflection of Jesus through our veil of flesh, until we see Jesus face to face—beyond this veil of flesh.

Until then, we must rely, in all humility, upon the Living Word to reveal as much of the written Word to us as we can comprehend.

Until then, we must accept and observe much (but not all) of the diversity amongst the Bible believing brethren today.

Until then, all that Jesus put in place will remain in place until He comes again.

CONTRIBUTION OF THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS

The term apostolic fathers is traditionally used to designate the collection of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament (that we have copies of today). These apostolic fathers (who wrote between a.d. 70 and a.d.135) were widely accepted by the church for several hundred years. Some bishops at that time accepted the apostolic fathers’ writings as being on an equal footing with the epistles.

. . . In some books which were greatly prized by Christians of the first five centuries, among them the Didache, The Shepherdof Hermas, and extensive portions of the Paidagogos of Clement of Alexandria.2

An early Christian document, the Didache ton Dodeka Apostolon, or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” describes a church organization which knew of traveling apostles and prophets and of resident prophets and teachers. It instructs the Christians to appoint for themselves bishops and deacons and to hold them in honor, along with the prophets and teachers. There were several bishops, not just one, and no presbyters.

It has been suggested that there was a transition from an earlier structure of the churches to the later one, either in communities apart from the main centers where old customs lingered, or perhaps mirroring the change in some of the larger urban churches.” 3

The exact date or period when the Didache was written is not known. Dating the Didache is made difficult by a lack of hard evidence and the fact that it is a composite document written by anonymous author(s) and edited and stitched together at a later time. The Didache may have been put in its present form as late as a.d. 150, yet the original material was probably written in about a.d. 70, give or take a decade.4

THE KING JAMES VERSION

I must be particularly discreet and gracious on this particular subject because it can be controversial. Therefore, allow me to make this a history lesson devoid of any personal prejudice or preferences.

Today it is hard to find anyone who is sure that the Apostle Paul carried a black, leather bound King James Bible with him on all his travels. Yet, just a few short years ago many people believed that. I do not wish to poke fun at those people, but while we are still on the subject of Bible manuscript history, a brief history of the most influential of all English translations might be in order.

The English language was just starting to be developed in the fifth century [a.d. 449-1100]. Before that time, there was no such thing as the English language. This earliest form of English was called Old English, known formerly as Anglo-Saxon, and we would not have understood a word of it. If you have ever heard the epic poem Beowulf, you know what I mean.

Then came the Middle English period from a.d. 1100 to 1500.

Our interest here is in Early and Late Modern English. King James and Shakespeare spoke Early English [a.d. 1500-1750]. Since we speak Late Modern English, we can appreciate the difficulty we have in reading the original printing of the King James translation [a.d.1611].

Almost nine-tenths of the New Testament portion of the KJV can be found word for word in the Tyndale version of 1525. During subsequent decades the spelling of the KJV has been modernized, misprints have been corrected, and many English words that are no longer in use (or are obscure) were replaced with the modern equivalent. By 1613, the text showed over 300 differences from the original of 1611! Even then we would not be able to understand very much of it due to the archaic words and sentence structure. This was a wonderful translation for the time, but keep in mind that the church went for 1,600 years without the KJV.

The Old Testament rested upon the same Masoretic Hebrew text as all subsequent versions. However, because no ancient manuscripts of the Greek New Testament arrived in England until 1628, those responsible for the greatest of all translations did not have the advantage of the best Greek text.

The King James translators used a Greek text known as the TextusReceptus (or, the “Received Text”), which came from the work of Erasmus. When Erasmus compiled this text, he used five or six very late manuscripts dating from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries.

Determining which ancient manuscripts are the most accurate is done by taking the oldest manuscripts available and comparing them, letter for letter. The older the manuscript is, and the more manuscripts that are identical letter for letter, these manuscripts are the ones considered to be the most reliable text.

The earliest manuscript, Codex Vaticanus (a.d. 325), had been in the Vatican’s library since at least 1481, but it was not made available to scholars until the middle of the nineteenth century.

What am I trying to say?

When we make our statement of faith that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, we are referring to the original manuscript that was penned.

Gaining an understanding of the original Hebrew and Greek that the Bible was written in is the lifelong pursuit of Bible scholars. Finding the most ancient manuscripts that are still in existence today is another worthy scholarly pursuit. That is why Codex W is so valuable today.

The final pursuit is to find scholars who are totally committed to faithfully and accurately translating these ancient manuscripts from extinct languages to modern languages. The two languages the Bible is written in (ancient Hebrew and Greek) are extinct languages today, and only Bible Scholars know them. The Hebrew spoken in modern Israel and the Greek spoken in Greece today are entirely different languages. They are as different from that spoken by the authors of Holy Canon as modern English is from the Beowulf poem.

No Bible translation is infallible, but the author still is. Never forget that the Holy Spirit is the REAL author of the Bible. Although the men who penned Scripture, and the animal skins that they wrote their inspired words on are long gone, the Holy Spirit lives on eternally. The Holy Spirit can enlighten our understanding and transform the written Word into the Living Word.

Our focus is always Jesus. And if anything is Spiritual and of God, God had to do it. We are never to focus on a Bible translation, a denomination, a teacher, or anything else. Our focus is always Jesus.

If you want to do your own research, here is what to look for in an encyclopedia: English language translations, and Bible translations. Many Bibles have a section in the back that gives the history of English translations of Bibles. It might be titled, The English Bible and Its Development. I also referenced a book titled, The Origin of the Bible, put out by Tyndale House Publishers.

CONCLUSION

The testimony of church history contradicts many of our unfounded, traditional views, and demonstrates that the truth can set us free. I hope this will inspire you to read a book on church history this year. If nothing else, read the history of English Bible translations that can be found in the back of many Bibles. This alone can be a revelation.

I can testify that spending forty-hour weeks over an eighteen-month period studying church history revolutionized my theological thinking. These were books that I either bought or checked out of libraries and read at home.

If you don’t think that would happen to you, just try it. Prove me wrong, but with this one qualification. The books I read were written by theologians from seven different doctrinal groups. The tendency is to tell only the good stuff about your own boys, but to reveal every deep dark secret about the other guys. After reading the same 2,000 year history from seven different perspectives, you begin to see a more accurate picture of what really happened, and thereby what is going to happen in the future.

We cannot truly understand what is going on in the church today if we do not understand the line of continuity from the past. And we cannot truly understand the future of the church if we cannot trace that line of continuity from the past and present into the future. In other words, if we don’t know where we’ve been, we can’t know with accuracy where we are going.

A thorough knowledge of church history greatly improves our perspective of unfulfilled Bible prophecy. 

FOOTNOTES: The Reformation’s Greatest Weapon

1. Daniel Wallace, Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?, Christianity Today, September 12, 1994.

2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History Of Christianity, Vol. 1, Beginnings to 1500, Revised Edition, Harper San Francisco, 1975, 215.

3. Ibid, 117,118.

4. Excerpted from the Apostolic Fathers—Second Edition, translated by J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, published by Baker Book House.

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