Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bibliocentrism, Part I

I had quoted another web site a few entries back:
"Scripture’s silence is not an invitation for us to dispute with each other, nor is it a license for us each to go our own way. It is a divine invitation for us to draw close to the heart of God, hear his intimate whispers, and joyfully honor him in holy submission to his greatness, delighting in his right to rule every aspect of our lives."

Back in 2001 when I switched from being KJV only I hardly knew where it would lead. The journey from God's-total-word-as-expressed-in-one-Bible-version-only has become a gradual removal of every artificial construct that presents itself as truth and holiness and the right way to live. I hardly would say that I am at the end of that path but I will say now, that the only right way for the Christian to live is under the constant influence of God through His Spirit. This is a standard of righteousness that transcends our laws and codes.
I also will not say that I have learned to perfectly live under the influence of the Spirit. In that, I am just beginning and will probably never attain full proficiency. Nonetheless the goal is clear, to conform and wrap my being around God Himself so that I may become exactly what He wants me to be.
The present question I will address, is the relevance of the written Scripture to the Christian in the face of this goal. Suffice it to say that Scripture alone is not enough for our complete transformation into Christ-likeness. This statement will cause you great difficulty if you are a strict fundamentalist or a KJVOist. It is obvious however, that God has a unique plan for each of us and for this reason it is impossible for Scripture alone in the written form to provide us with all we need to conform to Him.
A short while after reading the above quote (among others like it), I ran across a statement which reminded me of the plain fact that for at least 1000 years in the Middle Ages (1400 it is claimed), common people did not have access to Scripture. It is often claimed that this is because of the Catholic Church but it should be obvious that this is not a complete explanation if even true. Books were costly and expensive to produce and this meant that for those communities that actually had a Bible, they were under lock and key at the church. Pick whatever Christian sect during the Middle Ages that you believe represented true Christianity and it is doubtful they "read their Bibles" daily. Not only for the reason above but also due to a high illiteracy rate. At best they might have memorized portions of Scripture.
Imagine... a Christian without a Bible. It was reality in those times. Two connected things, the oral teaching of faithful men who had occasional access to a copy of the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit Himself, were able to sustain the church in these times.
Now I have to point out that I believe the Bible is true. On the one hand, it is never right to teach as absolute truth what the Scriptures are silent or unclear on. On the other hand, it is not right to justify carnal activities by saying that Scripture doesn't have a black-and-white command against it.
Aha, the strict fundamentalist will say. I, who read new versions and listen to modern music am now guilty of hypocrisy. Yet if I am guilty of hypocrisy, they are more, in that they hold Scripture SO high as to twist from Scripture what they call "principles" to condemn my activity, thus falling into the opposite error. If the strict fundamentalist would not do this, I think he would find Scripture more favorable to that which he opposes, although there would still be room for argument.
(As a matter of fact, the hardcore "Bibliocentrism" of strict fundamentalists leaves them no alternative but to force the Scripture to speak on topics that Scripture simply does not address definitively. This often involves taking Scripture out of its cultural context.)
The point I am making is that Scripture functions as a set of training wheels. The truth of Scripture defines some thou shalts and some thou shalt nots. The power to ride uprightly is given by the Spirit, and the Scriptures guide us and are especially helpful early on.
A few years ago I remember telling my pastor at the time that I had a difficult time sticking to a daily Bible reading schedule. To my suprise, he responded that perhaps I didn't need to read the Scripture every day- this from a fundamentalist pastor. More recently, I had some success with the One Year Bible.
What I began to realize however, is that I focused on my written Bible to guide me, more than the Spirit. My "Bibliocentrism" was limiting my walk to the elementals, the thou shalts and thou shalt nots. Yes, the Scripture speaks of liberty and grace, but instead of finding these I continued to wobble down the street bouncing left and right from one training wheel to the next. Many others do the same.
To continue with the analogy, it is never right to fall off the bike. This leads me to my final point- that every Christian comes to a point where it is right and proper to "take of the training wheels" and focus on the Spirit. This works because we are talking about a committed, experienced Christian who should have some level of humility and more than likely teaching the Scripture to others in some way.
The Bible itself says in II Tim 3:15-17:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
He doesn't say "thou hast read daily," he says "thou hast known". It is a general knowledge of the Scripture that causes us to be "furnished".

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