Friday, September 16, 2005

Bibliocentrism, Part II

I thought today about a coworker from a previous job, where I also had a friend from my church as a coworker. Now, this friend of mine is quite strict about various issues such as music and Bible versions and so forth. Of course, I am not like that. I imagined a conversation between me and the other coworker on the differences between us.
It began to get interesting in my mind, when I thought about how I would explain my position. I suppose I would start out by saying that I used to be that way, but now I am not. As to _why_ I am not, I would say that being the object of judgement from these type of people who are strict caused me to look at things differently.
Then I would go on to say that my friend is certainly not judgemental, but because of the tendancy of those types of Christians to be judgemental, I prefer to take a more liberal view.
I went on, in my mind, to tell her that such strictness is often portrayed as wisdom. Such as, you shouldn't drink because you do something stupid or become an alcoholic. Such as, you shouldn't smoke because it is detrimental to your health. Such as, you shouldn't listen to rock music because it can negatively influence the way you think.
However, these things are _not_ explicitly spelled out in Scripture, no matter how strenuously their supporters attempt to make a Biblical case against them. Now I am not saying such rules are not wise (that is open to debate, and is another discussion), what I am saying is, that just because something is wise _doesn't_ make it a mandate of God's Word. Neither because something is foolish does that make it a sin. There are many foolish activities, that are not "sin." (Again, whether these are foolish or not is another discussion)
The standards issue is similar to the KJVO issue in that the emotional underpinnings of these beliefs are the need for a high level of certainty. One of the most potent statements in James White's book refuting KJVOism is the following:

"If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderus Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.' This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text."
-James White, The King James Only Controversy, p.95

I have realized this desire for a high level of certainty extends beyond the KJVO issue, with far right-wing fundamentalists. Yes, the type that gets upset over new versions and pants on women. It would be just as easy to say that these right-wing fundamentalists are, "in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest" the fundamentalist leaders of 30-35 years ago with "ultimate authority'"- when it comes to "standards".
One explanation for this need of high-level certainty is the fact that a lot of these types of Christians harbor emotional insecurity. You find many with harsh upbringings, wounds from the past, plenty of first generation Christians who are so scared of what they used to be as an unsaved person that they _must_ have it all spelled out. Of course the solution for this is to find freedom from such fears in Christ. (Easier said than done)
Yet another explanation is needed for the rest of them, especially second generation right-wing fundamentalists who remain in the system. This explanation is more theological and based upon what they've been taught about the written Word of God.
I'll start by posing this question- is the Bible all-inclusive of spiritual truth? Or does the Bible contain a subset of the entire spiritual truth? I am not asking, is the Bible authoritative. I believe the Bible is, in fact, authoritative, and true in what it says. It would be sin to go against the clear teaching of the Bible. What I am asking is, is the Bible all there is to truth?
For many right-wing fundamentalists the final authority has become only authority. This is error, as proven by the Bible itself. Christ sent the Spirit to guide us into all truth. Also it should be obvious, that God guides us in many specific ways that are not spelled out in Scripture. Look at I Jhn 5:8- we do not see the Bible as one of God's three witnesses on earth, which seems very peculiar if we accept the far right-wing concept of Scripture as not only the only authority but also perfectly preserved in one text.
By limiting our understanding of God's truth to the written Word of God, we are missing out on special things God wants to do and show us. This is what I refer to as "Bibliocentrism."
This idea, this doctrine, sustains this type of thinking when emotional causes are absent.
Now some may say that I am going Charismatic. Glad you said that! If there is one thing more vile than a Catholic, for a far right-wing fundamentalist, it's a Charismatic. Even the infamous Jack Hyles said, that he would rather be a Catholic than a Charismatic. Of course this statement fits with the profile I've drawn; to be a Catholic is to have a tremendous amount of certainty about many things, whereas the current state of the Charismatic movement leaves a lot of subjectivity to the believer.
To the extent that the Charismatics need to pay more attention to the objective written Word of God, the right-wing fundamentalist needs to pay more attention to the Spirit.

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