Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Whose Interpretation of the Bible is Right?

Part 2

Word RTF

Question:  

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. I am someone who enjoys discussing religion and politics (not just for the sake of argument) and have written to a number of web-sites, including those of Muslim persuasion (none of whom have even bothered to answer any question). I should point out that I have a number of friends who are 'sola fide' Christians, two who go to Anglican Church, one is a Seventh Day Adventist and one is a Pentecostal (Charismatic). All base their beliefs not on the 'authority of the Church' but on the 'authority of the Bible' yet their ways of worship are vastly different! Even us Orthodox (and Catholics too) base beliefs on the Bible... thus we would quote sources such as James (faith without works is dead et al). And the veneration of Mary (which seems to be a major objection made by my friends against Orthodoxy - see Luke when Gabriel says "Blessed art thou amongst women" and when Mary says she will be blessed throughout the ages). Thus there is a bit of an impasse. All these peoples basing their beliefs on Scripture, all praying to God, but all so different. You pointed out that " that more study and more familiarity with scripture results in an explosion of interpretation." I don't find this to be the case as all my 'sola fide' friends are Bible-study people. One of my Anglican friends was the head of a students' Evangelical Union when I attended there. The other Anglican friend always checks up her sources with a friend of hers who has attended theological college, yet even these two are vastly different (especially in their attitude towards homosexuals). Some Christians take part in non-Biblical statements of faith such as the Nicene Creed (which as far as I'm aware pre-dates the Bible). Others have created their own statements. So, even 'bible-only' Christians are really not 'bible-only'. (I think it is sola scriptura but my memory fails). I see that Christ established the Church. The Church established the Bible. Therefore, I revere them in that order. I am quite happy with following the tenets of the Church, because it was established by Christ. Those that knew Christ wrote such books as the Didache which talks about the Eucharist. Other people also wrote before the Bible, such as Clement of Rome who (again I might be a bit out) died c.115 A.D. Clement wrote about doing 'works'. To ignore them is in fact to ignore Church history. And, these writers have always been revered (although I'm drawing a fine point with the Didache which was lost for a long while, but others such as Anthanasius, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Diognetus, Justin the Martyr have been revered for a long, long while. I believe that Martin Luther tired to 'write-off' the first 1,500 yrs of Christian history by effectively saying "hey, you guys - you've done it all wrong!" Anyway, he was just a man and thus his Church is man-made. Other Churches have also been established by men, such as the Anglican Church, the Methodists, the Presbyterian Church. Just near where I live is a Church of the Four Square Gospel (whatever that means). Then there's the aptly named Church of God, the Assemblies of God etc. I guess if these people are all studying the Bible they should be united. My 'EU' friend tells me that these are all the same because they all worship Christ. But if they were, then there would be one Church. We Orthodox all share the same Liturgy. Although there's Greek, Russian, Syrian, etc. this is an administrative division, whereas even within Anglican Church the Liturgy will be different - some taking bread, other Eucharist, some having laity giving out the sacraments, others not. Anyway, thanks again for writing. Dh'eirich Criosda (Christ is Risen!)

Response: 

If you are content with your application, there is really little I can say. This ministry is dedicated to helping those who are trying to grow spiritually through the Bible do so. In my considered view, that is really the only way to draw nearer to Jesus Christ, that is, by "eating" the food of the Word of God, changing from within, and living what one has learned and believed in faithful discipleship to our Lord.

I'm not going to "have a go" at your church, but it worth considering that some of your arguments against the Bible are equally fitting against the church authority on which you rely. You say that Jesus established the Church, and that He did, but the problem from my way of thinking is that you are equating the particular human organization to which you give precedence with that Church. In fact the true Church are all those who believe in Jesus and follow Him - it's not a denominational thing. Adam and Eve and the last person to believe before our Lord returns and everyone in between are all part of our Lord's "assembly" (the meaning of the Greek ekklesia, normally translated "church" in English).

Which (earthly) church did Jesus establish then? Neither the Orthodox nor the Roman Catholic (nor the Coptic or Syriac or Nestorian) churches bear much resemblance to what we find in the book or Acts or even what we find in the 2nd to 4th centuries. Even if you want to say that's not true, then tell me which of these organizations is "the church", for they have different points of view on many issues exactly as you have described in the case of later denominations.

Also, you say that the Bible comes after the "church" which comes after Jesus. In fact, it is hard to find a chapter in the gospels where Jesus does not quote the Bible. And it is hard to find a sentiment in the Old Testament which is not repeated (even if in different phraseology) in the New Testament, first in the gospels, then in the epistles. When Jesus references an authority, it is the Bible He references. Therefore scripture goes back over a thousand years before any of the denominations referenced here.

It is a rhetorical fallacy to say that because a number of different groups claim to be based upon the Bible but then come up with different conclusions that the Bible is therefore somehow reduced in authority. I have already gone on the record with you that the Bible is the authority, not the group (church, or whatever you'd like to call it). Just because a group (Orthodox or whoever) says that a passage means A,B,C, does not make it so - that would be giving the authority to the group, not the Bible! The Bible means what it means and says what it means. The fact that very, very few people in the history of this era of God's plan have bothered to do the hard work in language, theology, and history, laboriously digging and cross-referencing, and spending their time and effort on really finding out what it does mean and say, does NOT make the Bible wrong, does NOT reduce its authority. All those people you say "made the Bible" have long since passed on. Therefore in your church or in any other there is nothing authoritative that remains on this earth except 1) the Bible (whose authority most of the older denominations essentially deny) or 2) the organization (whose rules and interpretations have been made up for a variety of reasons by a variety of people over many, many centuries).

The argument you make is a standard one, and it seems to give solace to those who don't really want to bother. Liturgy is comforting and easy. Bible reading and Bible study, done right, is demanding in terms of time, commitment, and also in emotional investment - because you have to be willing to have every precious belief rocked to its foundation. But God will lead you where He wants you to go through His Word and by His Spirit if only you are willing to be led.

I am not a charismatic, or a 7th Day Adventist, or a Catholic. In fact, all the mainline groups have solidified their positions on most doctrines and are in truth not really willing to budge from their comfort zone. In some cases (e.g., the older Protestant ones), it is a case of arrested development. In other cases (e.g., the pre-Protestant groups) it is a case of complete erosion of truth by tradition over time, to the point where, as you exemplify, there is no shame in the outright contradiction of biblical authority (and that is very sad indeed).

I am relatively certain that you have not yet met our Lord face to face. And I am equally confident that no one in your church has either. How, then, can you possibly know anything about Him, about what He wants from you, unless you get that information from the source that God has made available, namely, the holy scriptures? No one in Israel well before Messiah came had any illusion about the fact that the Pentateuch was the Word of God (among those who followed God). The passage of 25 or 30 centuries has done nothing to change this. It has merely and blessedly given us now the complete Word of God. How sad and ironic that at this point in history, when we have more opportunity in terms of time, resources, language study and Bible study opportunities than ever before, that fewer and fewer "Christians" are really interested in knowing anything about Christ - other than what their leaders decide to tell them (which may or may not be true - no way to know without reading your Bible).

I hope you will accept this missile in the spirit in which it was written - my prayer for you is indeed for your growth in Jesus Christ. But to grow, you have to have His thoughts pulsing through your heart - and that requires going deeper and deeper into scripture with every passing day. I certainly do not claim to have a monopoly on the orthodox teaching of the Word of God - and I am very adamant about all who use these studies reading the Word also for themselves and checking the voluminous cross references provided (see the links:  "Read your Bible", and "How do we know whose interpretation of the Bible is correct I"). I know full well that the way I present material is not everyone's "cup of tea", and I am not suggesting that your choice of denomination makes the accomplishment of God's plan for your life impossible. I am stating what I know to be the most fundamental fact of the life of the believer - spiritual growth requires spiritual food. Without reading scripture, being taught and learning and believing the content of scripture, and applying these things to your life then helping others do likewise through whatever gift God has given you, it is impossible to accomplish the mission God has sent you on as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Without understanding and accepting this, all the fine liturgical points you bring up mean little in the end.

Whose interpretation of scripture is right? If you read them and believe them, love them and want to understand them and live them, then God will not fail both to guide you in this matter, and to provide for you the right person and/or group where you will receive all the spiritual nourishment you require, beyond all your present expectations.

Yours in Him who is the very Word of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Ichthys Home

Bible Options
Bible Study Software