Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does the Bible Give Clear Asnwers on all Issues


The Bible gets used to give support for many topics.

Is there a problem with using the Bible like a magic 8 ball? Can we look to it to find answers to all issues?

Throughout my years in a variety of church circles I have heard Bible based arguments for each of the following issues. Some have used the Bible to claim these issues are clearly sin. Others conclude they are not.
  • Gambling
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Dancing
  • Mixed gender swimming
  • Females wearing pants
  • Females without head coverings in church
  • Females in leadership roles at church
  • Symbols like Christmas trees used in church
  • Use of drums in church
  • Use of musical instruments in church
  • Going to movie theaters
  • Listening to secular music
  • Birth control
  • Polygamy
  • Participating in Halloween
  • Participating in armed conflict
  • Being protestant
  • Being catholic
  • Being ______
I'm sure you could add a few more to this list.

Here are some bigger past issues that people had used the Bible to support:
  • Slavery
  • Crusades
  • Inquisitions
  • Apartheid
  • Hitler's actions against Jews
  • Condemning interracial marriage
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Many harmful cults
William Shakespeare recognized the problem:
"The devil can site scripture for his own purpose! An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek." [Merchant Of Venice]

So why do some people feel the need to say the Bible has clear answers to every issue?

Is the bible black and white on all issues?

How many of these issues need to be central to our faith?

Should we use the Bible like a magic 8 ball to find answers to all issues?

We can learn from history that there are some obvious dangers to using scripture to promote a position that is not part of the central message of the Bible.

I propose one of the biggest dangers is the divisions in Christ's church that have been created by holding too tightly to these non-essential positions.

When Christ's body is not One, the world will not recognize us as His.

I think it is wise to look to scripture and study what it has to say on all issues. But if it is outside the central message of scripture, let's not get too dogmatic about it.

Can we agree to disagree on issues that have less scriptural support than our essential belief of Christian Unity?



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4 comments:

Paul in the GNW said...

Hi Jon,

Caught your comment over at InternetMonk. Came by to look around. I'll be back. I've read a few posts. I don't update my blog often enough, but I intend to try to deal with a Catholic questioning process on similar issues.

One generic comment first. I think it is pretty difficult to make a significant and fair minded investigation of Catholicism. I had trouble with that at one time, and I am a cradle Catholic! Blogging, comment boxes, and forums can be helpful but have severe limitations: immediacy of discussion discourages thoughtful construction of thoughts and research while lack of face-to-face communication makes it difficult to accurately read someones 'tone'. I won't go into a list of recommended reading - just suggest that making a fair attempt to intellectually understand the Catholic Church is a significant undertaking and won't be accomplished without some serious study.

Paul in the GNW said...

Now that I've introduced myself I'll make a quick comment on this post from a Catholic perspective.

I think your post nails things in many ways, particularly the requirement of Unity - although we can debate what Unity should look like and what is essential.

I believe that the Catholic Church is a great example of practicing this in regards to scripture. I don't know if that will sound shocking to you, but I suspect it might.

Yes, the Catholics believe that The Church and the Magesterium are the divinely guided interpreter of scripture in the light of Tradition (with a capital T). However, this is the big overarching theme. How that happens, and what it looks like in practice, particularly when crawling through the scriptures verse by verse is not what you might expect.

On many issues where various Protestant bodies debate about specific interpretations the Catholics are free to their own understanding. One example that came up at href="http://internetmonk.com">InternetMonk was the issue of a husband authority over his wife, and how that passage was to be interpreted. There are broad guidelines, related in the CCC, but Catholic families are free to 'interpret' that passage strictly - and I know families that do, very similar to certain protestants - or very loosely as I do. There is a very wide range of freedom on this, and many other issues as you noted in one of your very early posts on this blog.

In fact, although there is no 'official' list, a number of Catholics have made attempts to come up with a list of specific verses that have been infallibly declared require a specific interpretation. Depending on how you set the criteria for when something has become infallibly defined the list is between 6 and 20 verses!

So outside of at most about 20 verses, Catholics are not bound to any particular interpretation of specific verses. We do have to consider the broader dimension of the teaching of the Church and any personal interpretation which lead us into conflict with the Church (heresy) we need to reject.

Most of the defined interpretations pertain to the 7 sacraments. One that is not on the list that is debatable regards evolution and Adam and Eve. It is strongly suggested that Catholics must believe that there truly were two original Humans - Adam and Eve - but it is not clear that this rises the highest level of infallibility.

Thanks for showing up over at Imonk.

God Bless

Jonathan said...

Thanks Paul for stopping by. Over the past years I have spent time researching the Catholic faith. And I agree that what I've found best is actually visiting some Catholic churches and observing how they worship the same Jesus that I do. And that has confirmed that I need to respect love those who call themselves Catholic, and be there to support them in their journey of following Christ.

You've sparked my interest in this comment when you say that certain issues are left for families to carefully interpret in their homes. I've flipped throught the catechism of the catholic church, and at first glance it looked like it was attempting to find black and white answers on all issues. And I admit that protestants have often done the same with their catechisms, and other doctrines.

I'll have to do some further research on this. Thanks.

Paul in the GNW said...

Jonathan,
Just quickly for now. Rereading, I see how my original commentis poorly written where I mention the CCC.

Certainly I would be deceptive if I tried to claim there were not "black and white" issues in Catholicism. There are fewer than one might think, however. The CCC certainly has plenty of Black and white. Like you said, there are things that are essential.

The Catholic Church, the Catechism and preachers from the Pope down don't generally approach scripture, morality or doctrine from the methodology of taking a passage or verse at a time and interpreting a handful of verses to arrive at a declaration that something is "black or white." As a result of not using that methodology, the list of passages that must be interpreted in a certain way is quite short.

That brings us squarely to the most fundamental disagreement between all Protestants and Catholics - Apostolic Tradition and Authority.

God Bless