In the 2022 fourth quarter Adult Bible Study Guide on “Death, Dying, and the Future Hope,” the author made repeated references to variations of the expression “The Biblical Worldview.” In each usage, the reader is left with a clear impression that there is a “correct” way to interpret or understand the Bible. But is this true? Unless we mean a particular view on a subject could merely be deduced from the Bible, the “proper biblical teaching” conceit is, at best, simplistic. Such a proposition presupposes some coherent, overarching narrative from Genesis to Revelation, an assumption belied by Scripture itself.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/should-we-take-prophetic-utterances-face-value-case-open-canon
I appreciate the authors rational approach for interpreting the bible.
Some will say that it leads to chaos in church when everybody acts according to his or her own rational understanding. My academic experience is just the opposite: The rational approach leads to amazing agreement across different cultures all over the world.
As always, an amazing article, Matthew.
Regarding the inspired nature of all scripture, it seems this is a given.
This can even be said of secular, satirical and scientific works, if one accepts that all creation is the product of a single source.
But just as the fossil record seems to show that creation is a messy, trial and error process, inspiration-even of the supposedly divine sort-doesn’t imply perfect expression or inerrancy.
If so, the canonization process, undertaken in an attempt to enshrine one book as “god’s”, can be seen as a corrupt, idolatrous endeavor, the primary intent being to make life easier for Constantine and his mom, but which political machinations and internecine squabbling did nothing to resolve the question of what it means to be a Christian, much less help solve all of the world’s problems.
I’m reminded of the adage, If God created man in his own image, we have more than returned the favor.
“Holy books” are very human compositions, something which destroys the concept of objective/authoritative theology.
You have very well demolished the concept of a coherent and unified message of objectively communicated information magically transmitted from a “supernatural” source enabling a connect-the-dots method of discerning knowledge.
As the apostle Paul insisted, faith in God is not based on the Scriptures. It is based on the power of the Holy Spirit who gives life to those who like Abraham and Jesus had faith in God.
It was an amazing articles (I occasionally jump to the comments, but not in Matthew’s case where his articles are well worth the read.
Could it be that this article is “inspired”? I certainly found it inspiring.
There is no difference between what the author is advocating, and what he is charging the Bible writers with. Each is picking and choosing to present God as they see him.
For example, is the Jesus that loved us so much by dying in the cross capable of also destroying those that reject Him in the lake of fire? Some would argue no, despite clear language in revelation that He will destroy the wicked. They are creating a God that is incapable of killing at all. Even though He clearly states He will.
Yes the understanding of scripture evolves as time goes on but I should be so that we better understand what is written not so we better decide what portions are human and which aren’t.
Because what ends up happening is that we become guilty of exactly with the author charges against the riders of the Bible. We pick and choose the aspects of God that we believe are true and mold him into who we think He should be.
I am thankful that you have a Sabbath school class that welcomes open discussion. The current pamphlet seems intent in forcing the polarity between those of us who accept orthodox Adventist teaching and the rest of us who question it.
A really great article, Matthew. Would you recommend any of Ellen’s writings within an open Adventist canon? If so, which ones, and why?
What are the “aspects” of God? If the apocalyptic scenes of Revelation are as portrayed, one aspect of God is vengeance - applying pain and suffering for the sake of a “pay-back” for ignoring Him. Where does that leave the adage, “God hates sin, but loves the sinner”? Some biblical statements about God are mutually exclusive. God can’t, at the same time, love the sinner, and deliver vengeance
on him/her. It teaches the sinful person nothing because ultimately he dies (SDA version); or, suffers forever - makes no difference.
The defining message of Christianity is not about perfecting human nature (SDA version). The core message is that Christ has payed the sinner’s penalty, (humanistic way of putting it) and there is now no “certificate of death” against him… Some will accept that; others won’t - until the universe comes crashing down; but in the end, “every knee shall bow before Him” - how could they not.
So often, in my experience, Mr. Quartey’s articles are several levels above my comprehension. But this one was not only beautifully written, bur also explained in a way that many can understand his points. It also strikes me, given the premise of the essay, that perhaps if we are not to take every word that appears in the canon as absolute certainty, needing to weigh and consider not only the context, but the author’s intent, that we might find ourselves gently pushed to rely more on our own relationship/experience with God. That, of course, presumes we have one. For example, if I read something in a news feed that was negative about one of my good friends, I would not categorically accept the information as fact, because it conflicts with my own long-standing, personal experience with my friend. Shouldn’t the relationship trump all…and by the way, by saying that, don’t we more directly acknowledge the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing God to each of us in an individualized way?
I especially like the way J.B.Phillips puts it - “Jesus/Christ is the aperture through which we see (understand - define - characterize) God”. Not only does our human nature intrude on our reading of the Scriptures; but it also influenced the writers and interpreters, and even the copyists who had to decipher fragmented manuscripts that makes up the “Word of God”. Ultimately it becomes a face-off - “me and God”.
As Mary Poppins-another inspired resource, in my opinion-would have said, “Indubitably.”
I meant the aspects of his character. For example, God is love, but God is also just, he is merciful, but he also possesses righteous indignation. And one of the aspects of his punishment is part of justice for the victims.
For example, someone who molest children all their life and causes so much pain and harm And destroys many lives and never gets caught and dies. And does not repent or ask for forgiveness or accept God‘s sacrifice. Would it be just or unfair for those victims for that person to never be punished? Would a God of justice allow someone to cause that much pain and hurt and sorrow, and then receive no punishment?
You mention that there is no purpose to punishment if it does not teach the lost anything, but the purpose of punishing them is for justice for the pain that they have caused that many times goes unpunished in this world. Someone like Hitler deserves to be punished for the millions of lives, he took. And that in no way makes God a monster. It makes him just.
I live in Los Angeles and we have a district attorney here who speaks a lot about rehabilitation. And there have been times when his advocates and he himself have said that jail serves no Rehabilitation purpose. And one can argue that. But jail isn’t just about making sure that criminal is rehabilitated, it’s also to show the victim that there are consequences for the person that caused them pain and hurt. That someone cares about the injustice that they’ve been caused.
God says that vengeance belongs to him. And so the final judgment is unfortunately to give those who reject his offer of mercy the consequence of their sin. We can think of Lucifer. By your logic, there would be no purpose in punishing Satan. Just because he is not going to repent. But after having caused so much sorrow in the world, it’s only fair that he’ll be punished before he dies.
I’m curious to know what you think is going to happen to someone like Hitler, if he didn’t repent?
I don’t know.
Human “sin” is not a laundry list of sinful actions. Sin is a “state of being” - a condition common to all humanity. Out of that condition, springs forth sinful acts, dependent on individual personality - upbringing - genetics - myriad of influences, but the source of these sinful acts is the basic human condition. Not only does the condition we are plagued with cause sinful acts, but also thoughts, and motivations. We can do wonderful things but for self-centered reasons. For sensitive people, that can turn out to be quite an ordeal. One lady in my church admitted she spends hours on her knees at the end of the day, trying analyse her actions, so as to ask forgiveness. The bottom line is, there are no degrees of sin. Sure, some are horrendous, while others, just the way we live our lives, but the source is the same.
If the Bible is our guide to all this, we find some contradicting statements. So, here again, as Christians we have to look at possible consequences based on how we see God. I can’t imagine Jesus, for example, throwing any sinner into a lake of fire to teach him a lesson. And, what is the lesson - “you screwed up” - I think the guy already knows that if he finds himself witnessing the “the end of the world”.
Justice has already been served at the cross. All debts are payed (if we look at this as a legal exercise). So one guy in my church, once responded to some such idea by saying, “So did I keep the Sabbath for nothing?” The answer is, “Yes” - you kept it out of a response of pure love because that’s what you thought was God’s will; not as down payment for a “heavenly mansion on a street of gold”.
I’m pretty sure that Hitler is dead. Gone. Remembered in infamy. Certainly there is a desire to see retribution, but it is too late. The time for a god to act was when he was committing his atrocities. I believe it was Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor who led the hunt for the criminals, who said, “If there is a God, I will demand of him an apology.” Certainly, this was a time when He was sleeping, or didn’t care, or didn’t have the power or inclination to intervene,…or simply didn’t actually exist.
We shrink in horror when we see videos of ISIS believers who put infidels in cages, cover them in gasoline, and burn them alive. We condemn those in ages past who burned heretics at the stake, alive. Yet, you seem to be ok to adore an all-powerful deity who promises to do the same. Do you not perceive some sort of tension with this belief?
I can’t love a god who’s best idea for punishing evil people is to resurrect them so that he can torture and kill them again?!?!
Seems much easier to give up on literary constructs like evil and eternal damnation.
If these things exist, god created those too, or at least has no power to stop them, and he should be reviled as a monster or an impotent wimp, rather than worshipped and adored as a loving friend.
Did you (anyone) see the play “God on Trial” by Elie Wiesel - 2008? A need see production.
The price Jesus paid only covers those that accept it. He paid the punishment for my sin whether I accept it or not, but if I don’t accept it, then I must suffer the punishment for my sin as if if He didn’t pay it. Because I have refused to be covered by His death. Like in Egypt, the blood covered all in the home, but if that blood was not on the doorposts, they were outside the protection of the blood.
So I don’t think Jesus is teaching anyone a lesson with the lake of fire. He’s simply punishing the sin they refused to have forgiven by His death.
And that sister that prayed for hours is not representative of most people. And obedience is never for nothing. It’s the natural response to being born again and living God. I don’t obey to be saved because I could never obey enough to deserve salvation. But once my heart is born again and as Hebrews states: God writes His law on my heart and mind”. I obey because that is now my nature to do so. God has transformed me so that now I want to be the person God originally intended me to be. I don’t steal because I don’t want to, I don’t kill because it’s not in my nature, it’s never for nothing, as you say it’s a love response. And love is the fulfilling of the law, so it’s out of being a new person.
That person who said he obeyed for nothing doesn’t understand how obedience work sx