When "Biblical" Isn't Enough

There seems to be no better phrase that encapsulates a lack of knowledge of the Bible than: “but, isn’t it biblical?” The word biblical means, as by Google, “relating to or contained in the Bible.” Being a book of books, the biblical texts contain a lot of descriptions, like, a lot. So, when we throw that phrase around, do we take into account the whole text? My professor at Columbia Bible College once clarified that phrase as missing a key element: prescribing. Biblical text both describes and prescribes, sometimes both at the same time, to which he would label “doubly true,” but it also describes things that shouldn’t be emulated.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11929

According to the Bible, Jesus’ last words to his disciples did not include the requirement that they read the Bible, either the extant OC nor the as yet unpublished NT.

Nor did he tell everyone they should meet him in church every week, or at the very least on Easter and Christmas, in order to listen to another sermon purportedly about him, or more retellings of mythological Jesus stories.

On his way out the door, he didn’t say “Here, I’ve written a book!”, didn’t authorize any of the apostles to write books, nor promise to send a perpetual parade of prophets to provide letters, pamphlets and books describing exactly what his gospel was all about.

He simply left everything to the Holy Spirit.

So it’s seems if a person wants to be at one with his creator, and when one understands that Jesus was not referring to his bodily or ego “self” nor a book when he supposedly said, “I am the way,” one’s first priority is to tune out all external noise, set aside all of the contradictory books and let the Still, Small Voice-or The Little Grey Cells of Hercule Poirot-guide him or her into ever more profound truth.

After which, yes, we can gather at the river, join hearts and hands, sing “Cuum-Bye-Yah” to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars and softly struck bongos and talk about our Holy Spirit experiences.

Or perhaps not…!?!?

4 Likes

Yet the NT is a record partly of how the Holy Spirit led the early Christian movement in which we see congregations organized throughout the Roman Empire worshiping Israel’s God through Jesus. In which we see the gospel being preached, cross cultural fellowships springing to life, former enemies being brought around the same table in Jesus’s name, the Spirit causing those people to beat the fruit of love, and gifting them to serve and build each other up in love, etc.

Iow, this was not a description of an individualistic mystical experience off in the woods by disconnected people all claiming that the spirit spoke to them. It was an energizing by the Spirit of people being brought to live life together as God’s new creation in Jesus.

Frank

2 Likes

This is an assertion of belief and hearsay which cannot be falsified given that Jesus is gone and since the Holy Spirit hasn’t written any books of its own.

There is no evidence that any of it was what Jesus wanted nor that the Holy Spirit sanctions these congregations.

In fact, if we are to judge so-called organized “Christianity” by its historical fruits, it’s not an appealing salad.

3 Likes

The term Holy Spirit is derived from the NT. It is the term you use. You use it to describe a subjective, individualist spiritual experience that sounds more like 19th c transcendentalism. Maybe a different term than Holy Spirit would fit better what you describe. You are pouring your own meaning into the term with a total disregard for what the early Christians meant by it.

With that said, I find nothing more believable or provable about that than a record of how the early Christians experienced the Holy Spirit working through the gospel and bringing people into dynamic relationship not only with God but with one another in ways that had not been seen in the empire. Iow, this describes a cross cultural, relational experience, not an individualistic mystical one that sets everyone up as their own independent spiritual authorities.

Where the church has messed up through history has been through an institutionalization that has squeezed out the relational dynamic brought by the Spirit and replaced it with power structures and oppressive and repressive control, or in modern America, through an overly individualistic and sensational view of the Spirit that emphasizes individual experience and the exercise of power in the forms of signs and wonders over the Spirit’s influence in bringing people together into shared faith, hope, and love. These are just two examples of distortions of the Holy Spirit and its activity as described in the NT. Neither works well for bringing humans out of tribalism and into loving community.

Frank

2 Likes

As always, the accused has three fingers back at himself.

But okay. I cannot prove that I understand what Jesus meant when he exited Stage Up, or that I use the term any better than does anyone else on this planet, but when I hear people insist that I must be wrong track in this regard, I’m just as likely to think it’s they who are misguided.

1 Like

A number of related sub-religions grew out of the Jesus movement. There were the various pre-Constantine groups, then there was the more organized church post-Constantine, which more or less agreed upon a “canon”. However, the modern protestant notion of “Biblianity” was a much later development. There is scant evidence in the Bible suggesting that the proper use of the Bible is to parse the language and grammar of the ancient texts in search of meaning.

Even the fabled Jerusalem session described in Acts 15 contains no textual analysis. James simply quotes Amos 9:11 & 12 and declares that the prophets agree with him. There is no recorded discussion of how the word “gentiles” or “heathen” in Amos 9:12 inexorably leads one to the conclusion that there would only be three requirements for the gentiles among them.

Nothing in the account in Acts suggests either side marshaled arguments based on the text of the “Law and the Prophets”.

2 Likes

For a long-and okay, according to most of the Amazon reviews, a not very well-written account of the relationship between Paul and Jesus’ immediate descendants-see Robert Eisenman’s (sp?) “James, The Brother of Jesus”.

(Spoiler alert: Dr. Eisenman’s “take” on the self-professed apostle from Tarsus is not as flattering as the heroic picture Paul paints in his letters.)

:wink:

No, please don’t point fingers as if you’re being unjustly accused of being wrong here. You take this very tack with the apostles and those who wrote about their experiences with the Spirit that is now in what we call the NT, claiming that it’s not reliable, little short of fabrication, not in line with what Jesus said and did, etc. Why do they not get the benefit of the doubt that what they were saying is genuine, and you do?

I’m not doubting your own experience. I was just saying that you were using language rooted in the NT to describe an experience that is substantially different. Fine. But let what the NT writers say fall into the range of what is acceptable as well, and not deride it as some big subjective fraud.

Frank

2 Likes

Logic requires that the claimant substantiate his claim.

I can’t prove the OT or NT to be untrue as this is outside the capability of human reason and there is no burden on me to do so.

However, the whole of Christendom cannot provide one shred of evidence that they’ve got Jesus Gospel “right” or that they are “on the side of The Holy Spirit”.

I’m comfortable with my position both logically and emotionally because I don’t insist that anyone accept my interpretation of either concept. So what I don’t get is why you want to undermine my thinking, or ask for the benefit of doubt, rather than work at presenting a reasonably compelling case for me to turn my life inside out in order to somehow conform with more “conventional” views in these matters.

2 Likes

As has been said many times over, the Bible can easily be used to prove all kinds of contradictory things, depending on in what order texts are pulled out of context. Even the most conservative literalist, occasionally has to interpret some words and events that are far beyond a truly literal reading. Without a common understanding of basic literary rules of grammar and logic all we have left is a word salad bar from which we can make any point we want, claiming it’s “in the Bible”.

4 Likes

If the title of the article is posed as a question, as in “When is ‘Biblical’ enough?”, the answer is simple.

Just as receiving a letter is not a substitute for time spent with a loved one, there is no equivalence between reading a book and direct communication with infinite mind. That is, being “Biblical” is never enough.

And if this assertion puts me in the company of Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman and any number of other transcendentalist tree huggers who preferred the study of our maker’s first book-i.e., Nature-to reading black letters on a white page, I accept that “insult” gladly and take my place with those who understand that an ever-present creator needs books like a space ship needs training wheels.

2 Likes

You’re appealing to what initially created GODS in general - the uncontrollable power of nature that motivated men to pray and sacrifice to begin with. At least it made men place themselves in proper relation to the nature that created them - totally vulnerable, without any control of their ultimate future. What constitutes God, as we see Him/Her/It in the Bible has always been an enigma. If we see God in nature, fine, but biblically speaking, God is not part of nature if He created nature (just a technicality).

What I’m seeing here is you’re using “Scripture” to form your own version of God and how He connects with you. We all do that. Religion is just another form of that, except it’s done in groups, under a corporate roof. God becomes peripheral, and the group takes prominence.

If you identify as Christian, then the entire focus is Christ and His message in word and deed. This is where Adventism runs into problems, as do many others when they declare they’re living according to everything “Biblical”.

Actually, the Bible contains the platform of two religions - Judaism and Christianity. Jesus was, of course, Jewish, and part of the Hebrew religious culture. He often referred to it and lived according to its teachings - because most of His life, Jesus spoke to and with Jews; However, there were a handful of specific instances, when He addressed “mankind” in general. Since I’m not Jewish, it’s going to be those instances I have to pay attention to, if I think He (Jesus) was of any importance to me:

The first is the “Sermon on the Mount”; and the second, “the cross”. Between those two points in time I need to interpret His life, either as a Jew, or a gentile. Most ardent Christians don’t do that. They try to live in both worlds, and it does’t work.

I had to add a third - Jesus sending the Holy Spirit as a guide.

1 Like

What you’re seeing is obviously a “pot calling the kettle black” construct of your own mind, as I haven’t used scripture to support anything I’ve said.

Indeed, as someone convinced that language actually gets in the way of real communication, as often as not, the last thing I’d ever do is use memory verses to supposedly support any of my comments.

(Not that there aren’t some that do, it’s simply a fact that such citations don’t prove anything, as you and I both agree….I think!?!?:rofl:)

“God is not part of nature if He created nature (just a technicality).”

Here again, this is “Biblical”.

But is it true?

I haven’t studied transcendentalism all that closely but I suspect they would say it is not and that their basic assumption is just the opposite; i.e., that the creator is the most essential component of creation. IOW, what we call “matter” is essentially spirituality expressed in a physical format and crystallized consciousness is conceived of as being the most fundamental building block of the cosmos.

Further, it could be in this sense that Jesus supposedly said “Go look at lilies,” or claimed that his dad’s kingdom was ever present.

But again, that’s merely biblical as opposed to being demonstrably true or an absolutely correct interpretation of JC’s good news, so as always, words prove nothing.

Ok, so where does that “infinite mind” come from, or the “eve-present creator”? But, I actually agree with you when you say:

… since matter is just another form (expression) of energy.

I’m not accusing you of anything. If we’re talking about “an ever present creator”, I think we’re dipping into some Biblical concepts.

Got it.

So Jesus has the copyright on anything of a spiritual nature-whether he ever used the terms or not-and only those who claim to hide behind his robes can use those words, whether they understand his “good news”, or not.

This is not only not biblical, it is irrational.

Well, Jesus seems to be the only human who seems to have come back from the dead. This is only a statement of faith, I realize.

Look, we’re dealing with issues that can’t be proven empirically. My sense is that everything in the NT, is something like a morality play, dumbed down for human minds to grasp. Men’s brains can’t navigate within a world built on “concepts” like love, hate, goodness, evil, peace, compassion, guilt - concepts that need temporal manifestations to be undertood. We can’t live with concepts alone - we need examples - “morality plays” to which we can humanly relate. The Bible supplies them. Just as the Bible, itself, shouldn’t be worshipped as it’s a means by which we are introduced to God, the “morality play” we find there, is also a means by which we see God. The whole process is directed by the “spirit” we often talk about, but never with understanding because it, too belongs to a non-material world.

1 Like

As Christopher Hitchens used to say:

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

Thus, I see no need to respond to the litany of claims made in your latest, particularly the one which includes that taboo word “never”, as you’ve made no effort to establish the case for any of them.

Besides, Spectrum implies that I’m wasting their space, so I’m out.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 14 days. New replies are no longer allowed.