Why is the Bible, and not God, our First Core Belief?

I never once said it was not necessary to study the Scriptures. If you are familiar with my posts, you would have to see that I value handling the Scriptures as accurately as possible, and that they are crucial for knowing God, and what it means to live as his people in this world. Even if you disagree with my conclusions or theology.

But, that brings us to the issue at hand. The fact that you, others, myself, and so many Christian groups have various and sundry disagreements on what the scriptures are saying in many places, should alert us to the fact that there is a dichotomy between the Scriptures and God. While they are the primary revelatory source to learn about God and Christ, they are not the same as God. They are not God.

The Scriptures in their production and their study involves human beings. It is humans, while inspired, who wrote the Scriptures. And, much of it reflects the limitations of human language, culture, and even understandings of God. Read the Psalms where the writers ask for God to break the teeth of their adversaries, visit vengeance on their children and grandchildren, and speak of him as if he was a warrior, tribal god as one example. See the general idea that the writers had of the earth being flat and the atmosphere being a dome above as another. There is more.

Add to that the reality that we are all engaged in the work of interpretation, and that none of us, with our own limitations, and personal or traditional biases, comes to the bible as a blank slate, or has a God’s eye view of truth in totality. Thus, it is clear that there is a difference between our human engagement with the Scriptures, even led by the Holy Spirit, and God himself.

This means that we need to approach the scriptures and tout our doctrinal knowledge with humility, knowing that we know in part, as Paul stated. It means that we also need to be ready for God to sometimes move even in opposition to what we think biblical truth is, as we see he did in the Scriptures themselves.

The story of Jesus and the gospel, and the dynamics of the early church reveals this. No one, not one person in Israel, expected a dying and rising messiah outside of Jesus himself. The guardians of the Scriptures and the orthodox readers of it missed him. They could point to plenty in the OT texts that pointed to a national liberator as messiah. A warrior king like David. We try to pass this off with the statement that the Jews should have known that this was about Jesus’s second coming, not his first. I don’t buy that reasoning. The fact is, there is next to nothing in the OT that makes the delineation between two advents of the Messiah. There is plenty that points to a national liberator of Israel as messiah.

How did the NT writers come to see the OT in the way that they did? I would say that they experienced the power of Jesus in his dying and his rising. They received the Holy Spirit through their faith in him, and their eyes were opened to see the Scriptures and their entire world in a brand new light. Jesus, and the power of his Spirit were first, the Scriptural proof and reshaping of the OT narrative by the apostles and NT writers is what followed. Jesus, and experiencing him, was clearly above the Scriptures and their understanding of them.

It was the same for the acceptance of Gentiles into equal fellowship in the community of believers, totally apart from circumcision and the covenant of the Torah. Again, the biblically orthodox could point to scads of textual evidence that supported circumcision and the terms of the Sinai covenant as necessary for belonging. What happened? Jesus was preached, and the Spirit was poured out upon believing Gentiles, just as it was upon believing Jews. It was this experience of Christ and his Spirit by Gentiles apart from the Law that was argued at the Jerusalem council as the evidence of God’s move, over against all the Scriptural arguments against it. The theology for this didn’t come until later in letters like Galatians and Romans. God and his sovereign action came first.

History continues to display where those who hold the Scriptures and their views of them on a practically equal level with God have been on the wrong side of it. The biblical support for slavery, on the basis of explicit texts, that were used by many US southern Christians, is an example, while the Holy Spirit was moving others to call for freedom for the oppressed. The similar reactionary use of scriptures during the Civil Rights movement, while others were moved by the Spirit to call for and even give their lives for equality. And, I would go as far as saying the use of scriptures to squelch the obvious move and power of the Spirit through female pastors in China and all over the world is a contemporary example. The Spirit moves upon dedicated women equally with, and more powerfully in some cases, than many men, and instead of celebrating and supporting what God is doing through them, the scriptures are trotted out to say why women cannot be recognized as pastors.

Unless we want to adopt the 1st c. view of Judaism of the Torah, that it was the workman at God’s side through which he created the world in wisdom, and that it was a living power itself, (practically an idolatrous view of the scriptures), then we need to admit that the scriptures, and our view of them is limited, that we are all involved in the hermeneutical circle, all engaged in the task of interpreting as best we can, and that God and his Messiah are above the scriptures and us all.

In fact, this is what the gospel of John says in its prologue… that Jesus was actually the one at God’s side, through whom he created all things. It puts him above the scriptures…to quote scripture!

Thanks…

Frank

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Frank –
You also failed to mention that THEOLOGY persons who are in leadership
positions of our World Church and insist on THEIR brand of Theology have
been attempting to bring the Doctrine of Subordination in the Godhead to
the church. That The 3 Gods of the Universe are NOT Equal.
And because THEY are not equal neither are Human Men and Women to
be Equal. And therefore, Women have no place in the giving of the Gospel
on the same status and benefits as Men.

Another Doctrine these Theologians have been pressing on ALL the theologians
from the top down to the “country preachers” is that NOT ALL of Adam and Eve’s
relatives are children of God, are loved by God, and are eligible to be in the family
of God through Baptism and in Fellowship with ALL of God’s other children.

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Hmmm, good question. Not sure. Never been there… :wink: :innocent:

But I am with you. I support your arguments, and I am glad you are taking the time to write them down here - it saves many of us a lot of time…

This is way too much for the traditional SDA Macho culture to take. It is intolerable, unacceptable, and anathema to those men who are kept captive in the horrendous male headship prison. They cannot live along such a terrible threat, of women being Christian ministers.

Does it say something about their character?..

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George –
Must be a whole lot of un-expressed FEARS. Fears the Male Pastors at the
Local Level, AND the Male Pastors at the Conference, Union, Division Levels
are UNWILLING to explore.
Explore the position of WHY they assume their FEARS of paid Women in
pastorate positions are valid and important to hold on to.
We see that in several Unions there does not seem to be any fear of women.
And actually see these women as welcome colleagues in the giving of the Gospel.

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Regrettably, as evidenced by voluminous, vociferous and vehement quotes in their sermons /. articles. / blog posts / statements EGW is the core belief of some Adventists rather than God or the Bible. I speak mainly of our illustrious leader TW, but also of those bloggers on our “sister” blog post FULCRUM 7, plus many fundamentalist Adventist friends .

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Unfortunately, any dialog among “faithful” SDAs includes quoting EGW as the source of theological authority for any idea. Adventism does not support the idea of the Bible being the only source of belief and doctrine, which any Christian/Protestant Church should do.

Fulcrum7? HaHa,… good luck! Those people are “extremely faithful”… :wink:

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This is one of the reasons why I am most thankful that no member of my immediate or extended family is currently in denominational employment. I will certainly discourage my children from entering denominational employment.

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Frank,

Thank you for your long response. It was very interesting to read. But I’d like to make some remarks concerning some of your points.

I would rather say that the fact that Christians disagree with one another is primary because we don’t use the same methods and premises to study or interpret the Bible.

Nobody, as far as I know, said that the Scriptures were God.

God never moved against biblical truths. What the people erroneously believed was not biblical truth so it is normal that God didn’t act accordingly their erroneous conceptions.

I would disagree here. When we read the book of Daniel (Daniel 9), we see that the Messiah was supposed to come and be cut off in the middle of the last prophetic week (the last week of the 70 week prophecy). Since the 70 week prophecy was not finished when the Messiah was cut off, it is obvious that this coming of the Messiah didn’t correspond to the triumphant coming of the promised Christ above all when we consider the fact that the prophecy speak about war and desolation after the Messiah is cut off (of course, with hindsight everything is clearer).

Then we read the texts concerning the triumphant coming of Christ and the establishment of God’s people. Obviously, this is not the same event as the one concerning the cutting off of the Messiah.

So, the problem was not that there was no indication of two advents of the Messiah. It was rather that the Jews didn’t accept the idea of the Messiah suffering and dying (meaning losing, in their mind). In fact, we can see that in the reaction of Peter when Jesus told the disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem and that He would be arrested and put to death. Peter didn’t want to hear that.

Before experiencing the death and resurrection of Jesus and before receiving the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, they received the teachings of Jesus. Even after his resurrection, Christ used Scripture to teach the disciples about himself (see Luke 24, above all Luke 24:25-27, Luke 24:32, and Luke 24:44-49).

What is interesting in that chapter of Luke is that we see that Jesus never said that “experiencing him” was “above the Scriptures and their understanding of them” as you put it. In the contrary, we can see Jesus Himself, time and time again, directing the disciples to the Scriptures, EVEN after his resurrection. So, while it is obvious that what is important is to have a relationship with Jesus, Christ never opposed this relationship to having a strong connection to Scripture, that is, Jesus is never trying to create a dichotomy between himself and the Scriptures. After all, Jesus said that they testify about Him and the Bible calls Jesus, the Word.

I will strongly disagree with you here.

First, like I said, nobody is equaling Scripture with God. But believers recognize that God speaks through the Bible.

Second, you artificially selected examples of misuse of the Bible while conveniently passing over examples where the Bible was used correctly. Speaking of slavery, the abolitionists also used the Bible to denounce slavery. Martin Luther King used biblical images and stories during the Civil Rights movement. And, by the way, how can you say they were moved by the Spirit only? Were you there?

Third, when someone misuses the Bible, the problem is with that someone, not Scripture. When someone abuses his freedom of speech, do you blame the freedom of speech principle or do you blame the person?

Again, you are trying to create a false dichotomy as if we had to choose between God and Scripture. This is worrisome to say the least.

To me, when people try to put the Bible aside, it is generally because there is something in it that they don’t like.

I can’t give you a definitive answer to your question. But I will tell you why I think the bible should be our first fundamental belief. I spent most of my adult life as a militant Athiest. I reviled God and all who believed in Him. But my image of God was warped and twisted. The god I didn’t believe in I still don’t believe in. The God that I do believe in is the loving God of scripture. Scripture paints for us a picture of God that is beautiful and holy. There are tons of gods and spirits and belief systems out there and honestly some of them are beautiful and or just seem like it. I absolutely believe that God has crafted those belief systems in order to reach and save people in His way, in ways that what we believe wouldn’t be able to accomplish. But this is the way He knew I would be saved. Saved from my selfishness, saved from my fear, saved from my hate of Him. He also knew this was the way lots of others would be saved from those very things. So yes I think the bible should be our first belief not because we make it an idol. But because without it how would we even know who we were worshipping? It shapes our theology(picture of God). How can it not come first?

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Humanity is searching for answers… that is for sure. Is it any wonder that the Tree of Knowledge has grown quite large indeed! And we are lost looking for answers in a head-full of knowledge when perhaps we have forgotten the spiritual side of us, spiritual aspects.

Perhaps we should remember that we are first of all spiritual beings sent to earth to have a physical experience? Today we live so solidly in our physical realm we forgot we must also live in a spiritual way. Perhaps this is why we focus on the Bible book (a physical object we can see) and forget so easily about God who is unseen.

My understanding is that the mind is a function of the brain that turns perception into language. But words and language only mirrors reality (and does so like a dark image). Scriptures do describe that someday we will see clearly. Good news.

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40 years ago I decided to follow the principle of “Sola Scriptura.” So far it’s working very well.

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My dear Matthew Quartey, you (and Dr. Weiss) raise some interesting questions. My first impression was that Harold’s question was intended as rhetorical and didactic, but I see you are serious. So here is a serious answer.

Unless we have met God or heard His voice personally, the Bible is our primary vital and living connection to Him. Nature too, as seen in Romans and reverberating throughout the writings of EGW is a second book, but so marred by the presence of sin in the world that despite its beauty and wonder, it can easily be misread.

The Bible declares itself to be the living word of God. Despite translations, copyist errors seen in a few variations of manuscripts, and frequent misunderstandings due to cultural, theological, archeological and other historic evidence or lack thereof, the Bible is our only universally compelling and common source for our hope of knowing God and having faith in Him.

Because the Bible is our only common root and hope of knowing God, His creation, His morality, His will; our only hope of understanding our relationship with God and each other, and how we fit into a divine plan and should respond to Him and others, THE BIBLE MUST COME FIRST in the list of Fundamental Beliefs. We can only talk together about any belief in the light of the Bible. Even then, unless we are firmly established in our confident belief in the fundamental veracity of the Bible beyond the oft feebleness of our current understanding, we must yet recognize its inerrancy when rightly understood. Only in that way do we have common ground for considering any other belief no matter how many or few of them we think there should be.

It is for this reason the framers of the SDA Fundamental Beliefs placed The Bible as the essential starting point at the head of the list.

You complain that the discussion of each belief is too long. I have spent years studying these. I find the language concise but loaded with theological terms which many of our lay members find difficult to comprehend individually, let alone when used together to make each belief short but beautifully precise.

My wife and I wrote a book for our young people, Bible Truth, which put the then 27 SDA Beliefs into short simple words as well as providing Bible studies and fun learning exercises. You may find a copy in the Andrews University Library Heritage Collection. It will not answer all your questions. However, as one grandmother who purchased a copy for her children and then other copies for them because she worked through the first copy and decided to keep it for herself; she said that although she had been an SDA all her life, she finally understood it for the first time. Now that she understood it, she believed and loved God and her church even more.

As to the topic of the trinity, that has been, and still is, a hot topic in some Adventist circles. It is there because most of us do believe it is Scriptural, but also because, and this is not the only or best reason, because we wanted to make clear to other Christian denominations, that we are not a cult. To most evangelicals and other mainline denominations, even those who allow for all our other differences of interpretation or understanding, a failure to recognize the Trinity as Scriptural is, to them, an identifying mark of an unchristian cult. It is a motivational plus, but not our primary reason for including The Trinity distinctively as one of our fundamental beliefs.

As for any other questions you may have on the law, etcetera, feel free to come to our PMC Sabbath School class here at Andrews U. It is in the back of the first section from the front, just left of the center aisle facing front, unless the new renovations change that location soon. Pastor Bobienco or I would be happy to speak with you.

Well said Pastor Ken!

Many honest souls believe in God, but there are gods of many descriptions.
I believe in the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ.
It is important to define whom one is worshiping. That is why it is good to make the Bible the first tenet of belief, so that the Bible defines the object of our worship.

FOR EXAMPLE,
I worship the Creator God, as described in the Bible.
But many “Christians” believe in god AND Darwinian evolution, which is incompatible with Holy Writ.
They are honest in their opinion, but guided by the religion of Darwinism instead of science and Holy Scripture. If the first tenet of their belief were the the Bible they might not have fallen into this deception.

Of course God has “sheep of other folds”, so there is salvation for them also.

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