Just Following the Bible

 

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"We just follow the Bible,"  was the ultimate put-down, usually said with some degree of smugness, meaning, "You guys don't"  

 

In my early days, attending charismatic churches, "I speak with tongues more than you all,"  was perhaps the most quoted Pauline saying, usually said with the zeal of those making a new discovery.   Surely those who were non-charismatic did not know that was in the Bible.  Paul said this, and certainly what was good enough for Paul was good enough. 

 

Later on it was Baptistic churches.  "But we are buried with him in baptism," punching the word "buried."  That settled it.  "We just follow the Bible," was the ultimate put-down of those who sprinkled the water.  The Arminians I met from time to time [and I was one for a while] would say,  "Jesus is not willing than any should perish, so predestination is wrong."      Of course you can lose your salvation, my friends would say, for the Bible says that those who "endure to the end shall be saved."   Why would folks want to argue with the Bible?    "Nobody can put all these things together," my father would say, another way of saying that truth is unknowable.

 

This is what might be called "Stream of Consciousness Hermaneutics."   Wise in our own eyes and not a little spiritually lazy, we answer matters before we hear them, set aside the opinions of others, and are not a little smug that we are following the Scriptures and that others just don't get it.  We, of course, do.  It is an affliction that plagues all denominations.

 

"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith."  (Romans 12:6)  As Charles Hodge says here:  "The ordinary subjective sense of the word [faith] does not suit the passage.  The amount or strength of faith does not determine either the extent to which the gift of prophecy is enjoyed, or the manner in which it is exercised....  As God cannot contradict himself, it follows that anything inconsistent with the teachings of these men [inspired writers] though proceeding from one claiming to be a prophet, must be false, and the pretension of its author to inspiration unfounded....  Those who thought themselves prophets should be careful to speak nothing but truth, to conform to the standard."  [Commentary on Romans]

 

There is a system of teaching in the Bible (the proportion of faith).  Some parts are more important than others, but it all fits together.  There are small things, and things of desperate importance.  Some passages are qualified by others.   Some statements are qualified by their context or by the context of Scripture in general.  Some statements are qualified by the meaning of the words at the time they were written.

 

It is hard work to reconcile seeming contradictions, but this passage so commands us.  It requires humility for each man to stay in his own sphere and recognize his limitations and to esteem other better than himself, but we are required to do so.   It is not necessarily a good thing for a person to say, "I am just going to do what the Scriptures say," if he hasn't the slightest idea of what they say, and is unwilling and too proud to learn.

 

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