9.09.2009

question

This is on the website for Mars Hill Church, but this could easily be said of almost every church I know of. This illustrates how even the most reformed—who identify themselves with Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)—can be just the same in practice as Catholics are in doctrine regarding tradition. In other words, reformed Protestants criticize Catholics for allowing Tradition (the church's interpretation of Scripture) to carry equal (or close to equal) authority as Scripture. However, almost every Scripture-loving Protestant I know—including me—reads the Bible through tradition(s). Could there be any other reason why all Baptist churches must have a Sunday morning service, a Sunday night service, and a Thursday night prayer meeting (which is mostly gossip in the name of the Lord)?

So the illustration...

On Mars Hill's site, on a page titled "The Gospel", we find:

(A QUOTE FROM 1 CORINTHIANS)
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .” -1 Corinthians 15:1–4

(FOLLOWED BY THIS PARAGRAPH AND MORE)
What is the Gospel? The word gospel simply means “good news.” The central message of the Bible is the gospel, or good news, about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul provides the most succinct summary of the gospel: the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.

Did you notice anything?

1 Corinthians: "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures"
Mars Hill: "the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins"

(Notice the leap that has been made. Corinthians only says that he died for our sins. Mars Hill interprets it through a specific mechanism of atonement; namely, the he died in our place paying the penalty that we deserved. Now this may be what it means by for our sins, but it is not obviously so from this passage. In fact, it may be that in this—most succinct of all—Gospel summaries the vagueness is meant to allow for other facets of Christ's death for sin. Notice, also, how they have imported a theological definition of Christ, which means that the man Jesus is "also God." Again, this may be a true statement, but it cannot be found in this passage. In fact, the most natural translation of Christ is Messiah, which in and of itself does not imply deity.)

1 Corinthians: "that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures"
Mars Hill: "three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life."

(Notice again the leap. Corinthians merely says that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Mars Hill imports the (1) conquering of sin and death, (2) giving the gift of salvation, and (3) to all who believe. But these ideas are not in the text (I acknowledge, however, that the conquering of death does come later in the chapter). What if this interpretation is unnecessarily limited and narrow? What about the interpretation of his resurrection as triumph over evil powers? Or the first fruits of our own resurrections? Or the vindication of his message and Messiahship? See, there may be more-or a completely different-meaning to the Corinthian summary. And in this passage there is nothing about giving the gift of salvation to all who believe.)

(THE PAGE GOES ON WITH A WHOLE LOT MORE STUFF THAT IS NOT IN THE PASSAGE, BUT ONE-PARAGRAPH STICKS OUT.)
Mars Hill: "Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross."
Corinthians: "The Gospel...by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain."

(Mars Hill has made a statement about certainty and assurance that-at face value-is actually in contradiction with Corinthians. The only assurance that Paul offers here is that they will be saved if they hold fast to the word. There is the possibility that without perseverance their faith will prove to be (or actually become) in vain. In fact, these conditional statements are found a few times in Paul’s writings. He even tells the Corinthians to test themselves to see if they are in the faith.)

So, what is my point? I actually do not know. I might just be trying to show off. As my wife likes to tell me, I’m smug. Nevertheless, I think I may be able to summarize what I am trying to say like this:
Let’s acknowledge that we all read Scriptures with a tradition/interpretation.
Let’s not let those traditions become more authoritative than Scripture.
Let’s try to read the Scriptures afresh; they might have more (or different) to say to us than we are allowing.

1 comment:

David Malouf -- said...

And let us take the speck (of being the ONLY or MOST Sola Scriptura) out of our own eye...

and then maybe we'll see that the 'log' is actually a fruitful tree that doesn't need displacing!!