"Did God REALLY Say...???"

The Word of God. At various places in the Scripture, it describes itself as:But there are voices at work today, just as in Eden. Voices that question the validity and veracity of God's Word. Voices asking, "Did God really say...?" Voices that seek to shake faith, to rattle the cages of the faithful, and to devour, choke out, or scorch seeds that might otherwise grow. These voices crop up in "Christian" blogs, in homeschool circles, and within the "church" across America.

Interestingly enough, Christians who do so are not novel in their attempt to makeover the Scriptures. Thomas Brooks, writing in 1665 wrote:
"Are there not many among us that turn the whole history of the Bible, into an allegory and that turn Christ, and sin, and death, and the soul, and hell, and heaven, and all into an allegory? Many have and many do miserably pervert the Scriptures by turning them into vain and groundless allegories. ... Oh friends! it is dangerous to bring in allegories where Scripture does not clearly and plainly warrant them, and to take those words figuratively which should be taken properly."
It is not only the modern church that sometimes wants to adapt Scripture for its own purposes and comfort.

Though it's certainly not wrong to ask questions, or to seek to understand, we need to be wary of any voices that press us to doubt God's Word. Our sure foundation is the strong, dependable Word of God. When we allow ourselves to apply portions of it, but write off other parts, we taint all of it.

While even the very intelligent among us can be challenged, strengthened, and taught by Scripture, it was written so that even the most simple among us-- the uneducated man in Uganda, the seven-year-old who is for the first time reading God's Words for himself, the person in the fifteenth century without the internet and a myriad of commentaries at their fingertips, and the illiterate woman in Kyrgyzstan who only hears the Word as read by others-- can/could understand and believe and be saved.

Christ Himself was first revealed to dirty, simple shepherds. He spoke His gospel to the poor, the needy, and the sinful, as well as to the religious and educated. Though we Christian blog writers & frequenters are often of the latter variety, we need to remember that His gospel is meant for all, and indeed was received most heartily by those in the former category.

We must be constantly on our guard against those who seek to delude our trust in God's precious Word. Our enemy loves to steal, kill, and destroy... and just like a predator seeks to peel a baby away from the safety of the pack and its mother, our enemy seeks to peel off the vulnerable and weak among us by causing them to question that which our hope is built upon: Jesus Christ, as revealed in His matchless Word.

Psalm 119: 9-16
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.


Hannah. said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog. This was a good post! Oh, and yes, please introduce me to any SA friends you have. I really want to make as many connections as possible :) Great to finally "meet" you--even if it's in cyberspace.

Ruth said...

This is very true.
We are privileged because many have gone before us and have left a legacy of insight and study.
But we need to approach God's word for ourselves, and not doubt.

It's funny how you've posted about this now, while I'm involved in a long discussion online regarding "what God said and what he didn't say". It's amazing how just adding one word you can change the whole meaning, and by assuming one preconception must be true, you can do away with a whole chunk of Scripture!

Serena said...

SO well said!

Rachel said...

So timely for me. Well, this admonition is ALWAYS timely for me!


Anonymous said...

Jess, this question may anger you, but isn't it possible that errors of translation were introduced when the New Testament was written down in Greek, whereas Jesus would have spoken to his disciples in Aramaic (reciting some prayers in Hebrew)?

Clearly Jews living in Judea during Jesus' lifetime were not routinely praying and preaching in Greek.

Also, there are differences in the accounts of what Jesus said, even in the Gospels (e.g. two versions of the Lord's Prayer), to say nothing of the statements attributed to Jesus in books by other disciples, which were excluded from the New Testament.

There are some textual inconsistencies in the Old Testament as well.

Laurie B

Helen said...

Hi Jess, I really enjoy reading your blog... thanks for taking the time in sharing the subjects that you do. I chose your blog as one of the blogs I read that encourages me for the Lemonade Award. http://throughourknowledgeofhim.blogspot.com/2009/01/lemonade-award.html

hugs Helen

Bethany Hudson said...

Jess, I agree with you. However, as a Catholic I have to ask: How, then, do you reconcile the thousands of factions within Protestantism? Each of these churches claims to be following the Word of God (some claim to have a monopoly on the truth), and yet they differ so drastically in belief and practice.

I hope I don't come off as rude. I sincerely am curious about this, since I have had many, many Protestants tell me that "all you have to do is obey God's Word" and yet none of them can agree on what God's Word says.


Jess said...

Your question doesn't anger me.

I understand your question, and I'm no scholar or expert on this in the least. But what I understand is this... from people that I trust and that have researched these things in depth: any places in Scripture where there is even the possibility of potential errors are such that they would not change any significant doctrine or alter anything in the practices of the church.

And I appreciate you ignoring the statements attributed to Jesus by books that were unrecognized. The reason such books and statements were (and remain) unrecognized by the church is that they were deemed inauthentic, either in authorship or in subject matter... and certainly not seen as actual Scripture by the early church.

Thanks for the question. Again, I'm not an expert on these things. But my trust is in a sovereign God to preserve and carry His Word forward in ways that are generally accurate and reflective of His glory for those who seek Him with all their hearts.


Jess said...

Hi Bethany,
Thanks for the question.

Full confession up front: I'm not by any means an expert on church structure, the history of protestantism/catholicism, or basic ecclesiology. But I'll say this: among Protestants (I'm not sure about what Catholics believe on this), there is a basic belief of priesthood of the believer... that each individual believer can come before God's throne through the blood of Christ (Hebrews outlines this clearly)... AND that each individual believer has freedom of conscience in varying areas, both concerning doctrinal issues and personal preference, and can do so in peace and faith (Romans 14 gives a good outline of this).

So, generally, various doctrines that have cropped up are evidences of those varying interpretations of Scripture, etc. I admit, it is difficult to understand and navigate so many of the differences, and yet... for Protestants, the willingness to live with those difficulties and tensions are "worth it" in comparison with having a central personality or body that hands down what one can or can't believe or do, thereby circumventing one's own wrestling with the Lord on various issues of conscience.

Neither one is without problems... such is the nature of being sinful humans in ANY institution.

As for the comment that "some claim to have a monopoly on the truth"... I have certainly seen this, and witnessed it firsthand, within my own extended family. And I think if we all look inward, we'll find that tendency alive and well in our own hearts-- to not only want to be "right" but to convince others of our rightness so that we can rest easy.

But resting easy in having it all "right" doesn't seem to be the biblical role of the active Christian. He presses on, fights the good fight, lives with "mysteries" while seeking to understand them more, has weakness within him and yet still fights, wrestles with convictions, putting off the old, suiting up in the armor of God, putting on the new man... all of these things indicate an ongoing fight. An ongoing race. And an ongoing relationship of learning and growing.

So... long, indefinite answer to a short question, LOL... but I believe that those who seek to know God-- not through "experience" or emotion or even through solely the books/words of others, but who prize His Word, and who seek to be His disciples, will find Him. Regardless of denomination.

And, another rabbit trail in all of this is that He is sanctifying all of those He calls His own all of the time, and yet, He teaches different lessons to different believers at different times. There are some "norms" to spiritual maturity, yes, and yet there seem to be things that are taught to people at different times in their walk-- some once they are old, some when they are young, etc...

I think it requires us to be wise as serpents in all of this... to examine Scripture in context, and in light of the WHOLE counsel of God's Word. If we take one verse and build a doctrine solely on it, ignoring other portions of Scripture, we're not being faithful. If we take one experience and then go to the Word to find validity for it, rather than looking to the Word to see how we ought to live and judging our experiences on THAT, we're not being faithful. It's hard. It's not an easy thing to talk about... and yet, it's infinitely worth it.

I'm sure I haven't answered your questions in full (truthfully, I'm not sure of many who could)... but perhaps these random thoughts have furthered the discussion a bit.

Elizabeth said...

If I may step in for just a brief second...I'm a Greek scholar (among other things) and I just had to say: there are a few points of Protestant/Catholic contention that DO come down to some translation issues. The most notable is the passage in which Jesus is described as the "brother of..." a number of people. In the Greek, it's written as "adelphos", brother (Thus "Phil-adelphia", the city of brotherly love). But in Aramaic and Hebrew, it's a much more vague word: it simple means male relative within 2 degrees or relationship. First (and I *believe* second)cousins are referred to with the same term. This raises, of course, all kinds of ruckus when you get into the question of whether or not Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ.

You also get into some sticky verb issues with the word "Repent". In one form, it means "repent", in another, it means "do penance": another sticking point between protestant and apostolic churches. The problem is that the form in Greek is ambiguous, and the distinction doesn't exist at all in Latin and English.

Of course, neither of these issues (nor any that I'm aware of) touch on what one would really call the "essentials" of the faith. IMHO, LOL!

E03 said...

i just want you to know that your blog encourages me. i dont frequently check very many blogs of Christian people i dont know, but yours is one i really do enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Elizabeth for the comment. I am much less familiar with the New Testament than others on this thread, but I know that for centuries Jewish scholars have disagreed on the interpretations of various Old Testament passages. If you look at an annotated Hebrew Bible, the original text may be just one-fourth of the page at the top, and there will be note after note about how this or that scholar interpreted these words and those words.

I have observed Jews arguing over what God actually said to Moses, or whether Jacob literally wrestled with an angel or had a dream and woke up with a sciatica attack.

Even with my limited knowledge of the New Testament, I know there are some translation issues. Some people say there was "no room at the inn" for Mary and Joseph, but obviously they did not have hotels as we understand them in that culture. Probably they went to relatives of Joseph who had no room in the "upper chamber" where most of the family slept. In ancient times it was not uncommon for some members of the extended family to sleep in the same room as livestock. In medieval times this was common in Europe too.

I have read that a word often translated to mean "virgin" can refer to any young woman in Hebrew.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I believe people of faith can engage in textual analysis or even disagreement about what God actually said without losing the essence of Biblical teachings.

If certain passages in Exodus were revised later by rabbis (as the Golden Calf section may have been), it does not change the fundamental meaning of the Exodus story: we were slaves in Egypt until God freed us, and then we had to spend 40 years in the desert because the generation who were slaves in Egypt were not ready to be free.

Laurie B

Anonymous said...

I have just a few thoughts here.

Matthew 22:23 shows some the Sadducees bringing one of their disagreements to Jesus. This seems a lot like one of the arguments among Jewish scholars that Laurie mentioned in her comments. In that situation, Jesus replied to the Sadducees that they were mistaken (verse 29).

The take-away for me has been that we can have our doctrinal disagreements, and we can "agree to disagree," but sometimes people are just plain-old mistaken.

Personally, I went through a period in my life when I found it extremely distressing to talk with Christians from different denominations who all said they were following Christ and yet they had directly conflicting ideas and more-or-less said that 'the others' were wrong.

This can be a very difficult matter when someone is really trying to get a clue on God's intent and there are a whole bunch of Christians, saying they're following Jesus, and saying they know the answer to the doctrinal matter you're trying to understand and they give opposite answers to your questions.

Listening to various Christian scholars talk in technical depth about scholarly and theological subjects such as Dispensationalism (and so forth) -- and listening to them differ with one another on various matters -- did not help much.

That period of my life had an effect of making me aware of some of the deep frustration and distress that can be felt by people who listen to Christians disagreeing with one another.

This seems to be the time for me to mention this:

In John 5:39, Jesus addresses people who study the Scriptures ... diligently ... but who don't come to Jesus to have life!

This conversation seems very important because Jesus is talking to people who are reading and who are even "studying" Scripture!

Studying and reading, and scholarship, and word-interpretations and intellectual linguistic analysis, ... these don't seem to really "cut it" by themselves .

By "cut it" I might say, in other words, that people can try to debate and win intellectual arguments with one another (and even with God, referring back to Matthew 22), and yet while doing those things can fail to enter into relationship with God.

A Moose