Recent Blog Posts

Blog Post Archives

Subscribe to Blog via Email (Version 1: Wordpress)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog via Wordpress and receive notifications of new posts by email. You will receive emails every time—and as soon as—a new post is made.

Subscribe to Blog via Email (Version 2: Feedburner)

Use this link to subscribe to this blog via Feedburner and receive notifications of new posts by email:

You will receive just one email at the end of the day (around 11:00 PM Eastern Time) summarizing all the posts made during the day.

You may also use the “By Email” link in the upper right hand corner of the page.

The Bible: A handy tool for reading God’s mind

The remarkable thing about the controversies embroiling our mainline churches—partly, but by no means exclusively, involving sexual behavior—is that they concern doctrines expounded by folks who claim they have God’s enthusiastic support for flouting both scriptural authority and catholic order.

Such people claim they can “discern” God’s mind because his revelation to mankind was not, as the Church formerly taught, completed in the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. According to them, the revelation process is an on–going affair, continuing apace until they “discern” when God wants them to stop.

Now “discernment” is a very ancient concept. Indeed, since the church’s very inception, Christians have been trying to discern the word of God. But until quite recently, for the orthodox, at least, it was a relatively straightforward business: If you wondered what God thought about something or other, you looked it up in the Bible and the Scripture told you what God’s opinion was.

Today, however, the folks who dominate the leadership of our mainline churches are much too sophisticated for that simple–minded stuff. Today’s cutting edge theologians “discern” God’s mind by endlessly discussing the most outlandish of notions and then taking a vote on the matter.

Since they are the only folks debating the issues and voting on them, they invariably carry the day. Ask how they justify this strangely one-sided practice and they’ll tell you the church has been doing this sort of thing since the Apostolic Age.

Judging from the results, however, I can’t help feeling that if these people spent as much time reading The Bible as they spend talking about what God “really thinks” and voting on their conclusions, the results would be rather different.

After all, if you don’t read up on the matters you’re voting, on you are liable to get hold of the wrong end of the stick.

For example, not so long ago an Episcopal bishop, noted for his enthusiasm for overthrowing doctrines established in the days of the Apostles, proclaimed: “It took the Church 30 years to realize that gentiles could be Christians. [And] it took 1,830 years for the Church to realize that slavery was wrong …”

However, if he’d bothered to read the Bible before opening his mouth, he might not have made such a fool of himself. He was wrong on both counts, you see. If he had taken a glance at the Book of Acts, he would have learned that a year or so after the resurrection, St. Philip had baptized an Ethiopian eunuch—a gentile if ever there was one (Acts 8:16–39).

And he would also have discovered that St. Peter had his vision on the roof of the house in Joppa and baptized the gentile Roman centurion Cornelius and his entire gentile household (Acts 10:1–48) long before the execution of St. James the Great in AD 43 (Acts 12:2).

What’s more, he would have found out that in AD 43 the Council of Jerusalem decreed, citing Scriptural authority and Christ’s revelation, that it was wrong for Jewish Christians to ask gentile Christians to undergo the rite of circumcision.

In other words, the Council affirmed that, from its very inception, the Church had always been open to gentiles.

The notion that it took the Church 1,830 years to wake up to the evils of slavery is equally ridiculous. Read St. Paul’s Epistle to Philemon, a member of the Church at Colossae. It concerns Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave, who had gone to Rome, converted to Christianity, and devoted himself to helping St. Paul, who, at the time, was in prison awaiting trial.

Rome had a remarkably efficient secret police. As a runaway slave, Onesimus was in constant danger of betrayal, arrest, and summary execution by crucifixion. In the circumstances, the only prudent course was to send him to Philemon, with a letter aimed at reconciling master and slave.

This, then, is Paul’s Epistle to Philemon. No impartial reader could possibly construe it as evidence that Paul condoned slavery. Far from it. Paul’s letter, in fact, so radically redefines the relations between master and slave that both states are rendered quite meaningless.

Moreover, his message cannot be interpreted as applying only to the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Paul reiterates his redefinition of the master/slave relationship in his Epistle to the Colossians (Colossians 3:22—4:1).

Perhaps one of the most important lessons to be learned from St. Paul’s injunctions both to slaves and to their owners is that, on this and many other important matters, Christians by no means always follow the church’s teachings.

This, of course shouldn’t be entirely surprising. It is what sin is all about. Indeed, people have been breaking the Ten Commandments on a daily basis since God inscribed them on slabs of stone on Mount Sinai some 3,500 years ago.

The difference between then and now is that, until a few decades ago, people accepted without quibbling that breaking the commandments was sinful and required repentance.

Today, by contrast, the folks in the “discernment business” seem to think it is A-okay to break God’s rules when ever convenient, and are quite shameless about it.

The ability to “discern” God’s mind is a very convenient “gift.” Where would the Church of What’s Happening Now be without it? GPH✠

Comments are closed.