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Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Mistakes of History

I start this by saying I'm a "Protestant". By that I mean I'm not a Roman Catholic. I do not subscribe to the Roman Catholic structure of authority. In their structure, the way you determine what we are to believe and how we are to live is threefold: The Church, the Bible, and Tradition. By "the Church", of course, they mean mostly "papal authority" as well as whatever else the Roman Catholic Church declares to be true. (That is, it's not the individuals of the Church, nor individual reading of Scripture, nor personal tradition. Nor is it culture, society, or "the norm".) I am not one who is in that structure.

Having said that, I do have a deep respect for Church history. When Jesus promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit, He told them, "He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). I take that very seriously. I believe, then, that the canon was closed by the end of the Apostles' lives (including Paul). It was recognized by the mid 4th century, but it was closed when God's direct Apostles (messengers) finished writing it. "All truth." The part that followed -- some 2000 years now -- has been explanation, clarification, and correction. Given the fact that the Spirit would lead Christ's disciples into all truth, and given the fact that Jesus said, "I will build My church", I believe, then, that orthodox Christianity -- that Christianity which is based on God's true doctrines -- has existed from that time. Thus, if I have orthodox beliefs, I should be able to trace them back to the beginning, or I would be concerned. Therefore, I have a deep respect for Church history because in it I can compare what I believe with what has been believed for the history of the Church and see if I've strayed or if I'm on track.

It is, then, with some amazement that I see so many voices being lifted today declaring something new. Oh, it's not just today, to be sure. The current popular eschatological view of the "pre-Trib Rapture" -- the whole "Dispensational Premillenialism -- didn't make its appearance until the mid 1800's. But it seems like we have a new "crop", so to speak, coming up these days. We're quite sure, for instance, that even though the Church has always held a patriarchal view of authority and family that they were always mistaken and, thanks to modern views, we've finally figured out that such a perspective was wrong. We know today that, even though marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman that today it is simply "a union" which could include any gender (although, apparently, they're not willing to embrace multiple partners or, for that matter, multiple genders, a really new thing). Homosexual behavior has always been seen as a violation of God's law, but today our fine Bible scholars have figured out that it never meant to say such a thing and all those centuries of Bible readers were wrong, wrong, wrong.

It only gets more amazing when you look at matters like the ones I've listed as compared with the matters in which the Church has encountered disagreements. They've fought (sometimes literally) about quite a lot of things. How are we saved? Who is Jesus? What books are in the Bible? What is the nature of the Atonement? What is the proper method of baptism? What is the proper version of the Bible? What do we name our churches? (Seriously, they've actually disagreed on that, too.) Lots and lots of disagreements. So when you find agreement on a topic -- unbroken agreement -- one would think that such a thing should be settled. So, while there have been a variety of eschatological theories and there have been large battles on the divinity of Christ, the Church has always held that wives are to submit to their husbands (to rank themselves under their husbands' authority), that the Bible is patriarchal in its approach to the Church and to family, that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. These have been set without question for 2000 years and beyond. Yet these are the new "mistakes of Church history".

It is absolutely baffling to me how anyone decides that "We've figured it out and they've been wrong all this time!" I've never actually heard anyone say that, but there is no other possible conclusion when they hold up as true that which contradicts the Church convictions of the millennia. No, the Church doesn't get to determine what is true or not. On the other hand, if Jesus is to be trusted and if the Holy Spirit is to be reliable, then it would seem to me that new things would be inconceivable, that new doctrines and interpretations would make no sense at all. The alternative, to me, is to say that Jesus was mistaken and that the Holy Spirit was incapable and that would make it, well, not Christian, wouldn't it?

1 comment:

David said...

I think it started when we started to question authority and anyone over 30. If we question them, questioning history becomes easier. And if you hold to the belief that Christ told us things would be made clear later on (dispensational premillenialists have to say this), then new interpretations are easily accepted.