Like Button

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Thus Saith the Lord

I love the hymns. Just part of my upbringing, I suppose, although I believe it's something more. It's the content. These songs just seem to have a greater depth to them than so many that are popular today. They stand the test of time.

One I've always enjoyed is 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. Written by Louisa Stead in 1871, the song was occasioned by the drowning of her husband in an attempt to save a young boy from drowning. It is, then, the more poignant when she claims
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord."
I suppose this is why I protest so much the claim of so many these days that, just like the agnostic who holds that you can't know if there is a God, argue that you can't be sure of what the Word says. "All you have is opinion," they might say. "You can't say, 'Thus saith the Lord'." And the grace and comfort Mrs. Stead experienced is swept away in a blind argument.

Is it true? Was Mrs. Stead (and everyone else who rests in God's Word as knowable) wrong? Is it a fact that all we have is opinion? I don't think so. If it is true, then all we have is an opinion, not a faith or a knowable doctrine or truth. It's purely subjective. "Christianity to me" is all we have without any actual "correct". What then?

If God is to be believed, the Scriptures originated from Him (2 Tim 3:16). They are man-penned, but not man-made. This means that they are true (since God is true) and trustworthy (since God is trustworthy). The question, then, is knowing what they say. On the face of it we shouldn't have a question. Given the disagreements of honest Christians on certain texts, the Bible is not always easy to figure out. So we can't know anything, right? That would be a faulty conclusion. The correct conclusion would be that some of the Bible is difficult to figure out.

Understanding Scripture requires effort (2 Peter 3:16). It has to be handled rightly (2 Tim 2:15). It has to be a matter of practice (Heb 5:14). Ultimately, God's truth is explained by God's Spirit (John 16:13). Now, in my view, this one is key. If the Spirit leads His disciples into His truth, it would stand to reason that His disciples would agree on what that truth is. Where they disagree there must be a conflict between those learning from the Spirit and those who are not. Thus, I find those areas of agreement to be quite compelling. Many prefer to focus on the disagreement. "See? Christians have disputed over this stuff since the beginning. How can we know?" It's true that there have been disputes from the beginning, but I would suggest that a large amount has not been disputed and ought to provide a solid base of understanding.

For instance, at no time in all of Christian history (and prior) did anyone understand the texts on homosexual behavior to mean something other than homosexual behavior was a sin. Today and today only are there voices of dissent, as if "We've finally figured it out and they've been wrong the whole time!" This isn't an assault on Church history; this is an assault on the Holy Spirit whom Christ said would lead His own into all truth. Apparently He failed for 2,000 years. They'll point to how some who called themselves Christians in the 18th and 19th century found slavery acceptable in their bibles, and they were wrong. But it was not always thus (and the argument doesn't hold up in the Bible), making it a poor example and false argument. (The argument "Science has proven that Genesis was wrong in its creation story" is worse.)

There are lots of reasons for failing to understand Scripture. The first and most obvious would be that the person doing the reading doesn't belong to Christ. These particular folks, while perhaps not aware of their condition (Matt 7:21-23), are called "blinded" by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4) and are "not able to understand" the things of God (1 Cor 2:14). (Note that this is a lack of ability -- "not able".) Being hostile to God (Rom 8:7), it would stand to reason that they wouldn't properly interpret His Word. Some are deceived by human doctrines (Matt 15:9) or pressured by false teachers (Gal 1:6-9). And there are other reasons. Laziness, a mind corrupted by sin, animosity to the truth ... lots of reasons. But most of these become obvious when held up to the light of the Holy Spirit leading His own to the truth. I think you'll find that on a large number of doctrines found in Scripture there has been agreement in the Church since the beginning.

Does this solve all the problems? No, of course not. But I think if you're diligent (2 Tim 2:15) and careful, constantly immersing your understanding in Scripture as opposed to the world's opinions (Rom 12:2), you'll find a lot more is clear than you realized. It might make you more skeptical of the novel, the "latest", and especially "current scholars" who are coming up with "new and improved" understandings in direct contradiction to the entire history of Church understanding. But I think you'll find that it's clearer than you thought.

The bottom line, of course, is that Mrs. Stead was right. It is sweet to rest in Jesus and His Word, to know "Thus saith the Lord", even if it is in opposition to some of the loudest voices today. Remember, Jesus opposed some of the loudest voices of His day as well.


Alec said...

A hearty, "Amen".

Craig said...

It ignores the fact that Jesus clearly expected that there were things that could be known, and the He expected us to know them and to act on them. Personally, I think it comes back to the anti-supernatural/pro-materialism bias you talked about. For the Bible to be what it claims requires some sort of supernatural action from God in order for it to be passed down accurately. But, as long as you can remove the supernatural and subject the Bible to both the bias as well as the limitations of other texts, then it makes it so much easier to lower everything to opinion.

Of course reducing everything to the lowest common denominator of opinion, it also elevates the stature of whoever holds the opinion which lowers the stature of God.

Stan said...