Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do new revelations negate the teachings of scripture?

Today's reading from James 3:1-12 contains a number of excellent talking points and one line that raises an important question. As we shall see, a similar problem pops up in the Gospel reading.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
Did you catch the problem? Modern desalination plants use reverse osmosis to turn salty water into fresh. Do new discoveries negate the teachings of scripture?
This is an example that opponents of Biblical inerrancy might pull out when they argue against taking the Bible too seriously. The following arguments show the problems that you create once you raise doubts (however unfounded) about the authority of the writers of the Epistles.

  • James is wrong, so I wonder what else he got wrong
  • James was right at the time, so I wonder what else is not applicable to us today?
  • James was writing metaphorically, so does it matter if he was right or wrong?

These lines of reasoning are all problematic, raising questions of the value of the Bible as a spiritual resource.

Next, let's take a look at today's Gospel reading from Mark 8:27-38,
And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare′a Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Eli′jah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he charged them to tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Uh oh, to many the "take up his cross" line looks suspiciously like the writer, knowing the ending of the story, inserted words into Jesus' mouth, and if the writer did that in this verse, where else did he alter the story?

The standard answer to the doubter is that Jesus knew that he would die upon a cross, and we might expect that the disciples were probably a bit bewildered at the reference, but still, once the doubt has been raised, the long term effect on the average pewsitter can only be negative.

Recently, the Episcopal church changed its teachings on marriage to permit same-sex marriage in the church. One bishop proclaimed this was done on the basis of "a new revelation."

It is easy to see how after several generations of revisionist teachings from the seminaries and the pulpits which have elevated doubt to the level of truth that the Episcopal church is primed to accept any and all new revelations that come into vogue, and along with the freedom to ignore the very words contained in the only source through which we have come to believe in the first place, the church cannot perform one of its primary duties: to transmit the Faith to an unbelieving world.

Once the church is free from the Bible, it is free to accept new revelations that otherwise would have been deemed unacceptable.

Such freedom should frighten TEc devotees.

Freed from the Bible, you become a slave to the ruler of this world.

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