Monday, August 29, 2016

Should the average person read the scripture? Or, was the early Roman Catholic Popes correct is it too confusing?

Jesus warned, to take head, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Paul warned that after he left the Ephesians that ravenous wolves would come in and devour the flock. The history of the church is replete with excesses of exploitation and persecution of the faithful, and unfortunately it still goes on today. Oh, not many are burning at the stake, or putting people in the stocks, or holding public whippings, but we have evolved from that haven’t we? However, we still do those things psychologically. Most of it goes on in the name of obedience to leaders. People are shunned, talked about, and are given public tongue lashings, and beaten senseless with the scripture. The problem is that those giving out the punishment have little understanding of the scripture themselves. This can be true with those who have years of seminary training, and ministry experience, how much more would it be true of the self-taught who declare themselves authorities, and demand that no one ever question them. In most instances, to question leadership is tantamount to questioning God Almighty! This is the fertile ground in which spiritual abuse thrives.

I believe that the main force in this phenomenon is control. People erroneously believe that the church must be under control to function properly.  What better means of control than the Holy Scriptures? After all, if God said it then it has a force that is well beyond anything that is merely human. This is precisely however, the substance of the leaven of the Pharisees. It is born in the legal constitutional reading and understanding of scripture. If one looks at the scripture as a rule book, a blueprint for living, an instruction manual, one cannot escape spiritual abuse and further the abuse of control and power. If one’s basic foundational presupposition is that the scripture is a legal, constitutional manual then, one cannot escape the problems that I have addressed above. This is precisely the reason for all of the abuses. Jesus did not support a legal constitutional reading of scripture. He was continuously debating the Pharisees in their understanding of scripture. His main focus of the scripture is found in John chapter five, verses 39 and 40. He told the Pharisees that they were searching the scriptures to find life, but that the sole purpose of the scripture was to testify of Jesus and redemption. In looking at the scripture his way, redemptively, they would find life.

All of the passages that evangelicals use to establish church practice were written to specific occasions. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand exactly what the occasion was. The scripture, all of it was written to specific audiences, and when we do not take into consideration the context of the audience we miss the intended meaning. All of the authors of the scripture always wrote in view of their culture and norms. It is composed of basically two types of messages. One message is redemptive decrees, absolute promises made by God… decrees that cannot be altered, and the rest of the messages are situational and cultural within a certain time frame, primarily aimed at the original intended audience. Since it was written to specific audiences with specific situations, this prohibits the possibility of using the scripture in a legal constitutional way especially in establishing norms and rules for the church. Those who claim the name of, and claim to follow Jesus should look at scripture in the manner he taught. They should look at it as the redemptive narrative. The focal message of redemption should be guided by the decrees that are found within scripture. It is possible that the entire scripture could be viewed in an overarching guidance way as long as it is not used as a rulebook per se. However, there are very few evangelical churches if any that take this nuanced approach to scripture. The reason that I believe they do this, is that the true freedom that the Christ follower has would eliminate the ability for leadership to control people in the way that so many do. It would eliminate the institutional structure that is now in place.

I can safely say that 90% of the messages preached and heard are meant to establish and enforce the rules. This is either to control people or improve ethical behavior. It ALWAYS has the exact opposite effect as is intended. Each Sunday, Wednesday evening people feel better for a short time as they vow to do better, and always they end up falling short, and discouraged. With a legal constitutional reading of scripture, it is inevitable. All the while the true focus of scripture that Jesus and the first century writers advocated is neglected. The proclamation of the gospel does something uniquely different. It affects the Spirit Man in a different way. It causes joy and peace to well up within a person and focuses their thoughts away from their shortcomings, and redirects them to the love God has for them.  This in turn fosters a genuine love for God, and his gracious provision. The redemptive use of scripture develops love, and the legal constitutional use of scripture develops fear and guilt. It is so simple but also it is risky. It forces the Spirit of God to control people instead of leadership. It sickens me to see the countless sea of individuals bogged down and imprisoned in the abusive system that has morphed taking one form or another throughout Christian history but has had a universal result. It keeps the people that Christ died to set free in bondage to leader worship….

Oh, to answer the question in the title, let me say this. It should only be read in the way that Jesus intended. It should be read as God's redemptive narrative, a love letter from the Father!

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