Monday, March 10, 2008

Denominational Discord: Part 1

One thing my pastor says is:

"I would challenge you to know both what you believe and why you believe it." [Doug Van Meter on Revelation 1:1]

This principle is echoed in scripture, requiring us to search and study the scriptures to make sure we are not taught false doctrines:

"Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." [Acts 17:11]

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." [2 Timothy 2:15]

So I was thinking of looking at broader Christianity - what views do each of the major denominations believe with regard to the bible. I believe it is important to be able to state what we believe about the only book that actually binds us. I think it would be only right, before I look at what most people believe, that I state my opinion of scripture:

Intention and authorship. I believe, that the 66 books of the bible are the inspired works of God, working through His servants to:

  1. Reveal Himself as the one and only God eternal
  2. tell His people of His son Jesus Christ and the salvation that He provided
  3. instruct ALL people on the manner in which they ought to live, the judgment for disobedience belonging to God alone
Since these books have come primarily from God, they are inerrant and infallible, meaning there are no errors regarding the individual words and verses, as well as no errors in continuity. Any error perceived only reveals the readers response to the text in a manner that is unwilling to submit to the authority of the God who inspired it. In other words, the problem with 'errors' in biblical texts lies solely with the interpreter and not the author.

Regarding interpretation. While many interpretations exist, there can be only one proper interpretation of a biblical text. That is, a grammatical historical interpretation. The text must be read as it is written, in manner consistent with the interpretation of the original recipients. To understand a text beyond the audience to whom it was written is incorrect, unless another passage of scripture allows for such an interpretation. Scripture must be used to interpret other scriptures, using the scriptures which convey meaning the most fluently to interpret the scriptures which are difficult to understand. The bible must be read with the very principles it promotes: humility on the part of the believer. The more one reads biblical texts the more one's understanding will increase. It is the believers duty to seek God in prayer in order to understand a text.

Regarding textual portions in which inclusion is questionable. Grace and understanding need to be applied in the contention of these portions of scripture. They should be dealt with like any other segment in scripture in the sense that they are not to be considered in isolation. The context of the passage must be considered as well as other doctrines of scripture. These texts should not be used as the primary texts for new doctrine, or be the sole foundation of new doctrine.

Well, that is my opinion of the bible. I did not always hold to this view, it has been a process. I find that unless I take the bible this seriously, I cannot call it the word of God. I still have to look at the apocryphal books, but I do believe the testimony of my leaders at this point. I still need to research the canonization process and the exclusion of the apocrypha.

Now, as the title suggests, I have laid down my framework of belief in the bible. I will be looking for different denominations' statements of faith. So far I will be looking at:
  1. Amish
  2. Anglican
  3. Baptists
  4. Eastern Orthodox
  5. Emergent / Emerging
  6. Lutheran
  7. Methodist
  8. Pentecostal
  9. Presbyterian (Calvinist Methodist)
  10. Protestant
  11. Roman Catholic
  12. Seventh Day Adventists
  13. Wesleyan

Now I cannot tell if these even HAVE a statement of faith. Also it needs to be mentioned that there are sects inside each denomination. If you are not correctly represented (or not represented at all) - I would love to hear from you. I am sure a research project like this will be a benefit to many. If you are insulted by what you read, please check out the reference before you comment. I will not publish my own bias, but if you do notice a biased comment, please let me know. I will try to use only the wording of the statements of faith. The two faiths I am most interested in are, of course, the ones in which I was involved: Baptist and Methodist.

Part 2, hopefully will be the conclusion of my discussion, but I may go in further.

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