Saturday, September 17, 2005

Not Throwing the Book

I am pleasantly surprised. I just read the reading for Sunday School tomorrow and I did not want to throw the book against the wall, as I often desire to do when reading a book about the nature of the Bible. (The book is, for the curious, called "God's Holy Fire: The Nature and Function of Scripture.)

This may be a better course than I had expected.

The attitude of Churches of Christ to the bible has often puzzled me. As always, my remarks should be taken in the context that we are a highly unstructured group and that I have only dealt with a few geographically localized groups and I have not been able to review all readings by Campbelite scholars on the topic. However, my impression of the "bulk" belief is that we do not subscribe to the notion of inerrancy, although we do believe in inspiration (i.e., the Bible is not a literal dictation from God, but we do claim some quasi-direct divine influence in its writing and compilation). The lack of a precise definition of "inspiration" has bothered me, but its a non-issue for me.

However, the irony that we do not espouse inerrancy, but the Church of Christ is notorious for its embrace of legalism, that is treating the Bible like a legal text, where every syllable is to be deciphered by wisened sages and a clear-cut set of rules exist. By "clear-cut", I mean that the rules are precisely defined, not that they are clearly stated. This leads to the idea of a "God's gotcha", which is at once odious to me and also runs against the stated character of God in every description that scripture gives.

The attitude of Jesus seems to be decidedly anti-legalist. In his conversation with one of the pharisees, he states that all laws can be kept by simply following the two rules of "love God" and "love others". This is a satisfying system, for where there are laws and complexity, there are loopholes and exceptions. Love does not admit loopholes. Love does not think in terms of "if" or "but". Love simply is love.

As for me, I do not even feel the need for a doctrin of inspiration. I am undecided in how I feel about it. If the Bible is nothing more than man's story of being loved by God, then I am at peace with my relationship with him.


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