Scripture and Salvation

2 03 2008

Over at the Doorman-Priest’s dance hall, he has been leading a series of discussions over the past week on Salvation.  The current discussion is about how Scripture fits into the whole thing.  He says there are basically four ways to understanding scripture (quoted below)

•Not to believe any of it (which isn’t much of an option for those professing a Christian faith).

•To take a Fundamentalist approach and argue that scripture is inspired literal truth and is to be accepted as the Word of God without question or interpretation.

•To follow a Conservative line which suggests that the Bible is the word of God filtered by the cultural and historical context of those who felt inspired to express their views.

•To accept a Liberal interpretation which says that the Bible contains the word of God and which also recognises allegory and myth as valid literary Biblical genres.

and then quotes the passage in the Gospel of John (taken from this week’s Gospel reading) where Jesus heals a blind man.  Our friendly neighborhood bouncer with a heart of gold wants to know:

So, ignoring the atheist viewpoint, which of the other three viewpoints above reflects a belief in the inerrant word of God? Do they all in their own way? Is our attitude to scripture determinative of salvation?

My response is as follows:

My view of Scripture is somewhere between the Conservative and Liberal points of view.
In one of my discernment interviews, a well-meaning evangelical on my committee asked me about whether i thought Scripture was a good roadmap for living a holy life. I told him that I saw Scripture more as a guidebook than a roadmap.  Roadmap has the connotation of showing “this is what you must do to get to where you want to go” and is more about the destination. A guidebook tells you all sorts of wonderful things … stories, places to go, things to do, but doesn’t have many real hard or fast rules and is all about the journey.

The purpose of Scripture in my opinion is not to lay down a set of rules or to point to the miracles that happened in some by gone age.  It is a revelation of how God has revealed Himself in history … first in Creation, later through the Law and Prophets, and then finally through Jesus….God’s ultimate self-revelation.  This does not mean that every single verse, jot or tittle in the Bible is without error.  On the contrary, it was written by very fallible human beings living in a certain cultural context with all the social mores and taboos and permissions of the day.

When it comes to things like the miracles or the flood, I believe they happened.  If I were to find out that they didn’t happen the way the bible said they did, would that shake my faith and cause me to forsake my religion?  No.  My faith is not in an event or a book.  It is in the person of Jesus Christ.   Muslims say that Christians along with Jews are “people of the book.”  That statement could not be more farther from the truth, in my opinion.  Christians are the people of the Person.  How one views Scripture is not determinative on Salvation.  Salvation is not found Scripture, but in Jesus Christ.

Take today’s Gospel story as an example. The blind man did not believe in Jesus because of the miracle of gaining his sight.  He believed because Jesus revealed himself as Messiah, then the formerly blind man worshiped.  His salvation was found not in a miracle, not in being a professing Jew, but in the one who revealed himself as Son of God.

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10 responses

2 03 2008
Doorman-Priest

Thank you. Most erudite as ever and a help in sorting out my own views. I can not find any Biblical references which talk about salvation being conditional on what one believes about the nature of scripture.

I ask because I have been accused of Trolldom and am clearly going to Hell because I do not subscribe to the inerrant word of God.

2 03 2008
Reverend boy

You’re welcome. Glad i was able to help.

My concern with “those people” who accuse you of Trolldom is that their spin on our Faith is one of escapism….flee from the wrath to come, and so on. Believe this particular way or go to hell, etc.

They need to remember that the people Jesus rebuked the most were the ones who were very spiritual or religious and thought they had it right.

2 03 2008
RFSJ

RB –

Well said indeed. I think the collect for Proper 28 encapsulates this well:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for
our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn,
and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever
hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have
given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

RFSJ

3 03 2008
MadPriest

When a clued up person reads a history book by a trusted academic, because of the provisional nature of all research findings and the fact that such research is made public through a human being with their own interests, beliefs and prejudices, he or she would read the book with the understanding that it is highly unlikely that all the facts presented are accurate. Neither would they take the line that none of the book is true. They will accept some parts of the research to be more accurate than others because of corroborative evidence from elsewhere. What they are unable to do is to categorically decide which facts are definitely true and which are not. This does not mean the history book is useless, it just means that it is provisional and part of the endeavour to discover the truth.

I suggest that this is a different way of regarding the authority of scripture that is honest and does not lead to the logical inconsistencies that result from all other methods.

3 03 2008
KJ

Good discussion, and agreed.

3 03 2008
KJ

Oh, and watch out for that troll DP. He sounds like a liberal! (heh heh heh)

4 03 2008
Doorman-Priest

KJ: If you want to know about him, e-mail me.

8 03 2008
QFC

As a onetime student of American law and politics, it has always struck me that the same people inclined toward a fundamentalist, “plain-sense,” literalist reading of the Bible are often also the ones arguing for a literalist, “plain sense,” “strict constructionist” reading of our Constitution. What is it about the conservative mind that must insist on idolizing ancient books (and the dead men who wrote them), rather than the essential and timeless virtues and values they contain? To truly embrace the animating spirit of the Constitution, we look for the self-evident truths it contains; in so doing we honor the men who created it. To best honor the mandates contained in scripture is to embrace directly the Spirit that inspired the scripture writers, and to reject utterly the misguided notion that the words are more important than the God toward which they point.

8 03 2008
Reverend boy

What he said! There is a rampant amount of idolatry towards the bible (which i call bibliolatry!) in the fundamentalist camp.

10 03 2008
KJ

DP, You know I was joking, right? Sorry!

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