Monday, November 20, 2017

"The Bible Says", and Other Terrible Sayings

Often, in the Protestant milieu, one hears such things as, "The Bible says ... ", followed by their pet heresy or denial of the Truth.

This is patent silliness.  The Bible doesn't "say" anything.  It just sits there on the desk.  Opened or closed?  Doesn't matter, although in many cases it is closed anyway!

The Bible does not speak, but the reader.

The Bible itself (I mean the book with pages that sits on your desk) is but impressions of ink on paper.

It is the reader that speaks, or the one who gives the interpretation also, not the Bible itself.

One might object, of course, to my blatant pedantry.  Why am I being so silly?

When colloquial understanding is in accord with Truth, one need not dig deeper and examine the usage.  But when it is turned against the Truth, as this kind of statement often is, precision of language is paramount.

Here's why it's a big deal.

I saw this sentiment asserted recently in this form:
We, as Christians, should never be dogmatic where the Bible is silent. ... There sure would be a lot less drama.
To which I replied,
There would also be a lot less dogma.
The response came back,
Wouldn’t that be a good thing? 
This is the end of that saying: the reduction of dogma to the "bare essentials".

Now, I understand that "dogma" here is not being used in the technical sense, but it is being used in the general sense of "authoritative teaching" -- that is, teaching not as the scribes and Pharisees, who would say, "regarding this verse, this rabbi says that, but this other one teaches this other thing", "line upon line, precept upon precept", by which they would fall down and go backward, but rather teaching according to the Truth, as the prophets.  (Thus saith the Lord!)  Not, that is, by striving about the law with vain jangling in profane and vain babblings, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, increasing unto more ungodliness, but rather with authority, unto the salvation of the souls of the hearers.

The maker of this statement says, essentially, that such authority is not available to the Christian teacher; unless the thing on which he speaks is written in the Scripture, it cannot be taught authoritatively.

The difficulty is, interpretation is, by definition, not written in the Scripture.  So this one, and also all who hold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (which is what this is, in "popular" format) deny the possibility, whether they realize it or not, of authoritative interpretation, and reduce the Great Church to the rabbinical synagogue.

If the reader speaks the words of the Bible only, and the sense is not given, nor the hearers caused to understand (Neh 8:8; Acts 8:30, 31), he is as one that speaks words into the air only, and therefore as a barbarian to the hearers (for they know not the meaning of the voice), and there is no profit.

"So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood", Paul says, "how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air."

And lest one might say, "But by this he means the Scriptures, precisely!", Peter answers against such an one, saying that in both the writings of the beloved brother Paul, _as well as in all the other scriptures(!)_, there are many things "hard to be understood", which many who are unlearned (that is -- those who have heard, but have not learned the proper understanding, which by the way is not written or else the writings would not be hard to understand) and unstable wrest to their own destruction, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

Note carefully how, Peter, the prince of the Apostles and first confessor of the true faith, upon whose faithful confession Christ builds His Church, says that the Scriptures themselves are in many places "hard to be understood", and not "easy to be understood".

So the one who utters only that which is in Scripture, "never being dogmatic where the Bible is silent", is often as one that speaks in an unknown tongue, and as a barbarian to the hearer, and even to himself in many cases.

Nay rather, authoritative teaching (i.e. dogma) beyond what is written is thoroughly necessary, for the edifying of the body, unless what is spoken be of no profit. Thus the Apostle says not, "say only the words of Scripture", but rather, "hold the things which you have been taught, whether by word, OR our epistle."

And in another place, "the rest I will set in order when I come."  That is to say, "I have not written everything you need for life and salvation, but only what is sufficient to get you started back in the right direction until I arrive to complete your instruction."

And in yet another place, he says, "hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. ... and the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."  Note carefully that he does not say, "hold fast the things which I write unto you only", but, "the things which you heard of me among many witnesses" -- that is, not only what was written, but the rest which he had set in order when he came, as he said previously, and which he says elsewhere that he taught in all the churches of God.

For Timothy, he says (to whom he wrote, above), had fully known his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, etc.

Now, that we might not discount the greatness and primary importance of this, and rely only our own sight and understanding of what we read, he reminds him and acknowledges that he (Timothy) has known the holy scriptures from his youth.  But he does not begin there, nor end there.

Rather, he founds Timothy's assurance and faith, by which, he says, the Scriptures are able to make him wise unto salvation, not the other way around, as though his assurance and faith would come from his wisdom in the Scriptures! ... Rather, I began to say, he founds Timothy's assurance and faith firmly on something else entirely.

His assurance of faith, he says, lies not in the mere fact of his having heard, read, or even thoroughly memorized the words of Scripture, but rather is firmly rooted in his knowledge of those from whom he learned his _understanding_, viz: "knowing OF WHOM thou hast learned", and in his continuance in what he learned from them.

All scripture is indeed given by inspiration of God, and is truly "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto good works."

But it is not thus profitable unless the interpretation is given, and given rightly divided.

Yet the interpretation is not always (or even commonly) written elsewhere, but received, dogmatically and traditionally (i.e. from faithful men who were taught by faithful men), from the Apostles, who received it from Christ Himself, with the Spirit.

So let the spiritual ones who hold the faith and life and doctrine of the Apostles teach such authoritatively, in the Spirit, with the understanding, even if it is only five words at a time.

And do not forbid them from so speaking by some pretense of being faithful to the Scriptures!  Such limitation is not faithfulness at all, but diabolical confusion and darkening.

True, God is able to make even the rocks to speak, if we should be silent, and to make of them children of Abraham.  But though He is able, He has has not called the rocks to the building, but has called us to be living stones, building our most holy faith on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, a building unto God in the Spirit, having received from Him an understanding.  Let those who build on the foundation be careful that they add the gold, and silver, and precious stones of the Apostolic Tradition, and not the wood, hay, and stubble of uncertain words and opinions, no matter how well studied.

Friday, July 28, 2017

On the Traditionalist/Perennialist School

At one point, I studied, absorbed, and even kind of believed the teachings of an early 20th century philosophy known as Perennialism, or The Traditionalist School.  (The two are not the same, but they are interrelated, and for the purposes of this post, we will treat them the same.

The basic tenet is that all of the major religious traditions, at their best, lead to or impart knowledge of the Transcendent, commonly known as "God", even if they disagree with each other, they do so because God set it up that way.

Well the funny thing about the Traditionalist school is that it furthermore posits that to actually acquire the knowledge of that transcendent reality from the major traditions, you have to PICK ONE.  You can't smorgasboard or cherry-pick or try to learn from all of them, but you have to pick one, enter into it, and forget the rest.

Well, someone asked me if this is compatible with Christianity or not (Christianity is considered by that school as one of the major Traditions it speaks of).  I said, "Well, as far as being compatible with Christianity, 'pick one' totally is, as long as you pick Christianity. 🙂"  I continued:

As for the general idea of all the major religion traditions at their best being oriented toward the one transcendent reality/God, yes and no.  Christianity does have the idea of the "spermatikos Logos" -- the seed of the Word.  That is, that although God gave the oracles directly to the Jews, He nevertheless planted eternity, and a thirst for the Word, and even some hints in the right direction, among the nations as well, and that the heathen philosophers did their best with this, resulting in Buddhism & Taoism in the East, Aristotelianism & Platonism in the West, etc.

However, where we differ is that while the Traditionalist school teaches that you can come to knowledge of the transcendent through any of those traditions (pick one), Christianity teaches that these were and are (even including Judaism) planted and formed by God to effect the incarnation of that transcendence, that is, so that the transcendent could transcend itself, and draw creation into itself.  The philosophies of the heathen were the pinnacle of what man could achieve in his created limitedness.  To rise to the transcendent, the transcendent had to condescend to lead us upward.  None of those could accomplish that, or pull Him down (For "'Who has ascended into the heaves?', that is, to bring down Christ.")  But the Logos Himself could, and did.  Once the Logos became incarnate, the call went forth to leave the paths of (relative) ignorance, and limitedness, and unite ourselves to Him, and He, then would bring us to the Father.  The other traditions are useless, except insofar as they bring us to Him; but once we are brought to Him, we must "leave our nets" -- that is, the systems of our philosophy, by which we try to catch the substance of our lives -- "and follow me".  "So they left all, and followed Him."