Sunday, November 25, 2018

"The Gospel and the Cave Man"

I received an email recently from a friend of mine I wanted to respond to here on the blog. In the email the statement was made:


[David] You said, "The Bible is not confusing concerning the Gospel and the Christian faith, it’s clarity rings clearly." David, the Bible is clearly a book of confusion by evidence of thousands upon thousands of churches that disagree on what the Bible says. That is a fact. You see no confusion in the Bible because you believe you have the right interpretation of the scriptures and its meanings are clear to you.  Well, those who disagree with your interpretation believe they have the right interpretation. That is clear evidence the Bible is a book of confusion. Thus the Christian world is a house divided.

 Again I must state that you understand the Church and Christian people fairly well, but you have a grave misunderstanding of the Bible. That's not a criticism, for it is fully understandable considering the true fact of your observations. Yes, the church is divided and confused, and yes, each faction believes it has the truth. However, this is not the fault of the Bible. First, let's look at my statement:

“The Bible is not confusing concerning the Gospel and the Christian faith, it’s clarity rings clearly."

Just what is the Gospel and the Christian faith? To answer that we will have to go to the Bible, so bear with me for a few moments.

In the Apostle Paul's words: 1Co 15:1  Now I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, 
1Co 15:2  by which also ye are saved if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. 
1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 
1Co 15:4  and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; 
1Co 15:5  and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; 
1Co 15:6  then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; 
1Co 15:7  then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; 
1Co 15:8  and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. 
1Co 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 
1Co 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 
1Co 15:11  Whether then it be I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 

That is the Gospel of the Christian faith, this is the belief of every true Christian Church. There is no ambiguity or confusion about it. It is simple and it is clear. There is no confusion in the Church concerning the Gospel and the Christian faith. I use to love the commercial from Geico, “It's so easy a caveman can do it”. Well, that's so simple a caveman can understand it. Paul preached this in the first Century and it has been preached in every Century since. You make reference to my interpretation, the Gospel as stated above, which is the full and complete substance of the Gospel, needs no interpretation. So let me reassert my statement, “The Bible is not confusing concerning the Gospel and the Christian faith, it’s clarity rings clearly."


So what about your statement, “David, the Bible is clearly a book of confusion by evidence of thousands upon thousands of churches that disagree on what the Bible says.”?

The Bible is a most wonderful book, it presents to us so much, history, poetry, drama, etc,. So many things to challenge the mind, the only thing missing in it litterateur value would be fiction. It presents the Gospel, God's plan for man's salvation in terms so simple that even a caveman can understand it. Yet, it also presents depths of theological thought that strain the minds of the greatest theologians.

You notice in 1Co 15:11 above Paul said, “Whether then it be I or they, so we preach, . . .” This was the message that was and is universal. They were all saying the same thing and they are all still saying the same thing. It is the Gospel that we preach.

However, The Apostle Peter said, “2Pe 3:15  And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; 
2Pe 3:16  as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Though the Gospel is clear and simple, the how and why of the Gospel reaches much deeper. How does the Gospel achieve that which it states? Why was it necessary to achieve what it claims in the ways it was worked out in space and time? Answering these questions can be very difficult and hard. It is in the mind of man to answer and understand these difficult things. I believed the Gospel, after doing so I naturally wanted to know how it achieved what it did for me. Each discovery was a treasure and is still so today as my mind is constantly challenged in understanding the workings of the Gospel. However, because something is hard and difficult to understand does not make it confusing, it makes it hard and difficult to understand. One has to study, reasons things out, stretch one's mind, and in the process make some mistakes along the way. Discovering those mistakes and starting again is the process to form a more accurate theological view. It is in these things the theologians disagree on, challenge one another, as the scripture says, “Pro 27:17  Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”

So these disagreements are not a bad thing, they are a very good thing for us. I welcome all who disagree with me to challenge my assertions for my own good as well as theirs.

You will notice Peter also mentioned the ignorant and unstedfast, that they wrest or we would say today, twist the scriptures. The word ignorant here simply means unlearned, they misunderstand certain things because they have not yet learned other things that would make this understanding more clear. It's not a derogatory statement but a statement of being. The word unstedfast has the meaning vacillating or changing. This is occurring as a result of the previous state of being. The result of this is a wresting of the scriptures. One could use the terms twist, stretch, or pervert. This does create confusion because the scripture is presented stretched or saying something beyond what it does. The Greek term was sometimes translated as tortured, implying making it say something it did not say. However, as you can see, the cause is not the scripture, but the use of it and the proclaiming of it by those of this state of being. Again, because it has some hard components that require some diligence and work, that does not make it confusing. It makes it require some diligence and work.
I have read after some of the greatest theologians in history, some of the most brilliant minds, none of them referred to the Bible as confusing. They recognized it's difficulty in understanding the workings of the Gospel, but never considered it confusing.


Example? Let's take a point of disagreement within the church. Infant Baptism is an issue of division. Some Denominations practice infant Baptism, others strongly disagree with this practice. As a result, the feeling is so strong these two groups have assembled their own denomination separate from the others. So why is this such a confusing practice in the Christian faith? Let's look at the confusing scriptures that make this so divisive within the Christian community. I will list them in order in the following brackets.

[ …................................] There they are, that is what the Bible has to say about infant Baptism. There is no instruction in the New Testament concerning this practice, there is no mention of this practice in the New Testament, and there is no example of this practice in the New Testament. However, the Bible says in Col 2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Col 2:12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

In connecting circumcision to baptism it is inferred upon the scriptures that since the children were circumcised on the eighth day and baptism is the New Testament circumcision then it would require the baptism of our children as the Old Testament required of their children in circumcision. A compelling argument can be made using this inference. You made reference to my interpretation, my interpretation would rest upon the scriptures in the brackets above, for that is what the New Testament says about it. The compelling argument made from this inference is not enough to convince me over the lack of instruction and example in scripture. The first record we have of the Church practicing infant baptism was at the turn of the 3rd century. The work, (Concerning Baptism) was written, evidently between 200 and 206 by the early church father Tertullian. In it, he questions the wisdom of giving baptism to infants.

He says, “According to everyone’s condition and disposition, and also his age, the delaying of baptism is more profitable, especially in the case of little children. For why is it necessary—if [baptism itself] is not necessary—that the sponsors should be thrust into danger? For they may either fail of their promise by death, or they may be mistaken by a child’s proving of wicked disposition…. They that understand the weight of baptism will rather dread the receiving of it, than the delaying of it. An entire faith is secure of salvation!”

The fact it was occurring this early in church history carries some weight, however, the fact Tertullian is questioning the practice also indicates it could possibly be some new addition to the baptismal practice. So, throughout Church history, this practice has been an issue of confusion in greater and lesser degrees throughout the centuries and remains with us today. However, to say that is because the Bible is confusing on the matter I will again refer you to the scriptures listed in the brackets above.

The matters of division and confusion within the church is not a result of the Bible being confusing, it is a result of the nature of human beings determined to go the MacDonald's and have it their way. These groups, however, do not separate over the Gospel, for its clarity is overwhelming and the unity of the faith pervades throughout these denominational divisions. They even preach in each other's churches and unit together in teaching and conferences. The church is indeed united in the faith and the Gospel. Are these division detrimental? Absolutely, and so scripture cautions and instructs us to avoid such questions and to be of the same mind. Scripture does this because it anticipates the nature of men.

This is of course only one example, there are more than you and I would care to examine. We could drive ourselves into infinity trying to exhaust the subject of divisions within the church. None of which you will find the Bible at fault, for it is clear and precise concerning the Gospel, and hard and difficult concerning its workings, but never confusing. To say you understand the Bible and at the same time say it is confusing is an oxymorn considering the theological minds that have given their lives to the study of it, none of which saw it as confusing.


Having said all that, let me make an acknowledgment before you correct me. This is the general cause over the centuries of divisions among Christians. They vary from slight misunderstanding to dangerous errors and have and should be dealt with accordingly. However, I do acknowledge certain ambiguity in certain scriptures as a result of the expanse of time since the event, and certain language difficulties through translations. Many of these can be solved by looking at other portions of scriptures that address those issues more clearly. In a few instances because of the time and language difficulties, the meaning simply has been lost. None of these affect the doctrinal understanding of the Faith or the Preaching of the Gospel. There are also differences among us in practice and organizational preferences that vary greatly among Christian churches. However, these differences do not exist because the Bible is confusing, they exist because we have different preferences in manners and modes of which the Bible does not address. I realize in your mind this still looks confusing, just remember as you look at all our differences, the core of the Gospel that is the foundation of every true Christian Church.

1Co 15:3 . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 
1Co 15:4  and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; 
1Co 15:5  and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; 
1Co 15:6  then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; 
1Co 15:7  then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; 
1Co 15:8  and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. 
1Co 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 
1Co 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 
1Co 15:11  Whether then it be I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 

May the Grace of God be in each of you,

David

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