I wrote these words the other day in another post titled, “Scripture, the Jerusalem Council, and the Spirit’s guidance.” I felt like they were worth reproducing on Ascension Day, especially since I have been discussing one of the most contentious topics for the present church:
Sometimes I am anxious about the future of the church. I worry that we wrongly understand Scripture, or we will wrongly maintain misguided traditions, or we will try to be too acceptable to the culture around us forsaking our Christian identity. When I come to this place I meditate upon a few things:
(1) The sovereignty of God: I don’t mean to sound like John Piper here, but I do find comfort in the reality that God is not weak or confused. As God he may allow humanity in general, and the church more specifically, to wrestle with things and make mistakes, but he doesn’t lose control.
(2) The ascension of Christ: In Acts, Ephesians, and Hebrews we are given a picture of Jesus as reigning already. He hasn’t brought everything into full submission, but God’s chosen King (ala Psalm 2) and judge (ala Daniel 7) has been chosen. Christ our King advocates before God the Father for us.
(3) The infilling of the Holy Spirit: Even when we disagree with one another we must realize that together we create the Temple of God. The Spirit dwells in our midst. We are not alone to make decisions in the dark. Christ has send the Spirit as our guide, counselor, and comforter.
(4) The invitation to prayer: I don’t know how prayer works. I do know that God invites us to pray. Sometimes I find peace in talking to God about the things that unnerve me–both personally and ecclesiastically. God listens and hears.
(5) The Scripture provide a context: Some may see Scripture as the thing that causes confusion, “If we didn’t have those pesky passages about women being silent in the church we could get past this whole debate over gender equality.” I understand that, but I wouldn’t want the alternative where we debate what it means to be a Christian without the story of Israel, Jesus, and the church. As with my example from Acts 15 it is Scripture itself that tells me about how my forefathers and mothers in the faith wrestled with change.
What should Christians do about this and think about that? We must debate and discuss, but we are not alone. God has not lost control. Jesus reigns. The Spirit guides us. We are invited to pray to our God. Scripture shows us that we are part of the same people of God who have gone through many changes in the past.
You should write up an entry about how you view the relationship between scripture, tradition, and reason in how you arrive at Christian doctrine.
Good idea, though I will have to come to some sort of conclusion on that. I may be a while out on doing so!
Here’s how I see things, tradition should be given the benefit of the doubt unless it’s contradicted by either scripture and/or reason, in which case scripture and/or reason should prevail. Similarly, scripture should be given the benefit of the doubt unless it’s contradicted by reason, in which case reason should prevail. For me, this arrangement nicely highlights the point that if we’re going to deviate from both scripture and tradition then we must have good reasons backed up by solid arguments in order to do so.
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