Archive for June 18th, 2019

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Decades ago a fellow pastor said that so many Bible studies really are not about studying the Biblical text but it’s actually about “Bible feelings”.  “Oh, I really like these verses, look I even underlined it  in my Bible.” “Oh, I don’t like that text.”  “I think this verse is culturally insensitive and shows white, patriarchal privilege”. Notice that on TV, radio discussions, our own discussions, we begin so many sentences,  not with I think, I opine, I know, I believe, but I feel.  Everything is subjective. This is the reason, for instance, a man or a boy, feeling he is a female, so is his gender because he feels such.  That is not based in fact. So when I look in the mirror, I am not looking at a social construct, but a biological fact.

This subjectivity is part and parcel of interpretation of literature and texts in general.  So what I bring to say, Shakespeare, is more important than what Shakespeare actually wrote. If I think Shakespeare as a white man, he must have been oppressive and patriarchal, so all of his writings are suspect and suspicious. This same thing has gone for in interpreting the Bible.

As hospice chaplain, after a hospice public event in which I gave the benediction from Numbers 6:22-27, “The LORD bless you…”, I was told by my boss that a couple of board members were offended because the benediction is “exclusive”. I was not to say “Lord”. So if one believes that the name “Lord” is exclusive of certain preferred identity groups, the word “Lord” has to go.  “All who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved”. Oh, you can’t say, Lord.  The result is simple and devastating: does the devil want people to all upon the Name of the Lord and be saved? Am I comparing people and groups to the devil? In a sense yes, but it is finally the power and principalities and devilish doctrine running amok. I think a legitimate question to such oppression is to ask: Says who?(!)   Calling upon the Name of the Lord and inviting others to the Savior is, as it was in the past, a counter-cultural confession (See Acts 5: 27-29!) and please we have to do so with the love of the Lord for others to so call and be saved.

This past week I watched a lecture by Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College on C. S. Lewis’ book, The Abolition of Man and Dr. Arnn had a very interesting quote: “Privilege the text above the reader”. Regard the text, the Word of God as more important that your self and other selves as well. Keep the Word, hold to the creeds, thumbnail confessions of the witness of the Scripture, Israel and the Church. If we refuse to do so we remain children of the devil.  The Savior does not lose us, but we can lose our Savior and that is everlasting death.  The Lord, as His Word, as His Scriptures, have been around a lot longer than you and I and will so long after we are gone awaiting the Resurrection of the dead. The great motto of the Reformation was and is: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum:  The Word of the Lord Endures Forever (1 Peter 1: 24-25). And the Word became flesh.

The Church has three Creeds:  the Apostles’, the Nicene and the Athanasian.  Note that all three creeds spend more time on the second article of the Creed, I believe in Jesus Christ than on the Father and the Son.  Why?  When the Lord was baptized by John the Baptist, remember, His Baptism was a revelation of the Holy Trinity:  The Son was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended and the Voice declared, This is my beloved Son. Then, as soon as the Lord manifested Himself in His Baptism by John, soon after the devil went after Jesus when the Lord was in the wilderness fasting 40 days and nights.  The devil stills goes after the confession of “Jesus is the Lord” like biting fleas on a dog.  Why?  To take away our salvation from you and I. 

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness three times, three times He quoted the Bible.  The Lord of heaven and earth privileged the text above the reader, even Himself.  Jesus did not trust His own flesh, His own SINLESS flesh, but the Word. Verbum extra nos: the Word outside of us. God’s Word comes to us that we may take His sure Word to heart and soul. The devil does not want you to think and believe that Jesus is true God from true God, begotten of His Father before all worlds. 

The Jews were ready to stone Jesus to death for His proclamation, before Abraham was, I AM, because they said He was making Himself God.  He did not have to make Himself to be God. He did not as all his signs and powerful deeds attest to His divinity, true man and true God, and He is the Deed that changed the world:  His death and resurrection.  I AM is the same Word the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. Moses asked the Lord, If I go to Pharoah, who shall I say sent me?  Tell  him, I AM sent me. “I AM” in Greek is “Ego Eimi”. As in most languages, the noun is part of a verb form, so “eimi” is “I am”. “Ego” is “I” and put the words together the phrase is emphatic: “I Myself AM’. This is same phrase used in John’s Gospel in the I AM sayings, I am the Bread of Life, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Good Shepherd. The second article of the Creeds is as still controversial as it was in the Lord’s earthly ministry that Jesus is,

the only-begotten Son of God,
   begotten of His Father before all worlds,
   God of God, Light of Light,
   very God of very God,
   begotten, not made,
   being of one substance with the Father,
   by whom all things were made

We must privilege the text above ourselves because God’s Word is true as the Lord and the Lord alone can save us and has by becoming man as He so loved the world that He gave His Son:

John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Colossians 1:  15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

The faith gets personal:  baptism into Christ, His blood shed for sinners upon the cross has effected our Baptism. No true doctrine will make for less than true Christians. If we do not privilege the Biblical Text above the reader, how else can I know that the Lord hears our prayers? We stake all on His Word not feelings above the Word.

“What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?” (St.Basil the Great)

Shall we cast away the teaching we have received? You know the answer. We’ve been ignoring Biblical and confessional doctrine and dogma for “spiritual feelings” and ‘thrills’ for so long now. We need to privilege the Text of the Bible above our feelings The point from which radiates the light of God is God Himself: The one God Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has given us His Word to be our Savior. We are called in our day and time to double down on doctrine.

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