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pseudogratix

What is Biblical Christianity...

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Rhinomelon,

This thread has focused on the concept of Biblical Christianity, and has approached the issue in several different ways. First, there is the view that there is no such thing as Biblical Christianity, that it is all a "sham". Of course, if there is no such thing as Biblical Christianity, then that would create significant problems for the religions that now claim to have restored it.

The claim is NOT that there is no Biblical Christianity in the sense that there were no commonly held Christian beliefs during Bible times. It is rather that it is not possible to determine those beliefs purely by an appeal to the Bible.

If the question is "What is the Biblical definition of Christianity?" or "What is Biblical Christianity as defined by the Bible?" the answer is "there isn't one."

Of course, this presents no problem whatsoever for a group claiming to restore Biblical Christianity. As long as such a group can show that their beliefs could have been held by 1st century Christians without violating the Bible, then there claim is not inconsistent. Such a group only needs to show that they are restoring one of the possible Biblical interpretations, and then they can claim that that is the correct one.

The existance of multiple, consistent interpretations of Biblical Christianity is only a problem for those groups that insist that there is only one consistent (and therefore "right") way to interpret the Bible.

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Along this line of thinking is the view that there can be multiple versions of Biblical Christianity, as long as they find some basis in the Bible (for the purposes of this discussion, defined as OT & NT). This apparently is true even if the various interpretations are mutually exclusive, i.e. that they can't both be true at the same time. I am of the opinion that there are certain foundational concepts taught in the Bible and throughout the history of Christianity, that form the core of the Christian faith, or "Biblical Christianity". An analogy that I was thinking about this morning: If you put grains of sand, alike in every way, in mollusks that inhabit various areas of the earth, and come back in a few years, you will find pearls. Of course, if these mollusks came from different conditions, the pearls would be different in various ways, such as size, color, etc. But they are all pearls, and all have the same core. In a way, this is like the various branches of Christendom today, all building up a different pearl around the same grain of biblical truth. They may look different, and some are bigger than others, but they all have that common core, that same original source.

I believe that this grain of sand is composed of non-negotiable issues within theology, many of which I've already laid out in the preceding pages.

This is a fine analogy. However, what you define to be the "sand" is not a Biblicaly defined axiom, but one that you feel is important or essential. For example, I personally don't agree with Christian Science theology, but after speaking with many Christian Scientists I can say that they have a way to consistently interpret the Bible. There is no Bible verse which they cannot fit into their theology. You and I may think they are "stretching" the meaning, or interpreting something figuratively that should be interpreted literally, but they feel the same in reverse about some verses. They are "Biblical" and "Christian."

Another position that came to light in this thread is one of seeming relativism, in which it doesn't matter how you interpret something, it doesn't matter if the interpreter is a follower of Christ or not, it doesn't matter if what one is interpreting is even the Bible or not, any interpretation has an equally valid claim to the throne of Biblical Christianity. This approach, in my opinion, has two major flaws.

First, in terms of comparing the concept of Biblical Christianity to the LDS church, it poses a double standard. Christianity apparently has to agree on everything to give the concept of Biblical Christianity some credibility, while the LDS church is under no such injunction. It would be interesting to see if the LDS posters on this board (or even in this thread) could absolutely agree on every issue within LDS theology, even on the big ones (like how many Gods exist).

The second flaw with this line of reasoning is that it erodes the very foundation upon which the LDS church (or any organization with a particular set of beliefs, for that matter) seeks to build a "true religion". By arguing for the equal validity of every interpretation, one does not bring their own up a notch, but drops everyone's interpretation to the muddy floor of "personal opinion". There are no winners in such a universe, only losers.

Relativism is not being advocated. Nor is the LDS Church being held to a different standard than other churches. Nor does this weaken the foundation of the LDS Church.

The point being made here is that you cannot appeal to the Bible to find out how to interpret the Bible--it just isn't there. Not only that, the Bible doesn't claim to be complete or consistent or the sole source of truth. Those notions are extra-Biblical.

The reason this is not a problem for the LDS Church, but is for some others, is that the LDS Church does not claim to derive either its authority or doctrine from the Bible. It claims that its authority was restored directly by God, as are its doctrines, through living prophets and apostles. The Bible and other written scriptures are used exactly as you see in the scriptures themselves. The scriptures can clarify doctrine, they can expound on doctrine, they can verify doctrine, but ultimately they can't "define" it, because doctrine is an interpretation of the scriptures, not the scriptures themselves.

I will plant my flag in the core of the Christian faith, what I would call Biblical Christianity. This frustrates some people, because I refuse to take a tack of argument that would lead to theological and interpretative anarchy (as discussed above). Of course, these other people do the same thing, they just have planted their flag somewhere else :P  Also, planting my flag does not mean I am automatically discounting the possibility that there is a more complete, more perfect interpretation out there; it does mean that I have yet to find one that even comes close to taking in the whole of biblical testimony and human experience, as does the core beliefs of Biblical Christianity laid out earlier. Considering that brilliant and faithful men have been working through these issues for two thousand years, I am admittedly skeptical that anything noteworthy will come out.

This is anarchy for you because you claim as doctrine that your doctrine comes ONLY from the Bible, but THAT doctrine isn't from the Bible.

For example, the vast majority of Christians historically, and nearly 100% of Christians in the pre-Reformation millenia, believed that baptism was essential for salvation. Brilliant, faithful Biblical scholars felt that "Biblical Christianity" included that as a fairly basic doctrine. That doctrine, however, is rejected by nearly everyone posting here who claims to represent the "true Biblical Christianity."

Protestantism is a minority religion within Christianity, and Evangelicalism is a minority within Protestantism. It is disingenuous to claim that "Biblical Christianity as defined by history" would exclude "core doctrines" accepted for nearly 2,000 years by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

There seems to be at least some form of theological foundation in the LDS church, a "Scriptural Mormonism" if you will. People are excommunicated for teaching error and promoting false views, even if they are backed up by Scripture in the four standard works. Is it any wonder that Christianity has the same kind of foundation? And yet we are blasted for it, because we are excluding so many people (like the LDS). I find it somewhat amusing. Pot, kettle, black, whatever. <_<

There IS, of course, "some form of theological foundation in the LDS church," but is is a bit inaccurate to call it "Scriptural Mormonism." Mormons would claim that their beliefs are consistent with scripture, but that the ultimate source is not the scriptures themselves but God. LDS have many beliefs that are not in the scriptures explicitly, such as the temple ceremonies, but which we accept as being part of our religion and from God.

People can be excommunicated for teaching what LDS believe to be false doctrine even though those doctrines can be "backed up by Scripture" because we do not believe that the scriptures automatically interpret themselves. LDS believe that one can create a false theology that is still "consistent" with the scriptures, so scriptural evidence alone isn't sufficient to prove correctness--it still must be consistent with the teachings of modern prophets and apostles in addition to being consistent with the scriptures.

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the question was rather simple, but (IMHO) the answers/responses tend to be a bit off-track. God is Love; that was Christ's first commandment. if we live Love, we don't have to go into details.

All: Happy St. Valentine's Day!

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TAPPED, you do tend to bring one's head out of the clouds, or is it out of the sand?

Seems the tendency for religious types, of most sects, is to do the pugalist thing and dazzle-with-foot-work to win arguements. Many so fully embrace the mythologies of the past and the understandings of flat-earth generations that they fail to relate to the simple priciple you stated, "God is Love".

This too of course is a biblical understanding, and draws great lip-service. I will paraphrase, "God is Life." And suggest, where life is, there is God--by whatever name. Anything that encourages life is of God. That which takes from life is not of God.

If, "...man is that he might have joy...whickedness never was happiness(joy)...the glory of God is intelligence...my work and glory is to bring to pass eternal life (joy)..." then, it appears to Mee an awakening must take place.

Empirical evidence reveals the fact that adherance to our Judeo/Christian policies, traditions and practices have not brought humanity far from the same evils of fear, greed and prjudice Jesus addressed. Is that due to Spiritual Stagnation in the midst of Scientific Inspiration?

In my simple analysis, what improvements to our living conditions, in which those evils continue, is due to the application of intelligence applied through science.

Might God's purpose better be served by turning intelligence loose beyond the constrictions of religious authority? Religion, in all of its expressions, seems incapable of moving beyond Plato's Republic. Which keeps us waring and competing as ever. Something must be wrong.

Was Jesus so hard to understand? "Love/charity is the new law/foundation upon which all relationships and associations are to be based." Dear Mee, what ever happened?

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Paul Mcnabb states:In fact, about the only thing we can see from the Bible is that the only way to interpret it correctly is to be "authorized" to do so: Christ, the prophets, the apostles, other Bible authors. The Bible contains absolutely no notion of interpretting God's words except by a person called of God. There are no explicit principles of exegesis in the Bible.

Biblical exegesis is extrabiblical.

Paul in your group of "authorized interpreters" do you include those assigned by King James as "person(s) called of God"? Or Joseph Smith in his attempt? I assume the "exegesis" as "extrabiblical" you refer to would be foot notes, and the brief chapter headings? Both at times seem to be quite influential and lead the reader?

You almost have it right here. Without continuing revelation from God, the scriptures *WILL* be misinterpretted. It seems to be an absolute, universal truth. The Bible, and all the things that God has ever said, whether written or passed down orally, must be interpretted by the people who receive them. And humans have a knack for corrupting things, even when those people are well-intentioned
.
The Bible does contain real truth. In fact, Joseph Smith said it contains the fulness of the Gospel. And people are less likely to miss the "big things" than the little things. But... people do sometimes get off on the wrong foot and head down a path of "wrong interpretation" and the only possible way of getting it right is to have God set people straight.

THAT is biblical.

Just because you don't find something convincing, you have to recognize that for almost 2000 years, millions of serious, intelligent, deeply-spiritual, highly-educated, God-fearing, thoughtful men and women have found the scriptures to mean something different from what you believe and have found their interpretation to be entirely consistent with how they read the Bible.

Paul, by "...the only possible way of getting it right is to have God set people straight." Do you mean by that the "...millions of serious, intelligent, deeply-spiritual, highly educated, God-fearing, thoughtful men and women..."?

It seems there is little room but for substantiation of past practice within each denomination and their sects. Where is the critical thinking that has moved societies into the space age at work within the religious laboratory?

Seems "Authority" has a hammer-lock on creativity, ingenuity, resourcefullnes and individual initiative that we N. Americans think essential to progress?? Is it in defence of their Empires and priest-crafts? How come religionists know all about the bible and can quote it by the hour, but not how to make Jesus' message work?

One thing i will agree with you, "...humans have a knack of corrupting things..." They sure have messed up Jesus instructions.

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Paul Mcnabb states:In fact, about the only thing we can see from the Bible is that the only way to interpret it correctly is to be "authorized" to do so: Christ, the prophets, the apostles, other Bible authors. The Bible contains absolutely no notion of interpretting God's words except by a person called of God. There are no explicit principles of exegesis in the Bible.

Biblical exegesis is extrabiblical.

Paul in your group of "authorized interpreters" do you include those assigned by King James as "person(s) called of God"? Or Joseph Smith in his attempt? I assume the "exegesis" as "extrabiblical" you refer to would be foot notes, and the brief chapter headings? Both at times seem to be quite influential and lead the reader?

I wasn't trying to point to any particular individual or group as being "authorized", only that (1) "authorized interpretation" rather than "textual analysis" is the apparent Biblical methodology for determining the meaning of God's written word and (2) since the Bible doesn't identify itself as the sole, sufficient, inerrant, or infallible word of God, the attempt to determine the truth of all things by appealing to the Bible is self-contradictory.

My argument was that it is inconsistent to believe in sola scriptura and/or "Biblical self-interpretation" when neither is Biblical.

As to WHO is authorized to interpret scripture, well that is up to each individual to determine for himself/herself. One could pick the KJV committee (though they, strictly speaking, were not trying to interpret the Bible, nor did they add much commentary to the Bible), Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, your local minister, oneself, or any number of ministers, philosophers, authors, theologians, etc.

In fact, despite all protestation to the contrary, anyone who does anything more than strictly read the words of the Bible is relying on an interpretter, whoever that may be.

And yes, the chapter headers, footnotes, Bible dictionaries, and everything else is interpretation of scripture--an attempt to assign, limit, or extend meaning to the text. Even the assigning of chapters and verse numbers is an interpretation of scripture.

My belief is that God inspires people to do things, and the more I believe a person or group is inspired, the more trust I assign to what they do. I consider Joseph Smith to be very inspired, so the "Joseph Smith Translation" (which, by the way, I view as Bible commentary rather than translation, strictly speaking) in my mind is quite authoritative as Biblical interpretation. I believe those who worked on the King James Version were inspired, though I don't believe what they produced was inerrant.

For what it's worth, I don't believe that anything Joseph Smith did was inerrant either.

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Paul, by "...the only possible way of getting it right is to have God set people straight." Do you mean by that the "...millions of serious, intelligent, deeply-spiritual, highly educated, God-fearing, thoughtful men and women..."?

It seems there is little room but for substantiation of past practice within each denomination and their sects. Where is the critical thinking that has moved societies into the space age at work within the religious laboratory?

Seems "Authority" has a hammer-lock on creativity, ingenuity, resourcefullnes and individual initiative that we N. Americans think essential to progress?? Is it in defence of their Empires and priest-crafts? How come religionists know all about the bible and can quote it by the hour, but not how to make Jesus' message work?

One thing i will agree with you, "...humans have a knack of corrupting things..." They sure have messed up Jesus instructions.

The "...millions of serious, intelligent, deeply-spiritual, highly educated, God-fearing, thoughtful men and women..." have been almost unanimous about core values of goodness, the importance of truth, the reality of the Divine, and the need for service to mankind.

They haven't been so successful, however, in agreeing upon the details of theology, despite their sincerity and appeals to written scripture.

Authority can indeed put a hammer-lock on creativity, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and individual initiative. With all of the benefits of authority, that is one of its dangers. I expect my children's math teachers to "stamp out creativity" when it comes to some parts of their education and to strongly encourage it in other parts. It's a difficult line to draw.

And I will certainly agree with you that many great philosophers, theologians, and scholars demonstrate poor examples of Christian life.

As James said,

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27 NIV)

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflication, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1: 27 KJV)

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Whether intended or not, you insult my intelligence, and the intelligence of others who have faith in Christ and his restored gospel, when you say that our interpretation of the Bible on essential issues, is not reasonable.

I did not mean to say that you are unintelligent, by any means, and I'm truly sorry if that is what you distill from my posts. I would easily grant that your interpretations are internally consistent and logical, but from a point of reference that is not found in the Bible (i.e. the current theological system of the LDS church, based more upon modern revelation than that of the Bible). I could even grant that your interpretation of the Bible on essential issues is a reasonable one, but I would not say it is the most reasonable. That is a clear distinction I will make, and one that I hope does not insult you.

You also insult our faith by arbitrarily and capreciously refusing to accept that we are Christian.

From my point of view, there is nothing arbitrary about my convictions, and I do not hold my convictions to be capricious or insulting in any way. Likewise, I could be just as insulted by your capricious and arbitrary conviction that my church is apostate, my creed is an abomination to God, and my church is not a true church of Jesus Christ. Of course, I am not insulted, because that is a foundational belief of your religion and I will not get angry or insulted with you because you hold it. I admire a man or woman of conviction, whether or not I agree with those convictions myself.

It is not an insult to have beliefs. It can be an insult to defend them offensively or obnoxiously, which I studiously try to avoid (and admittedly fail, as I apparently have in your case). I hope we can have further good discussion on other topics in time, but I think this one might be a bit counterproductive for us at this point.

Take care, wenglund. :P

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Wow, a lot has been going on since I last checked the thread! I'll try to get to Paul's thoughts as soon as I can. He brought up a bunch of good thoughts, so I might need to do some extra study before I post anything really meaty.

Just some quick preliminary thoughts:

The claim is NOT that there is no Biblical Christianity in the sense that there were no commonly held Christian beliefs during Bible times. It is rather that it is not possible to determine those beliefs purely by an appeal to the Bible.

I would not go as far as to say that all basic Christian beliefs can be easily gleaned from a cursory reading of the Bible. I would also appeal to the works and writings of the early church, who did most of the grunt work in hammering out the various difficulties inherent in interpreting an ancient text into contemporary terms. Interpretation of the writings of the Old Testament, and those NT writings considered authoritative, began as soon as they were written, and we have records of the various issues and problems that arose, and how those problems were solved. What I mean to say is that the Scriptures are the highest authority, not that the Scriptures are the only authority.

You also raise good points about the authority to interpret Scriptures in a way not necessarily exegetically correct. I would agree with you that the disciples, and probably Jesus himself, interpreted the OT in a way probably not intended by the original author. Let me read up a little more, I'll get back to you. I have to get going. Take care, everyone :P

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Whether intended or not, you insult my intelligence, and the intelligence of others who have faith in Christ and his restored gospel, when you say that our interpretation of the Bible on essential issues, is not reasonable.

I did not mean to say that you are unintelligent, by any means, and I'm truly sorry if that is what you distill from my posts. I would easily grant that your interpretations are internally consistent and logical, but from a point of reference that is not found in the Bible (i.e. the current theological system of the LDS church, based more upon modern revelation than that of the Bible). I could even grant that your interpretation of the Bible on essential issues is a reasonable one, but I would not say it is the most reasonable. That is a clear distinction I will make, and one that I hope does not insult you.

I am perfectly comfortable with that distinction--though of course I happen to believe mine is the most reasonable interpretation. ;-)

As long as you can grant me this same high level of respect for intelligence that I unhesitatingly offer to you, then that is a wonderful step towards productive interfaith dialogue, even though we may not agree on all points including those that are essential.

And, since you have graciously granted that our interpretation of the Bible is reasonable, then, by definition, or logically, that would make our interpretation "biblical."

Whew...that wasn't so bad, was it?

You also insult our faith by arbitrarily and capreciously refusing to accept that we are Christian.

From my point of view, there is nothing arbitrary about my convictions, and I do not hold my convictions to be capricious or insulting in any way.

Were you the only one involved in the conversation, then you would have a point. But, you weren't. There are others of us who have our own valid point of view. If there is to be any hope of meaningful and productive interfaith dialogue, all sides need respect the other points of view. This is best done by granting, for the sake of discussion, commonly held definition (i.e. dictionary definiitons) of terms.

Exclusionary language, such as polemic and ideosyncratic use of the term "Christian" (by arbitrary and caprecious I mean you, or others of your similar belief, deciding for the rest of Christianity who is Christian or not), while fine when speaking within one's own faith, is meaningless and off-putting, if not insulting, when introduced in interfaith dialogue.

It mearly has the makings of a "yes I am...not your not...yes I am....not your not" kind of nonsensical exchange.

That is why, as a member of Christ's restored gospel, I may privately believe my faith to be the only true Church, but out of respect for those not of my faith, I have no qualms about granting them, according to their beliefs about themselves, the classification of "Christian" (as defined by the dictionary).

Clearly, my intent is not to wield the label as propagandizing stick, but as a means of encouraging healthy and mutually enlightening interaction.

By my own beliefs, as well as according to the commonly accepted definition of Christian. I am a Christian. For you to deny me that during conversations between the two of us, is insulting, and unacceptable.

For that very reason, I have no hesitancy in calling you a Christian.

Likewise, I could be just as insulted by your capricious and arbitrary conviction that my church is apostate, my creed is an abomination to God, and my church is not a true church of Jesus Christ.

Were I to have made those claims during the course of our conversation, then you would have a point. But I didn't, for the very reasons that I previously expressed.

I have chosen, instead, to voice respect for your beliefs (which, by the way, is the more predominate sentiment among leaders and members of my faith towards the good people of other faiths). And, while I and others within my faith unavoidably hold the beliefs you state above, we still grant, in private and in public interfaith dialogue, that others beside ourselves are Christian. We can do so, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because to us it is not so much about hijacking labels for our own purposes, but positively expressing the saving message of Christ.

Of course, I am not insulted, because that is a foundational belief of your religion and I will not get angry or insulted with you because you hold it. I admire a man or woman of conviction, whether or not I agree with those convictions myself.

It is not an insult to have beliefs. It can be an insult to defend them offensively or obnoxiously, which I studiously try to avoid (and admittedly fail, as I apparently have in your case). I hope we can have further good discussion on other topics in time, but I think this one might be a bit counterproductive for us at this point.

Take care, wenglund. :P

I am not asking for much, really, and I fully acknowledge your uncommon attempts to be kind, gracious, and respectful.

But, I simply expect, during interfaith dialogue (what you believe separate from discussions with me is of no concern to me) to be granted the same level of respect for my expressed beliefs in Christ as you would want from me in return. I don't need for you to agree with my beliefs. I just think it appropriate for you to consider me a Christian (according to the dictionary definition), just as I have been more that willing to do so with you.

Absent that modest and reasonable jesture, the chances of a fruitful discussion, no matter how genteel and magnanomous the rhetoric, is made somewhat remote.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Were I to have made those claims during the course of our conversation, then you would have a point. But I didn't, for the very reasons that I previously expressed.

When did I ever say that you were not Christian? Seriously, I do not remember making any sort of judgment on that issue in this thread. Please point it out to me. Thanks :P

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Were I to have made those claims during the course of our conversation, then you would have a point. But I didn't, for the very reasons that I previously expressed.

When did I ever say that you were not Christian? Seriously, I do not remember making any sort of judgment on that issue in this thread. Please point it out to me. Thanks :P

I am not certain that you did.

But, for the record, do you grant that the restored gospel of Christ (the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints) is a Christian denomination (as defined in the dictionary).

If you do, that will complete the final step in resolving the question of this thread.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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But, for the record, do you grant that the restored gospel of Christ (the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints) is a Christian denomination (as defined in the dictionary).

If you do, that will complete the final step in resolving the question of this thread.

Nicely done. :P

Unfortunately, my religious convictions and the language in which I convey them are not defined by the dictionary, but by careful study, prayer, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit as granted by God through faith in Jesus Christ. Do you worship God, as defined by the dictionary? Or would you be willing to grant that my church is a true church, according to the dictionary definition of "church"?

If we limit our word meanings only to that which is found in the dictionary, then perhaps I would grant that the LDS church qualifies for a dictionary definition of "Christian". But then, such a limitation would strip our words of the meanings which make them our own in the first place. Such a step would have just as much difficulty intrinsic in it for you as it would for me.

So, in answer to your question: According to the dictionary, yes, the LDS church is a Christian denomination (just as I belong to the true church of Jesus Christ). According to my beliefs and convictions, no, I do not believe the LDS church to be a Christian denomination. I make no such determinations about you personally, however, so please don't blow this out of proportion. My difficulties are not personal in nature, but are difficulties of truth, doctrine, and spirit.

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I didn't realize you had posted until today! Take care, wenglund <_<

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