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Doubts About Biblical Utility


3DOP

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In reply to my own post in another thread on how we may ever arrive at being convinced we have the truth while defending all points of view, I will be candid. I believe every widely-held biblical point of view can be well defended. Neither Mormons, nor Catholics, nor Protestants believe in that which is defenseless against any biblical argument against them. That is why the beliefs are widely-held. These beliefs are all survivors of long and repeated biblical scrutiny. Everybody knows their own defense systems are sound. There is assured security against any biblical arguments.

I was Protestant, a minister too, when about 20 years ago, I first came to suspect that everyone's biblical defense system was sound. It was disconcerting to me. A little more than 10 years before that, I had been required to speak with a professor at my Bible college for an alleged heresy that had been detected in a prayer meeting. I had only been there for a month. Apparently this heresy had been gaining ground on campus. Of course I knew nothing about it. "Where did you learn this belief," I was asked. "I dunno, reading the Bible, I guess," I answered questioningly. "Who is your pastor? What church do you come from," I recall as his response. I answered him. The professor was familiar with my pastor and seemed puzzled as to why I could hold this heresy and he gave me the reason for his puzzlement. No one, he said, can get heresy just from reading the Bible. He assured me that false beliefs require a false teacher.

"Sure", I thought. "That makes sense. Okay. I just got here. I'll be humble." So he let me go, convinced that I must have prayed that we would meet and bring the Gospel to those who God predestined for salvation that memorable Saturday morning, was something I must have picked up on the radio. I sure didn't remember having heard it on the radio. I kind of just filed it away, agreeing not to spread this false belief or even pray that way anymore. I never got into any more trouble and graduated with a Master's degree seven years later before starting a Bible-believing, pre-millenial, soul-winning, blood-bought Baptist Church.

This story is getting long now I fear. Let me cut more straightly to the chase if I can. In my seven years pastoring I met sincere and intelligent people who loved God and the Bible that sometimes disagreed with what I taught. They came to my church and I loved them and I think they knew I didn't hold any grudge for their disagreement. I was younger, and I didn't think I had the authority to call them into my office like my college professor did to ask them who taught them their errors. I eventually decided to propose a different route. Being pretty secure in our firm committment to the same Scriptures and our desire to be united doctrinally with brothers who are already united in heart, we would pray earnestly for God's light and the Holy Ghost to graciously assist us to arrive at the same doctrinal conclusions so that we could with clearer purpose and vision present the Gospel to our community.

My enthusiasm was high. Our earnest prayers for doctrinal unity could not but be pleasing to our Lord in heaven. "The Roundtable Discussions" began on Sunday afternoons after church between perhaps ten or twelve very devout and knowledgable lovers of Holy Scripture. A few of you here know one of the other participants at the table, my best friend, David Waltz. The meetings lasted for a few months. They left me discouraged, and as puzzled as my college professor had been with me over a decade before at how and why we could not agree. Even worse was how the project had been seemingly "bathed in prayer" without gaining any positive results. If anything, everyone was even more convinced of their originally held views. No one moved an inch.

This experience, which I have seen repeated over and over in other ways through the years, has led me to believe with every fiber of my soul that "The Bible alone is always inadequate to resolve doctrinal controversy". By 1992, I could no longer leave on the back shelf the notion that my prayers that Saturday morning came from hearing a false teacher on the radio. No. I knew they came from my personal reading of the Bible, just as the errors proposed by my dear friends at the Roundtable did. I did not lose my faith in God, Christ, or even the Bible through this difficult time, soon after which, I felt compelled to leave the ministry, for a period of thorough reevaluation.

I eventually concluded that my college professor was wrong. One can become doctrinally fouled up just by reading the Bible alone. I also concluded that I had been wrong as a pastor. It wasn't that God failed to see our earnest hearts before the Roundtable, but that he wanted to show us through His failure to bring us together, that there is something wrong with believing that the Bible was written in such a way as to bring about visible doctrinal unity, even between people who diligently pray and earnest care for each other. Our original search for unity had occurred because doctrinal disunity is incompatible with unity in practice. Different beliefs about divorce and remarriage, the authority of ministers to celebrate the Lord's Supper, and the meaning and modes of baptism can only be practised in one church by people who agree. The whole church predictably broke up a few years after I left, not that anyone could have held us together.

So where does the believer in Christ turn, who is convinced that the Bible alone is intended by God to be inadequate for resolving doctrinal controversy? That was perhaps the the most important question which led me to where I reside today ecclesiastically. Internet religious discussions are almost totally infected today with the debunked (to me) presumption that the Bible plainly teaches one doctrinal point of view. One question for me regards whether the beginnings and foundation of any ecclesiastical community are historically rooted in this false presumption. Another question for me is regarding which ecclesiastical communities are best adapted to reject the false presumption, and are not historically founded upon it. I still hold firmly that the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired gift of God to man, not to be understood best by my own personal Bible reading, but some other way that doesn't throw me back upon my own inadequate devices.

It took me many years of frustration and reevaluation to arrive where I am today. No one is convinced in an hour. Any of those who have read this entire post, I thank, while knowing you will perhaps agree partly but not really. Not enough for it to mean a new course in your life. Forget for a while what I have said. But make yourself file it away in your mind. See if your experience in the next ten or twenty years doesn't lead you to maybe begin to doubt how clearly the Bible teaches what you believe. If that happens, maybe you can revive and revisit the old memory banks and recall that long-winded Catholic who wouldn't budge on the absolute need for doctrinal unity, while at the same time saying that the Bible can be more harmful than helpful in our quest for that unity, if used improperly. I have much more confidence in my prayers now, that someone will be eventually led to so conclude, than that by biblical discussions and debates, even among fair minded and charitable souls, we can with our own Bible studies ever come to any place of agreement.

Yours in Jesus and Mary,

Rory

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I beleive you echo the same sentiments that the Young Joseph had.

JSH 1

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to

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So where does the believer in Christ turn, who is convinced that the Bible alone is intended by God to be inadequate for resolving doctrinal controversy? That was perhaps the the most important question which led me to where I reside today ecclesiastically. Internet religious discussions are almost totally infected today with the debunked (to me) presumption that the Bible plainly teaches one doctrinal point of view. One question for me regards whether the beginnings and foundation of any ecclesiastical community are historically rooted in this false presumption. Another question for me is regarding which ecclesiastical communities are best adapted to reject the false presumption, and are not historically founded upon it. I still hold firmly that the Scriptures are the inerrant, inspired gift of God to man, not to be understood best by my own personal Bible reading, but some other way that doesn't throw me back upon my own inadequate devices.

It took me many years of frustration and reevaluation to arrive where I am today. No one is convinced in an hour. Any of those who have read this entire post, I thank, while knowing you will perhaps agree partly but not really. Not enough for it to mean a new course in your life. Forget for a while what I have said. But make yourself file it away in your mind. See if your experience in the next ten or twenty years doesn't lead you to maybe begin to doubt how clearly the Bible teaches what you believe. If that happens, maybe you can revive and revisit the old memory banks and recall that long-winded Catholic who wouldn't budge on the absolute need for doctrinal unity, while at the same time saying that the Bible can be more harmful than helpful in our quest for that unity, if used improperly. I have much more confidence in my prayers now, that someone will be eventually led to so conclude, than that by biblical discussions and debates, even among fair minded and charitable souls, we can with our own Bible studies ever come to any place of agreement.

Yours in Jesus and Mary,

Rory

I would like to offer my opinion humbly and sincerely. Part comes from the Bible. The question is who does God reveal his will to. (from your post above) "So where does the believer in Christ turn, who is convinced that the Bible alone is intended by God to be inadequate for resolving doctrinal controversy?" The answer comes from Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."

The answer then to your question is to find the Prophet of God. One who speaks the mind and will of God.

Ray

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3DOP,

Thanks for sharing your inner most thoughts. I think you are very brave to do so, knowing full well that some may jump on you.

I find a lot of what you say to agree with. The numerous variations of doctrine clearly show that the Bible is indeed inadequate. Many things in the Bible are figurative and many are literal. And knowing which is which is obviously difficult.

Unity IS extremely important. There are numerous verses the show this.

Unity can only be achieved through the ministrations of the Holy Spirit of truth, and even then, only by those receptive to its witness/promptings/influence.

May God bless you with success in your search for the Spirit of truth.

Vance

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