Tuesday, August 9, 2011

THE SPIRIT IS MUCH BROADER THAN SCRIPTURE..date uncertain.(edited Aug 9,2011)..note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward. You know how much I appreciate what you are saying to your reader and that I agree. I seem to also have the same 'type' of reservations and concerns with some of the assumptions of what is called 'Historic Christianity'  and which we both have with our heritage called the  'restoration movement'. My hope is the same as yours... and Paul's--Then we, "with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord," begin to be "transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:17-18). --I just think spiritual transformation is more likely and honestly to happen without the orthodox  emphasis on the Bible being primarily the Word Of God. The writings of the Bible still are for me a prime basis of talking about and approaching  The Christ- they are for me the texts from which I preach but without the assumptions(which I feel are objectively unwarranted) that they are 'The Only Word of God' or the 'Whole Word of God' or the "Inerrant Word of God". Only the Living Christ, who or which is very different from the words of the Bible, can be rightfully described that way for Christians.
The Spirit Is Far Broader Than Only Scripture

 I feel this needs to become a clear and open part of Christian teaching. I suspect that many who believe this may be afraid to say it. Afraid that somehow the living Spirit of Christ can not survive without an infallible book to support it. This to me is preposterous and an unwarranted fear. I think what I am saying is even closer to what Paul is teaching in many places than the majority historical view became. I'm having to do more thinking in this area as I anticipate the conversations that may lead me toward Ordination. (I see these problems in William Willimon's book Pastor- The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry. This is a good work in many ways but it fails to seriously consider the nature of scripture. It just assumes way too much. And transparency in this area is crucial to a credible Christianity of the future, it seems to me). These beliefs expressed by me may in fact bring an end to my ordination process. I really do not know how open this particular part of the UCC is to examining such questions. All I can do is explain myself as honestly as I can. I would not accept an ordination that would coerce me to elevate the Bible to what is in my view an inappropriate level. That to me would border on a kind of idolatry.

Beyond The Sacred Page
I think many so called 'liberal churches'  also tend to communicate an inappropriate view of the Bible by not helping members to see the clearer and more human nature of the documents without this seeming to be an undermining of faith in Christ. This surely must require great effort and patience. This is a different weakness than those whose tendency is to interpret the Bible far too literally than the documents, and what we know about them, support. I feel the Bible needs to be talked about as well as talked from. Matters that are truly matters of faith are just that but these unexamined assumptions about the Bible are not matters of faith but more often matters of fact. It is never healthy to turn matters of genuine human investigation into matters of faith. That cheapens the meaning of faith and causes one to be dishonest with himself; something that real objects of faith do not require one to do, quite the opposite. It also makes one un-open to very real and important questions that sincere persons are likely to have, in this postmodern day, of teachers of religion and the Bible. There needs to be more talk about the Bible in my view in order to yield more honest environments such as churches, homes and seminaries in which the Spirit of Christ can be invited and approached. 

Scripture too much elevated I  believe hinders the process of spiritual development for the Spirit is far broader and inclusive of life than written words- Scripture can ever be.  Just as Catholicism made the church the ultimate  and only expression of final authority and Spirit, Protestantism had made these to be materially written text or the Bible. Both of these  are a kind of idolatry whose purpose is to undermine and forbid the Spirit to be the living expression of  the Sacred. They seek to control  and hinder that which  Jesus said is 'like the wind' and comes and goes of its own volition and purpose. This Living Word concept of  Spirit is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus whereas the other two stray from it. Scripture very easily gets in front of Christ and the Spirit, usually because well meaning teachers put it there. There is indeed more than one way to understand the meaning of 'rightly dividing the word'. I'm sure you would agree that there is a difference in being Christ or Spirit Centered versus Bible Centered? To me this whole area has to do with dealing more openly with known facts, which is surely an essential foundation for the Spirit of God to grow in human hearts, of all kinds of people- not just ones whose cultural background is Bible based. And it is such hearts we should as Christian leaders be considering as we move into the future of a very different world from which most of us have come. Best wishes, Jim H.

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