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#34 - Church traditions, the canonical scriptures, the Word of God: In which is our faith?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
Question/insight #34: "The Scriptures were accepted as the inspired Word of God at a pretty early date. To argue that a portion of the text was inserted later undermines the reliability of Scripture. Don't get me wrong, I am a dedicated supporter of OW [Ordination of Women], but this line of argument is going to convince very few."
[Note from BibleTexts: This "question/insight" was a comment emailed by a fellow participant in the Ordination of Women email forum. It was essentially in response to my earlier comments, as found in http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa030.htm. My response below was originally sent to the forum.]
Response #34: I agree. Overlaid traditions present daunting obstacles for all of us. Unlike archeology that excavates ruins beneath which are overlays of traditions/cultures/civilizations, our textual 'archeology' seems to weaken the foundation of all kinds of ecclesiastical authority. Herein also lies the strength of such honesty: We are forced to find that our faith is not in an organized church, not even in a long-loved text (whether the Vulgate, the KJV, the Textus Receptus, or whatever). We are forced to honestly confront and choose our faith in God over faith in any human institutions or even over human representations of God-ordained institutions. At whatever initial or even long-term cost, such textual and historical honesty can provide a more solid foundation for those very institutions -- and for our individual lives. As we say "Yes" to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit ("the Advocate"/"the Comforter", "the Spirit of truth" -- see John 14-16), which becomes more apparent to us as we live loving lives of 'ceaseless prayer' (1Th 5:17), our daily Christian ministry should take on renewed meaning and authority, because we are putting God first.
As I write this, I only most humbly can echo Paul's words to the Christian community in Philippi (Phi 3:12-16, NRSV), words that I know are deeply felt by each one of us in this forum:
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
I venture to say that "what we have attained" that is of true value is not ecclesiastical authority - whether for our churches, or for ourselves within those churches. What we truly have attained, by the grace of God, is our faith, by which we experience and understand salvation and the fruits of salvation, the works of the Holy Spirit, including our loving, compassionate ministry to our fellow-beings.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer