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The Spirit gives wisdom and understanding

POSTED: January 27, 2012 7:00 a.m.

Recently there was a column entitled “How do you view Biblical Authority?” The author started with a question and then proceeded to fill the rest of the column with assumptions and accusations and generalities which led him and perhaps others way off the mark. This is what happens when we don’t listen, or ever really talk to each other to begin with.
The columnist erroneously asserts that every single one of us Christians who are not him believe that “the Bible is heart-warming and helpful at points, but is filled with errors, naïve myths and outdated morals.”
In fact, before God and before their fellow Christians, elders and deacons in the Presbyterian Church have to affirm that they accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal and God’s Word to them. They have to promise to fulfill their office “in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture,” and to be a friend among their colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to “the ordering of God’s Word and Spirit?” This is the case in the Presbyterian Church.  Next I’ll ask my Lutheran and Methodist and Baptist (and “etc.”!) Christian brothers and sisters how they honor the authority of Scripture. The conversation will be inspiring. 
If the columnist condemns what we mean in our hearts as we affirm the authority of Scripture as the rule for our life and faith, then he is claiming to have knowledge and authority only Christ has. Christ knows my heart better than I do.  And I will be thankful that it is only Christ who is in a position to condemn.
But what Tad (Trapp) is doing is precisely the reason there is a lack of knowledge and understanding between so many Christians, let alone between people of different faiths. Tad is applying his interpretation of my faith without knowing me, and without making a place for any possibility that he could be wrong about me and the assumptions he is making about me and even himself. He could be just wrong himself. 
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are God’s Word for us as they point to the Living Word of God, Christ Jesus Our Lord. We who are sinners, all of us, bring our faith but also our weaknesses of sinful wrong assumptions and biases as we seek to interpret these Scriptures.  There is the Truth, and then there is our attempt to know and understand and live that Truth. And in that we all “fall short of the glory of God”.
That is why we have to listen to each other, really listen. When we give the Bible authority, it means we will take it seriously. We will take it seriously enough to seek to understand it as it was miraculously given to us in the ancient languages of Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Greek and Aramaic. We will try to find the most reliable manuscripts of these texts. We will prioritize the plain sense of the text and not allegorize. We will honor the text in its original literary form whether it was as history or as poetry, etc.
We will try our best to understand the scriptures as they were given to the people of God thousands of years ago in that ancient historical and social context, to try to the best of our knowledge to understand the original intent of those scriptures in order to then discern how it might be applied in faithfulness in our lives and social and cultural circumstances today. 
We will do all this while affirming the centrality of Christ, the need to interpret Scripture by Scripture, the use of the rules of love and faith, appreciating the fallibility of all interpretation and the relation of Word and Spirit.
Because no one person can claim to have all knowledge and all faith we need to do this together, listening, sharing and honoring the many and myriad ways in which the Spirit might be leading our understanding. 
And with faith and humility, relying heavily on Divine Mercy and Grace, we will let the One who loved this world’s people enough to die for us be the judge of how we do.

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