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Where God fits into the idea of ‘obeying scripture’

by
20 May 2009

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From Mr Rod Angus

Sir, — Regarding the argument by the Revd Professor Adrian Thatcher (Comment, 15 May) that Christians are to obey Jesus as the living, in­carn­ate Word of God rather than to obey the Bible: may I say that, while in essence this is true, the dis­dainful spirit of this article displayed an atti­tude to the written word quite other than that exhibited by the Lord in his own respectful submission to “what is written”, as even a child can see.

While Christ is the key to unlock­ing and understanding the entire volume of scripture, this revelation of all truth seen in him is surely not to be sought at the expense of the righteousness of God previously de­clared. That is, practices such as witch­craft, mentioned by Professor That­cher as condemnable under the Old Testament, remain so since the coming of Jesus. The difference for us is that this new Way teaches us to confront such practices with the cross and not the sword.

The homosexual issue, also men­tioned by the author and so much in vogue, is surely to be met in the same way. I cannot find one positive word to be said about homosexuality in the entire history of either Israel or the Church, until now.

ROD ANGUS
West Witchburn, Witchburn Road
Campbeltown, Argyll
Scotland PA28 6JU

From the Revd Jonathan Frais

Sir, — The Revd Professor Adrian Thatcher says that Christians should obey God, not the Bible. But how can we separate what our Maker has joined together? Jesus quoted the Bible in his temptations, promised help to his apostles so that they could write the New Testament (John 14.26), and taught a right use of scripture on the Emmaus road, so that his hearers would know where to find him after his ascension. We obey God by obeying his word.

JONATHAN FRAIS
11 Coverdale Avenue
Bexhill, East Sussex TN39 4TY

From Mr D. B. Taylor

Sir, — Professor Thatcher is surely right to argue that GAFCON’s demand that the Bible “should be taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense” is just not possible; those, indeed, who know the Bible well will wonder whether such a demand could ever be made by people who have read it. To give a glaring example, the New Testament unambiguously endorses slavery about as often as it unambiguously condemns homo­sexuality.

Yet the solution he proposes also will not really do. “For . . . in Chris­tianity it is God and God alone who must be obeyed. But obeying God, or obeying Christ, is a different matter from obeying the Bible.” Said of God, this is clearly true, but it certainly isn’t true of obeying Christ, since everything we know about Jesus is in the Bible, and we have no other source of such knowledge.

But even when we talk about obey­ing God, there is an insur­mount­­able difficulty. The Bible is an examinable book, and any claim we make about it can be scrutinised; but this is clearly not so in the claims that we make about God. We may profess to believe in a God who is external to ourselves and objectively real, but experience compels us to conclude that each individual has his own private understanding of God, and it is to this private notion he appeals whenever he invokes God as justification for his opinion.

On the one hand, there is no real answer to the problem; but on the other hand, for most of us there doesn’t need to be. “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John — again! — 7.16b-17). John offers it as an object­ive test, which it certainly is not, but in most people’s experience it still works perfectly well.

D. B. TAYLOR
15 Ty’n y Maes, Ffestiniog
Gwynedd LL41 4NW

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