Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Books can be a good thing. In business, a book will generally tell you what you need to know to do a certain job. The problem comes when people don’t read that book, and then decide that you are doing your job wrong, based entirely upon another book, usually not related to your job. Even worse, these are the people who couldn’t even do their job who are telling you how to do yours.
In the contemporary Christian church, there are many people who hold the title of priest, or pastor. I will not begrudge those who came way of that title through diligent study, and hard word. You who have done so, you are well aware of the history and traditions of your church, though some of you may yet lack some understanding.
It goes without saying that for most Christians, the Bible is the primary source for all teachings within the church. However, how do we understand what the Bible actually says?
I have been to many churches over the years. If I were to ask the senior pastor or priest, every one of them would tell me that their church (or denomination) accepts the Bible as it is written. However, the problem with that statement is that while they may accept what was written, they have an interesting way, at times, of understanding it.
Some churches treat the Bible as a secret code book. Yes, they may accept some historical texts as they are written, with no secret meanings, but other texts they will twist in every direction they can to get some secret meaning out of it that may not actually be there.
Other churches treat the Bible as a guide. Yes, it has its rules and standards. However, for such churches, those rules and standards were meant for another people in another time, and we are no longer bound to them. These churches will say and do all they can to marginalize things that were said in very plain language, in both the Old and New Testament.
There are also those churches in which the rules of the Bible are so absolute, that even where something is fulfilled and scripture declares such, these churches reject it, choosing instead to keep the absolute letter of the law, which Christ Jesus said we can’t do.
Is there a middle ground? Is there a place at which all three views (as well as other views not mentioned) can come together? Yes, but not exactly. Also, you will need another book.
Before you go crazy, thinking that I believe there is a secondary book of scripture, let me explain.
There is a book that has been in use by the Lutheran Church for a few centuries now. It is nothing too spectacular. It is known as the Book of Concord. Lutherans do not hold to it as being scripture. Rather, we hold to it as being a proper teaching regarding scripture.
Because of the Book of Concord, the Lutheran church holds fast to a traditional teaching that goes back quite a few centuries. This traditional teaching allows us to discern Law and Gospel. It is because of this discernment that we practice infant baptism, and accept the Lord’s Supper as being the very body and blood of Christ Jesus.
There is something rather peculiar that I want to point out regarding the Book of Concord. Specifically, it is the Augsburg Confession. Historically, this is the document that broke the church, establishing a distinction be Roman Catholic and Protestant (Lutherans would later eschew the term “protestant” as we did not want to be associated with extremists such as Calvin and Zwingli, who would throw out otherwise acceptable Christian doctrine, if it were in agreement with Rome).
The fact of the matter is that the Augsburg Confession is the distinct doctrine of division between Rome and all other churches. Sadly, it is also a very unwelcomed document in some modern churches. Why? Because it would denounce, quite soundly, many modernistic practices within the church.
One need not get beyond the second article of the Augsburg Confession to see this is true:
Article II: Of Original Sin.
Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.
They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.
Simply put, the idea that we can “choose” salvation, or “give our hearts to Christ”, or “ask Jesus into our heart”, is not only in violation of the second article of the Augsburg Confession, but it is also an affront to what the Bible plainly teaches regarding salvation, namely that apart from Christ we can do nothing, and that we are all dead in our sins apart from Christ.
From there, the Augsburg Confession further rejects decision theology (Article XVIII: Of Free Will), denounces any who reject the baptism of, or refuses to baptize, infants (Article IX: Of Baptism). Additionally, the Augsburg Confession affirms that we do receive the body and blood of Christ Jesus in the Lord’s Supper (Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper).
Speaking plainly, any church denying this, may well find itself denying scripture. Every article set forth in the Augsburg Confession, was written with a very careful understanding of what the Bible said in plain language. It was not written with the idea of some sort of secret code, nor was it looked upon as being merely a guide, nor was it considered so iron clad that even those things which were fulfilled must still be abided by.
Many of the doctrines and practices that I have witnessed in the modern church are not scriptural. Most of them of heretical at best, and demonic at worst. The Bible teaches that prophecies and tongues would end, and until the 1880’s, such was indeed true. It was only because of sign seekers with itchy ears that such practices can into being, and yet such are not a sign for our generation.
Additionally, there is no promise of a rescue for believers before seven years of tribulation. Indeed, there is not even a promise of seven years of tribulation. You can point to the Apocalypse (Revelation if you will) all you want, but that book was not written to modern Christians, it was written to seven churches (five of which were backsliding) that were undergoing different levels of persecution. We modern Christians find comfort in it, for it tells us that God truly has all things under control and none can thwart what he has purposed.
Many wrong thinking people assume to themselves titles such as priest and pastor. Many do so to the hurt of themselves and those who may follow them. Such are anti-Christ. They do so in denial of accepted Biblical teachings, all of which are contained in the Book of Concord, many outlined in the Augsburg Confession.
Yes. We are all sinners in need of a savior. However, we are also human, and can be led astray by those who preach things that sound good, and make us feel good, but such things are lies. These are the wolves that Christ warned of. These can not abide with sound teaching.
It doesn’t matter what book you use. If you use the wrong book for the wrong job, you are wrong. If you are promoted and you don’t know your job, much others, you are wrong. A pastor who does not know how to discern what the Bible properly teaches, or denies the history of the church, is unsuited for public ministry.