Back when I was religious, I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. Its mysteries just prodded me to dig deeper. Soon enough, I found a series of books put out by one of the mega-Christian publishing houses devoted to the most well-worn doctrinal disputes. It was called the Counterpoints Collection and included such titles as “Five Views on Sanctification,” “Four Views on Eternal Security,” and “Four Views on the Lord’s Supper.”
And I read’ em all. Like I said, I couldn’t get enough.
The volume I want to talk about was “Five Views on Law and Gospel,” its existence engendered by the fact that the New Testament seems to speak with, at least, two voices about whether or not Christians must follow the Law of Moses. Sometimes the New Testament seems to say yes, sometimes no. The volume boasted the thoughts of five theologians:
- One of whom posited a “non-theonomic reformed view of the use of the law.
- One who argued for a “theonomic reformed approach.”
- One who maintained that “the weightier issues of the law of Moses are binding on believers today”
- One who advocated for “the dispensational view”
- And one who proposed a “modified Lutheran approach with a clear antithesis between the Law and Gospel.”
(I’m still waiting to meet a Modified Lutheran. I suppose I’ll know him when I see him, won’t I?)
After reading this volume—and all the volumes in the Counterpoints Collection—one is left to fall back on some version of the familiar bulwark of the religious: “We’ll just have to ask God about this when we get to heaven.” Ah well. Makes sense. God is absolutely simple, yes, in that He is an undivided One, but he is mind-bogglingly complex. What were we thinking—assuming we could fathom scripture’s mysteries?
Or . . . maybe’s there’s another reason the Bible’s a mishmash. What if the Bible is all over the map on theological issues because it was written by men who were, literally and figuratively, all over the map? The riddles of the Bible suddenly make sense when you accept the fact that the book was written by hapless schlubs like ourselves, hopelessly prone to walking around with our flies open and being none the wiser—i.e. imprudent and clueless, just parading around with our wangs wobbling in the breeze and thinking we’re all that. Such folly. Stupid humans.
The reason the New Testament speaks with varied voices on the issue of Law vs. Gospel is that different men with different opinions wrote different sections of scripture. For example, Jesus was all about obeying the Torah—hence his take on the final judgment:
A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
People who do good go to heaven. People who do bad go to hell. Jesus didn’t know anything about being washed of one’s sins by the blood of the lamb—amazing grace—as advocated 30 years later by the Apostle Paul.
Oh. . . so men wrote the Bible? That explains a lot!
Still, though, we’re stuck with the Bible, for better or worse. It’s a worldwide sacred and revered text, the Word of God, read in hundreds of languages and dialects, the number one bestselling book of all time, with billions of copies sold and a hundred million more sold each year. (In your face, Harry Potter.) The genie’s not going back into the bottle.
Look at the bright side. The Bible provides scant answers. But it makes us ask important questions.
We must view the Bible differently. The church that’s coming—and, make no mistake, the church will either spin a chrysalis about itself and reappear renewed or it will ossify like a McDonald’s French fry left under the passenger side seat—the church that’s coming will have a new view of the Bible. The Bible we have is not what God would have provided for us assuming He could have controlled everything. One hopes. He doesn’t, though—control everything.
That’s why Christendom is going to change or die. Believers must change the way they view God, doing away with outmoded ideas like omnipotence, change the way they view scripture, change the way they view the whole bloody undertaking we call religion. Change or die.
I blame the internet. More on that in a later post.