The Certainty Trap

I’ve become convinced that certainty about what everything means in the Bible is a trap and a lie and the slipperiest slope ever.

Because it depends so heavily on the power of human reasoning.

And it usually doesn’t ask the Holy Spirit for help.

Certainty about everything in the Bible is, for some, absolutely necessary or their doctrine can become contaminated with uncertainty and their works found sinful because they did not — in every instance — rightly divide the word, and felt that somehow the intellect God gave them was a guarantee that they could and should and a command that they must.

That’s one of the dangers of seeing a command behind every period in every sentence of scripture, you see.

And I’m exaggerating, of course, for the value of emphasis — and please don’t take me to task for it as if no one on the “certainty” side of the argument has ever done that.

But let’s face it, when we lean on our own understanding … when we fail to ask for the Holy Spirit because we’ve convinced ourselves that He’s no longer given and wouldn’t help if He still were … when we become addicted to the adrenalin rush of certainty plus the power it brings over others ….

… we’ve gotten ourselves into a mess of trouble.

We’ve become self-reliant … authoritative … superior … judgmental … arrogant.

— when by contrast Jesus asks the believer to be reliant on Him, on His authority, on His superiority, on His judgment, on His humility.

Not everything in scripture is a command.

Nor is everything in scripture crystal-clear. Not every prophecy and mystery is self-explaining to the superior intellect.

If it were, then the humbly-blest (pathetic souls like me who can barely think their way out of a cardboard box) would be locked out of the gates of heaven for their ignorance and inability to decode God’s hidden agenda in scripture. Not because they didn’t obey; but because they didn’t obey everything they couldn’t understand.

Wow. That sounds really fair of God to damn the stupid.

Which leads me to believe that, when we rely on our own certainty instead of God’s, it’s because we’ve chosen to have a view of God that makes Him psychologically warped, secretive, vindictive, and condemnatory above all — while proclaiming Himself to be loving, kind, forgiving, merciful and just.

That’s where atheists go. They choose not to believe in Him because they don’t want to, and that’s the way they describe Him.

What does it say about the believer who chooses to believe in Him being that way?

Far too much of what we’ve been certain about are interpretations of scripture, conclusions drawn from it, based entirely on human logic that turns out to be fundamentally flawed under close inspection.

But there is one thing we can hang our hats (and souls) on — and should, and must:

God is who He says He is.

There are mysteries in scripture which He chose not to reveal in plain language — truths He reserves unto Himself, until the time He chooses to reveal them (and Himself) and in the way He chooses as well.

Even Jesus did not know the day and the hour.

Paul did not have instructions from the Lord on some issues.

There are things that angels long to look into.

You can be certain of it. You can be certain of what He says. You can be certain that He means what He says.

You can be certain that if you use even your best human logic to try to Sherlock out what He meant to not say, you will fail.

You can also be certain of this: reliance on self to be smart enough, good enough and by-golly-people-like-you-enough to earn your place in heaven is always going to fail.

Gnosis was never meant to be your god.

Certainty was never meant to be your god.

But what your God wants you to be certain about, He makes abundantly clear in scripture and His  words require no interpretation, no conclusions drawn, no human doctrine created to defend or explain.

They say what He means.

No more.

No less.

So don’t add. Don’t subtract. Don’t multiply or even divide them to the point where they no longer make His sense.

Ask for help. Ask for the gift of discernment given through the Holy Spirit. It just might be given.

If God loves us, He will tell us what we need to know.

But understand ahead of time that sometimes the scroll is meant to be eaten, and sometimes the words are sealed up for another time.

I’m certain of that.

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105 thoughts on “The Certainty Trap

  1. The counterargument I’ve most often received to this line of thinking is that it isn’t a question of the power of human reasoning – if we say that people can’t understand everything in Scripture, then we’re doubting God’s ability to communicate.

    To which my response typically follows the line that God’s goal isn’t clear communication and the conveying of a particular quantity of knowledge, but rather deep relationship with humankind.

    Doesn’t usually work.

    PS – I wish you wouldn’t say things like, “But what your God wants you to be certain about, He makes abundantly clear in scripture and His words require no interpretation, no conclusions drawn…” We’re still talking about letters and such written millennia ago to people in societies and worlds very different from our own. Translating their message from that world to ours will always require some interpretation and gently-held conclusions.

    • Nick, I’m talking about what God wants us to know and what He expresses unequivocally: that He is love; that Jesus is His Son; that Christ died for us and was raised to life so that whoever believes this truth can have eternal life.

      Interpretation and drawing conclusions about these simple truths cannot alter their truth; should not be allowed to alter their truth. They are clear. They are concise. They mean what they say.

      We do not reserve the right to interpret them out of their simplicity or their truth to suit ourselves.

      I have a followup to this post brewing but it’s not ready to pour yet.

  2. “I’ve become convinced that certainty about what everything means in the Bible is a trap and a lie and the slipperiest slope ever.”

    Keith, who set this trap, and told this lie?

  3. Someone once pointed out to me that there is a great difference between seeking to master the Word of God and seeking to let the Word of God master you.

    When we claim to know everything there is to know about the Bible, we place ourselves above the Word of God, rather than living in submission to it.

  4. Jhn 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    so if Jesus was talking to all Christians only part of this is true. All Christians are indwelled by this holy ghost, but he is only going to bring recollection – the part about teaching you all things, is a bit of a stretch, according to you. the indwelled christians really need to remember what they said, before they say, what they say.

    • Laymond, I think Jesus is referring back to what He said in Mark 13:11:

      “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

      Anyway, how you figure that only part of what Jesus said is true? Or that I said Christians cannot depend on the Holy Spirit to supply what they need to say?

    • Don’t you ever get tired of arguing about the same old things over and over and over again with people who aren’t going to agree with you even if you set their mustaches on fire or give them a billion dollars?

      I do.

      • not as long as one teaches without any proof of what they teach in scripture. not when one says the scriptures are infallible in one minute , and say “Paul did not have instructions from the Lord on some issues.” the next. That is saying -man is infallible- although I agree with your later resolution , your first does not agree with your second. as i said this could be the 100 comment post, but it probally won’t be because I am the only one who will stand behind my beliefs until the end.

  5. “Paul did not have instructions from the Lord on some issues.”
    How about this one Keith.?
    Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

      • In other words, Paul’s judgment could be wrong, right? since Paul was a man, and not God and he spoke without a command from God. when we say Paul’s writings are “holy scripture” because it is in the bible and the bible is breathed by God, we could be wrong as well, right?

      • I prefer to think of it like this: Paul was inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit, yet God did not intend to give Paul an instruction on this matter. So the Holy Spirit moved Paul to distinguish between the instructions of God and his own advice. Which leads to verse 40: “In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” It’s a judgment call … instructions … advice. Not a command from the Lord.

      • I think it is even simpler than that… Paul is saying that the Lord Jesus never gave instruction on this specific situation, so the inspired apostle says that he has no word from the Lord to quote on the matter, and continues to give his own inspired guidance.

  6. OK all fun aside , Keith you certainly did not need to confess that you did not rely on biblical certainty for your beliefs, because many things you have said to me are certainly not found in scripture. Just to name two giant ones, trinity God and, Christian “holy ghost” indwellment at baptism. I already knew (pretty much) that you did nor rely totally upon the word of God for your religion.Do you think it was a waste of time for God to send Jesus with the gospel/ good news/ truth / word of God. If there is nothing certain about it, just a trap and lie. then we are all lost to certain death.

      • “But what your God wants you to be certain about, He makes abundantly clear in scripture”
        Keith are you saying that Jesus intentionally put doubt in some of the things he said.
        Where there in no certainty, there is certainly doubt.

  7. “To which my response typically follows the line that God’s goal isn’t clear communication and the conveying of a particular quantity of knowledge, but rather deep relationship with humankind.”

    Nick, I would think Jesus would have liked to have known that before he relented to his father’s will.

    • laymondlaymond :
      Nick, I would think Jesus would have liked to have known that before he relented to his father’s will.

      He knew.

      But overall, Laymond, I’m impressed that you’re finally coming around to the idea that faith means that we can’t see everything. Well done!

  8. ‘You can be certain that if you use even your best human logic to try to Sherlock out what He meant to not say, you will fail.’

    Absolutly correct,

    “You can also be certain of this: reliance on self to be smart enough, good enough and by-golly-people-like-you-enough to earn your place in heaven is always going to fail.”

    Keith, can you be dumb enough, or bad enough to loose your place in heaven. If so can you at least be good enough to hang on to it?

      • Col 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

        Keith are you saying Paul was wrong again, that faithfully serving the Lord will not earn you a reward of inheritance.

        Yes it all starts with the grace of God, but it don’t end there.

    • What is inherited is not a reward; it is a gift.

      I don’t recall Paul saying anywhere that we earn a reward. Receiving one, yes; many times. Earning it, no. I don’t recall that one. Maybe you can point me to it.

    • Not the way Galatians 3:18 describes it. “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”

      • Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

    • Laymond, I’m sure you’ve noticed that you aren’t getting any younger. If inheritances are earned, what tests have you put your children through to see who will inherit and who will be disowned? What have they done to earn what you will pass on to them?

      • Nick, do you think if I had a child who defied every thing I had said and had refused all help offered, even worked against me, do you think he would be high on my list for inheriting all I had worked for. I don’t have any such child, they both have children and even grandchildren of their own, and still they come to me for councel. that alone has earned my love and respect.

      • Laymond,

        So you’re planning on passing along some of your inheritance to everyone who has “earned your love and respect?”

        Or, no matter how much you love and respect someone, are you reserving your inheritance for those who, by the grace of God, were born your children?

        Certainly there are things that a person needs to do to actually receive the inheritance, but Scripture never uses earning language to describe those things. Always, Scripture speaks of rewards and gifts and grace.

  9. An inheritance can come with terms and conditions. Its a matter of what the owner wants to stipulate. Have you not ever heard of someone being written out of a will and losing their inheritance? In the case of a heavenly inheritance God has stipulated that one must believe in His Son, they must repent or else perish, he who confesses Christ before men He will confess before the Father, they must be baptized FOR the remission of their sins. We have been instructed to live faithfully unto death. God has shown His love for us by offering His Son as the perfect sacrifice. His Son who has been given all authority, Says, if you love Me, Keep my commandments. Jesus told the Apostles when the great comission was given, teach them to observe all things that I have commanded. Terms and conditions have been placed upon this inheritance. The inheritance is a gift, if we meet the terms and follow the conditions, we recieve the promise. These conditions and terms are works of God, works or actions that God has determined to be necessary. They are not works of man, because man did not put them in place.

    • Jeff said, “They are not works of man, because man did not put them in place.”

      I am so glad you said this. What we do to respond to what God through Christ has done can never earn salvation.

  10. Keith, if you look up the word heir, you will find it is a person who is entitled. Why do you think Abraham made such a big deal out of not having a heir.? a legal heir.

  11. I don’t think the entirety of the mission of God involves each and every of the billions of people that have lived, do live and will live on earth having the opportunity to understand correctly, believe and be baptized into Christ before the first death. That is, of course, the central component in the missio dei. It’s just not everything.

    Not long ago I saw an article up on either the Christian Chronicle or its companion blog that noted the world population reaching 7 billion. The question was whether the Churches of Christ were up to the challenge. It it were all about “going to heaven” and depended entirely on the a cappella Churches of Christ, or even the Restoration Movement, the world would be royally screwed.

    Yep, I said it.

    It sort of irks me when people quote how many die per minute on earth (108 according to at least once source) and then make an emotional appeal to send more preachers. The math doesn’t work, no matter how you work it.

    Much needs to be re-thought. No wonder the atheists laugh.

      • loved your Wineskins article this month, brother – got unfriended by a couple of people after I posted it on FB *sigh*

        Your words blessed and challenged me, and I hope there can be reconciliation between us.

    • Or we could just desire to be the church Jesus built and died for. The church in which those who are saved are added to by God Himself. If we desire to be that church, we will worship as they did in the first century. We will teach the same docrine as they did. Salvation of the world does depend upon this church to spread the good news. We sow the seed and God gives the increase. May we remember what the “restoration” movement was. It was a period of time when some men desired to be that church in which Jesus built. They desired to go back to the begining. Why? because man had polluted it and could not reconize it from all of the man made institutions that they had created. Some understood this and they went back to God’s original plan. Now the christian church/disciples of christ denomination was created during this period. It seems that many in the church of Christ believe that the Lord’s church was established during this period, it was not. The Lord’s church was established on Petnecost in 33 A.D. This is the church Jesus built and the church that the saved are added to. God had a plan and he put it into operation. it will work just as He had planned, IF we will only follow the instructions. To ask if His church is up to it, is to question God and His wisdom. If we desire to be followers of His, and are willing to follow His instructions it will work and God will be glorified. But man always has a better way, so he thinks. And it will not work. “We can know the truth and the truth will set us free.”

      • Wow, Jeff; thanks for providing a couple of excellent examples of doctrine taught by men which have no basis in scripture whatsoever:

        that the church of Christ is the only church established on Pentecost in 33 A.D.

        that to ask if His church is up to it, is to question God and His wisdom.

      • kb, Christ only built one, HIS. Remember His words, “upon this rock I will build My Church.” This would be in the singular. What other church did HE build? Is Christ divided? We are either in HIS church or we are apart of a man made organization, that man calls a church. The idea that Christ built more than one church is indeed a man made doctrine and its yours kb.

      • Didn’t say that. You’re as adept at misquoting me as laymond is.

        What I’m talking about is the doctrine that only people meeting behind signs that say “Church of Christ” are that one church.

        That is a doctrine of man, and there is no biblical base for it.

      • kb, you said, ” there is no basis in scripture, what so ever, that the church of Christ is the only church established on Pentecost in 33 A.D.” Now kb, either you said that or I can’t read english. What you “meant” is not there, I can only go by what you say. Either we are the church Jesus built or we are not. On Pentecost Jesus established only one church, His. Now kb, I know where you are going. No where in scripture will you find the Lord’s church refered to as the First Baptist church, the Lutheran church the United methodist, etc. These are all man made organizations, they are not the Lord’s church., and there is no basis for them in scripture or in reality. Scriptual names would be the church, the church at…. the church of Christ, the church of God, the church of the first born. Church of Christ is more of a description than a name. It indicates to whom it belongs. It is the church of the first century that we should look to as a guide to follow. If we want to be His church. Why would anyone who is that church, want to call it anything other than what scripture refers to it as?

      • One problem with your logic is that it assumes a church which happens to have a Biblical name is therefore the one and only true church. That of course, would allow any fellowship with a Biblical name to claim this. A Church of God, for instance. Yet you would not, I suspect, accept such a claim from one because it is markedly different from a Church of Christ. So your pretended misunderstanding of my use of the term is disingenuous at the least and right close to a lie.

        Another problem with your logic is that the historic events of the Restoration Movement created denominations, but the fellowship known as the Church of Christ was not one of them. That simply denies history. There is no evidence of any continuous or even sporadic fellowship with the unique traditions of the churches of Christ as we know it today. It had to start sometime and someplace; it is not Topsy that was never borned but just growed.

        Nor is there ANY scripture which describes a Church of Christ explicitly worshiping in a church-owned building with a paid resident minister worshiping with a cappella music only. It ain’t there.

      • kb, We know what the church was called in scripture, we know Christ died for and built only one. We know that if we follow their example and follow the instructions in scripture as to what they taught and how they worshipped we can be that church. It is God’s plan that we be that church, if we are not we are something else. There is much evidence that what we refer to as the church of Christ was very much in excistance long before the restoration movement. This has been shown to be true by census records, family histories and the like. We know for a fact that instruments of music were not introduced into worship until sometime in
        the third century. Paul was taken care of “paid”. I believe that when Christ established his church, that nothing man nor Satan could do to destroy it. Its always been here, small in number, yes, but here. I would agree that just because the sign says church of Christ does not make it so. But the fact remains, He built only one, we must be that one.

  12. I have been accused of being a “red letter” Christian, and I confess my certainy of what is spoken resides in what is accredited to what Jesus said.

    Jhn 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].

    If John 3:34 is not the truth, then you are right, there is no certany in the bible. even then we run the risk of man screwing up what Jesus said, but I trust that Jesus was truthful, when he said he would sent a comforter and teacher to the Apostles, in the form of the “Holy Ghost” .
    I repete, “to the apostles”

      • Nick, I see ch. 14 where this is brought up as continuing from ch 13 where the apostles are having supper for the last time with Jesus.
        Look at the people with whom Jesus is talking, the apostles.
        And if you don’t believe that, Look at the picture of the Lord’s Supper who is there besides the Lord Jesus and his apostles? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  13. “I’ve become convinced that certainty about what everything means in the Bible is a trap and a lie and the slipperiest slope ever.”

    I read this to say “everything” in the bible. must be my old computer not knowing what you mean.

  14. All the above back and forth reminds me of a time a couple of years ago when I was in an email debate with a cousin of mine over some particular ecclesiastical issue we were both quite passionate about at the time, but now can’t even remember . Any how She is a Jehovah witness and I felt very strongly that for her sake I needed to get my point across, so I went on my knees and was praying very earnestly for the right words to use when in came very clearly ……” Look what you two are going on about is purely head stuff and goes with the body to the grave …what I look at is the heart !!!”

      • Oh yes Keith, I did and very much concur , thank you and bless you for not only putting what I have been thinking a lot about into words but doing so in a nice way. Writing is not one of my gifts.

        I often say that one of the main problems we have as Christians is that we study the Bible too much and don’t live it enough

  15. Just looking back at some posts added since I was here last and I just can’t resist…..In the book of Revelations didn’t our Lord write letters… to ….seven churches ? And judging by the content they were all some what different from one another…

    • Our we to beleive that Christ died for and built at least seven different churches? or were those seven letters to one church, one body of beleivers located in seven different places? I’ll take the latter. How can seven different “bodies” be of the same mind? Have all things in common? They are not and can’t be. So I guess back in Act 2, those who believed and where baptized were added to one of God’s seven churches!

      • Logical absurdity, of course, Jeff (and a pretty good joke); there were no seven churches in Asia when the events of Acts 2 took place.

        Certainly one church — the church of our Lord — may have many congregations, and these congregations will be different from each other in many ways, just as the members within them will be different from each other in many ways — and that is why the Body of Christ is composed of many parts, each having its own function (1 Corinthians 12). The New Testament writers simply use the same word meaning “assembly” for both the congregations and the church, just as we use the same word for churches and the church.

      • kb, When you say there were not seven different churches in Asia when Acts 2 was written. Are you saying that in Revelation, there were seven different churches, congregations that were not of the same mind and had all things in common? Are you hinting at the idea that the Baptist, the Lutherans, the Catholic etc are apart of the Lord’s church? I just need to be clear as to what you believe.

      • Why, Jeff? Why do you need to be clear about that?

        There was only the church in Jerusalem when the events of Acts 2 took place. The church had just begun.

        That’s all I said and that’s all I meant.

        Why don’t you find a more useful occupation than trying to find a hidden subversive meaning behind every period that I write?

      • Because its fun kb, Why wouldn’t you want to be clear? Don’t you believe what you write? Is it your aim to confuse the issues? Your writing style leaves alot of wiggle room, Its difficult sometimes to understand where your coming from, its what we call dancing around the bush. Paul had a thorn in his side, I wish to
        be yours. Its time to come out of the closet, and let us know exactly what you believe.

      • Good one Nick, but kb, my ambition is to defend the gospel, to be ready to give a defense for the the hope that is in me. To teach the doctrine of Christ as faithfully as I can. To be as clear as I can be, I desire that others know what I believe and why, so they may come to the knowledge of truth which is found in God’s word. God’s truths will set us free. I have no agenda other than being the most faithful servant of Christ I can be. I have no desire to promote myself, only Christ and Him crucified. You kb, refuse to be clear, you talk out of both sides of your mouth, you speak in riddles, you give open ended statements, one has to wonder what exactly do you believe? I must ask, how do you find yourself in the church of Christ? When it would seem that you have very little in common with us. In stead of trying to change it, why don’t you try the christian church, you have far more in common with them.

      • Jeff, permit me to ask a question or two (or three). If I had responded to you with these words, would I have sounded to you like someone who is loving and caring, or someone who is arrogant, judgmental and accusing? Would I have sounded like someone eager to turn an erring brother from his error and embrace him back into fellowship or anxious to cast him out and be rid of him? Would I have sounded more like Christ or the Accuser of mankind?

        The golden rule is always in play, brother.

      • If you are only concerned about promoting “Christ and him crucified,” why do you interrogate people about every topic under the sun?

        Talk about speaking out of both sides.

      • Here lyies the problem kb, you can’t answer the questions. You find them unloving, uncaring, accusing, arrogant and judgemental. All I have to go by is your words. Make yourself clear. What is love? Teaching the truth in love? A concern for lost souls and a love for God’s word. Always striving to be faithful and obedient. Whats the point of this blog? Are you seeking for God’s truths? Or are you searching for compromise and common ground? thats not love, love is teaching people what they need to hear. If questioning your stance on the issues at hand is seen as an interrogation then I am guilty. If questioning your stance is speaking out of both sides of my mouth I am guilty. But I believe I have been very consistant and clear with what I have said. You don’t have to wonder what I mean, I believe it enough to say it. kb, instead of becoming angry, just answer the questions. And Nick, there is more to Christ and Him crucified, we are to teach the whole council of God, which would include all that the apostles taught and all that the inspired writers wrote. I get the idea from this blog that many believe that if we can agree that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that He died for us, that, thats all we need to agree upon, and all of these other ” topics under the sun” don’t matter, I simply disagree.

      • I’m not angry. But why should I answer your questions when you don’t answer mine? You didn’t answer the last three I posed with this response. You avoided them.

        Generally, I think I do answer your questions – often in the text of the post.

        Some I don’t answer because they’re pointless or accusatory (like the Acts 2 / Revelation question above).

        I think you know where I stand on most things. I write pretty clearly. You’re free to disagree. We don’t have to agree on everything to be loving toward each other and to let God do the judging.

      • And Nick, there is more to Christ and Him crucified, we are to teach the whole council of God, which would include all that the apostles taught and all that the inspired writers wrote.

        If “Christ and Him crucified,” as Paul uses it in 1 Cor, means “the whole council [sic] of God, which would include all that the apostles taught and all that the inspired writers wrote,” what is Paul saying he resolved *not* to know among them?

        If “Christ and Him crucified” is jargon for all spiritual truth, what does the phrase mean in its original context? That Paul didn’t come talking to them about baseball???

        No, it means what it says – that when Paul first came and preached to the Corinthians, he resolved to teach them nothing but the crucified Jewish Messiah. If you don’t use the phrase the same way Paul used it, your argument isn’t with me.

  16. Are you saying that in Revelation, there were seven different churches, congregations that were not of the same mind and had all things in common?

    Clearly, all one would have to do is read the inspired text of Revelation 2-3 to discover that these congregations were not of the same mind.

    Further, a close reading of 1-2 Cor shows the inspired apostle finding reason after reason after reason to maintain fellowship with this deeply flawed, chaotic, syncretistic congregation. Their members didn’t agree with Paul about how many real gods there were – the name of one’s church doesn’t even come into the picture.

    When Jesus was called upon by someone to make judgments about matters of human tradition or worldly issues, He called out to him, “Who made me a judge between you? But watch out against all forms of greed!”

    I think, Jeff, that you are greedy for approval from and justification before other people. You demand that others answer your interrogations (the difference between a question and an interrogation is the difference between seeking understanding and looking for a reason to condemn). You want to be convinced of your own rightness, but the only way you seem able to achieve that conviction is to try and force others to agree with you about everything (including what falls into the category of ‘opinion’).

    No one would dispute with you the importance of teaching the whole counsel of God. Where the disagreement in this discussion lies is in the difference between the counsel of God and the traditions of men. You would bind your tradition of “church of Christ” nomenclature in such a way as to render you free to deny any responsibility to extend the right hand of fellowship to those you deem “erring brethren.” This is the essence of ‘corban’ – when one uses a twisted version of a Godly truth in order to justify themselves in violating the spirit of God’s instruction. *IF* there is one-and-only-one right name for the people of God, I am quite certain that He did not give that name in order that His people would set it up as a wall between Himself and the lost.

    • Thanks Nick for the kind words. I don’t believe I said Christ and Him crucified was the same as the whole counsel of God. What I said was “there is more to it” Satan believes those things and he trembles.1 Timothy 1, some have strayed from a sincere faith, verse 6. He then list several things that are contrary to sound doctrine, verse 10. Verse 11,” these things are contrary according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” (ie Paul) We should be able to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ entails much more than the death, burial and resurrection. 1 Timothy 4, Paul says some will depart from the faith. They will depart from “the faith”. There is something that they could depart from, it would be the faith, the doctrine that Paul had delivered. Verse 6, instruct the brethren in these things, they need to be nourished in the words of faith and the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. Verse 13, Paul instructs them to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul continues, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words, which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” There is more to know and follow than just the simple facts of the death, burial and resurrection. Believing these things and responding to it in obedience puts one in a saved condition. The doctrine of Christ, the faith, our faith will keep one in this saved condition if followed. The seven churches of Revelation were the same church. The church inwhich Jesus built. They indeed had their problems, that is why Jesus said repent or else your lampstand will be removed. Their good standing before God would be removed. They would no longer be His church, they would become something else. Again I say, we must be His church or else we are something else. The saved are added to His church, not something else.

  17. Nice debate. What my impression is: Like eroding boundaries for the sake of “incusivness”, eroding certainties serves “inclusiveness”. Reducing certainty to a certain limited set of “gospel-truths” compiled by … what standards BTW?

    Quoting Paul who had no commands concerning virgins to prove this approach as scriptural was the icing on this cake! First of all, Paul simply had no command – and he was certain about that. He was not uncertain as to what to say on this subject, but he honestly said: The Lord was silent on this matter. Second Paul said a huge number of things, a good deal of them in the form of direct commands, where he was and we should be certain! YES, we NEED these erosion of certainties in order to blurr these commands into obscurity. Only by this we can justify the way we treat them, can’t we?

    I have very mixed feelings with your blend of true statements (Faith in Christ is more important than logical certainties) and the overall tendency of reducing certainties to a bare minimum, leaving room for … all kinds of opinions that now DO harmonize with a blurred Bible! In the fog or in the dusk you can debate shades of colors and the contours of things – but not in the bright light of the sun. Your essay implies that we are not to walk in His light but in the shades of doubt – and be content with it! The only reason I see this makes sense is the rejection of truth for the sake of ambiguities which allow more freedom to our opinions.

    Sorry, Keith, that’s not what I find in the Scripture. If someone again will accuse New Winskin or the Progressive movement as being on the way to universalism (= inclusivism), then this essay is one of the reasons for this impression.

    Alexander

    • Alexander, are you certain that every time Paul issued a direct command, the Holy Spirit meant that command to be a universal mandate for all Christians in all places at all times?

      • Would you agree at least that his commands applly to all where it is explicitly said so?

        The reason I ask this ism, that even then this is often debated. And in the end anything goes, doesn’t it?

      • Give me an example of where “it explicitly said so” and perhaps we can work it out.

        I believe that when Paul addressed a command to the church in Corinth, it applied to the church in Corinth. Whether it should be understood as a command to all the churches across the space-time continuum is a matter for reflection, prayer, and humility.

        “in the end anything goes, doesn’t it?”

        Typical false dilemma. Either *my* interpretation of Scripture is the only right one, or anything goes!

      • A command to the church at Corinth … Hmm. To whom was this letter addressed, Nick (1Co 1:2)? First of all we have to read what is there. The following verses from this letter again confirm that Paul was not talking to the Corinthians only, but to all churches: 1Co 4:17 1Co 7:17 1Co 11:16 1Co 14:33-34 1Co 16:1 To me it is amazing that the letter that contains the most references like “And this I teach in all churches” is so often used as an example for an “occasional” letter that only deals with specific Corinthian problems.

        1The 2:15 declares that we have to hold fast to all Paul wrote and taught, he wrote that to the Thessalonians to whom he addressed only two letters. well, obviously that’s not all he taught there. The references in Corinthians however show that what he taught there he taught everywehre. He had no special ordinances for one church and differing ones for other churches. So we have to take the sum total of his writungs as being written to us.

        Alexander

      • For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Cor 4:17)

        My way of life agrees with what I teach everywhere, in every church. That doesn’t say, “I teach the exact same thing to everyone.”

        Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. (1 Cor 7:17)

        Once again, Paul says that this particular rule is one that I lay upon all the churches. Why, praytell, would he *need* to say that, unless there were some rules that he did *not* lay down in all the churches?

        1 Cor 11:16

        If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice–nor do the churches of God. (NIV)

        But if anyone wants to argue about this, I simply say that we have no other custom than this, and neither do God’s other churches. (NLT)

        If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (ESV)

        Besides the ambiguity portrayed among the different translations of this verse (is Paul saying that the churches HAVE a universal head-covering custom? that they DON’T HAVE a universal head-covering custom? That CONTENTIOUSNESS is not a Christian practice?) it is clear that – just like in 7:17 – Paul is pointing to a particular idea and saying *something particular* about all the “churches of God.” Once again – why would we NEED TO say that, if the original audience was expected to understand that everything Paul taught was expected to be understood that way?

        The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets, for God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints.

        Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
        (1 Cor 14:33-34)

        Notwithstanding the fact that the Law never actually says what v.34 claims (a fine reason to understand the statement as a quotation by Paul of the correspondence he received from Corinth), along with the fact that Paul gives clear teaching about opportunities FOR women to speak in the assembly in 1 Cor 11, and the other evidence in Acts and his letters of the work of women in the early church – for all those reasons, I believe the arrangement above makes the most sense of this passage. If he has, in 1 Cor 11, given covered women in Corinth permission to speak in the assembly, he *cannot* mean in 1 Cor 14 that there is a universal mandate that all women in all the churches must be silent.

        Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. (1 Cor 16:1)

        Clearly your weakest example. If Paul commanded every church everywhere to make this special collection for the saints in Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have needed to particularly point out the Galatian congregations. Nor would it make the least bit of sense for the churches in Palestine to be required by universal mandate of the apostle Paul to participate in a special collection to bless the famine-stricken churches of Palestine.

        Next?

  18. Alexander,

    I’m hoping that you just didn’t read on to the point where the post says:

    “But what your God wants you to be certain about, He makes abundantly clear in scripture and His  words require no interpretation, no conclusions drawn, no human doctrine created to defend or explain.”

    The post is trying to persuade readers of the Bible to be certain of what it says and not certain about what it does not say.

    Did say or even imply that Paul was uncertain what advice to give? No, he was uncertain about what God would say on the question because God hadn’t said anything.

  19. If that were the case, how could Nick ask such a question as he just did? Are the texts he referrs to ambiguous?

    You admitted to exaggerate in your essay – but these exaggerations are being practiced all around, and thus your essay seems an encouragement rather than a plea for scriptural accuracy. But maybe it’s because we just had the discussions on Scott Simpson’s article that it flavored the way I understood you.

    Alexander

    • All occasional texts bear a level of inherent ambiguity. It is only when we presume that a certain text is *not* occasional, but universal, that we can deny that any ambiguity.

      Occasional texts have a specified audience. The author makes certain assumptions about that audience, and addresses particular situations that the author and the audience are both aware of. Certainly an authoritative author can be expected to intend for some of their occasional teaching to be understood as having universal import, but starting with the assumption that an authoritative author intends everything written in an occasional letter to be understood as universal law is surely telling the text what it means, rather than asking the text what it means.

    • May I introduce the possibility that there are some texts (Revelation comes to mind) that God left deliberately ambiguous to see if we would meditate on them (as David did the law, Psalm 119) and dialog about them (as several churches wrote Paul to ask questions) and ask for His guidance? Just as He paraded animals before Adam to see what he would name them?

      But there are texts with no ambiguity. God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that whoever would believe on Him would not perish, but have eternal life. You can argue unspoken details and interpretations of that until He returns, but the words say what they say. God didn’t hate the world. He didn’t lend out His Son. He doesn’t offer just a long lifespan. Those things are clear.

    • Well done, Laymond! Draw the conversation back to your hobby horse! I’m very impressed.

      Okay – sarcasmatron turned off now. When you prove to me that only the apostles were in that room with Jesus, then you’ll have gone a long way towards convincing me that that teaching is only for the apostles.

      However, I will leave you with this saying: “If anyone in this room loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

      Hard to limit that one to just the folks in the room, ain’t it, brother?

      • Nick, show me where he spoke to any man except his apostles in these three chaps, and you might have a convert.

        He spoke to Peter
        Jhn 13:7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

        He spoke of Judas
        Jhn 13:11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
        He spoke of them as a group
        Jhn 13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
        I believe it is evident that Jesus only spoke to those at his table.
        Jhn 13:28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.

        Nick I could continue with more evidence, but it would do no good. Now show me one time where Jesus spoke to anyone other than his apostles around the table. I can’t tell you how many people were in the “room” but he was speaking to those at the table, not in the room.

      • So, Laymond, you’re asserting that John 14:23 should be understood as, “If anyone at this table loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

        Am I understanding you correctly?

      • Indeed, brother – but your arguments about the Spirit of God, as they touch upon the meaning of John 14:23, seem to requires that those at the table be the only subjects of that teaching.

  20. @ Nick

    My way of life agrees with what I teach everywhere, in every church. That doesn’t say, “I teach the exact same thing to everyone.”

    If fact it does say that he teaches the same teachings everywhere – just adding to it that these teachings sum up in a way of life not in theoretical doctrines.

    As for 1Co11:16 this answers the rhetorical question from Verse 13: No church has the custum that women pray uncovered, so don’t be contentious about it. If you question this meaning, go backl and read church history from the earliest references on this text (2nd century) to the middle of the 20th century. All women in all denominations throughout all centuries covered their heads in worship. Bow come some innovators in the 8around) 1960ies and turn everything upside down, up to the ppint of even installing female preachers and elders. Judge for yourself …

    1Co 14:34 The Law contains Genesis – the man shal rule over his wife. This is an ordinace right from the opening chapters of our Bibles.

    1Co 16:1 was not meant to be a strong example. It is just another example of Paul saying the same things in all churches. BTW according to 2nd Corinthians he taught the same to the churches in Macedonia. I drew no conclusions from any of the examples; my point was that Corinthians is a letter addressed to ALL churches dealing with issues that apply to ALL churches.

    Further: These texts are all but ambiguous.

    Alexander

    • Once again, you’re assuming what Paul means in 1 Cor 4. What he SAYS is that his way of life agrees with the things that he teaches everywhere. He doesn’t say that everything he teaches, he teaches everywhere.

      Yeah, it must have been in the 1960s that people invented Priscilla and the daughters of Philip and Junia. Wow – how did no one notice!

      “The Law contains Genesis – the man shal rule over his wife.” The CURSE says that, not the Law from God.

      “Corinthians is a letter addressed to ALL churches dealing with issues that apply to ALL churches.” Funny how it got that whole “Corinthians” name, then, since it wasn’t addressed to them. Why, one wonders, didn’t they call it “Paul #2?”

      • Oh, for sure Paul must have forgotten them when he wrote 1Co 14:34-38 and 1Ti 2:9-12 (also a statement of order forthe whole church 1Ti 3:15). Oh, and the whole 2nd century church, that grew up in the churches founded by Paul, spoke koine greek as their daily language and lived in the same culture, they surely must have overlooked the significance of Priscilla, Junia and the daughters of Philipp!

        Isn’t it amazing that nearly 2000 years later inspired by the women’s lib movement and critical scholarship a generation of theologians that is culturally, language- and timewise totally disconnected from the origins now discovered the true significance of them? Was there a second Pentecost we missed?

        Alexander

        P.S: 1st Corinthians wasn’t addressed to the Corinthians only. But to all Christians in every place as well. It is the only one of Paul’s letters that is that broad from the beginning, showing that Paul feared that the same troubles that arose there might arise anywhere. It gives extra-weight to every single paragraph in this letter. And there are many today who claim to be prophets, but don’t recognize the command of the Lord. Who treat the Bible as it had originated with them or came to them only (which means: By their own interpretations/distortion they split the church) – 1Co 14:36-38.

      • Alexander – considering the early church’s record of anti-Semitism and the historic church’s record on racial slavery (that it took 1800 years for the message of Gal 3:28 and Col 3:11 to take root in the western church), it doesn’t surprise me in the least that the male-dominated hierarchy ignored the import of such passages.

        Christ came to reverse the curse – the church does not exist in order to continue to promulgate its consequences.

      • Also, Alexander, a close reading of the end of 2 Cor and 2 Tim would remind you that by the time Paul’s apostolic career drew to a close, those “churches founded by Paul” were already being taken over by people who hated Paul and rejected his teaching. So no, it doesn’t surprise me that people in “churches founded by Paul” would abandon the more socially controversial challenges he set forth.

  21. 1 Cor 4:16,17 Paul says, ” I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I sent Timothy to you, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” Am I missing something here? Timothy will remind you of those things, that I teach everywhere and in every church. One letter to a certain congregation may well be about a specific topic, and to another something else. In the first century they didn’t have the new covenant in written form. Men were sent to teach and preach, letters were written to address certain problems. Letters were circlelated. There was only one faith (Eph 4) that was once and for all delivered. I assure you, that regardless of who did the teaching, everyone recieved the same message, one way or another.

  22. Nick Gill :Alexander – considering the early church’s record of anti-Semitism and the historic church’s record on racial slavery (that it took 1800 years for the message of Gal 3:28 and Col 3:11 to take root in the western church), it doesn’t surprise me in the least that the male-dominated hierarchy ignored the import of such passages.Christ came to reverse the curse – the church does not exist in order to continue to promulgate its consequences.

    It’s fine with me if you don’t want to listen to those who learned Christianity first hand and rather accuse them of Antisemitism – just because they take all the antisemitic passages of the NT at face value (in fact they said nothing more or less than what the NT says). You know John was severly antisemitic as some humanist voices and liberal theologians all agree. Fine: You are the tolerant and enlightened 21st century Christian who is far more advanced and better than they. You don’t need to listen nor even learn from them, because you have your modern scholars and their improved view of the faith to learn from.

    You speak like the world, Nick.

    Alexander

  23. Nick Gill :Also, Alexander, a close reading of the end of 2 Cor and 2 Tim would remind you that by the time Paul’s apostolic career drew to a close, those “churches founded by Paul” were already being taken over by people who hated Paul and rejected his teaching. So no, it doesn’t surprise me that people in “churches founded by Paul” would abandon the more socially controversial challenges he set forth.

    And this gives you the hermeneutical right to reject what Paul said in correction to these false treachers? Nick, you are terribly inconsistent! The submission of women is an APOSTOLIC command and teaching, deeply rooted in the relationship of Christ and His bride, the church.

    BTW if you don’t know it: The church in Ephesus around 100 AD had a bishop named Onesimus (either Philemon’s slave or a different slave with the same slave-name). Your claim that the early church soon abandoned Paul’s solcially controversial teachings (like treating slaves as brothers) is COMPLETELY unfounded and unfair.

    I’ll close the debate from my side now, because it is getting a) off topic, and b) it becomes more and more emotional. We are on different paths, Nick.

    Alexander

    • The submission of women is an APOSTOLIC command and teaching, deeply rooted in the relationship of Christ and His bride, the church.

      Yes, because “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” really means, “I know I said one another but I really only meant women.”

      There is a level of complexity to John’s use of the word “Jews” that doesn’t exist for Gentile writers. Unless John is including himself, Jesus, and the other disciples in his use of the word “Jews,” he clearly means it as a less-than-all-inclusive racial term. When a Greek writer writes about how evil the Jews are, it is a little harder to find any nuance.

      The fact that the church continued to accept and promote slavery for over 1800 years after Onesimus sort of undermines your claim that the early church didn’t abandon Paul’s teaching. Unless you think it’s cool to consider your brother a piece of property to be bought and sold, that is.

      • May we also remember that the Jews thought the Gentiles were less than dogs. The Jews didn’t think much of the Gentiles being part of the kingdom, so this “anti” goes both ways. Christ came to unite both under one banner, His. Much of the “unity” lessons in scripture were for these two groups to come toegther. Love thy Brother (in Christ) as thyself. Love thy enemy, love thy neighbor, etc. The Gentile people for the most part accepted the teachings of Christ. The “Jews” on the other hand didn’t. They, for the most part, rejected the Christ.

      • “The Gentile people for the most part accepted the teachings of Christ.”

        I wonder what happened, that 2000 years later, so few Gentiles have accepted the teachings of Christ – if most of the Gentiles at some point in history accepted the teachings of Christ.

      • I was refering to the first century Gentiles verses the first century Jews. But as I think about it, even now, Jewish people are not very accepting of Christ as the Christ.

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