Monday, July 14, 2008

Bible Study - Afterthoughts

So, last night I had a Bible study with a Protestant from my former denomination, the Church of Christ Non-Institutional. It went fairly well, although kind of heated (not screaming or anything). I think only two points were impressed upon him, which I will talk about here.

The NI CoC believes that you cannot use money from the Church treasury to help non-Christians. This belief is based off their understanding of passages that say "collection for the needy saints". "needy saints" limits them from giving to non-saints. The problem that lies here is that they use this "collection for the needy saints" for all kinds of other uses, buildings, lawn mowers, gasoline, televisions, bibles. While these things are important (and obviously I think we can buy them), no one would argue that is under the term needy saints as Paul uses it. Instead, they are using extra-Biblical tradition to argue these things are "expedients to worship". I think that point bugged him quite substantially.

Secondly, he admitted that he could tell that we still had a love for the people we used to know. That meant a lot to us because we were slandered pretty heavily after leaving.

He definitely could not fathom the idea of the real presence of Christ and some of his off the cuff comments (which I know he did out of ignorance) about the blessed sacrament were what caused me to get a little overworked at times.

One of my favorite discussions was on Sola Scriptura where I asked him how he knew which books were part of inspired scripture. As for the Old Testament, he looks at Jewish oral tradition (ironic). As for the New Testament, he knows Paul's writings are inspired because Peter said so (VERY ironic), but he wasn't sure why he had faith that Peter's writings were inspired.....I hope he thinks about it some more.

He indicated that he would read "Christ in His Fullness" by Bruce Sullivan. Let's pray that he does. All in all, it was fairly a positive discussion.


mattwatson said...

"One of my favorite discussions was on Sola Scriptura where I asked him how he knew which books were part of inspired scripture...."

I've read a pretty good bit about this subject, and I don't think it is exactly accurate to say, "You all get your Bibles from Catholic tradition," because we don't actually have the same Bible. It's close, but it's not the same. We have less books.

Now, about the tradition aspect of it, it would seem to me that we do get the Bible from tradition, but I use the word "tradition" in its most purest form. As in, scholars have traditionally agreed that there are 66 books in the Bible, and I think they are probably right. We all have traditions, but I don't believe tradition has any authority just because it's tradition. It is merely a historical thing that can help us understand our religion and our place in history. But it's only right when it's right.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Matt, thanks for your comment. Let me ask you few questions. You said "As in, scholars have traditionally agreed that there are 66 books in the Bible".

1) What are your sources?

2) Is this a majority of scholars?

3) If so, is this a democracy?

4) Martin Luther was the first time in Church history I can find that people didn't recognize the Old Testament Books as Canonical. Was he inspired by the Holy Spirit to make that distinction?

5) Who decides when tradition is "right" or when it is "wrong"?

6) Does the Bible itself claim to be the sole rule of authority?

7) Does the Bible itself tell us which books are "inspired" and "scripture"?

8) What year do you think the Canon of Scriptures was set?

9) Who set that canon of scriptures and what made that correct?

10) Have you read the Book of Wisdom and it's prophecies? How do you explain those (Specifically Chapter 2:12-20 in light of Matthew 27:41-44)

Feel free to answer as many as you can or ignore whatever you want!

mattwatson said...

1) The majority of Protestant scholars, I would think.

2) Again, most of the protestant scholars who I know of generally agree on the 66 books. However, a majority vote doesn't make anything right, necessarily.

3) I don't know how to answer this one really, to be honest. Catholic scholars say differently than Protestant scholars. I just believe the Protestant scholars, which I will get to later on here.

4) No, probably not. But the Jews don't recognize those books even to this day. So Luther wasn't the only one.

5) Individuals have to use their minds. This is really the only way to know. Just because this fact does present problems and difficulties with unity, etc., doesn't mean it's not true.

6) The first verse that comes to mind--and I'm sure you've heard it--is 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." This seems to imply that the Bible completely fulfills everything we need, if it is used correctly.

Also, the Bible is almost naturally the only rule of authority. It is God's only spoken messages to mankind.

Furthermore, if you read especially the historical books of the Bible, like the Torah, I think you can see that there is great value placed on Scripture. The Israelites constantly placed value in the law, and were commanded to read it like every seven years. When the Jews of Jesus time taught something that was wrong, Jesus often said, "Did ye never read in the scriptures?" or "Have ye not read that which was unto you by God?" (Matt. 21:42 and Matt. 22:31, respectively). There are probably more examples I could give, but it really does seem to me that Judeo-Christian tradition sets the Word of God above tradition, ironically.

7) Much of the Bible, perhaps all of it, does establish itself. If you can prove that certain books are inspired, you can prove most other books. For a detailed discussion of this, see this Apologetics Press article.

8) Again, see the above article, or even this article. Basically, from what I remember, there have of course been various councils (and my knowledge is admittedly fuzzy here) that set certain canons. Different people have held different books to be canonical throughout history, although we are all in general agreement. Some of these people were wrong and some were right. I don't really know who first set the canon, nor who was the first to get it write. Based on evidence I have seen, I don't believe the Apocryphal books to be inspired.

I think I've already answered 8 and 9. I really don't know the answers, without going back to an article or an encyclopedia for five hours.

10) Wow, what can I say, man. Very impressive. I need to read Wisdom now. First, "The Eternal Kingdom" and now Wisdom--you keep lengthening my reading projects. You're going to have to stop this!

mattwatson said...

"I don't really know who first set the canon, nor who was the first to get it write."


~Joseph the Worker said...

Thanks Matt for your honest responses! I'm not going to respond to everything you said, because I don't really think debating about it on here is the right thing. If you want me to specifically respond to any of these I can work them up very quickly. I just had a couple comments though:

1) The Verse in Timothy about all scripture is certainly talking about the Old Testament. Neither you nor I think the Old Testament is everything that someone needs. Many of the Bible books had not been written down when Paul wrote this, and they definitely were not copied and sent to all the Churches at this time. I think that evidence alone indicates that he did not mean "fully sufficient" in this context, and we could look at all the times that he speaks about oral tradition as well, indicating there is something else necessary.

2) Certainly the Old Testament was highly revered. Sacred Tradition had a position of the same importance in Jewish worship, however. Read Jesus statement in Matthew 23:2-3: "The scribes and the Pharisees have established themselves in the place from which Moses used to teach. Do what they tell you, then continue to observe what they tell you, but do not imitate their actions, for they tell you one thing and do another."

3) Jews at the time of Christ did use these books, and the versions he read and taught from had them in it.

4) Reading the Book of Wisdom will do wonders for you. I think you'll see that I picked a random passage (which I was shocked when I heard it in a mass when I first started attending a Catholic Church) but there are many examples of this, and I believe Paul used it as his source for the ideas he develops in Romans. The parallels are just too eerie.

~Joseph the Worker said...

OH! And the main point I was going to make is that I think you should think very carefully about some of your answers, meditate on what you said, and see if some of the things you said don't bother you somewhat deep in your heart. I'll do a followup post on your Apologetics Press article later tonight after I get a chance to read it.