Because I’ve recently been writing on the subject of grab bagging Bible verses for our own good, in addition to better discerning God by His attributes displayed in both nature and conscience, I’d like to balance my articles in explaining how important God’s written revelation can be. This topic becomes especially important when believers want to depart from the authority of the scriptures so to indulge in less than biblical extremes. For today’s article, I’ve got for a conversation partner Jim Gordon of Done with Religion.
Now, I make it a rule not to write, speak or preach at somebody if it’s clear that they’re unwilling to be persuaded, and insofar as I’m concerned that’s proper, otherwise we’re simply hardening hearts and giving others an excuse for dismissing God’s word in their lives. Although Jim can often appear callous to our conversations, and because he’s generally a cordial and sweet man (despite blocking me the one time), I’m adding the kind of exchange which I’m confident you’ve rarely (if ever) read before online.
Rather than my usual observations about Jim’s arguments, I promised on this occasion to simply ask my friend questions. So, no arguing, no rebuttals, no cheeky jokes which readers may not take so sweetly as I intend, just me asking Jim if he’d continue being so kind as he’s always been by answering my questions. Let’s begin by reading the article which kicked everything off, it’s fairly small so I’m not overburdening anybody for adding Jim’s views briefly.
God’s word-Book or person?
Growing up in the church I learned quickly that the Bible was the word of God and that God spoke to us through his word. Everything had go along with the Bible or it was not of God. I often wondered how a book written by many different people over many years, and in a time period so different from our own could be inerrant and the only way God communicated. My personal belief is that the written word of God, which we call the Bible is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, as mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:16.
Yet while reading some of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:21 to 44, we listen to Jesus as he speaks to the crowds. Many times he says “you have heard it said” then mentions a verse from the written word. Each time he follows this with “but I say unto you” and follows with his words of advice. To me this says that Jesus, who is the living, inerrant Word of God has final authority over any written word which we call the bible. And remember Jesus spoke these words before the New Testament of our Bible was even written.
We read in John 1:1, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Again in John 1:14 we read ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. The written words of the Bible did not become flesh and dwell among us, only Jesus fulfilled that verse.
And in Revelation 19:13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. For me, I believe the Bible is inspired by God, written by men and useful for leading us to the living, inerrant Word of God who is Jesus. I am certainly not saying we should not read the Bible, but we should not elevate the Bible to a position of authority which matches that of Jesus. We are not to worship the Bible, nor are we to disregard the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. He will guide us into all truth.
[As is the case with a lot of what Jim writes, it’s far from incendiary, we’re not reading anything visceral or insulting, although it is themed. By themed I mean to write Jim’s thoughts have a trend to them. For example, the title of the article asks whether God’s word is one kind of thing or some other, is God’s word the Christ, or simply the Bible? They come to the conclusion that the word is better understood as Jesus, and not as the Bible itself. It’s themed as an “either/or” situation. Let’s read my reply to Jim]: This is an interesting article that sheds light on thinking more of the text than the text says about itself. Although, I have one question, how would you reply to a person who said they have their own testimony from holy spirit, and they say that God’s spirit has shown them that Jesus isn’t the Word of God, he is instead a powerful spirit creature, the first creation of Jehovah God.
He is a mighty god, but not God Himself. They tell you holy spirit, which isn’t a person, but an impersonal force (God’s energy), has shown them the truth about how Jesus is and who the word was in the past, for “the word was with god, and the word was [a] god”, they were none other than Michael, the archangel, the first and only creation of Jehovah. They tell you how Jesus has not come in the flesh, but in the spirit, since no flesh can inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Would you share Jesus, the Son and eternal Word, resurrected in power, glory and bodily, with this person, and if you would, could you please explain how you might go about doing so. I understand you do not like to debate your views, or perhaps even to converse about them for a long period of time, for which, I promise in the comments not to rebut you or attempt to correct or overturn your reply, rather, I’d simply enjoy an explanation as to how you would speak to such an individual, if you would speak to them at all, since they too have their testimony from the spirit of god.
Another example would be the Mormons, who say that the Holy Spirit has told them that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that your scriptures have lost many plain and precious parts, due to which your beliefs and your understanding of the text must be overruled and ultimately corrected by the book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great price. The Spirit has told them these things are true, and has guided them into all truth.
As I wrote, I’m genuinely curious as to how you would speak to such a person about their revelation from god. Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my message, sir.
DoneWithReligion: Hello oldschool, thanks for writing. I have often thought about the same question. There are so many various beliefs, interpretations and doctrines in our world today. Not only among people in general but among the various christian denominations. You definitely cannot get very many people to agree on things. My feeling is that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and we have to follow what we feel is his leading for us. If someone told me some of the things you mentioned I would quickly say that it does not resonate with my spirit and would dismiss it as only their view or interpretation.
I think we can only go with what we feel the Spirit is saying to us and not worry about what everyone else says. Many times we get a feeling of agreement with what someone else says, other times we just are not comfortable with what we hear. I have to say I would tell someone who says something that does not resonate within my spirit that I appreciate their views but I see things a different way, then explain what I am thinking. It is up to each person to take what they hear and accept or reject it. Thanks again for writing.
Whereas I can write how I appreciate your swift and lengthy reply, many people aren’t so interested to read another poster’s thoughts, I however am. I’d be pleased if you’d humour me with a couple of more questions, since the above person, although a fiction, holds to beliefs which are very real, they’re the beliefs of Jehovah witnesses. This person, for clarity’s sake, denies Jesus is who He claims to be (see John 8:24), in addition to denying that Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2, 2 John 1:7).
In light of their beliefs, and your own, I’d like to ask two questions. Firstly, is such a person as that saved in your opinion? By which I mean to write, in plain speak, are they going to heaven? Secondly, if they’re unregenerate and unsaved, yet they have their own burning in the bosom, a sincere testimony, wouldn’t they being left to their own devises only further their state of separation from God, as your advice, which again I’m not going to refute, is council which advises them to seek their own inner light, yet, following their own desires has up until today brought them away from Christ. If they’re misled, as you have shared, wouldn’t advising people to further trust in the things which resonate with their spirit simply be an invitation for them to further and more deeply believe in the things which they believe. If they trust what they believe the spirit is saying to them, a spirit which has misled, would it not be poor advise to tell this person to not be concerned with what others are saying?
DoneWithReligion: Hello, in regard to your question, my thought is how do we determine who is right and who is wrong? We can say if someone does not accept Jesus Christ then they are lost. We can say we go along with the universalist thought and everyone is saved. For me, my personal feeling is that we are not called to judge who is right, who is saved, or where someone will spend eternity. Jesus said the two greatest commands are to love God and love others. Fortunately none of us are the judge and none of us are going to have to make the decision you mentioned. I feel each of us are responsible for hearing from the Spirit within us and obey accordingly. Apart from that, as followers of Christ we are to love God and love people, whether we agree with them or not. I am so glad I am not responsible for deciding who is right or wrong, I am only to love them the way they are
In terms of your question, I’d answer how you’ve already shared in a fashion. Jesus taught “Is it not written?” They presupposed listeners and readers could understand Godly conduct from sinful behaviour by way of the Scriptures. Jesus didn’t teach “Well, there’re the Pharisees, Sadducee, Essenes and the Zealots, too many readings for you to understand anything in the Scriptures.” Rather They taught “Is it not written?” That’s in reply to your question how you and I can know who’s right and wrong with regards to their behaviour.
When you reply you’re only required to love, does this mean you’ve draw your ideas of love from Scripture, or from the Spirit? How have you ascertained the nature of love, sir? To clarify, you’ve judged, by something not resonating with your spirit you’ve made a decision on whether or not that’s from the Spirit, and that’s not to write you’ve condemned anybody, I wouldn’t ask that of you. You’ve simply shown discernment, and that’s appropriate. So, have you gathered an understanding about what it means to love from Scripture, in spite of how many interpretations abound?
My earlier question to do with whether or not such people as those who deny Christ are unsaved isn’t meant to prompt condemnation, nor am I writing the decision as to where they go is upon anybody shoulders except God’s, instead I’m meaning to ask you does the fact that someone is lost resonate with you in the same way that certain other claims resonate. You’ve already made the judgement call about their testimony not coming from God, that’s a fair show of discernment, yet that’s not setting yourself up as God, in the same way I’m asking if the idea of a person being lost because they reject God rings true, insofar as you’re concerned.
Lastly, in case you’ve missed my question, doesn’t it appear that to advise people to not worry about the opinions of others, when their own spirits are leading them away from Jesus, isn’t that unloving or unsafe advice?
DoneWithReligion: Obviously the traditional teaching of the church says that anyone denying Christ is not saved. As for me, I prefer to show the love of God to all people no matter their beliefs and let any other judging of who is and who is not saved be God’s decision. There are so many various interpretations about living in the Kingdom now, life after death and heaven and hell. Many of these interpretations make sense and can be backed by picking the right bible verses. The truth is, none of us know for sure. We have our interpretation and our belief yet none of us can prove what is right. I prefer to leave that up to God and go on loving people and treating everyone with respect. In regard to advising people not to worry about opinions of others, I do not think it is unloving. I think telling others my views, which is God loves them and has provided grace and forgiveness of their sinful nature is showing love, yet without telling them in a way that my way is the way they have to follow. Each of us has to choose for ourselves what we feel is the right thing to do.
A few observations I’ve made in the course of our conversation, Jim ended part one of our two part conversation by sharing “Obviously the traditional teaching of the church says that anyone denying Christ is not saved.” He continued by writing “As for me,” As if to write he’s opposed to the teaching of traditional Christians, after which they conclude “I prefer to show the love of God to all people no matter their beliefs and let any other judging of who is and who is not saved be God’s decision.” As if to write that the stance of the church isn’t loving.
So, if someone does “deny” the Son, superficially now, while believing in their heart that Jesus is both Christ and God, that’s certainly deserving of sympathy and better pastoral care in the case of the conflicted person involved. Whereas if, as I believe Jim meant, someone truly does reject Jesus, the church never professed to know whether this person’s denial of Christ were genuine or not, for which very few declare them lost, rather they take the man or woman’s word at face value. Believers can hope for the best. Jim however, writing with regards to people who truly reject Christ, shares how he doesn’t believe either that they’re lost or found, and even entertains the possibility of a universal salvation. Does anything they’ve written “resonate” with you?
― T. C. M