Saturday, October 4, 2008
Validity of their reasoning
I have always been boggled by the fact that the authority or claim of so many religions or denominations comes down to thinking they are smarter in interpretation than everyone else. It seems in many cases their sole authority is the validity of their reasoning. It seems that as long as authority is derived only from the inner contents of the Bible, this will be the case, because there is disagreement about what the chapters and verses are teaching. Each group claims that they have the correct interpretation, but without an appeal to direct revelation from God, the only explanation for one group being right and the others wrong is that the one group is smarter in interpretation, and then in turn associate that with being inspired. Talk about a sandy foundation.
We know the scriptures act like a kind of constitution. It can be updated and amended, but it takes a very positive and affirmative act widely recognized by Church authorities and common consent by members. The scriptures, like a Constitution, lay down broad and general statements of very foundational principals that control and govern all other possibilities of belief. So the scriptures must be accepted because they are the foundational revelation; however, they do not contain there own self-contained self-interpretation. There are numerous possibilities and the interpretive rules are not themselves authoritative. That is why the prophetic voice is crucial in the Church and to the world.
It seems to me that what makes a denomination or belief distinctive is the interpretive stance it adopts. Evangelicals adopt a kind of inerrant stance where they suppose that the Bible is living and holds a self-contained authority that provides interpretive rules for interpretation of the text. So how do we decide what the interpretive rules are? I believe that it is evident that the evangelical stance is logically flawed, and I believe that it fundamentally and seriously misunderstands the scriptural texts by treating them as a consistent set of belief statements that can be worked into a systematic doctrinal statement that must be believed for salvation. Only the intelligent and correct interpreters can be saved on such a view. Given all of the different views that intelligent interpreters have and can adopt based only on the scriptural texts, if one must get the doctrine right to be saved, then I don’t believe that it is possible for anyone to be saved at all. With this position, how can you know for sure you are getting it right? How can you base salvation on such a principle? This is why I believe today we see little claim or emphasis of “one” true religion or denomination or set of doctrines. It seems today to matter less about what you believe, just an emphasis that you believe. Unless of course you’re not considered to be Christian, because then your going to hell. Ha! I’m sorry, but they can’t all be right, it’s absolutely ridiculous.
Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy likewise constitute distinctive interpretive traditions. The later writings of the Church Fathers for Eastern Orthodox and for Catholics constitute a crucial context for interpretive authority. The way they approach the texts is within the context of a later traditions that developed. (ie. Creeds and such things) The problem I see here is that there is no reason to give any authority to the later tradition or texts because they eschew revelation on par with scripture as a means of interpreting scripture. Thus, there interpretive context lacks authority — their sole authority is the validity of their reasoning. I find this kind of reasoning seriously flawed and can find no other reason to accept such authority of such a tradition or Creed.
I have done a serious study of the trinity doctrine and find it confusing and inconclusive and quite contradictory though they claim it is not. To me it seems they are saying without actually saying it, that it is as though there is one God (being) with multiple personalities; that somehow is one being but can be in all places at one time shown in different distinct persons. I won’t apologize, it makes no sense whatsoever, and I honestly think they know it makes no sense! When confronted on it they just seem to throw up their hands and say, “well this is one of the great and holy mysteries”. How can you worship a God without understanding his character? “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” (Joseph Smith Jr., King Follett discourse)
It’s different with the Latter Day Saints, where scripture context and doctrines are given by revelation. With so much confusion all around us, we see the need for continuing revelation and prophetic interpretation. There is purpose for such prophetic influence beyond a systematic reasoning of theology because we don’t have all of the revelations and interpretations yet. The end has not yet come.
“AoF: 9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”.
We are guided by a prophetic living voice rather than being left to our best reasoning to figure out the right interpretation. We could even be given commandments or truths that make no sense at present because they await further interpretation to put them into a context that makes sense. There is authority beyond the authority of simply reasoning from what has already been given. The gospel is not a closed shop. God cares about his children in all ages, their personal lives, circumstances and challenges. He will not leave us in darkness and confusion. He has given us his spirit and his has given us his prophets. So with this truth, I will follow and sustain what we learn from revelation. Things may turn out to be beyond our current perception and understanding and this can sometimes happen; however, I won’t agree with someone when the sole basis is reasoning. There must be revelation; God has never worked any other way!