Pharisees In Our Midst

Thursday, 2006-December-28 at 17:10

I have recently been reminded that all is not hunky-dory in the Church in America.  Besides the groups that are just making things up as they go along, paying no attention to the historic doctrines of the Church or even of their own denominations, there are also the ones that decide that they only are saved.  No one else need even consider heaven their home.

In one of the local churches, I was visiting one Sunday night because a friend of mine who attends had invited me.  They had a questions and answers session, in which someone asked the pastor which version of the Bible should be used.  The pastor responded, "Most of them are okay, but I just feel safer if I use the the original King James, just the way God said it."  I respect that pastor, but God did not speak to the Jews and the early Church in English, he spoke to them in the languages that they spoke in that time and place: Hebrew, Aramaic, and koine Greek.

There are all kinds of disagreements about whether to use the received text (that is, the same text that the KJV and its predecessors were translated from) or one of the texts that have been produced as more manuscripts were discovered and people tried to produce harmonized texts through "textual criticism."  Personally, I think that any Protestant should be concerned about the quality of any texts that were discovered locked up in Catholic monasteries (e.g., codex vaticanus and codex sinaiticus ), because the whole Protestant thing is that the Catholic leaders are thought to have corrupted some of the doctrines because of a desire for earthly power.

Update, 2006-12-30@12:54 Pacific: Rereading this, it occurs to me that it could be interpreted as anti-Catholic.  While I am not averse to someone else attending a Catholic church, I do have some problems with their practices and doctrines, as noted here:

  • Praying to Mary and the saints.  Calling it "praying through" Mary and the saints does not change the fact that you are imploring humans (and dead ones at that) to bring about intervention in our earthly lives.  I just happen to feel that this should be directed solely to God the Father and his holy Son, Jesus.
  • Statues of Jesus, Mary, and various saints inside of the church.  Whether official teaching and practice endorses idolatry or not, these statues in a place of worship attract adoration and devotion unto themselves and the people that they represent.
  • Requiring clergy to remain unmarried.  
  • Any ideas of papal infalibility—we are all human and we are all subject to failures and errors.  If we can acknowledge this, we have the chance to change our directions and correct these failings.
  • Any concept of salvation through works, that is, keeping moral codes and church commandments, instead of grace.

Even so, with few exceptions (such as the New World Translation, which is intentionally modified to support the views of the sponsoring organization), I do not think that any translation is so doctrinally repugnant as to be of no use to a believer.  I believe that most of us do not read the Word enough as it is, and therefore, I fully support making it easier to read and understand without changing the meaning of the message it carries. 

We already know that God spoke to people in the commonly-spoken languages of that time and place.  Expectest thou that God wouldst speaketh unto us today in "thee" and "thou"?  If so, I believe you expectest wrongly.

Meanwhile, we are trying to share the truth of God's salvation through Christ using language from four centuries ago.  Is it any wonder that those in the world around us cannot understand our message?  Sure, I understand that our message is already hidden to those who are not Christians yet.  But I must liken this to the Pharisees and scribes, who laid out all sorts of extra rules to keep people out of the kingdom.

I recently had an exchange with a guy in Michigan, in which I was trying to get him to read the Bible and see for himself that the apartheid doctrines of racial and ethnic separation were not New Testament doctrines, but were Old Testament doctrines, which served the sole purpose of keeping the only nation that served God from intermingling with other nations that did not. The New Testament, on the other hand, tells us repeatedly that God does not consider our ancestries to be a reason to set a value on us.  Now, I don't care whether you are reading it in King James or NIV, the message is still there.  But this guy's focus is on the translation one uses, rather than the contents of the Bible itself.

Now, I am not putting him down.  I believe he is honest and sincere in trying his best to serve Christ.  I respect that.  I feel badly about the fact that someone (his pastor maybe?) has taught him to focus on the translation instead of the sacred message of Christ that is carried there.  He will continue to write posts about things like a widow being locked out of her home when her husband dies and blame it on the ethnic backgrounds of the two individuals involved.

Personally, I would rather admit that it is because their marriage was not legal, and they lived (much of the time) in two separate places.  It is very common for such things to happen in those circumstances, especially when there is likely to be some kind of probate fight between the heirs.

Don't hate on the guy, but instead, pray for him, that he will see the truth as Martin Luther did all those years ago, through his own time of studying God's Word.  Seeing as he's already trying to spread the message, he might become a very effective witness to the world he lives in.

At the same time, do not let someone use man-made, nit-picky rules to keep you out of God's kingdom.  Choose to read and study God's Word.  Choose to obey it.  Choose to believe it.  Choose life, for your own benefit. 

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Entry filed under: Bible, Christianity.

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