Sunday, May 24, 2009

How we lose the Scriptures:

What a loss that is! If we truly believe that God has spoken to us, specifically and clearly, in a form that we can comprehend, wouldn't humanity do all things possible to prevent losing such a gift?

But instead, we participate in this loss.

I'm reminded of my Daddy's stories from when he was a younger man, involved in the Presbyterian church of his day, with other conservative pastors and elders. So much conflict, so much division was experienced. And much of it came down to one question: What is this Book?

So many Christians fought, and separated, because some honored it as the very words of their God, and others others did not. And in this way, some kept his words and didn't lose them, and some have lost them entirely.

How does a church lose the Scriptures? I'm reminded of a story from Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. He tells the painful tale of trying to attain perfection in various virtues. Franklin had quite a list of virtues he (supposedly) strove to perfect, the most difficult being "Order." He began with the best of intentions. He compared himself to a man who took his axe to the axe-grinder's shop. The man wanted a beautiful axe: he not only wanted the edge of the axe to be sharp and shiny; he wanted the WHOLE HEAD of the axe to be bright from grinding and polishing.

"Fine," said the axe-grinder. "But you'll need to help me. I'll polish the whole axe, and push the surface against the grinding wheel. YOU turn the wheel."

And so they proceeded to polish. And, of course, the axe owner decided soon enough that a perfect axe wasn't really what he wanted. "I think I like a speckled axe best," he said. And Ben Franklin agreed - striving for virtue was harder work than he wanted.

The Scriptures are a standard of perfection against which we set ourselves. And when we fall short, that's called sin. It's painful to find sin in yourself, much more painful than the ache in the axe-owner's arm from grinding away. And occasionally, the brutal standard of holiness that God's Word exerts over us, is more than some can bear.

And they reject part of the Word. Just a little bit. Maybe just a verse or two, in a particular situation. They say, "It doesn't apply."

Now I do admit that there are valid, theological arguments that go on between denominations over interpretations of Scripture, and occasionally a passage (stoning children?? wearing head coverings??) that seems culturally limited to its time in ancient days; people disagree on these.

But most passages in Scripture are not vague like that. But squirming Christians wiggle free of them nonetheless. God's clothes seem to bind us, when we are too fat with sin.

Adam and I have seen this happen recently with dear Christian brothers that we love. If you'd ever told them that they would question the authority of God's Word, that they would ever set it aside for their own preferences, denying the validity of a passage that was clearly designed for the VERY situation in which they found themselves -- they would have been shocked.

But they did it anyway. And they lost the Scripture that day.

It is a warning to us all. God's Word is not intended to conform to us; we are intended to conform to it.

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