Bible should not block path to God

  • Follow Your Faith

Why have so many people left the church? Could it be the lack of ability to make sense of what is being taught?

I believe that the ability to see God, Christianity and the Bible in a different light will help bring people back into relationship with God, which is at the heart of Christian belief.

Biblical literalism, infallibility, historical factuality, and moral and doctrinal absolutes have crushed the efforts of many seeking a relationship with God.

Consider for a moment that the Bible is both sacred and a human product.

This is not a denial of the reality of God but an understanding that the Bible is the product of two historical communities and their responses to and understanding of God in their lives. The Bible uses language and concepts of the cultures in which its events took place.

Though many of the teachings of the Bible are relevant for us today, it was never written for us or meant to be put together as a book. Christ never said, "Write these things down;" that was our need. As a human product, the Bible is not absolute truth or God's revealed truth but relative to a time and place.

This is how our spiritual ancestors saw things, not how God sees things. The documents that make up the Bible were not sacred but became sacred, as declared by community, over the centuries.

If we can see the Bible like this, we can understand the stories of creation, the Garden, Adam and Eve, the flood, as metaphorical narrative that can be profoundly true but not literally factual. A Catholic priest once said: "The Bible is true and some of it happened." Did God create the Earth in six actual days? Does it matter? The truth is: God created.

A contemporary example would be Garrison Keillor's monologues in the News from Lake Wobegon. We know that the stories are made up but we can hear the truth in them. We are moved and often times recognize ourselves or people that we know in the story. Are they factual? No. Is there truth in them? Yes.

Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms life today. How you understand the Bible should never be a wall or stumbling block in the path of that relationship.

Lt. Col. Mark Thompson is a United Methodist pastor and a chaplain at Fort Gordon.

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Poodie
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Poodie 07/17/10 - 07:19 am
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The author's thoughts and

The author's thoughts and ideas are insightful and interesting--but not original to him. Most of the points he makes are lifted almost verbatim from the writings of the progressive theologian Marcus Borg. I'm surprised that Lt. Col. Thompson didn't ackowledge that source.

Fundamental_Arminian
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Fundamental_Arminian 07/17/10 - 08:07 am
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This article shows why so

This article shows why so many Bible-believers have abandoned the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations. These denominations are Christian and Protestant in name only.

According to Lt. Col. Mark Thompson, the various parts of the Bible were never meant to be compiled into a book, and Christ never said, "Write these things down." I wonder if Colonel Thompson ever read Revelation 1:11, where Christ told the apostle John, "Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches ..." (New American Standard Bible). I also wonder if the colonel ever considered John's closing warning:

"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of this book, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19 NASB).

To the colonel, "the Bible is the product of two historical communities and their responses to and understanding of God in their lives." But the apostle Paul taught his spiritual son Timothy:

"... From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB).

The Bible teaches, and John Wesley and other true Methodists have long agreed, that the Bible is divinely inspired (literally God-breathed) and that this inspiration extends to the very scriptures (writings) so that they disclose all the truth our Lord has wanted His believing community to have.

I hope every Bible-believer affiliated with the UMC and other apostate mainline denominations will heed the warning to "come out from their midst and be separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17). There are plenty of good congregations that have nothing to do with the apostate National and World Councils of Churches.

markthompson
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markthompson 07/17/10 - 08:50 am
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Poodie, Thanks for your

Poodie, Thanks for your thoughts. I did include a disclaimer in the first of of this series of articles that most all of these concepts and thoughts came from Borg's writing. I am held to 400 words and that is the only reason I would think it was not included. To FA, thank you for your thoughts as well. The point I am trying to make in my writing is how important it is that people be in relationship with God. If how you understand the Bible works for you that is fantastic but clearly it does not work for all. But for many people it, (The Bible) is a stumbling block and I do not believe that it needs to be. May God bless you in your faith and may you continue to grow in your relationship with God.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 07/17/10 - 09:14 am
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F_A, you beat me to it. I was

F_A, you beat me to it. I was going to refute this drivel point-by-point, but I see you've already done a nice job. Of course, Col T won't care about scripture references, since he looks at the Bible as being only literature. Wonder if he teaches his children the "10 Suggestions" rather than the 10 Commandments?

The Bible claims to be the inspired Word of God (2 Tim 3:16). God does not change with human culture or technology (Heb 13:8). The New Testament teachings are not dependent upon whether we like them or not. God does not change to suit us; we must change to obey God and become more Christ-like. Jesus said He was the TRUTH, that tells me anyone who discounts that truth is preaching a lie -- this is EXACTLY what Col T is doing. Paul tells us that if anyone preaches a Gospel contrary to the plain truth, then that person should be accursed. Well, this article is doing exactly what Paul warned against. It's very sad.

Col T has the audacity to advise us not to let the Bible get in the way of knowing God. Besides being an ignorant, dangerous viewpoint, it's just plain illogical. It's like saying you can take a college course with no textbook or reference, or that you can be an All-Pro NFL player without ever reading your team's playbook. That makes no sense at all. Jesus knew and quoted scripture. He spoke of creation, of Moses, of Noah, and of Adam. If Jesus verified the reality of these biblical personages, then what gives Col T the gall to say that Jesus is lying? Jesus also said that not one little point of God's word would pass away. Now, wise Ol' Col T comes along and says that not one single point of God's word is 100% trustworthy. Bottom line: Col T says you can't trust God or the Bible; you have to trust what he says instead.

I realize the AC has to publish "faith" articles from all perspectives. But, they seem to be on a very dangerous path. A couple weeks ago we had to read the anti-Christian views of a blatantly homosexual "reverend". Now, once again, we have an article from Col T that tells us to forget the Bible because it's really not trustworthy. Obviously, trying to justify homosexuality from the Bible is insane (sorry, but that's the appropriate word). But, I think Col T's writings are even more dangerous. He sprinkles in just a little truth for seasoning, but then attempts to tear down the entire fabric of scripture. This approach is deceitful and tricky, and, if you're not careful, it is easy to fall into this trap -- which is exactly how Satan loves to work. I hope and pray that Col T will one day wake up to the truth, and stop working so hard to drive people away from the God he claims to serve.

dani
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dani 07/17/10 - 09:47 am
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This writer is far too

This writer is far too liberal for me. I agee with FA and Howcan...Well said.

chasboy
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chasboy 07/17/10 - 09:54 am
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I agree totally with Col.

I agree totally with Col. Thompson.

chasboy
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chasboy 07/17/10 - 09:57 am
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If anyone is dangerous it's

If anyone is dangerous it's religious fundementalists. They scare the bejesus out of me.

follower
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follower 07/17/10 - 10:20 am
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Chas, why are you scared by

Chas, why are you scared by fundamentalist? A fundamentalist is merely one who strictly adheres to his faith. No one can force you to believe one way or another. Howcan and fundamental are expressing their opinions on what they, and I, believe to be truth.

Religious fundamentalist is much too vague. Christian fundamentalist are those that believe just as the Bible states and are truly followers of Jesus.

What is pointed out to the writer of the letter is his designation as a Methodist minister is questionable as his words do not line up with the denomination. In fact, many denominations have fallen into the trap of becoming "seeker friendly" in an attempt to attract "all" no matter what they believe. Very dangerous.

The words of scripture are very direct in content and meaning. But taking snippets and one-liners out of the Bible to justify a belief is all too common these days.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth".II Timothy 2:15

chasboy
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chasboy 07/17/10 - 10:32 am
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Someone explain Mark 16:18 to

Someone explain Mark 16:18 to me please.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/17/10 - 11:11 am
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howcanweknow - the Chronicle

howcanweknow - the Chronicle is not Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or whatever else we might hold to. I personally like and appreciate the Chonicle and Kelly Jasper's willingness to offer diversity of opinions in a paper for the public. The Chronicle certainly doesn't have to publish a Faith Section or faith acticles.

Another thing, you said, "Col T has the audacity to advise us not to let the Bible get in the way of knowing God." No where did the Chaplain Colonel say this. This is a quote from the headline. Writers do not write the headlines. Headlines are written by headline editors to get readers to read the articles. He or she achieved that goal. When I saw the headline, I was in disbelief that the Colonel could write such a thing. But then, I remembered that he didn't write the headline. I think that was a poor headline. A better headline would have been: "PEOPLE NEED TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD."

The point of the Colonel's article as he explained in his blog is "The point I am trying to make in my writing is how important it is that people be in relationship with God." He summed up his article with the closing statement, "Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms life today." What Christian cannot agree with that?

And let's remember that the Bible CAN be a stumbling block to faith. Even our Lord said that Scriptures can stand in the way of eternal life. "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:39-41). The religious bureaucrats couldn't see the Word in front of them for debating the word that they studied. Point well made Chaplain and thanks for serving our men and women in uniform with the love of Christ for all.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/17/10 - 11:34 am
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What's to explain about Mark

What's to explain about Mark 16:18, Chasboy? Picking up serpents, not being affected by poisonous drink, and healing the sick are signs that accompany those who believe in Christ Jesus.

Now, Mark 18:16 is really hard to understand! :-)

joypq
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joypq 07/17/10 - 11:32 am
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I belong to a United

I belong to a United Methodist church that DOES teach that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is preached from the pulpit every Sunday. The Sunday School class we attend has been working our way through every book of the Bible and we clearly see how it was divinely inspired. I have visited the Cave of the Apocolypse on the island of Patmos where John received Revelation and was told to write it down. I felt I was truly standing on Holy ground. I believe everything in the Bible is true and we are to use it to help us in our daily lives. The Bible SHOULD make us feel uncomfortable. It should keep us focused on how Christ would have us live. It should also make us see how much God loves us and wants us to follow His Word. All Christians fall short every single day. God has told us in the Bible what will happen and that He sent His Son to save us from the evil in the world. So far everything He has said will happen has happened. All we have to do is believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for our sins, and that he rose on the third day and now sits at the right hand of God. It's as simple as that and then you will WANT to know what the Bible says and study and learn more about God's Holy Word.
Chasboy - Mark 16:18 according to the notes in the NIV Bible - "There are times when God intervenes miraculously to protect his followers. Occasionally he gives them special powers. Paul handled a snake safely and the disciples healed the sick. This does not mean however, that we should test God by putting ourselves in dangerous situations."

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 07/17/10 - 12:33 pm
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Pastor Dan, I don't disagree

Pastor Dan, I don't disagree with you. But, I still maintain that Col T's idea that truth is irrelevant to our "relationship" with God is a complete distortion of what the Bible says. An important purpose of the Gospel (maybe THE purpose) is to tell us the truth about ourselves (sinful and in need of a savior), Jesus (God incarnate who became our Savior who died for us), and salvation (grace through faith in Christ and obedience to the Word of God). If you say the Bible is not necessarily truth, then how can you have any trust in God's plan of salvation? John tells us that we have assurance of salvation if we follow God's plan in Christ. Well, Col T will tell us that the plan is not necessarily trustworthy, so we need to try and find our relationship with God somehow. Is our salvation a matter of opinion or relative to our culture? Egads, I hope not!

The Gospel can indeed be a stumbling block (a Skandalon, in the Greek). Heck, Jesus said He came as a stumbling block that would divide families and friends. You can't get around that fact. Col T says there's no need to stumble around Jesus' words, just concentrate on finding a relationship with God. I submit that THERE IS NO RELATIONSHIP TO GOD WITHOUT JESUS. That's the very crux of Christianity, and is something that I read Col T is not affirming (unless I have totally misunderstood his intent).

I'm sorry, but I can't help but see the words of Col T as being nothing but a revisionist attempt to remove the truth of the Gospel from society, and replace it with some more politically-correct, watered-down, all-inclusive message that takes the very heart out of the Gospel.

If you'll notice, Col T says nothing about salvation. All he does is tell us why we can't trust what the Bible says about truth. If the Bible is not trustworthy, then where or in whom does Col T place his trust? That's never specified in his article. Don't you find that odd? Tear down the Bible, but don't tell where the truth really is found.

I guess Col T denies the existence of hell and eternal separation from God -- despite the fact that the Gospels reveal Jesus speaking more about hell than heaven. Oh. I forgot. You can't trust what Jesus says in the Gospels. My bad.

Col T is a disciple of modern relativism -- no absolute truth. You just seek your own truth, and you'll be fine. He can promote any opinion he wishes, but I strongly disagree with his opinion -- and would say instead that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life, and that there is no way to have a relationship with God other than through Christ. That is not my truth; that is the truth of the New Testament Gospel. You can disagree with that truth (as Col T apparently does), but you cannot deny that is exactly what the Bible says and what real Christianity must teach and uphold.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 07/17/10 - 12:30 pm
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I realize the "Faith" section

I realize the "Faith" section of the AC is not the "Christianity" section. The issues I have are not about Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, or Atheists providing articles explaining their particular set of beliefs. That would be fine, appreciated, and instructional. But, what is bothersome is inviting so-called Christian clergy to provide articles that so clearly disagree with the basic principles of Christianity. Curious, non-Christian folks who may be reading the Faith section to explore Christianity -- maybe even for the very first time -- are getting a very distorted picture.

I guess I'm saying that it just seems lately that the Faith section has published a number of very fringe opinion articles that are way off from what Christianity has taught for nearly 2000 years now. We've had homosexuals write and blatantly contradict the Bible. Col T has written a couple of articles that basically tell us it's OK to ignore the Bible, and develop your own ideas about God. We even had a recent article (last week?) about how nice it is to take a Sabbath day's rest each week (Wow. That was a real revelation. Who would have thought?).

In this town there are so many solid Bible scholars and teachers who could provide insightful, truthful articles about Christianity that could tackle pertinent issues and help a lot of people. Instead it seems we tend to have a disproportionate number of articles from liberal, fringe theologians that are promoting some pseudo-Christian agenda; or articles that are more psychological / feel good words than real substance. Maybe there could be a better balance? Then again, I'm not a theologian or a newspaper person. It's not my call.

dominionfs
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dominionfs 07/17/10 - 03:42 pm
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"Why have so many people left

"Why have so many people left the church? Could it be the lack of ability to make sense of what is being taught?"
------------------------------------------------------
Exactly, Col. Thompson. It was not the Bible that blocked my path to God but the rigid attitute of some ministers and their congregations. I believe the Bible is divinely inspired, written by man at the direction of God. Therefore it is irrelevent to me who wrote what, in which language and when. But I found scripture was interpreted differently by different faiths, all claiming to have the only path to salvation. This infighting among the Christian faiths confused me, and questions were either poorly answered or not answered at all by those who set themselves up as authorities on God's word. Religion did not want me to think, just to 'Have Faith' and blindly follow the code of conduct set forth by that specific religion. They all read from the same Bible yet claimed they were reading scripture correctly and the other religion was reading it wrong. Eventually, I gave up on organized religion completely, yet still embrace Christianity and the teachings of Christ.
Mankind is not capable of perfection, either perfect behaviour or perfect understanding, mankind is simply responsible for attempting to attain that perfection. So ask yourself this question. If I believe the same today about God, the Bible or my faith as I did 5 years ago, then just what spiritual growth have I really accomplished?

markthompson
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markthompson 07/17/10 - 07:06 pm
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Friends, Where do I begin?

Friends,

Where do I begin? Thank you all for you thoughts in response to mine. To go point by point would take far to long but there are one or two thoughts I feel I need to share with you.

What I share in my articles are a part of my faith journey. You have no idea of the pain and suffering I have experienced in my journey as a veteran of three wars that has moved me to consider other possibilities then those I was brought up with. I know that I am a flawed human looking for truth in the world in which I live and how I understand God is in the light of scripture, reason, tradition and experience. There is truth in scripture and I have never denied that. But I have come to understand that the Bible does not have to be factual to be truthful.

If what you believe works for you, gets you through those times of pain, suffering and doubt, I say amen. I am not suggesting that your faith and understanding of the Bible is not valid for you. Clearly it is and I am not challenging that. One of the most exciting things of being a military chaplain is that I am in dialog with chaplains of over 200 denominations and several faith groups. We can, for the most part have theses theological debates and agree to disagree. We love each other and pray for each other every day.

I grew up in a very conservative theological community. My mother said that she was sure that there was a God when I made a commitment to God in my life and she was sure there was a Satan when I became a United Methodist. That is a joke so do not freak out! I love my mother but we just do not agree on theology.

As I read what many have written I cannot be blind to the anger of many of the comments. Please take some time to think about where that anger comes from. I am not challenging your belief system but suggesting that it does not work for everyone and I have a need, no a calling, to help people searching to be in relationship with God find another path.

I have spent 26 years of my life, 20 in the Army serving God and I am convinced that to find peace, joy, love and fulfillment in our life we must be in relationship with God.

May each person reading my thoughts understand that I love my Lord and pray that everyone can be in relationship with God.

Blessings,

Chaplain Mark E. Thompson

proud2bamerican
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proud2bamerican 07/17/10 - 08:13 pm
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howcanweknow - You really

howcanweknow - You really summed it up nicely re the Bible being God's word and how can you ignore what it says and ever expect to know God - the author?? If the Bible is a stumbling block for someone, then they need help getting over it, not an excuse to ignore it. It sickens me to the core to see a person who is a representative of "the church" disgrace the word of God and lead people straight to hell. If that is the theology/doctrine that all United Methodists hold as true, it is no surprise to see where they are headed.

proud2bamerican
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proud2bamerican 07/17/10 - 08:17 pm
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Mr. Thomspon - When you are

Mr. Thomspon - When you are referring to someone's knowledge of God, or desire to know Him better, it is not about "what works for you". Maybe we are not talking about the same god/God, but God the creator (who you mentioned) is the One in the Holy Bible. It is not at all about "what works" for me, for you or for anyone else, it is about what works for God. One day soon I will be praying for you, but right now I am so sickened as to how you can have the audacity to treat God's word with so little regard especially in view of what you claim to represent.

proud2bamerican
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proud2bamerican 07/17/10 - 08:20 pm
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Suggested reading - (155

Suggested reading - (155 pages) - Core Christianity by Elmer Towns, and Found: God's Will by John MacArthur (61 pages) - quick, powerful reads with a wealth of solid, 'grounded' information.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/17/10 - 09:17 pm
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howcanweknow - please don't

howcanweknow - please don't think I agree with the Colonel's theology. One of my points that the headline editor did not really capture the point that the Col made in his article. The Colonel wrote: "Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms life today." That is true.

You wrote: "If you say the Bible is not necessarily truth, then how can you have any trust in God's plan of salvation?" It seems to me that the main thing is trusting and believing that Jesus lived, died, rose again from the dead on the third day and that belief in Christ's act of salvation for us is saving faith. To me, it's Jesus first and then the Bible because someone who comes to faith in Christ will want to study the sacred Scriptures - even hunger for them. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Certainly John Wesley, the founder of Methodism believed in the profitablility and sacredness of Scripture. There are many. These are a couple of my favorites.

"Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his Book; for this end, to find the way to heaven."

"God himself has condescended to teach the way: for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!"

"My ground is the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small."

Millions flocked to hear Wesley preach and were transformed by the power of the Christ he preached and the Bible that he believed and loved.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/17/10 - 09:25 pm
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howcanweknow - You wrote, "In

howcanweknow - You wrote, "In this town there are so many solid Bible scholars and teachers who could provide insightful, truthful articles about Christianity that could tackle pertinent issues and help a lot of people." Faith editor, Kelly Jasper, has invited Christian ministers to write, and I am sure she has invited those who are not of the Christian faith to write too. Yet, it is the Chronicle's decision - Kelly and her supervising editors determine what goes in and what stays out of the paper. I am sure their criteria is in part how well the person can write and how it fits the purpose for the faith section. The editors do not run everything through a Baptist, Methodist, or Presbyterian censor to determine the soundness of theology. Those who want writings from their particlular theological perspective have magazines such as the Christian Index (Baptist) or Weslyan Christian Advocate (Methodist). Many papers don't even run faith sections any more because they are do controversial and many more certainly do not invite local clergy to write for their paper. We are blessed that the Chronicle does have a faith section and invites local clergy to write.

Pastor Dan White
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Pastor Dan White 07/17/10 - 09:39 pm
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proud2bamerican. I think you

proud2bamerican. I think you completely missed the Colonel's point in his reply to our posts. He wrote: "If what you believe works for you, gets you through those times of pain, suffering and doubt, I say amen." I can't speak for the Colonel, but what I think he meant was that if a Christian chooses to take Genesis 1-11 and other similar passages literally and they find comfort and help in that, that is wonderful. But for the Colonel, he obviously doesn't take Genesis 1-11 literally. In my opinion, that doesn't make him non-Christian or a non-believer.

If someone had told the Apostle Paul that he was writing part of the Bible when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he probably would have argued with you - maybe even laughed. The Scripture collection we have came through a long process. One only has to read the Letter to Hermes and other such spurious collections that some tried to get into the sacred Book to see they do not hold a candle to what we have.

Even Martin Luther refused to include the Book of James in the New Testament because he could not reconcile the "works" in James with the "grace" in Paul. So in a compromise, he put the Book of James at the end of his published New Testament after Revelation. The point is that even such a profound and respected Protestant reformer like Luther could not alter what the Church Fathers had determined under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as to the inclusion of the 26 books that make up our New Testament.

revman
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revman 07/18/10 - 04:42 am
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Mark, God bless you and I

Mark,
God bless you and I offer commendations on your desire to help others find and form a relationship with God. I believe (and truly hear) the compassion you relate is sincere and that gives me great hope for you and those you serve.

Let me also mention that I like the title and agree with it, the Bible should not block the way to God. If you read it right, it should make the way to God clearer and surer if not easier. Face it there are challenges to the modern person in the Bible, but there are challenges in traffic too, does that mean we don't brave it? I guess we agree on that point, the Bible can pose as a challenge to some folks.

But
I have some reservations about some of the other things I have read. First without need to reiterate what others have written I disagree with you on all (odd to use that word) of their points. The Bible does say that God is immutable (Heb 13:8) so from this aspect how can time or cultures play a role in who He is? It is we who must change, and while it is appropriate to adjust our approaches to people so that they can form a relationship with God to effect that change, it is not appropriate to demote the Bible in order to do so. The most powerful argument for this position is not wrapped up in logic but in faith.

Dispense for the moment with factual accuracy or even inerrancy, drawing instead from what I sense we at least agree about: "But I have come to understand that the Bible does not have to be factual to be truthful." That is a core belief we both share. I perhaps am more dogmatic about it since I am convinced that some specific item that might be contradictory to the biblical record will not cause me to discard the truth of scripture. As is often the case with man, that is more likely my lack of understanding than God's error (presuming that God is the author of course). As example I cite mankind’s long held conception of the world as flat even in the face of scripture which described it as round (Isa 40:22).

Proceeding from this shared faith, logic would suggest that any declarative statement in the Bible would have to be true, if only metaphorically, correct?

Then if John 1:1 is viewed in this light how can we demote the Bible seeing as it is the Word and the Word is God. That being the case understanding the Bible is crucial to gaining any understanding of God Himself; indeed it is crucial to forming a "relationship with God." If this is only fundamentally true it argues powerfully against a demotion of Bible significance such as what you espouse. It is our task as metaphorical Levites to convey an understanding of scripture to those who find it's words a hindrance instead of submitting to spiritual laziness in "helping them find another path."

If God's word is "fundamentally" true then Jesus' clear statement that "No man cometh to the Father, but by me..." and in the same verse said, “I am the truth, the way, and the life" must also be metaphorically correct. Indeed how could they be otherwise? And if this Word, that existed in the beginning and was God and was later made flesh and dwelt among us said it, then I believe it and so Mark, so should you.

God's word itself states that he has other flocks, perhaps that is who you feel called to, I freely admit I don't know. But I do understand that God did not mean by the scripture quoted that diligent study of His word should be avoided, it simply meant that they focused on minutiae and in their vanity ignored what was plain before them. If they had truly understood those scriptures they would have understood who He (Christ) was and put an end to their striving with him. As Solomon admonished, get knowledge but strive for understanding. Scriptures tells us that God uses the simple things of the world confound the wise (1Cor1:27), it also tells us that some knowledge will be shut up until the end times. In short, nobody understands it all, not me, not you, not anyone. But God also tells us that in a multitude of council there is wisdom and he tells us to study to show ourselves diligent (workmen approved). Which seems to mean: talk to others, draw wisdom from them, study hard but integrate it into a whole garment instead of just a part of one.

By way of example, let me say that I had a crisis of faith that had me ready to leave the faith altogether. I considered that if the God of the Bible was as described by this particular passage that I wanted no part of Him. Ephesians 6:5 was used in a message that also spoke of Onesimus, an escaped slave who ministered unto Paul for a season. The Ephesian passage admonished those in servitude to serve their masters as if they were serving Christ, and Paul had sent Onesimus back to his master consistent with that philosophy, albeit that he subsequently sent a letter admonishing Onesimus' master to treat him as a brother. I could not understand why the God of "Love" would countenance such an act. No one could explain it to my "liking," I literally wept over and prepared to abandon my faith. I guess that I would be one of those who would have to find "another path" to relationship with God.

But God spoke to my heart seven words we often speak in childhood, "You are not the boss of ME." I hope that made you chuckle, I laughed for a long while as the meaning sunk home. God is sovereign is not subject to change because we don't "like" something about Him. His ways, we are told, are beyond our ways, His understanding beyond our own. But he has given us this incredible gift, one designed to tell us much of what is knowable about Him, the Bible. To be sure there is more to know, but if our effort means anything, if our love is sincere and real, if this faith we teach is more than a job, then we owe it to those who look to us for understanding to ... well get understanding. When we study (literally to look at it more than once) the Word, the Spirit of God (if we have that within us) reveals more in the words we read each time we read them. If we refuse the temptation to answer questions with what we believe is acceptable to the hearer and instead explain what we know and help them seek the rest, then I think God is pleased. No one could explain to me how telling slaves to be "good" slaves was consistent with a God of Love. But until I accepted the hard truth that God is not responsible to me I wouldn't have accepted any answer anyway. I came to understand that slavery is a situation where one must learn that service is not always pleasant, and if the highest job in heaven is that of a servant, then that institution, evil as it is, could be brought to serve a purpose. God himself robed in flesh came and was a slave to men; he went to the cross willingly even though he could have called legions of angels to win him free of it. It was only by integrating that passage in Ephesians with the rest of the Word was I able to "see" Jesus standing right in front of me (metaphorically speaking).

In closing I reiterate, God is who He is, like it or not. It is our task to conform to His requirements, not the other way around (Ro 8:29). Guess what, it isn't always easy to change, I suppose it is most times pretty hard, but change we must. We are quite unlikely to like it, but we might not like driving to work through all that traffic, either. We don't get to escape it because we don't like it. Our jobs as clergy isn't about making it easy for others to accept God, it's about telling them how to do it without deceiving them. So that when they are ready to make a decision it is not one that ultimately leads to destruction. Scripture says the way is narrow and straight is the gate and few there are that find it (Mt 7:14). The concept of a gate is fairly clear; gates are designed to limit the entrance to an area to a specific path. The narrow way idea, I think, is pretty inconsistent with the "many ways to God" philosophy. You may as well say there are many versions of Gravity. God is like that, like the natural laws He established, indifferent to the efforts of those who don't like it the way it is.

Fundamental_Arminian
1833
Points
Fundamental_Arminian 07/18/10 - 04:17 am
0
0
Lt. Col. Thompson, I regret

Lt. Col. Thompson,

I regret that my schedule didn't let me participate further in this discussion. You've written: "What I share in my articles are a part of my faith journey. You have no idea of the pain and suffering I have experienced in my journey as a veteran of three wars that has moved me to consider other possibilities then those I was brought up with."

Here's where I think your journey went wrong. You regarded faith in Christ as only a possibility, and you opened yourself up to other possibilities. You should've prayed for the kind of faith that continues even in troublesome times.

This faith is what Paul was getting at when he told the believers at Philippi, "... To you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me" (Philippians 1:29-30 NASB).

We can't have this faith unless God grants it to us; and like anything granted, it must be desired and requested. You showed that you no longer wanted this faith, when you departed from the theologically conservative community of your childhood.

Granted, going through three wars can be traumatic, but it's no justification for abandoning the faith. The apostle Paul suffered through much more, yet he kept the faith even as many believers have been doing in countries where beatings, imprisonment, and the death penalty are routinely meted out to people who evangelize for Christ.

I've skimmed through a couple of Marcus Borg's works in a local bookstore. Frankly they bored me because I'd seen it all 50 years earlier in a series of UMC-promoted paperbacks on how we got our Bible. I'd heard it too; in fact, my last UMC pastor taught that all people go to heaven regardless of their beliefs, and the district superintendent urged us to demythologize the Bible (that is, reject everything supernatural and embrace only the moral teachings).

Though I don't ignore the value of tradition and experience, I trust only the Bible as the standard for distinguishing truth from error. "... Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17 NASB). Saving faith is granted to anyone who wants it. Do you want it?

impossible
120
Points
impossible 07/18/10 - 10:41 am
0
0
Someone once said, "In the
Unpublished

Someone once said, "In the beginning God created man in his own image and likeness, and ever since Man has been trying to return the favor." Unfortunately many Bible-believing Christians join in that attempt by treating Scripture as a "cafeteria line." Not a healthy diet!

impossible
120
Points
impossible 07/18/10 - 11:28 am
0
0
Jesus is the way, the truth
Unpublished

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. If one considers Jesus to be the "Map of Salvation," then it would be wise to consider each and every thing that he said to be the "roadways" of the map. He founded one Church promising that the Holy Spirit would lead it to all truth, as opposed to the Holy Spirit leading each individual to all truth, which results in the untenable and impossible situation of having contradictory "truths," bringing us back to a "tower of babbling."

howcanweknow
2306
Points
howcanweknow 07/18/10 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Col. T., Certainly no one

Col. T., Certainly no one here is saying anything at all against your wonderful, dedicated, and sacrificial service to our country and to others. I'm sure you've probably done more for others than most of the rest of us here combined. We applaud and salute you for this most important work.

What is so confusing, and yes, even downright frustrating is your stance on the Bible and on Jesus. You are a Christian clergyman (UMC) who denies the absolute truth of God's word, and very openly admits that he HELPS others find "another path" to God (other than the Bible). Sir, I submit that is an absolute contradiction. You cannot be a Christian minister and help others seek a non-Christian path to God. That's contradictory, oxymornic (I think that's a word), and illogical. By definition, a Christian accepts Jesus Christ at THE path to God. If you claim to assist others in finding any other path to God, then you are working AGAINST the Christ you claim to serve and love. Again, that's nonsensical. Not trying to be mean, but just logical here.

Here is a most important question to you: Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, i.e, God incarnate? Not trying to put words in your mouth, but you keep speaking about a "path" to God. Curiously, I don't see a single time in your letter or your responses where you mention Jesus Christ by name. You keep talking about "God", but don't mention Jesus. That suggests to me that you probably do not believe Jesus is God incarnate, but that He was simply a great philosopher/teacher who gave us one of many ways to God. Again, do not want to put words in your mouth, but do I have this correct? If so, then I think we've squarely identified the problem here.

Sorry for the anger you perceived in the responses. But, I can't help but come across somewhat emotional when a "Christian" minister writes things that are not Christian, and some that are, in fact, even anti-Christian. I mean, when Jesus found the religious experts making a mockery of the truth and distorting the purpose of the temple, did He not get a bit bent-out-of-shape as well? There is a place for emotions, from time to time, when considering the things of God. Interesting, isn't it, that Christ seldom displayed anger or wrath toward the common people or even toward non-believers. Instead, Jesus reserved His greatest rage and condemnation for religious officials who claimed to be God's chosen leaders, but instead preached and lived a message contrary to His truth. That is clearly something for all of us to think about. I don't want you or anyone else to fall into that category.

swhitman6
0
Points
swhitman6 07/18/10 - 04:04 pm
0
0
I will try to keep this

I will try to keep this fairly short, but I am fairly long-winded. I am disappointed and concerned that multiple "men of God" on this comment chain (to include the author) can discuss or refer to the Bible as just a book not written or meant for us. "Though many of the teachings of the Bible are relevant for us today, it was never written for us or meant to be put together as a book." How do profess to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, but deny the Bible, it's usefulness or it's truthfulness? How do you make a statement like this and call yourself a follower of Christ - "the Bible is not absolute truth or God's revealed truth but relative to a time and place."? If the Bible is not absolute truth or God's revealed truth, how do you suggest we choose which parts we decide are truth and which are not? That seems to be more of a stumbling block than any other area of concern. If the Bible is a stumbling block Christianity is not something you should believe in. It is fairly critical to Christian faith (sarcasm intended). I would quote scripture, but that seems to be pointless because I could reference verses that may not be considered truth.
You also quoted a Catholic priest to say "A Catholic priest once said: 'The Bible is true and some of it happened.'" All I can say is WOW. I don't understand how you profess to be a Christian when you don't even believe the Bible is true. Who do you go to when deciding which portions are true? Do I trust you or some other selected clergy member to tell me what the truth of God is? That seems fairly scary, not to mention very inconsistent and not supported by the Bible, not that what it says matters at this point. I will stop, but I am very disappointed in anyone on this comment chain that professes to be a Christian and lead people in their Christian walk when they have beliefs like this about the Bible. You need to consider your words more carefully in the future and how they impact those around you (reference James 3:1). I won't bash you personally, but please consider the large numbers of people you can affect with your words and the fact that their salvation and their subsequent walk with Christ could be hindered by your words and those people you referenced. That should be the most disturbing. I could have a lot of bad things attributed to me, but I would not want one of them to be that I was a stumbling block to someone knowing Christ and receiving eternal salvation.

dominionfs
0
Points
dominionfs 07/18/10 - 06:08 pm
0
0
A military chaplain, must, by

A military chaplain, must, by neccesity be open to and have an understanding of the teachings of other belief systems. If a military Chaplain is called to a wounded soldier who happens to be of the Muslim faith does that Chaplain:
1. Insist that soldier accept Christ before he ministers to him,
2. Walk away and leave him to die with his Heathen god, or
3. Attempt to ease his pain and suffering by discussing his beliefs in a
knowledgable and uncritical manner.
Narrow-minded religionists would choose # 1 or # 2, whereas a Christian would choose # 3.
I think the majority of the responses to this column have proven your point, Sir. There is a distinct difference between the Christian message of the Bible and the distorted message of religion.

Pastor Dan White
1
Points
Pastor Dan White 07/18/10 - 09:27 pm
0
0
I think the key is the

I think the key is the adherence to the historic Apostle's Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Catholic meaning "Universal" church and not the Roman Catholic Church.

If the Colonel subscribes to the historic Apostle's Creed, that should be enough for everyone. It will be interesting if he checks the blogs again and comments on the Creed.

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