Friday, December 21, 2007

A bit more about Scripture

Following on from that long post, I think part of the reason why I relate to Scripture as I do can be explained autobiographically. That is, I came to faith after being immersed in the critical study of Scripture. There never was a time for me - at least after attaining 'the age of discretion' - when I have seen Scripture as being absolute or without error. The critical study of Scripture actually allowed me to move through it and see what it was about. Consequently I don't have anything at stake in whether the Bible contains errors or not; I've always understood that there are such errors, but that doesn't make any difference to faith in the living Christ.

The key question is what Tim articulated: "how do we decide whether the voice in our heads telling us to do something which is against scripture comes from God or not?" Ultimately I don't think there is a finite answer to that question; we have to follow our conscience - a conscience which is educated and informed by Scripture, Tradition and Prayer - but still conscience all the same. And that means, we follow our conscience whether we are accepting 'Scripture' or rejecting it - in other words, even for those who are explicitly being obedient to Scripture, they are in practice following the higher authority of their own conscience.

There are some very knotty roots in play here. One of which is the doctrine of utter depravity, because if you accept that then any reliance on conscience becomes objectionable. Yet that has all sorts of other frankly appalling consequences so I don't propose to spend much more time exploring that strand.

The other one, though, is the search for certainty - very much the Modern predilection and neurosis - and this is driven, at least in part, by the seeking for security in salvation. But I don't think that this form of certainty is available to us. Not simply because we walk by faith and not by sight but because we live by grace and not works, and whatever we do can be redeemed.

In other words, God allows us to get it wrong. And if we get it wrong but we are acting in good faith and humility and actively seeking the will of God then I have no doubt that over time God will reveal to us that we have got it wrong - and that, in fact, perhaps the 'getting of it wrong' is precisely what God was seeking (paradoxically) in that by growing through that struggle and finally discerning that truth then we will have reached a better place than we would have done without going wrong in the first place! Some things we need to learn for ourselves, even at the cost of making a mistake.

Which is why I am more and more of the opinion that, with respect to the current arguments, I should speak a little less and listen and trust a little more. When I read someone like Christopher, for example, I'm aware of a seeking after God. Those who reject TEC's changes as 'abomination' or whatever are really saying 'we don't trust you to be honestly seeking God, and even if you were, we don't trust God to be active in your life to lead you to the truth'. That seems faithless to me, let alone what it indicates about fellowship.

For who is harmed even if we assume - for the time being - that this will be a mistake? (ie accepting ministries from LGBT clerics). Why can't we trust that God is in charge and active in this process - and trust and believe that even if we disagree with what is being done? It's as if the objectors think that we mortals have the capacity to silence the stones!

I think I'm just becoming sensitised to the political use of the language of 'Scripture', and I don't like it very much.

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