As you might suspect from a number of posts in this blog, I probably cannot call myself an Evangelical Christian any longer, at least according to the usual definitions. At this moment, there are simply too many unanswered (really big) questions to commit to such a tightly defined belief system.
I am a believer in the finished work of the blood of Jesus Christ, that He died for remission of our sins, and was resurrected in physical form before His ascent to heaven.
However, I can no longer accept without question that the Protestant Bible can be considered totally infallible or interpreted literally in every case. There is good reason to believe that God’s hand guided the writing and collection of what we now consider to be the canon of scripture. Yet, it seems that there is at least the possibility that God’s narration of the biblical texts was influenced by the perspective and understanding of the human authors. I do not find the latter possibility to be any indictment of the narrative about God, since He surely transcends human understanding (which is based on experiences in this physical universe).
Actually, the notion that the text of scripture contains all the words of God is limiting to God, and therefore a form of idolatry, in my view. When our own interpretation of scripture becomes the defining limit on God’s right and ability to act in new ways, we have turned God into an idol made in our own image. Maybe God does still speak, but we have stopped listening. Can God give instructions and guidance to each one of us? Can God reveal Himself in some unique representation to each person who seeks Him? If only the text reveals all truth, do the insights and doctrines of early church fathers have any relevance to our current belief systems? That historical traditions hold some truths, proven by human experience, is still the formal assertion of the Roman Catholic Church, as I understand it.
Getting back to heresy, it seems that the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant divisions of Christianity still generally consider the other two to be heretical, and each has it’s own version of the Bible. So then, how do we know who has the most authoritative version of the Bible? Do any of them have it totally correct? Could we, as Protestants, be the ones who are heretics?
In particular, the view of many Protestant Christians that the (Protestant only) Bible is the sole means of representing all aspects of God’s nature and character seems rather parochial and self-serving. Considering the origins of the texts and major doctrines of the historical church, Protestants have a strong vested interest in asserting the absolute infallibility and authority of their version of the Bible. This notion of an infallible external authority (to which they alone subscribe) is the very assertion used to justify breaking away from the Church of Rome. Without some external authority to support the division, they would simply be heretics in rebellion against the “true” church from which they separated themselves.
This tradition of separation over differing views of truth is still a defining characteristic of Protestantism, which has up to 30,000 variations, according to some estimates. Which of these has the most “truth” or is at least the closest to “absolute truth” defined by God Himself?
If God reveals Himself in the glory of this universe, in addition to the limited expression in human form as Jesus of Nazareth, who are we to limit what He chooses to do or reveal about Himself? How can we possibly be certain that the perspective we embrace is the only and absolute representation of God? Isn’t misrepresenting God or limiting Him a form of blasphemy? I tend to think so, which is why I no longer attempt to define God in human terms. He simply is who He is.
So I am a heretic in terms of dissent from traditional closed belief systems. However, by that definition, all who embrace Protestant beliefs are also heretics. Welcome to the club!
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