By now, all the churches that were going to reply to my Bible survey have done so, and the results – no surprise here – are that nearly all churches claim unreservedly that the Bible is God’s inspired word and the only guideline for their beliefs.
The exceptions are no surprise, either: The Jews view only the first half of the Bible, what many call the Old Testament, as inspired. Mormons respect the Bible, according to their own creed, only ‘insofar as it is translated correctly,’ which gives them the “out” to claim mistranslation wherever it says anything that contradicts the Book of Mormon. And there are many such contradictions.
The Catholic church claims to follow the Bible, but they also follow the edicts of their various councils, many of which came up with decidedly un-biblical doctrines.
The First Council of Nicaea in 325 declared Jesus to be God (contrary to John 14:28 and many other passages.)
The Third Lateran Council in 1179 made churches tax exempt (and I intend to have a field day with that in a future article!) placed a lower penalty on priests than laity for sins such as sodomy, and stated that a Christian’s word was to be taken over a Jew’s in a court case. (Acts 10:34, 35)
The Council of Trent in the mid 1500s condemned protestant movements as heresy; but the Second Vatican Council in the mid 1960s promoted ecumenism, i.e., a Rodney-King-like plea of, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15)
But what about those churches who replied to my survey that they respect and follow the Bible unreservedly?
The doctrinal statement forwarded to me from Roosevelt Community Church (which, I was told, is adapted from The Gospel Coalition Statement of Faith, and held in common with Way of Grace Church and Camelback Bible Church) includes this:
"Salvation is accomplished by Christ alone... Salvation is by means of grace alone... Salvation is through faith alone..." YetPsalms 40:16 says,"Let such as love thy salvation say continually, Jehovah be magnified." And James 2:24 says about faith: "You see, then, that it is by his deeds a man is justified, and not simply by his faith."
Furthermore, in his model prayer recorded at Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gave us a beautiful, prioritized list of what we should be concerned about:
Our Father who art in the heavens, let thy name be sanctified,
let thy kingdom come,
let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth;
give us to-day our needed bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,
and lead us not into temptation, but save usfrom evil.
The sanctification of God's name was Jesus' first priority. Our salvation, while not ignored, came way down the list.
I don't mean to pick on these churches, but if you're going to say you teach the Bible, teach the Bible.
I have had other responses I want to pass on, from different churches, but I'll save them for my next column.
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