Religio Laici, or A Layman’s Faith. John Dryden’s radical 1682 poem comprises a warrant for personal discipleship.
“For every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own model, and his own materials: reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised about that which is not its proper object. Let us be content at last, to know God, by his own methods; at least, so much of him, as he is pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures; to apprehend them to be the word of God, is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the work of faith, which is the seal of heaven impressed upon our human understanding.
“Yet to such as are grounded in the true belief, those explanatory Creeds, the Nicene and this of Athanasius, might perhaps be spared: for what is supernatural will always be a mystery in spite of exposition: and for my own part the plain Apostles Creed, is most suitable to my weak understanding; as the simplest diet is the most easy of digestion.
“But, by asserting the Scripture to be the canon of our faith, I have unavoidably created to myself two sorts of enemies: the papists indeed, more directly, because they have kept the Scripture from us, what they could; and have reserved to themselves a right of interpreting what they have delivered under the pretence of infallibility: and the fanatics more collaterally, because they have assumed what amounts to an infallibility in the private spirit: and have distorted those texts of Scripture, which are not necessary to salvation, to the damnable uses of sedition, disturbance, and destruction of the civil government.
“The florid, elevated, and figurative way is for the passions; for love and hatred, fear and anger, are begotten in the soul by showing their objects out of their true proportion; either greater than the life, or less; but instruction is to be given by showing them what they naturally are. A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned into Truth.” John Dryden, Preface to Religio Laici, 1682
(Ed: One of our regular readers complained recently about the length of a typical Veracity post. His complaint was that they are too short. Well…far be it from us to ignore our readers.) Continue reading
“We should not imagine a committee of church fathers with a large pile of books and these five guiding principles before them when we speak of the process of canonization. No ecumenical committee was commissioned to canonize the Bible.”
Our church’s Statement of Faith is pretty minimal. We only list eight core beliefs, the second of which states that we believe “in the inspiration of all the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit, and that they are the final authority for our faith and practice.”
“…final authority for our faith and practice?” Really?!
Our founders didn’t draft up this idea—it is delineated in the historic confessions of the Christian church. Consider the absolute implications of this statement. It means the Bible contains the foundations for Christian faith and practice, and that we are bound to it in all matters. We don’t get to impart our personal, alternative views. We don’t get to cherry pick which parts we like or which parts we would write differently. We don’t get to interpret what it says in ways that are contradictory to it. When we disagree with someone else’s view or interpretation, we submit to the final authority of the Bible. No appeals. We believe the Bible comprises God’s special revelation to us.
If you’ve been reading Veracity for any length of time, you know that we are big on personal discipleship—which we define as the process in which a believer or seeker takes personal responsibility for investigating the claims and content of the Bible. Personal Discipleship is based on the Bible.
Exactly how did we get the Bible?
Welcome to our latest Veracity series. If you’re like me or Salvador Dali you may have developed some loose derivative notions such as:
God told a select group of human authors what to write,
Their writings were evaluated by committees of men in silly hats,
These ecumenical councils voted on which writings would be in “the Bible,” and
Later ecumenical councils clarified and solidified the final selection (and some modified it).
In fact, if you read what Wikipedia has to say about Ecumenical Councils it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried historical process. But is that all there is to it? For that matter are these notions even correct? Are we to live our lives under the complete authority of documents that were assembled by ancient and medieval committees? How do we know that the Bible we hold in our hands today is what God intended for us to have? What if it was corrupted in its translations or transmission? How do we know that we have the right books, and why do we disagree along denominational lines about what should be included in the ‘Holy’ Bible?
In preparing for this series I read a lot of texts that come at these questions from a canonical perspective (focusing on how the official list of biblical texts was created and adopted). I must confess, that was originally my interest as well. But Drs. Norman Geisler and William Nix have a more comprehensive, full-orbed understanding, which they explain in From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible. So let’s dig in and see what these and other scholars have to bring to our understanding of how we got the Bible.
Over the course of this series we will look at the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Bible. But before we dive into the topic of inspiration here’s a Mini Bible College audio clip from Dick Woodward to give us the big picture.
Dick did a masterful job summarizing the basics for us, and Geisler and Nix will delve more deeply into the details (particularly when we get to the process of canonization). We’ll go slowly and see what we can learn about the book that comprises the authoritative basis for our Christian faith and practice.
John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).
But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics. Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!
Dick Woodward. Evidence #1 for the Hope and Truth of the Resurrection.
My favorite Dick Woodward story goes back to my days just out of college, about 25 years ago. Dick and I met for lunch at Taco Bell. After I had taken his scooter out of the car and we got into the restaurant, Dick immediately ordered five large tacos. I leaned over to Dick and said, “You know, I am not really in the mood for tacos, as I was just hoping to get a quesadilla or two“. Dick, in his most charming way, replied, “Well, actually I was just ordering for myself.”
An introductory note: Before Dick Woodward died on March 8, 2014, Dick asked me to write a tribute to Tim Hansel here on Veracity. Not too long after Dick Woodward realized that he would never walk again in the 1980s, Dick started to read Tim Hansel’s books. They made a huge impact. As you consider Tim Hansel’s example, you might see why Dick thought that this story is so important and still needs to be told… Clarke Morledge
Tim Hansel (1941-2009). Adventurer, friend of high school kids, …. and sufferer of unbearable chronic pain. Tim is on the right in the middle photo (photo credit: SummitAdventure)
I never met Tim Hansel. He was speaking at a Young Life staff conference back in 1990 and I missed his talk. But I got a cassette tape later of his message. As I was listening to him make jokes left and right throughout his talk, I thought to myself that this guy was a real character. I was laughing right along with him, … until he was telling his listeners that he was living in continuous chronic pain. Continue reading