No truth in advertising
Just today I received an email from the PCUSA news organization about a “Bible Study” at the National Elders conference which is a part of the “Big Tent” event happening just down the road from me in Atlanta (my invitation must have been lost in the mail). The title of the report is: Study hall Elders’ task is to help others get into the Bible, Gardner says
The title made me think it was going to be about how to help people realize that they need to spend more time in God’s infallible Word. I thought maybe it would be an encouraging story about the importance of being grounded in God’s infallible Truth. But sadly it was just another bait and switch.
Freda Gardner…hmmm…I remember her. She is a former GA moderator. After the Dirk Ficca (What’s the big deal about Jesus) fiasco, the issue of whether Jesus was the only way to God the Father found itself on the floor of the 2001 General Assembly. During the discussion, she adamantly opposed making any form of exclusive statement, saying, “words can become stumbling blocks”.
Here is a portion of the Presbyterian news article:
…there are no right or wrong answers when approaching scripture. “If our attitude is that there is only one way to interpret scripture then we leave a lot of people out,” she said.
For those called to teach the Bible, as elders are charged to do, part of the task is to help people understand that their interpretations are valid, Gardner concluded. “We want believers to understand that there is a place for their gifts and their ministry in the church.”
I wonder if any interpretations are out of bounds for her? I wonder if someone had interpreted something as excluding women from Christian leadership, if she would have objected? I wonder if their are any interpretive boundaries? I was not there, and I do not know if this report is leaving some things out that would clarify what she was saying, but the report leaves the impression that there are no such boundaries.
Since we as Presbyterians at a minimum are called to state that the Bible is God’s Word to us, then this must assume that God is communicating through the scriptures. If this is so and God is quite powerful (the term omnipotent comes to mind, not to mention omniscient and omnipresent), then would God want to communicate in such a way that he should be interpreted in many ways, even conflicting ways? Does God not want to communicate anything so clearly that nearly all of us can understand the majority of the main idea? We might not exhaust the meaning, but can we not understand the major point? Are there no essentials that God wants to communicate very clearly? What exactly is the point of having our Christian leaders study biblical Hebrew, Greek, hermeneutics, and exegesis, if not so that they can rightly divide the word of Truth? If everybody can interpret a passage however they please based upon their own experiences, then why even have biblically trained Christian leaders?
Maybe, just maybe, what she meant to say is that our culture and experiences can influence the way we read scripture, and we need other Christian believers from around the world to help us reflect on how we sometimes see certain scriptures through cultural eyes and miss out on important aspects. Somehow though I suspect that a leader who was unwilling to support an unambiguous statement that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ, would unfortunately concur with the pluralist, wishy-washy, any interpretation goes bend of this article.
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