John T. Willis

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Established the Standard for Godly Life

The Churches of Christ, like all churches, struggle with establishing the standard for godly living. In my own lifetime, at least EIGHT different standards for godly living. There is no way to go into detail about any of these standards. Here I will simply briefly sketch the different view. [BUT, keep in mind, there are probably several additional standards which I may not realize or forget].

1. Philosophy. Philosophy is essentially HUMAN REASON. All human beings have the capacity of thinking and reasoning. Thus, throughout history, very intelligent people have developed an impressive type of human philosophy. One can think of Plato, Socrates, Plotinus, Aristotle, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hume, Descartes, Wilder, and many others. Some allude to the Bible from time to time, but they do not think of the Bible as the standard.

2. Reader Response. In recent times, numerous scholars have adopted the stance that every human being has his or her own background and personal beliefs. So, all of us human beings think SUBJECTIVELY. We deceive ourselves when we think that we can use various approaches to approach the Bible objectively. If people REALLY adopt this view, any human being can adopt any view on planet earth and think, say, or do whatever he or she wishes.

3. Tradition. Many churches use the Bible, but TRADITION plays a predominant role in reaching a final decision. Churches of Christ HEAVILY follow their own TRADITIONS while declaring that they are studying and following the Bible. In future blogs, I will emphasize many views which we follow along this line rather than following the Bible.

4. Unearthing Earlier Sources. In the 19th century, many scholars invented the view that BEHIND the present Bible are various sources, and we must go BELOW the present form of the Bible to discover the original earlier sources. Julius Wellhausen championed this view in the late 19th century, and for example, declared that behind the Pentateuch were four earlier sources: J [for
J[Y]ahweh, E [for Elohim], D [for Deuteronomy], and P [for Priestly]. In doing this, he essentially rewrote the Bible.

5. Certain unprepared individuals have advanced the view that we must REWRITE the Bible in Chronological Order. This unfounded assumption is that WE must follow a chronological order of the Bible rather than a theological or spiritual emphasis as the Bible now stands.

6. A huge emphasis in my very early days in the church was that the church was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ in 33 A. D. found in Acts 2, and therefore, the ONLY authority for the church is Acts 2 through Revelation. Everything before Acts 2 does not apply to godly living. Those who took this view did not realize that the four gospels were written long after the establishment of the church as related in Acts 2.

7. The huge majority of Church of Christ people and churches assume that the ONLY authority for the church is the New Testament and certainly not the Old Testament=the Hebrew Bible. But anyone who takes this position diametrically opposes the view of Jesus himself in Matthew 5:17-20 and Paul in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, as well as numerous New Testament texts. Due to this bias, most people in the Churches of Christ know little or nothing about the Old Testament, and many openly oppose the idea of seriously studying and following the Old Testament. This is essentially the view of Marcion in the second century A. D.

8. The true and appropriate view is that THE WHOLE BIBLE, OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS, are the proper authority for beliefs and practices and godly living. In doing this, everyone must realize that many texts in the Bible are cultural, occasional, and situational. First, one must study and understand the biblical message in THAT situation, and ONLY THEN attempt to determine whether this applies to ALL situations in ALL nations in ALL churches for ALL time. As we continue through the numerous blogs yet to appear, we will deal with very specific issues. For a brief introduction, here are a couple of examples.
     a. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, God our Father commanded his people to offer animal and cereal offerings to worship Yahweh and receive Yahweh's forgiveness. See Leviticus 1-7; Psalm 51, especially verses 18-19. But after Jesus Christ died on the cross and entered into heaven before the throne of his heavenly Father, God decreed that God's people no longer need to offer animal sacrifices, because Jesus Christ is now the appropriate sacrifice. See 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Hebrews 7.
     b. Jesus Christ specifically commanded his disciples to wash one another's feet to follow HIS example. John 13:1-20, especially verses 14-15. Churches of Christ do not OBEY this command. Very rarely, a small group of Church of Christ people may wash the feet of a specific person or a few people. Why do we disobey this command? WE have made the decision that this practice is "cultural," "occasional," "situational." In doing this, we are following the very same line of thought as other denominations to following different practices found in the Bible.
    Thus, it is crystal clear that our beliefs and practices are just as subjective as any other church or religious group. We need to accept this reality, and totally rethink our view of the authority of the Bible.

Share YOUR beliefs and ideas and rejections and denials and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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