Should We View the Bible With Fresh Eyes?

Yesterday at the Florida College Lectures Alan Cornett presented a lecture entitled, “The Pervasive Influence of Reformation Thought” that challenged our thinking on several levels.

Alan suggested that those in our fellowship are theologically influenced much more by Reformation movement than we often care to admit. He traced the Protestant Reformation and its impact to those in America like Campbell and Stone who sought a return to Scriptural authority and to echo the cry “No book but the Bible, no creed but Christ.”

Cornett shared Campbell’s “principle of approaching the Bible afresh” with his illustration of wearing “colored spectacles.” Campbell believed that sectarian division occurred because each group wore a different set of glasses that colored their view and clouded their vision of the Bible. If everyone would remove their prejudicial glasses they could see the Word of God afresh. Clearly. Correctly. And accurately.

Campbell is quoted as saying, “Thrice happy is the man who lifts the Bible as if it had dropt from heaven into his hand alone, and whose eyes are anointed with the true eye salve that he may see.”

Alan opined, “I am sure that many of us are inclined to nod along with Campbell as he decries the denominational lenses.”

However, he responded with this challenging thought. “While this idea can have quite a bit of rhetorical appeal, the cycle of it ultimately leads to something of a theological Groundhog Day, with each generation rediscovering the old heresies, unaware anyone thought of them before, and the old battles are relived with no reference to the past, just as Bill Murray relived the same minor holiday over and over again on film.”

Furthermore, Cornett wrote, “I would submit that if we find an issue that has not been considered before, and seriously so, then we had best drop the issue and move on. Biblical theology has not waited 2,000 years for you nor for I to come along and discover anything new. If it has then the entire idea of the Restoration is a failed concept.”

Alan then quotes Restorationist historian Richard Hughes who states that “the churches that root their identity in efforts to restore ancient Christianity are susceptible to the illusion that they have escaped the influence of history and culture altogether.”

As I have been reflecting on this thought since yesterday morning, it occurs to me that many today are rejecting “the old paths” in search of something new. Exciting. And fresh. They have, however, failed to learn from their forefathers. They are going down a path that ultimately will not lead them closer to the Divine pattern revealed in Scripture, but father away. Their “fresh eyes” have led them into old errors.

Furthermore, it seems there must be a balance between the “fresh eyes” approach and blindly believing everything that we have been taught. Harry Pickup Jr used to warn us “preacher boys” against extremes. He counseled that there are two dangers with young preachers. One is rejecting everything old preachers believed in search of something new. The other is believing everything older preachers taught without personal study and conviction.

Cornett suggests that “congregations provide a community in which Biblical teaching can be studied and understood, building on the past understanding of mature Christians.” Paul encouraged us to follow him, as he followed Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Although Paul was an apostle, it is appropriate for us to lean on godly, dedicated, spiritual men and women for insight, guidance, and counsel.

The Apostle instructed Timothy “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). This “generational chain of teaching” as Alan describes it will serve us well in equipping others to minister in the Word, follow the ancient pattern and live faithfully. All the while with open eyes that clearly see the Scripture and have learned the lessons that history has recorded for us.

Alan closed by encouraging us to embrace the maxim of George Santayan, ”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

5 Comments

Filed under Florida College Lectures

5 responses to “Should We View the Bible With Fresh Eyes?

  1. Hmmm … thanks for the insight. I’m going to have to think some more about this idea.

    Be blessed.

    • Thanks, Michael. Yes, I’m still “chewing” on this idea as well. But I think the key is found in the word “balance.”

      • I am concerned about this “generational chain of teaching”. My main focus for quite some time now has been digging deeper and deeper into what Jesus said. I studied theology in college. I was shocked at how far and distant much of it was from the good news of Jesus.

        In my opinion, theology that is diluted generation after generation for 2,000 years leads you to where we are in many churches these days. Virtually no sense of Jesus and his teachings. Little to no faith. No power of the Holy Spirit. No miracles. The poor getting poorer. Okay, I’ll stop.

        I’m inclined to ask, what is wrong with sticking with what Jesus had to say (and the others who heard him as recorded in the new testament)? That seems to be plenty enough.

        Jesus was clear: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” How would we weed them out of this “generation chain of teaching”? If early on, a false teacher infected the “chain”, and then 300 years later, another false teacher affected that same chain, where would that leave us?

        Also note that Jesus also said “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many”. The emphasis here would be on “many” and not occasional or a few.

        Of course, we have Peter warning us: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”

        John seems to have recognized the danger: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Again, many is used. Yikes? Where would the “chain” lead us with so many and not just an occasional lunatic? Probably not to Jesus.

        And so … having promised to think about it, those are my thoughts for now.

        Be blessed. God is with you.

  2. Matt

    To which shall I prescribe to restore, if indeed I strive to be a part of such a movement? After all, does being part of a known “movement” mean that I prescribe to a given theology and doctrinal manner? Isn’t such a prescription a creed, albeit unwritten? Are we Cambellites, with a legally adopted name of church of Christ?

    But back to restoration, shall I restore to the church in Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, or stick with the old standby back in Jerusalem? Didn’t the council in Acts determine that cultural differences may indeed exist? And yet, in our zeal to restore, we might seek to limit that which is not meant to be limited to the mature believer, and then bind it on others in the sake of unity. (Corinthians). Again, we come up with a common believe, ours, which restricts and disrespects the interpretation of others, the next culture over, but may very well end up perfectly acceptable to our Lord in His global perspective. We inadvertently have created our own unwritten creeds, rules and traditions; just as the Pharisees did.

    I applaud the idea of reading the scripture and old teaching again, forming our own opinions, and dropping any label that doesn’t state: Christian, just a Christian with an opinion that humbly hopes it doesn’t offend the Lord, meeting with some other locals that believe in Christ, and hoping the group next door won’t judge me on their own merit and culture, but rather will leave that up to God. Major on the majors and minor on the minors.

    • Thanks, Matt, for reading my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts. In a simple answer to your questions, I would recommend a restoration mindset that is based in and on the New Testament pattern. All movements of men are potentially flawed.

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