Last Sunday I picked up a copy of April's Methodist Newsletter. I found an article entitled 'A Questioning Faith' disturbing, and felt that I needed to respond. So I wrote a letter to the editor. I hope that the writer, who does have courage and conviction in expressing his views, will not feel that my words are expressed unfairly.
Apparently Luther once wrote to Erasmus saying, ‘the difference between you and me is that you stand above Scripture and judge it, whereas I stand underneath Scripture and let it judge me.’ I am writing because I feel that the opinion expressed in ‘A Questioning Faith’ (April 2010) was an exercise in judging Scripture.
I don’t deny that there are parts of the Bible which seem unpalatable to our modern (and post-modern) ears. I admit that there are disagreements among people who submit to its word as to what it teaches on certain points. However, I think that we are on shaky ground when we think that we can dismiss certain passages because they do not suit our own prejudices. Is it usurping the place of God to become editor of his word?
I think GWJ is probably right when, having highlighted some of Scriptures most difficult teachings, he writes, ‘[f]or the most part none of this matters very much to us [my emphasis]. The Church’s work of worship, service and discipleship goes on.’ Sadly, this reveals our tendency towards a selective reading of the Bible in an attempt to create God in our own image. While acknowledging the role of human individuals in the transmission of the Word, I think that seeing it as having been written through the ‘prejudices’ of its authors (as GWJ seems to assert) does not square with a belief that the Scriptures are ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16) and that its writers ‘spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1:21).
John Wesley reasoned, ‘“This book had to be written by one of three people: good men, bad men or God. It couldn’t have been written by good men because they said it was inspired by the revelation of God. Good men don’t lie and deceive. It couldn’t have been written by bad men because bad men would not write something that would condemn themselves. It leaves only one conclusion. It was given by divine inspiration of God.”
Methodism was birthed with a high view of the Bible. Wesley described himself as a man of one book. When Outler coined the term ‘The Wesleyan Quadrilateral’ he saw Scripture as the ultimate authority above tradition, reason or experience. It is my hope that we will be a denomination with confidence in the whole Word of God and that we will be a people who live under it, submitting to its rule.
Rev. Paul Ritchie,