Saturday, December 5, 2015

SOURCES OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH

It will come as a surprise to many who know me, but I do not think that I know everything. 

I can even be wrong sometimes --- and in fact, I admit that I've been wrong once; I think it was back in 1959 or '60, but it's true --- I was actually wrong. I am very open to changing my opinion on certain matters.

Seriously ( I hope that everyone reading this realizes that most of the paragraph immediately above was my feeble attempt at humor, and was not meant to be taken literally!). the whole "I have The Truth, and if you disagree with me you are wrong...wrong...wrong" idea is so alien to my way of thinking that I can't even address it here. Not adequately, anyway.

What I want to do in this post is to identify the four sources of Christian truth that I recognize. Yes, I fully realize that most of my fellow Christians will say that they recognize only one of these, but I think there are actually four. I have an unfortunate tendency to see any disagreement with my conclusions as an attack on my conclusions, and I'll rush to explain  (1) Why I hold a certain opinion on a certain subject; and (2) why you're in grievous error if you disagree. I wish I could avoid that tendency in this post, but I realize that I don't. Forgive me.

Anyway, the four sources that seem apparent to me are: Holy Scripture; Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition; Scripture, Tradition, and Reason; and Present-day and Continuing Revelation. It will soon become apparent where I come down in all of this.



1. Holy Scripture

Protestants insist that they look to the Bible only as the source for Christian Truth. Actually, what they look to is their interpretation of Biblical passages as their Source.

Even the most literalist of the Protestants will realize that there are contradictions in the translated wording of the Bible, so they have to take some passages as being literally true, while passages (or scientific evidence) which seem to contradict the literal reading of the passage are seen as either symbolic, needing to be interpreted in light of The Truth, or flatly wrong. 


2. Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition

Catholic Christians --- and, by "Catholic," I mean both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, although the latter would probably bristle at being lumped in with the former --- claim to revere Holy Scripture as paramount, but only insofar as it is interpreted by Holy Tradition. Thus, while they profess to see Holy Scripture as most important, it's actually Holy Tradition that reigns supreme with them. 

Fundamental doctrines and practices which are nowhere to be found in Holy Scripture --- or, are squeezed out only by the most tortured logic --- are sanctioned, revered and observed by them: The doctrine of the Trinity; and observance of Sunday, not Saturday, as the holiest day of the week, and the celebration of such holidays as Easter and Christmas are just three of the doctrines and  practices established and sanctioned by Holy Tradition, as it interprets Holy Scripture.


3. Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, and Reason

Anglicans --- including Episcopalians in the U.S. --- have usually taken a somewhat different approach, and one with which I can live, which is one of the main reasons I am an Episcopalian: Added to Scripture and Tradition --- which are both important --- is the element of Reason. Oversimplifying it, if something doesn't seem reasonable to me, I don't have to claim to embrace that idea, even if the Church itself does. As long as I am a layperson, I don't, anyway. 

One of the first pledges or promises one makes upon being ordained in the Episcopal Church is to uphold the discipline and doctrine of the Church. Now, I know that most Episcopal clergypeople would have a problem with some of the examples of "discipline and doctrine" of the Church, but somehow they're able to perform spiritual and linguistic gymnastics and remain clergypeople in the Church. I can't. So, I did not go on into seminary from college, and I didn't become an ordained Episcopal clergyman. As a layperson, I don't have to pretend to believe something that I simply don't believe; as a clergyman, I would have had to do so.


4. The Fourth Way: Present-day and Continuing Revelation

This is the Source that I, personally, embrace. I realize that it is very closely related to the Third Source, but I think it's somewhat different. I do not believe in, worship, or love a God Who stopped speaking to His children 2100 years ago when the last book of the Bible was written. The God in Whom I believe, and Whom I love and worship is a Living God, Who STILL speaks to us, His kids. For instance, what my God's children hadn't heard 2100 years ago was that racism and slavery are wrong.  What He has repeatedly said, and some of His children have heard --- since the Bible was written --- is that racism and slavery are monstrous evils

My God, my Father, is a living God. He has spoken, He speaks, and He will continue to speak to those of us who are open to hear what He's saying.

I'll admit here and now, that what I am coming to believe that God is saying to me is not what I want to hear, so I'm resisting it. This is definitely the first time I've ever faced this reality and expressed it, but...


ANYWAY. I could be wrong. Remember, I've been wrong before, and I'll probably be again. I'm only human.