Protestant Pitfalls

Thanks be to Andrew Sullivan for finding this little number:

Many people hold on to belief as an unquestioned part of their make-up. They never have to confront the source of their belief, and as long as nothing actively pushes them into addressing it, they keep it as something which rarely does much harm and might actually do some good. I have been an Anglican since birth — and not just a cultural Anglican but at times (rarest of things) a real, worshipping, believing Anglican. Like a lot of believers, I knew that there were parts of my belief that wouldn’t stand up to analysis. But that was fine. I didn’t need to analyse them. I only lost faith when I was forced to.

Charles Darwin didn’t do for God. German biblical criticism did — the scholarship on lost texts, discoveries of added-to texts and edited texts. All pointed away from the initial starting-block of faith — that the texts transmitted immutable truths. Realising that ‘holy’ texts are, like most other things in life, the result of an accretion of human effort and human error is one of the most troubling discoveries any believer can make.

This kind of thing is just tragic, but unfortunately, de-conversion experiences such as these are the natural result of a lot of particularly bad Protestant theology.  Luther may have been right in claiming the authority of Scripture over that of tradition.  But he also opened a pandora’s box of theological problems which spawned a faith rooted not in Jesus, but the Bible.  Evangelicals have taken things one step further by assigning to the Bible the sort of perfection that God alone deserves.  

What this man doesn’t understand is that it is the Holy Spirit working through, and the Jesus behind, the text—emphatically not the text itself—who mediate divine truth.  Jesus, not the Bible, is the revelation of God to humankind (indeed, this is one thing that distinguishes it from Islam, which is necessarily text-centered); any theology which places the Bible and not Christ at the center of Christian faith is fundamentally flawed in this regard.

Of course, that’s not to say that the Bible does not serve an important purpose in the life of the Church.  In fact, it remains an authoritative text for discerning the truth about God and for training and instructing believers.  But if we could just avoid mistaking the medium for the message, we would spare ourselves a lot of misunderstandings which cause people to lose faith in Jesus for really bad reasons, like this guy did.

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One Response to Protestant Pitfalls

  1. ben adam says:

    Let’s use this as the starting point for a Monday/Wednesday Bible study. Plus, how did it go on Sunday? Can we still go hang out with homeless people on Saturday?

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