Church Dogma And My First And Last Facebook Debate

Not too long ago, an article made its rounds on the internet about how the niv was engaged in a conspiracy to remove verses and even entire passages from the bible. 45 VERSES AND MANY MORE WORDS ARE MISSING FROM THE NIV THAT WERE IN THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE: THE KJV.

[gasp... insert shock and awe here]


I'll give you the cliff notes but you'll have to excuse me while I nerd out for a paragraph.

The KJV was translated off of what most refer to as the Byzantine manuscripts that were copied down between 500AD-1000AD. Meaning they hadn’t been copied until at least 500 years after Jesus death or more, giving the texts a lot of time to evolve and change. Anyway, we now have older copies of the Bible, called the Alexandrian manuscripts (200AD-400AD). With textual criticism, (and I'm no expert) the general rule is: Older is better because older is closer to the original. So in short these verses weren’t in the original texts of the bible.

Josh Buice has a more detailed, but not written to academics, explanation HERE, or there's a headier version HERE.

That's when I broke my rule of never engaging in controversial discussions on social media. I figured, "oh misinformation, this can easily be cured with education."

I assumed people possessed a relatively universal desire to learn, grow, and be educated. But Christians are different - we've trained that out of them.

More on that in a minute...

I typed the comment, hit the word post, and then began the tirades! My favorite comment (and by favorite, I mean my least favorite) was from a leader in the Church:

Wait... The Manuscripts are the bible...

Other than the emotive and not quite thought-through response, there's something very telling about the post.

Did you see it? 

"All scripture is God breathed" was not quoted as a text in God's word to back up a meaningful premise, but rather a one liner designed to stop a conversation the individual wasn't prepared to engage in.

We've replaced critical thinkinG with one-liners that basically boil down to, "I don't care what they say about [creation/bathrooms/ HOMOSEXUALITY] we just believe in the Bible!" This inability to DIALOGUE AND "give an answer to everyone who asks" has rendered the Church completely non-competitive in the marketplace of ideas.

That's where dogma comes in...

Dogma is defined by Merriam-Webster as,

“A belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted”

or my favorite,

A principle or set of principles laid down by authority as incontrovertibly true.

Dogma is “the earth is flat”, or “the Bible is the inerrant word of God”.

I’m positive you didn’t like that I used those in the same sentence.  

But dogma can be true or false. Dogma is more about the tone not the content. Dogma says this is true, and it’s not up for discussion. That would be fine if the gospel was for us four and no more. But the reality is, that the gospel is for the world, and to win their hearts, we’ll have to engage in a meaningful exchange of ideas.

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Here's a couple examples of how this plays out in the Church.

Tough questions

What about when someone that we lead asks us a tough question about something we believe, and we make the mistake of telling them that sometimes we just to "have faith" when there's something about God we don't understand. When what we should have done is admit we don't have the answer, and offer to find it out together.

why do bad things happen to Good people?

If you've been in Church any number of years, you know the company line is:

God doesn't cause evil, he just allows it. He's given us a free will so we can choose to love him, unfortunately some people choose evil.

Let me tell you why this doesn't fly with people who have experienced true suffering. It's like saying God didn't pull the trigger, he just handed mankind a loaded gun. If you're on the other end of people's horrific choices, dogma won't cut it. People who have spoken into the mess of someone who's experienced sexual abuse, or gone through the death of a child do not regurgitate one liners, in fact they say very little at all.

GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Augustine, they all grappled with the problem of evil. Were you to tell the greatest thinkers in the history of Christianity, that "God doesn't do evil, he just allows it", I assure you they wouldn't pause and say... "Hmm, why didn't I think of that?" Because the statement is the elementary assertion of someone who has either not thought through the issue, or never experienced pain.

Love the sinner...

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" Can I just tell you that NO ONE who's ever walked with someone through same-gender attraction EVER uses that phrase... Like ever... It's a HUGE over-simplification of an incredibly complex journey, and an insult to all who have walked it. 

Winning hearts and minds

Solomon reminds us that "he who wins souls is wise"a favorite for those talking about personal evangelism; but the text is of course pre-gospel, and really not about that. It's more about winning friends and influencing people. So sure we're great at regurgitating facts about what we believe, but are we winsome? Do our lives and our ideas engage our neighbors? Do our co-workers look to us for insight on life's greatest challenges and societies greatest ills? 

Without an ability to know WHY we believe WHAT we believe, we’ll lose our voice in the world. This is not a call to buy apologetics books; it’s more fundamental than that. It’s a call to dive deep in the word, to own our theology, and to engage the world with our minds as well as our hearts.


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