It seems like it has been around forever — the idea of just studying the Bible and letting things fall into place. It is how most Bible study groups behave. It allows for an inclusiveness that transcends denominational and theological barriers. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?
Those who are theologically aware see the problem here. The term “Biblical theology” has more than one use. For the sake of this discussion I’m talking about the casual use of the term — avoiding the systematic questions that might divide a group. The idea of just doing a Bible study while avoiding specific doctrinal questions is a relatively new movement. It has been around only about 200 years, about 10 percent of the life of the church.
There is a positive and useful type of Biblical theology. That is the examination of the Word for all it says on any and all topics it discusses. This is what builds a sound theology, as exegesis precedes the systematic. That is never a problem.
The Biblical theology that is a concern is the type that avoids challenges and challenging passages. Does a Calvinist study leader have a difficult time with I John 2:2, or an Arminian with Romans 8:1? Does the postmodern anti-pietist have difficulty with Romans 6:1? Or the Molinist with Acts 2:23?
Here is the challenge: Teach the Bible according to your best understanding. Learn from those passages you find difficult. Consult others, both people you are close to and outside authorities. Be generous to those in your group with whom you might disagree. But do not, by any means, sacrifice the substance of the Bible on the alter of pleasing others. That’s not how good relationships are built. That’s not how the Kingdom is advanced.
When you hear a teacher misinterpret a passage then you have cause for conversation. Set a time to get together to examine that passage. Be willing to learn. Interacting with someone from a variant perspective Is a very good way to learn.
Well how about that? I just sent you an email… And then the next thing I see is this. This is exactly where I would like to start.
The church didn’t have the New Testament in the beginning. But they had the oral teachings of the apostles. In Cornith they had only Paul (so just one apostle). And from 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 I gather that there was not a clergy/laity distinction. Nor was there a “pastor” as we today would understand the term (the man who gives the sermon in monologue fashion). But considering 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 and from 1 Corinthians 11:4 there was those in the church that would prophesy and others would evaluate. Each gift building up the brethren.
So, that being said. Let’s for the sake of argument assume cessationism. Where does that leave us today? The assumption in Christendom seems to be what you wrote in the challenge. However, another approach seems far safer if the goal is not to introduce anything that is not 100% error-free. That approach would be to just quote the Bible without any interpretation. Of course, even then we are at the mercy of a translation. Also, there are textual variants. But what I am practically suggesting here is a bare minimum of interpretation. I would not have said this years ago. But, I have realized that no matter what is considered sound exegesis, everyone admits it is not as authoritative as the actual text it attempts to teach. This problem did not exist in the apostolic church, when Paul seems to assume that the plurality of gifts would/could sort out any errors and if that didn’t happen then you had an apostle who would correct things. Well, we can’t do that anymore (not with that level of authority). So we can either continue as we are (each church/pastor teaching what they think is true) or take an entirely different approach and just read the text and let the apostles who wrote it teach us. Too bad we can’t ask questions and interact with them. That would solve everything. But unless the Cessationists are wrong, then we can’t expect a miracle like that. Can we?