Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The dilemma facing Protestant and Evangelical Christians in the West

The greatest dilemma today for Protestant and Evangelical Christians in the West is how to treat the Scriptures. Do we see them as the inspired words of God to live by and the standard to judge the morality of our own lives and that of society? Or do we see some of it as being inspired and other parts as not being useful or applicable today? Which portions of the Scriptures do we live by and which ones do we leave out or omit from our practice? Do we order our lives "sola scriptura", or by church traditions or by reason? Do we embrace modern scientific thinking or post-modern philosophy in helping us guide our decision-making about which Scriptures we can apply to our lives? Do we accept science to help us decide which Scriptures make sense and which ones are just parables, mythical or fables (if any?)? Or do we adopt the zeitgeist of postmodernism in determining that our faith is not the one true faith, but just one of several possible truths?

While I've been Evangelical for part of my life, I have realised from my own walk with God that I only have his Scriptures to guide me into discerning truth and error, especially in an era when Jesus himself prophesied that there will be great deceptions. And when I analyse the situation even more, I find that the disciples of Jesus and Jesus himself did not have a New Testament Bible. For them, the only Scriptures they owned were the Old Testament. With that fact in mind, Jesus and all his apostles based their doctrine and teachings around the Old Testament Scriptures (or the Torah) and through interpretations and re-interpretations of those Scriptures.

For me then, the question is not about which Scriptures are valid for instructing me and for application in today's world. All the scriptures are a standard  to show what God likes or approves of or to reveal humanity's past, present or future. As the apostle Paul declares in 2nd Timothy 3:15-17 according to the New Living Translation (NLT):

15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
However, the Bible is also complex, as it is compiled from various authors, contains diverse genres of content including laws, regulations, proverbial sayings, songs, folk wisdom, stories, genealogies, lists, histories, and reports. Yet despite its complexity, God uses it to help us identify what is good and what is wrong and to prepare us to do good.

Yet, the dilemma for Christians today is that our environment is changing. Historically, we moved from a persecuted minority religion to a popular majority in the Wes during the age of Constantine's reign in Rome. We in the West have enjoyed that status and the many privileges since then, perhaps taking our privileges and status as State sanctioned religion for granted, while Eastern Christians faced persecution for holding to their beliefs. Now as the West becomes diversified, our privileges and status are being taken away. Out of fear we attempt to preserve such through politics and legislation.

Yet, we forget our history, that when the disciples and apostles were preaching their doctrines, things that were practiced then in the 1st century are only now becoming legal and respectable int he 21st century (child sacrifice or abortion, witchcraft, paedophilia, homosexuality etc.). Somehow, when Christianity became legal, legitimate and the popular majority, such things were outlawed and driven underground.

So we must now see ourselves in the proper perspective. Do we believe the Scriptures only when the law and scholarship (or university intellectuals) are on our side? This is the test of our time. Just as how Job was tested, Satan accuses God about  our service to God. As illustrated in Job 1:8-10 in the New International Version (NIV):

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.

This charge is now being brought against us. Do we serve Christ because our faith is privileged or protected by our state?

No comments: