In my younger years I approached Scripture the same way, but, of course, the Bible does not work that way. Reading the (sometimes rather convoluted) explanations of fundamentalist scholars for apparent Bible contradictions and other difficulties only served to reinforce that conclusion.
So I find myself in a (lifelong?) process of refining my views on Scripture and its authority.
It is challenging and exciting, but I have been doing it quietly. I see you have gotten past that.
I have profited from the perspectives of N.T. Wright, though his big books are a tough slog. I recommend his Scripture and the Authority of God.
It is not so much about the canon as it is about how the Bible should be read and in what ways God's authority appears within.
You've opened the door. The continuing responses will be interesting, no doubt. May God bless you.
Just wanted to say I have read your commentary on the concept of the Bible being every word of God. ["Lo and Behold, an Elephant Is in Our Room," Dec. 20, 2011, issue].
I think your explanation was one of the most informative essays I have ever read on the subject, especially the point that every book you read from any author is his or her inspiration but that does not mean that it is absolute truth from God or anyone else.
I think the WCG mentality toward Scripture has for the most part caused many to make the Bible itself an idol.
By the way, the article "Why Do We Think the Canon Is Closed?" [by Alex Ciurana in the same issue] is also an exceptional essay that expresses thoughts I have had about inspired books upon which religions have been constructed, including books like the Koran and Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon.
God can preserve a book
I think a God who can inspire a book can also inspire the preservation of that book, and I don't think He would inspire a book with errors or false information. I'm not referring to translation errors that can be so identified.
Two witnesses required
Do we have an inerrant Old Testament? I don't feel threatened by this topic [the Bible canon], and kudos to you for opening it up for discussion.
If Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, especially chapter 7, was he really taught by Gamaliel as claimed, and would he not be aware of this error in the Tanakh?
Shmuley Boteach thinks not in his book Kosher Jesus.
Another question arises as to Paul's being taught personally by Jesus in Arabia. Where are the required two witnesses to this event? We have only Paul's word for it.
South Slocan, B.C., Canada
I see your Bible-canon rethink has created some waves.
It's a matter of scholarship vs. belief, I suppose. I think you pointed out that the first list of the New Testament as we know it was as late as Athanasius in A.D. 367.
In many early Christian churches several books (Revelation and six epistles including Hebrews) were regarded as "doubtful," and others (the Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas and Apocalypse of Peter) were often included in the canon.
But even today different parts of Christianity have different versions of the Bible--not just the Catholic and Protestant inclusion or exclusion of the Apocrypha but the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox churches--including several extra books.
We tend to take the Bible as "given." But the complications of its composition, the fluidity of its content--and the authenticity of some of the books such as 2 Peter--really deserve more attention from those who have it as their sacred text.
Speaking of the book of Revelation, imagine how much less apocalyptic certain preachers would have been--William Miller, Herbert W. Armstrong, Harold Camping, Ronald Weinland--if Revelation hadn't made it in.
I'm giving a talk on failed prophecies of Jesus' imminent return next week before someone else's talk on 2012 prophecies. I'll finish up by saying we won't need to worry about December 2012 if Ron Weinland's right about May 27.
David V. Barrett
Mr. Cartwright, please may I suggest
As a trial, if you like, or a test:
A limerick to run
Each issue, in fun,
About stuff that our church folk do best!
Here are some more examples (from oedilf.com/db/Lim.php). The first is by Chris Doyle:
Strict adherence to dogma may vex,
But it's what our religion expects.
Once in churchism's thrall,
True believers won't fall
For the lure of the opposite sects.
Still another, by Sheila Blume:
If it's dogma, belief is required,
As by Heaven the teaching's inspired.
To deny (parenthetically)
Is to falter heretically.
In the faith, this conviction's hard-wired.
Big Sandy, Texas
Booklets can frustrate
I appreciated your article "Lo and Behold, An Elephant Is in Our Room" [Dec. 20, 2011, issue].
For several years I have had the same thoughts about the canonization of the Bible. I knew others who had the same thoughts.
Much of my reading has discovered an anti-Jewish bias in the history of the church from an early age even up to the present and among, of all people, the COGs. Clearly, many of the Jewish writings were rejected by the Catholic Church and others with an anti-Jewish bias.
You are right: Why do we not question the role the Catholic Church had in the canonization of the Bible?
Many of us also do not question Mr. Armstrong. I am grateful for the service he did. I doubt I would have been called if it were not for him.
But the Scripture says that Christ is the end (or totality) of the law, not Mr. Armstrong or the Catholic Church or any other man. I think it is about time we let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth and not Mr. Armstrong or the Catholic Church or any other men.
The Holy Spirit didn't die [with Mr. Armstrong] in 1986.
I seldom read church booklets or articles because I so often find that what they say is not exactly what the Scriptures say. Often their comments are out of context or erroneous.
The Scripture clearly says do not add to the Word and not to take away. To one degree or another all have done that, and we need to be careful.
Via the Internet
The framework of prophecy
I share your concerns [concerning the Bible canon]. These are honest issues.
In my brief article "A Framework of Prophecy," point No. 2 (the principle of the 40 and the 70), should it be studied at length, would give insight on how the Almighty does things.
The proper understanding of the 70 weeks is that an angel will appear at the beginning of the 70th week when the time is right, though it will be a desperate time for all of us on this planet.
But I don't think the COGs are ready to listen to that kind of theology. This is unfortunate but understandable.
I believe the Almighty will use many people in the end time, not a limited Church of God group.
Though a person can understand much in this life, it may be that we have to come to a type of simplicity of faith in the time of Christ of "touching the hem of His garment to be healed." Much to learn from that.
My entire article, "A Framework of Prophecy," is at pierce.publishpath.com.
Phillip B. Pierce
Via the Internet
Always be ready to carefully check those scriptures that are studiously avoided by theologians.
Paul and Micki Herrmann
Q&A on leaven
I came across the March 1981 copy of The Good News, which should resolve the back-and-forthing that's been going on in the letters section about the Days of Unleavened Bread.
[See a letter by Keith Slough in issue No. 145 and letters by Joan H. Griffith, Bill Neely and David Rydholm in issue No. 146.]
Excerpts from the Q&A section of the Good News article:
Q: Just what is leaven? Which foods are to be avoided during the Days of Unleavened Bread?
A: God uses leaven to typify sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-8). Sin puffs up just as physical leaven puffs up (verse 2). Unleavened bread is a type of an unleavened life. To understand exactly what is included in the leaven we are to avoid during the Days of Unleavened Bread, let's first notice some of the Hebrew words translated "leaven" in the Old Testament.
Mechametz refers to leavening agents: substances used to puff up or produce fermentation, causing dough to rise. Yeast, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and baking powder are such substances.
Another Hebrew word rendered "leaven" is seh-ohd. This literally means "sourdough," a naturally fermenting yeasty batter that was the most common leaven of the Israelites and which is still often used to cause baked goods to rise and become light in texture.
These leavening agents cause foods to become chametz. This Hebrew word is translated "that which is leavened" in Exodus 12:19. It is translated "leavened bread" in other places. It refers to foods that leaven has caused to rise, including bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies, some prepared cereals and pies.
A few candies and other foods also make use of leavening agents.
We may also eat unleavened pies and cereals together with all the meats, drinks, fruits and vegetables we normally consume.
Egg whites should not be used as a substitute for leaven in an attempt to circumvent the spirit of the law.
On the other hand, beaten egg whites used in meringue on pies and other desserts do not constitute a leavening agent. They have not been used to puff up any product baked of flour or meal.
"Yeast extracts" are derivatives of yeast that cannot be used as leavening agents. It is therefore permissible to use a product containing yeast extracts, provided, of course, that it does not contain any actual leavening agent.
Brewer's yeast is totally dead and should not be considered as leaven.
Cream of tartar, by itself, is not a leavening agent.
There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages--such as beer or other fermented drinks--we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
The biblical references are always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages.
Naturally fermented wine was customarily consumed by the Israelites at God's festivals.
The command adds no more than is found in Exodus 13:6-7: "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread ... and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters."
If you are unsure about any particular food and unable to find the answer, you should refrain from eating it, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).
If partway through the feast you find some leavened product that escaped your scrutiny, put it off your property immediately. This is a type of those hidden sins that we don't always discover upon conversion.
"Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Here is a URL for that issue of The Good News: tinyurl.com/PassoverGN.
Corner Brook, Nfld., Canada
Personal best NTBMO
As I reflect on my life in God's church (38 years since baptism), I realize I have been blessed to take part in more than 30 Night to Be Much Observed gatherings.
Some were with as few as five brethren, others as large as 22; some in the homes of brethren, others in private meeting rooms within restaurants; some organized, along with an agenda of activity, by a single host or hostess, others casual and spontaneous; some with funereal overtones, others with music and jubilation; all with tremendous fellowship.
The NTBMO is a biblically inspired part of God's way of life, but what does it mean to you personally? How do you enjoy your evening?
I have always wrestled with: What is the right number of participants? Where is the best venue? Who should or must be invited? How should the event be focused?
Continued blessings, and may this year's event be your personal best ever.
Penticton, B.C., Canada
Oops! The Days of Unleavened Bread are Nisan 14-20, not Tishri 14-20. See the letter from David Rydholm in issue 146 of The Journal [under the heading "Three vs. Seven"].