Wesley understood that Scripture had to be interpreted through the eyes of wisdom, the studies of others, through lived experience. But as the Evangelical push takes over, and splinter groups like the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) gain adherents, there is a grant retreat to this unsubstantiated idea that we can throw Bible verses at anything and have it fully settled.
The truth: life is more nuanced than an “If you would just follow the Bible, all would be well” statement.
I recently received a jury summons form. The day I am to appear for what could be a two or three-day trial happens to be two days before we leave for Europe and a long-planned vacation. If I postpone serving, my only alternatives dates were the two weeks before we returned and the two weeks that I had committed to be in California to care for my brother after a kidney transplant.
No other possible options. Neither choice will work. If I follow the rules, all will not be well. I’m willing and want to serve. But I’m not willing to cast overboard time to see my overseas children and grandchildren or my brother’s health for the sake of being a proper citizen.
The rules, set in place for good reasons, threaten a full year of planning and the life of my brother. I will break them for a higher call and I will be right in doing so.
From the earliest of our religious history of the desert-dwelling Hebrews, religious leaders have known that the written words were not enough. shutsJewish tradition holds that along with the written law, God also gave a massive amount of oral law to explain how to follow that which was written. Even with it, people have been arguing about the exact observance of the Law ever since then.“Sola Scriptura” does not work. It never has and it never will.
Two: The contention that doctrinal “purity” will unite.
As Heather Hahn of United Methodist Communication writes concerning the stances of the above mentioned WCA,
The Rev. William J. Abraham was even more explicit about what he’d like to see happen. He said the United Methodists who disagree with church teachings on homosexuality should simply leave and start their own church.
Doctrinal purity and insistence on uniformity of thought have never united or opened widely the doors to grace. As Abraham’s statement makes painfully clear, those kinds of purity demands shut others out.
Yet the Gospels make it clear that Jesus intentionally, and at significant risk, opened the doors to God for those that the Scriptures had previously pronounced as unclean. The radical changes to the understanding of grace as seen in Acts 16 unmistakably announce that religious beliefs must be modified to fit current realities.
Only the love of God despite difference brings true unity. Uniformity kills, slowly strangling the life from the church.