Quoting the Bible Is Not Enough to Support Your Faith

Quoting the Bible Is Not Enough to Support Your Faith August 25, 2016

The age of the internet has brought on an incredible surge of theologians being given a platform to speak, write, and debate upon. Lest I be completely self unaware, I recognize the writing I am about to propose applies equally to myself (hence why I feel comfortable writing it). Using a broad definition of “theologian” to simply mean anyone who is partaking in thinking about the concept of God – we find ourselves squared with the notion that anyone who possesses breath is a theologian.

Now, it stands to reason that if everyone is a theologian, we have three categories with which we can work: good theologians, poor theologians, and heretics. Logically then, every being is either thinking about the concept of God in a good manner (in orthodoxy), a poor manner (in heterodoxy), or heretical manner (in heresy). Congruently, one is either correct in their concept of God or incorrect – and the severity of their incorrectness places them in either of the two respective camps of theologians who are outside the pale of orthodoxy. Yet the rub is that one of these groups outside the pale of orthodoxy is doomed to an eternity in hell because of the theology they hold. In this same respect, everyone is operating under some creedal system, whether subscribed to firmly, loosely, or not at all (no creed is a creed); what differs, respectively, is if this system is orthodox, heterodox, or heretical.

The Reformers noted that there were three components necessary for a genuine, biblical faith: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

The notitia is the content, or the “facts” of one’s faith. More clearly, these “facts” are the basic components of the faith, or, what doctrines we need to know that are necessary for salvation. Historically, this has been defined through the teaching of the apostles and has been the subject of many church councils and creedal/confessional statements. This would include doctrines pertaining to each member of the Trinity (Theology Proper, Christology, and Pneumatology) – yet also the doctrine of the Trinity itself. This most clearly is exemplified in the gospel itself, as the body of content in the preaching of the gospel is necessary for one to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord, Jesus Christ. There are other doctrines one must know in order to be saved (such as the deity of Christ, His sinless perfection, the atonement, etc.); this is simply a brief summary to convey the concept of notitia. 

The assensus is the belief that the notitia is true. Moreover, it is the ascent to this body of truth, holding that such things which are proclaimed as true by the scriptures are indeed true. This would include holding to such things as true as the Virgin Birth, the Hypostatic Union, etc. In other words, the correct body of truth (the orthodox teaching) is recognized as true and believed as such. One may have the facts, yet remain in unbelief because he/she simply does not ascent to this knowledge as truth. This has been the bane of critical scholars and liberal Christians for years simply in that many can conceptually grasp orthodox teachings – they just deny their truthfulness, and subsequently, deny Christ.

The fiducia is when one has the correct content of that which is necessary for salvation, believes this content to be true, and it actually affects their life as they trust and rely upon it in faith. This is the fruit of one’s faith, such as holy living, repentance, and obeying the commands of scripture. The correct content and the belief in it has personally caused a paradigm shift in their life to reflect that they have been saved. Correct facts and belief are not enough – for even the demons have these, yet they shudder. It is the submission to these truths, as one places their life under the Lordship of Christ and trusts in His redemption, that is found in this component of the faith.

As one can see, these three components are inseparable for the true Christian and they work in conjunction with one another in the salvific process. Yet the one I wish to key in on exclusively here is the notitia, that is, the “facts” of the Christian faith. In particular, this is why I mentioned earlier that one outside the pale of orthodoxy is doomed to an eternity in hell because of the theology they hold. This is also specifically why the title of this piece is so apropos. Simply quoting the bible to support your argument is insufficient for the simple reason that even the heretics in the early church quoted scripture – yet their views were condemned. Thus, one may have a faith of some respect, yet if the content of their faith is false, they don’t believe that which is true, nor does that true content cause them to submit to Christ – do they have a valid faith? Furthermore, can the quoting of scripture really be said to support their life of rebellion to God? Of course not. It is not enough for one to quote the scriptures in support of their faith – the scriptures must be used as they are intended by God in order to support the faith.

We have historical councils which have given us conciliar agreement on orthodox doctrine – not by way of coercion, force, or kingly influence, as many have unfortunately maintained. Instead, we find a diverse group with varying opinions meeting over the course of days, months, and sometimes years, to iron out the content of the scriptures so that the church may operate within the bounds of correct belief – because contrary teaching was rising in the land. While some periods within the history of the church gave rise to more serious inquiry on particular doctrines, we must recognize much of the theology done by the church is reactionary (after all, the canon was closed long before the Eastern and Western church came to full agreement by the 5th century). What I mean by this sentiment is that orthodox theologians are not reinventing the wheel each time they do theology. We’re not looking for further revelation. We’re looking for further insight and greater understanding that is reflected in pure doctrine and devotion to our God. It is for these reasons that much theology has been done on a reactionary basis against those who are trying to reinvent the theological wheel, in order to defend the historic faith handed down to us from the apostles.

Anyone can quote the scriptures to support whatever ideology they hold to. If one so desires, they can quote the scriptures and make an argument in support of Mormonism, the Hebrew Roots movement, being a Jehovah’s Witness, or the oft cited “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” ideology. In that same precise manner, one can quote scripture to support homosexual practice, sex before marriage, pornography, abortion, theft, gossip, slander, backbiting, anger, or any other practice which the scriptures define as sinful and worthy of condemnation. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself embracing a Trinitarian heresy like Modalism, or a works-based salvation, or the cheap grace of antinomianism, or even the prosperity gospel. The simple point being: you can quote-mine the scriptures and make them say whatever you’d like to – but that doesn’t make your concept of God or understanding of doctrine correct. This is why the way we study the bible is so important. This is why the debate on the eternal subordination of the Son was such a large deal among Complementarians (and why Egalitarians weighed in as well).

When you not only deny the context of scripture, but historical orthodoxy, and creedal/confessional statements – you ought to be extremely careful, for you may just find yourself in the camp standing condemned. Yes, the church has been wrong in the past and will be in the future and not all historic councils are one in the same. Yes, there are confessional documents which are not in agreement on some matters and we can contain legitimate disagreements over secondary matters of doctrine. Yes, the bible is the final authority, lest we forget the dark ages in the church when the gospel was completely lost. Yes, the only thing which the Christian can place emphatic trust upon its inerrancy is the bible itself, but your interpretation of the bible is not necessarily the same as the actual teaching thereof. Creeds and confessional agreements are meant to be guardrails for our benefit, yet they are not the final litmus test. While they are not inerrant, they are vital to the life, health, and understanding of the church as they seek to be those abiding in the truth of God.

So, with this being said – go read some (orthodox) dead guys.

 

Featured Image: Friday Morning by Jona Park; CC 2.0

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  • Bryan Brantley

    True, you have to study the bible to get it’s true meaning. There is a lot of false info and teachings of the bible out there. That is why there is so many aethist out there cause none of them that stay aethist know the bible true meaning. The bible is not a book of fiction. And yes you have to understand other religions to prove other they are false.

    • The Happy Atheist

      This kind of response is so aggravating! You’re making a lot of ignorant assumptions here. Many atheists are former pastors with seminary training. Many of us have not only read the bible cover to cover, but we’ve studied it in depth in the original languages. After years and years of careful scrutiny, many of us came to the same conclusion: the bible is no more or less significant than a dozen other religious texts. Religion is a human construct, nothing more.

      • Daniel Boome

        That’s fair, but there are also countless others who after “years and years of careful scrutiny”, have come to the opposite conclusion. Significance is a bit relative, but a historical perspective on the development and implementation of certain texts can give us insight. Nobody is ever likely to agree on whether that’s definitive or not, but that’s what understanding and responding to opposing viewpoints is for. I’m not sure what aggravates you so much.

        • Michael.Pinecone.V2

          Yep. Some of us have scrutinized and rejected the anti-religious human constructs; and not merely chosen a religion but have said yes to life.

          • Daniel Boome

            Some of us I have scrutinized and rejected the anti-religious human humanistic constructs; and not merely chosen a religion self-determined path but have said yes to life.

          • Michael.Pinecone.V2

            That works, too!

          • Michael Cunningham

            Some of us have scrutinized and rejected the religious
            constructs; and not merely chosen to believe what we want to believe, but have said yes to life as it is in reality.

          • 1Myles1

            If you say yes to life and you have chosen a religion,are you having mental health issues?

          • Michael.Pinecone.V2

            Not necessarily.

        • The Happy Atheist

          “none of them that stay aethist know the bible true meaning.”

          That’s the aggravating part. It’s basically an assertion that we’re atheists because we have not correctly understood the “true meaning” of the bible. I would argue precisely the opposite, that I am an atheist now because I *HAVE* understood the true meaning.

    • monty’s bones

      How much “understanding” of other religions do you really think you’ll glean by learning about them with the presumption that they’re false? That’s not learning, that’s just seeking evidence to reinforce your own prejudices.

      • 1Myles1

        How can a religion be anything but false?

    • Which is the true meaning? I started out Southern Baptist and wandered through a number of denominations and also sat through a lot of Conservative and Reform Jewish sermons before finally realizing I just didn’t believe any of it. So which one is correct, and more importantly how do we know which one(s) is/are right?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The sheer horror implicit in what you say beggars belief. I have no idea what God you believe in but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity, still less the teachings of Jesus, or of Paul or of any of the disciples of Jesus whose words are to be found in the Bible. If you seriously believe there is a god (I will not dignify it with a capital letter) who will torture people for eternity if they will not understand the doctrine of the trinity the way you do, and do not consider him to be a monster worse than even than the devil himself you have no concept of morality.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Iain, this is what the bible teaches and the church has held to. I will briefly echo the puritan, Thomas Arnold, in saying, “He who does not know God the Holy Spirit does not know God at all.” The same is true of each respective person in the Trinity.

      The simple point being: we don’t get to pick and choose what we will about God and certain beliefs have greater ramifications than others. Heresy is condemned for a reason – and the NT authors give no qualms about speaking candidly about false teachers, their demise, and of those who follow false teaching.

      While one may not like that sentiment – the amount of gymnastics to get around this is staggering – yet altogether eternally dangerous, given the implications.

      • Daniel

        You’re a funny guy, GG. In the Gospels Christ says exactly what guarantees the Father’s Kingdom whether you like it or not. Repeatedly Christ is clear that how you treat people is the key. Not once does our Lord say theology will save us. When you make the commitment to follow Christ, you are making the commitment to act like him. Idle pondering won’t make us children of the Father. It saddens me to see someone perverting the message of our Lord so ardently. No, surely the fire and the worm are for the self-righteous who claim wisdom. We are ALL heretics, brother. All of us are fools who choose foolishness. The only times we escape foolishness are the moments we live without judgement or reproach. These are the moments in which we know love. Confess this and then you can begin to see the face of God in his children. I speak to you in kindness, and I hope you will reconsider this wasteland into which you have wandered.

        Our Lord provides life for those of us who call out for his mercy and gentleness and he provides life for those of us who do not, even the heretic. The Kingdom offers new life to both as well, for Christ is the way, and Christ is love, so love is the way. This is how it has always been. This is the true “orthodoxy” as you would have it strangely spelt out in Greek. The right belief is Christ. Anything you add is the choice to disobey his words. No church will peddle you or anyone salvation. Salvation is at hand for all of us regardless of the strange shapes in which we see the Father. If there were truly one image of the Father that were divine then only one person would be able to access the kingdom, after all no two people share the same mind’s eye. We are determined to have different perspectives on all matters and the Father knows this. This is how we are all heretics.

        Our Lord speaks very plainly on this sort of speech. To announce that one is orthodox is to become a white-washed tomb. This is how you wipe the outside of the cup and leave the inside with filth.

        I hope that you will abandon this recklessness of the heart and that you will begin to see the light of the Father in brothers and sisters you previously walled yourself from. Watch the heretics, commune with them. Perhaps the Father will speak to you through them. But perhaps you fear they will taint or stain your perceived cleanliness or annoy you with their heavy breath when they speak to you, the same breath that the Father breathed into you, the same breath that is in all life, no matter what name it calls itself.

        • Gilsongraybert

          So when you say that the worm and fire are for the self-righteous (which is correct) – you aren’t making a theological statement on the nature of hypocrisy that Christ condemned? Do you not see that He also condemned false teaching, as did the apostles? There is really no way around this if we are reading scripture, unless, of course, the apostles and other NT authors were just as Pharisaical as you purport me to be.

      • Iain Lovejoy

        I have no interest in your views – no moral, sane person would. I merely hoped that I might avoid as many people as possible mistaking you for a Christian.

        • Gilsongraybert

          Do you read the bible? If so, what do you make of books like Jude, 1 & 2 John, the opening of Romans, Christ’s condemnation of false teachers?

          • Nimblewill

            Here’s one thing I know. Everyone is teaching something that is not 100% correct. Unless you sir, are the one that is.

          • Gilsongraybert

            So instead of being sure about anything that means we must be insecure about believing everything? That, sir, is a faux humility and is not even remotely consistent with bad logic.

      • Uncle Dave

        But then the word “Trinity” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. So now you have the Oneness guys and the Trinitarian guys telling each other that they will be eternally doomed.

        • Gilsongraybert

          The scriptures are implicit in teaching on the Trinity…it really isn’t a debate at this point.

          • Uncle Dave

            I suppose not, after one has taken sides. But that is the point, lots of reading into the text and subsequent belief based upon past culture. The Pharisees were great at that. And there are many more modern examples as well such as Catholic vs Protestant, Calvinism vs Arminianism and so on. No one really has the full answer on what the Bible teaches. So contrary to your assertion, it seems folks pick and choose what they believe about God all the time.

  • Nimblewill

    32For God has consigned all men to disobedience, so that He may have mercy on them all. 33O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! 34“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”…

    • Giauz Ragnarock

      “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”

      Probably questions for Thought2Much XD

  • Mike Smathers

    Faith is not something you believe; it is something you do. “Faith,” it has been said, “is not believing without doubt but trusting without reservation.” God judges, but his decision may always be Mercy. In the final analysis, Hell may be empty.

  • Jim

    Of the 7 billion people in the world, 5 billion are not Christians. Are the all condemned to hell? The New Testament is not inerrant. Anyone who has read it can clearly see the contradictons among its authors.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Read the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy: http://www.etsjets.org/files/documents/Chicago_Statement.pdf

      And to answer your first question, yes – that is why there is urgency to go and proclaim the gospel to all nations.

      • Jim

        Is condemning 5 billion people to hell the act of your merciful and just god?

    • bumbutcha

      There no contradictions – only faulty interpretations since we are fallible creatures. Regarding your question which is a valid one, you may want to study the history of the doctrine of apocatastasis which many in the early church adhered to but is now ignored and discounted.

      • Jim

        Matthew says that Jesus drove the money changers from the Temple in Jerusalem shortly before his crucifixion, but John says this event happened early in Jesus’s ministry, shortly after Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. (2:2-11 and
        2:12-15).
        King Herod could not have ordered the killing of children in
        Bethlehem because he died four years before Jesus was born. How can you overlook the inconsistency of the Evangelists when one says that Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled from Bethlehem to Egypt, and another says they went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for the presentation of Jesus in the Temple and from there directly to Nazareth? Or that John quotes Jesus as saying no one has ever seen the face of God, but the Books of Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy say thata god appeared bodily before Abraham?
        Matthew claims that when Jesus was questioned by Pontius Pilate, Jesus “did not answer him a single word, so that the procurator wondered exceedingly” (27:14). But John (18:33-37) says Jesus carried on a conversation with Pilate, answering when Pilate asked him all these questions: “Art thou king of the Jews?” “What hast thou done?” “Thou art then a king?”
        There are many stories in the Old Testament that we know
        never happened: the flood and Noah’s ark, the Ten Plagues, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the Tower of Babel and David and Goliath, to name a few.
        These errors and many more are not a matter of misinterpretation.

        • Jashobeam

          Regarding the money changers, why do you presume they describe the same event? They plainly describe two separate events – one early on in Jesus’ ministry and the other at the end before his crucifixion. Your assumption is unwarranted.
          The date of Herod the Great’s death is not without scholarly dispute as a cursory web search will easily demonstrate, therefore your argument is questionable to begin with.
          John 6:46 does indeed say that no one has seen the Father except for Jesus himself who is one person of the Godhead known as the Trinity. Jesus is deity, God made incarnate; therefore Jesus has seen the Father. The OT instances you cite regarding Abraham seeing God are called theophanies where Jesus – not the Father – appeared to Abraham in pre-incarnate form.
          I suggest that you reread the Matt and John passages again as your claim does not bear witness to what is actually written in those verses. Note that Jesus did not say a word about what his accusers testified against him in Matt 27:13-14. However that is an entirely different question then the one in which Pilate (not from his accusers) asked Jesus if He is King of the Jews in the John passage you cited. Your interpretation is therefore faulty and serves to reinforce my point that the Bible is not in error – your interpretation is and therefore it is incumbent upon you to read more carefully.
          As for the OT accounts as never really happened as you suppose, you provide no evidence to back your claim. Rather, for instance it is common knowledge that many ancient cultures across the world have their own accounts of a great world-wide flood which corroborate the Biblical account.

  • “Yes, the bible is the final authority”. Probably not! It is only a collection of material, chosen material from a much greater body and assembled by the early Roman church, in the absence of any true Revealed truth, to enforce both a canonical and doctrinal orthodoxy. The very early church, prior to Nicaea was riven with divisions over exactly what `Jesus has revealed. The ‘theological’ compromise became known as the Apostles Creed. Among the greater collection of scripture, both canonical and non and that body of material only discovered last century; the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library, there are over three hundred references to false teaching and interpretation. And what is missing is that “final litmus test” that allows reason to comprehend the difference between what is truly from God and what is of men. The whole of Christology as tradition is an all too human theological construct. Whether it has anything to do with Christ or God, history has yet to judge. Until then I would suggest reading Dante’s Divine Comedy or Milton’s Paradise Lost for more insight! As the divisive history of religion would suggest, the bible appears designed only to confuse and divide!

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    As a matter of fact all a true believer with true faith has to do is ‘quote the Bible’ in truth to support their ‘faith’.

    No, you really can’t quote certain passages to support the sins you mentioned in the article because there are plenty of things that don’t agree with whay you said on that point. As we all know, the context of any particular passage is a relevant point to consider.

    It was good to see you mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses in there. Those are the ones truly carrying out the will of Jehovah God through Jesus, the Son of God.