another juicy quote from Oswald Chambers: “we are not asked to believe the Bible.”

another juicy quote from Oswald Chambers: “we are not asked to believe the Bible.” May 6, 2014

Here is another quote from Oswald Chambers sent to me by my rector, Father Dave Robinson of  St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Apparently he seems to have a lot of time on his hands, and if he keeps sending me these things, the vestry will likely require him to start giving 14 minute homilies instead of the regular 12 minute kind.

The title of this reflection is “Liberty and the Standards of Jesus,” the May 6th reading at My Utmost for His Highest. It is based on Galatians 5:1, ” Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free . . . .” (Paragraph divisions are mine.)

A spiritually-minded person will never come to you with the demand—”Believe this and that”; a spiritually-minded person will demand that you align your life with the standards of Jesus.

We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals (see John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty for the conscience of others, not to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinions.

And if we ourselves are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty— the liberty that comes from realizing the absolute control and authority of Jesus Christ.

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus. Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; and always be careful never to place a yoke on others that is not of Jesus Christ.

It takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God’s view. There is only one true liberty— the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don’t get impatient with others. Remember how God dealt with you— with patience and with gentleness. But never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, “Go . . . and make disciples. . .” (Matthew 28:19), not, “Make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.”

I’ve never met a Christian, including myself, who is not prone to the problem Chambers diagnoses here.

In my experience, it is certainly a Protestant/evangelical tendency to functionally equate believing in the Bible and believing in Jesus.

I say “functionally” because such a thing would not easily be admitted as a conscious theological assertion–though even there I have to say that I have known many inerrantists who feel that there is not nor can there be any true difference between believing in the Bible and believing in Jesus.

Chambers is not “against the Bible,” but against those who dictate how the Bible must be encountered and articulated. Such a posture invariably gets in the way of encountering “the One whom the Bible reveals.”

People have to work out for themselves how they hear the voice of Christ in scripture, which for Chambers is a matter of  “the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.”

But I see, too often, Christians in power seeking to bind the conscience of others, “to bring them liberty for their thoughts and opinionsand call that serving God.

It isn’t.

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  • Chris

    Excellent quote which echos my own sentiments exactly.

    Just curious, have you always been Episcopal, or…? I just started attending an Episcopal church recently.

  • Guest

    I’ve been reading Chambers for years. That was from May 6th, “My Utmost for His Highest.” I think you can get daily feeds from “My Utmost” by liking a Facebook page. These days I get my daily dose in Logos. His thinking and that of C. S. Lewis shaped my early days as a Christian.

  • I’ve been reading Chambers for years. I think you can get daily feeds from “My Utmost” by
    liking a Facebook page. These days I get my daily dose in Logos. His
    thinking and that of C. S. Lewis shaped my early days as a Christian.

  • Dont normally like Luther, but…

    “Therefore let your own thoughts and feelings go, and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the richest of mines, which can never be worked out, so that you may find the wisdom of God that He lays before you in such foolish and simple guise, in order that He may quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling-clothes and the mangers in which Christ lies, and to which the angel points the shepherds. Simple and little are the swaddling-clothes, but dear is the treasure, Christ, that lies in them. (Introduction to the Old Testament, 1545)

  • scott caulley

    “The final
    authority of the church is not its Bible, but its Lord.” Lee
    M. McDonald, The Biblical Canon: its
    Origin, Transmission, and Authority (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), 428.

  • Rick

    “If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase ‘authority of scripture’, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that, though authority belongs to God, God has somehow invested this authority in scripture.”
    N.T. Wright

    • Another reason why I avoid the phrase “authority of scripture”, and many other nonsensical assumptions proposed by N.T. Wright.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “God has somehow invested this authority in scripture.”

      Somehow? Who assigned this authority to the Scriptures? Not even the Scriptures do! 🙂

      • Rick

        “Supposing we said that we know what scripture is (we have it here, after all), and that we should try and discover what authority might be in the light of that…we need perhaps to forswear our too-ready ideas about ‘authority’ and let them be remolded in the light of scripture itself—not just in the light of the biblical statements about authority but in the light of the whole Bible, or the whole New Testament, itself. What are we saying about the concept of ‘authority’ itself if we assert that this book—not the book we are so good at turning this book into—is ‘authoritative’? Beginning, though, with explicit scriptural evidence about authority itself, we find soon enough—this is obvious but is often ignored—that all authority does indeed belong to God. ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’. God says this, God says that, and it is done. Now if that is not authoritative, I don’t know what is. God calls Abraham; he speaks authoritatively. God exercises authority in great dynamic events (in Exodus, the Exile and Return). In the New Testament, we discover that authority is ultimately invested in Christ: ‘all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth’. Then, perhaps to our surprise, authority is invested in the apostles: Paul wrote whole letters in order to make this point crystal clear (in a manner of speaking). This authority, we discover, has to do with the Holy Spirit. And the whole church is then, and thereby, given authority to work within God’s world as his accredited agent(s). From an exceedingly quick survey, we are forced to say: authority, according to the Bible itself, is vested in God himself, Father, Son and Spirit.” – NT Wright

        • Andrew Dowling

          There are lots of points within that passage that need big asterisks (for example, Paul in his letters at times degrades the authority of other apostles and trumps up his own). Respectfully, the excessive verbosity of Wright’s writing often seems to attempt to disguise the fact that he’s making incredibly broad assumptions and avoiding significant nuances in order to keep to the ‘orthodox’ script.

          • Rick

            Of course that “orthodox” script may be the correct one.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Perhaps, but if that’s the case it should be easier to explain.

          • Rick

            Really? Why? I don’t think those that hold to the orthodox script ever claim it was clean-cut. It was a messy, real-life, yet mysterious time. I think Wright, and others hit on that well.

  • JL Schafer

    I agree with Oswald’s basic message that we ought not bind the consciences of those whom Christ has set free. But I get the impression that he’s thinking of liberty and conscience in purely individual terms. There are valid community and ecclesial dimensions to conscience. Fellow believers play a role in discernment, and the church does bind or loosen (Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23 come to mind). I’d like to figure this out, but don’t know where to go. Can anyone recommend some good resources?

  • Joseph M

    I just Finished N. T. Wright’s The Last Word. (Quoted by several below) I think it provides a good place to start.–Getting/dp/0060872616/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399577651&sr=8-1&keywords=the+last+word+wright

    • JL Schafer

      Is that an updated version of Scripture and the Authority of God? I read that a few years back.

  • The question of the meaning of faith has become a vital issue in an American society being taken over by a militant form of atheism ,which is itself a natural offspring of a religious fundamentalism pretending to deliver absolute answers to the complex problems of the modern world.

    Conservative Evangelicals are convinced that ONLY an inerrant Bible can give them the guidance they need, and this explains the fact that many of them worship Scriptures as if they were a part of the divine trinity.

    But it has become impossible for those of us following the results of historical-critical scholarship to still view the Bible as God’s direct voice to us and not to recognize the conflicting opinions expressed within its pages. For many progressive Christians such as myself, it has also become extremely hard to single out the Protestant Canon as being more inspired, more divine than great Christian books such as those of C.S. Lewis or Martin Luther Kind.

    Such considerations have led many folks to give up their Christian faith altogether because they viewed it as knowledge grounded on an inerrant document.

    The alternative I propose is seeing faith neither as likely knowledge nor as irrational leap into darkness but as HOPE in Christ and His resurrection, even if the evidence might not be sufficient to rationally conclude one way or the other.

    Of course, if good arguments against God’s existence or the risen Son of God were to surface, we should be honest and abandon our faith, as the apostle Paul was ready to do.

    “12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15”

    But in the midst of uncertainties, it is certainly allowed to passionately hope in Jesus and that in Him everything will be put to right.

  • Stuart Blessman

    I can’t read Oswald Chambers…he just seems to cast too much death and confusion into believer’s lives, was so theologically messed up…yet small quotes are still insightful at times.

  • Seems to me that Chambers picks up well on the spirit of Jesus. Jesus’ words, though clearly not recorded verbatim in the Gospels, and his actions, exude a priority on humility, closeness to God via “quiet time”, then taking the resulting inner strength into the world in compassionate action and service. Not much emphasis on exactly what to “believe” or getting one’s doctrine right.