SPECIAL TOPIC: THE BIBLE IN EASTERN LITERATURE

One reason many modern western peoples have so much trouble understanding the Bible is because the writers of Scripture were eastern thinkers and modern westerns are Greek thinkers. Modern westerners seek and express truth in syllogistic logic expressed in propositional statements (truth is a correct statement of fact). However, eastern people have tended to express truth in stories, parables, actions, and paradoxes.

Often these literary forms contain what seem to us to be illogical or paradoxical statements. It almost seems that one particular parallelism of wisdom literature and poetry becomes the structure of presenting truth (i.e., antithetical parallelism). A truth is conveyed by means of its extremes. The radical statements of a truth are meant to force us into a tension-filled life of faith and trust, not a perfect theology!

We must resist any attempt (i.e., systematic theology) to structure Scripture in such a way as to remove or prioritize the paradoxes. One inspired text cannot cancel another inspired text (the exception to this may be Old Covenant vs. New Covenant).

Often moderns have selected one doctrine (or a few) and made them ultimate. However, truth comes in related doctrines. Maybe a good analogy would be a star vs. a constellation. Scripture presents truth in constellations. We must resist "the Bible says it, that settles it"! All human systematic theologies are dangerous because

1. they are constructed by

a. historically conditioned humans

b. fallen humans

2. the Bible itself is not systematized truth

These insights have been so painful for me to deal with because I, too, am sinful and historically conditioned! Let me illustrate some of the theological tensions. I could present them by saying, "Is ___ or _____ true" and the obvious biblical answer is "yes!"

1. predestination or human free will

2. the security of the believer or the need to persevere

3. lostness based on Adam/Eve’s sin or lostness based on personal sin

4. Jesus as divine or Jesus as human

5. Jesus as equal with the Father or Jesus as subservient to the Father

6. sinlessness or sinning less

7. initial sanctification or progressive sanctification

8. justification by faith or justification by works

9. Christian freedom or Christian responsibility

10. transcendence or immanence

11. kingdom as present or kingdom as future

12. repentance as a gift from God or repentance as a necessary human response to a divine offer

13. OT as permanent or OT as passing away

14. believers as servants or believers as children

The question is not which one of these is biblical. They are all biblical! Different denominations focus on opposite sides of the paradox and construct elaborate human systems to defend their choice!

The only hope is to consider all Scripture, not selected passages. The proof-text method of sincere moderns who trust the Bible has failed! Scripture is not western!

 

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