Friday, November 7, 2014

A Letter to Frank Schaeffer about Jesus and the Bible

Your father, Francis Schaeffer, was a defender of the Christian faith, and I am therefore so glad to see that you also are a defender of Jesus!

  • If Jesus is God as evangelicals and Roman Catholics claim he is, then the choice is clear. We have to read the book–including the New Testament–as he did, and Jesus didn’t like the “Bible” of his day.
Wow, you really threw me a curve ball there. I never dreamed that “Jesus didn’t like the ‘Bible’ of his day. I guess He must have had a different one. Didn’t he say:

  • “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
I guess Jesus must have been referring to a different “Law” and the “Prophets.” Whatever, these might have been, it seems that he must have really venerated them. Are you suggesting then that the Pharisees had a different Bible?

I am also puzzled by this statement:

  • “Worship in the Spirit and in truth,” is not about a book, let alone “salvation” through correct ideas or tradition.
I started to wonder what Jesus meant by His teaching that we must “Worship in the Spirit and in truth?” So I went back to John 4 and found that Jesus had contrasted this requirement with the Samaritan worship:

  • You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (John 4:22-23) 
I was surprised to find Jesus telling the Samaritan woman that she had to receive the revelation that had come to the Jews if she wanted to be saved – not very inclusive to me! I had thought that there were multiple ways to be saved, but Jesus keeps coming back to the Bible:

  • “It is written [in Deuteronomy 8, right?]: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mat. 4:4)
It certainly doesn’t seem that Jesus hated the Bible. How am I misunderstanding him?
Your next statement really confuses me. Are you saying that the Torah is on the same plain as “church tradition?”

  • Every time Jesus mentioned the equivalent of a church tradition, the Torah, he qualified it with something like this: “The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…” Jesus undermined the scriptures and religious tradition in favor of empathy.
You inspired me to go back and to read the Sermon on the Mount, but I couldn’t find where Jesus corrected Scripture with these words: ““The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…” Instead, I found Jesus saying:

  • “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder.” (Mat. 5:21)
Hmm? Perhaps I read that wrong? Or perhaps I have a sub-standard translation. Please, be assured that I am convinced that you would never try to mislead anyone! You have always demonstrated such exemplary love and inclusiveness, that no one could ever accuse you of wrongly battering Evangelicals and Catholics. But I was surprised by your statement:

  • In evangelical and Roman Catholic fundamentalist terms, Jesus was a rule-breaking humanist who wasn’t “saved.”
I thought that they did believe that Jesus was saved. I guess I just haven’t been around long enough. You, of all people, certainly understand the Evangelical mind. I’m so grateful that I have been able to learn from you. My own reason seems to serve me so poorly. (BTW, I really do enjoy your painting!)

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