But let our opinion and intention rather be this: that neither conclusion nor figure of speech is to be admitted into the Scriptures, unless the evident strife of the particulars, or the absurdity of any particular as militating against an article of faith, require it: but, that the simple, pure, and natural meaning of the words is to be adhered to, which is according to the rules of grammar, and to that common use of speech which God has given unto men. For if every one be allowed, according to his own lust, to invent conclusions and figure of speech in the Scriptures, what will the whole Scripture together be, but a reed shaken with the wind, or a kind of chameleon? Then, in truth, nothing could, to a certainty, be determined on or proved concerning any one article of faith, which you might not subject to sophisticated objections by means of some figure of speech. But every figure of speech ought to be avoided as the most deadly poison, which is not absolutely required by the Scriptures itself.Usually it's Dan who comes up with the "who said that" quote, but because this fits so nicely in where I was going anyway, I thought I'd start this post with a citation which is almost google-proof because it is a harmonization of a couple of translations of the passage into English. I'll tell you who said it before I finish up here today so you don't have to suffer (or cause the rest of us to suffer through) you own guesses.
After going the long way around, over the last month, the topic of bad apologetics and apologists, let's talk about the best corrective for such a thing: the Scripture itself. That's where I was when I started, and we really haven't gone too far afield since then. It's been more like one specific little peep until it comes back home to roost as a rooster.
But in doing that, I am sure some people will have the problem, "well, cent, that's just disastrous babdiss thinkin'. Because what you’re advocating, unfortunately, is solo scriptura -- that is, just the Bible, and nothing but the Bible – rather than sola Scriptura -- which is the actual Protestant doctrine as opposed to some radical individualistic mutation of such a thing. Baptists! Pheh!"
Sadly, that's where some people do take the good and godly doctrine of Scripture, but that's not either the logical conclusion of the mystery quote, nor is it the necessary conclusion of it, either. So the first place to take that objection is to all the other posts in this series where I have already given must ado to the local church and the necessity of such a thing for the sake of the believer. If you can call what I have advocated so far foundational to solo scriptura, then you must be a very unusual person.
The church, categorically, comes forth from Scripture: Scripture precedes the church, and calls the church out, and teaches the church. Scripture is God's very word, and His words, and speaks clearly about what the church ought to be.
But it does that not to some collective cranium which resides in some gilded ecclesiological brain jar. Scripture does that by speaking to men – that is, to each man. We could go through in what sense this happens through the church, but that will take us on a pretty long rabbit trail, and eventually I want to get to the mystery quote and why it is important to getting our hermeneutic right.
Many of you have read a book called the Stand, by Stephen King. In fact, I'd be surprised if many of you have not read this book – it's a mass market classic in spite of its 1100+ pages, and since it was a made-for-TV movie, those of you who weren't alive when it was first issued in 1978 prolly read the book after sleeping through the movie.
I bring that up because there is not a lot of debate about what The Stand is all about. Everyone reads it, and everyone understands that it's about, well, something. It's about the extent of evil, painted out on a very big canvas, by a guy who seems somewhat obsessed with the extent of evil; and he doesn't have much left over for the extent of good – good always seems to happen by accident, or only just enough to keep evil from being ubiquitous.
So if we can read Stephen King's 1100+ pages and "get it", it seems to me that, if we use the same rules, we can read the Bible and "get it".
But one of the rules is this: you have to read the whole thing. In order to understand The Stand, you have to start at the beginning, read all the way through, and then maybe read it a second time to get all the really amazing inside baseball King played as he wrote the whole thing. Because it's 1100+ pages, you can't just pick it up in the middle when that bomb goes off and think that you're up to speed.
And in the same way, when the book of Matthew opens up with the Begats, you can't just say, "huh: loogit all them guys there." When Mark opens up with the words of the Prophet, you can’t just say, "huh. Loogit them fancy sayin's." When John opens up with the words, "in the beginning was the Word, ..." if you fail to understand the importance of the phrase "in the beginning" here, you're going to pretty much miss the rest of John's point all the way through.
And to bring it all home, When Luther exhorts us (writer of the Mystery Quote: Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, section LXXVII) to read the "plain meaning" of the text, he doesn’t mean that we have to read just the words – as if the words were Lincoln Logs that somehow turn into a house if we stack them up in the right way. Luther says that the text will tell us whether there's a figure of speech or not, and that anyone who can read ought to be able to read the Scripture at face value to grasp what it is saying.
The question for you is this: have you read enough of it (the Scripture) to grasp any of it? Is the Bible a coherent whole to you in the same way the Stand is a coherent whole? If not, why not? You made the time to read Stephen King's book, and it's not much longer than the Bible. Try the Bible out. As they say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing.
After you have read the whole thing, you can then come back and ask questions like, "do we really understand John 6 in context?"