I am beginning to understand the frustration many unbelievers have with certain people who identify themselves as Christians. When I bought Dr. Stott’s book I also bought a book by an evangelical named Manfred T. Brauch titled Hard Sayings of Paul, expecting to learn some insights into certain difficult passages of scripture written by that apostle. he says in his introduction the following description of himself;
#1. In approaching these hard sayings of Paul, I write self-consciously from within the evangelical tradition of theology,personal faith and commitment. I write from the perspective that cherishes this heritage’s deep and central commitment to the Bible as the ultimate criterion for our understanding and application of God’s self-revelation, which finds its ultimate expression in the Incarnation. (pg. 13-14)
I am sorry but I do not see this in the content found in the subsequent chapters. In reading his words in several topics, I actually question his evangelical declaration because his words do not match up with what he is saying in that quote. For example
#2. The Epistles are occasional documents, that is they were written for specific occasions in the life of the Christian congregation or individuals. (pg. 18)
No. Certain situations were used by God to teach everyone how he wants his church to behave and what rules they are to follow. The situations addressed in the Epistles may seem ‘occasional’ but the intent is for all time and all people of God’s church. God knew that those situations would crop up over and over throughout history thus he did not provide limited instruction to one group of the church and ignored the rest of the church that was going to come into existence in future generations.
Why would he leave the future church without guidance and rules to follow? The idea of limiting God’s word to one century and one small church is not evangelical at its core nor is it biblical as Paul told us that scripture is for rebuking, exhortation and so on. How can we do that when we dismiss God’s word and restrict them to the first century? He then goes on to say:
#3. …the historical and cultural contexts of the recipients must be recognized as factors which bear on our interpretation…and to recognize that the cultural-religious environment in Corinth may have made these restrictions necessary in that particular situation. (pg. 18)
Does Dr. Brauch actually think that the problems found at Ephesus and Corinth died out after Paul wrote those words and that those same situations never rose again? Then if these instructions are only for those situations what is the modern church supposed to look at for guidance in the modern age when the same type of people rise up and try to hijack the church for their own personal ideologies?
Are we to let the church be swallowed up by those who do not want to follow God’s direction? To say that God’s word does not apply to the modern church essentially leaves the church without any instructions from God and allows for anarchy and confusion to enter its gates. The thinking i see in these words is not the evangelicalism I recall being present when I was growing up. I do see this type of thinking in many false teachers I have analyzed on this website though and that bothers me. Yet his thinking gets worse:
#4. Or when we read in 1 Tim. 2:11-12 that women are to ‘learn in quietness’ and that they are not permitted ‘to teach or to have authority over a man,’ it is of critical importance to recognize that one of the major problems in Timothy’s pastoral context was the presence of heretical teachings and mystical speculations, most likely perpetuated by leading women in that particular congregation. For in other church settings, women were clearly involved in leadership, as well as in teaching and preaching functions. (pg. 18-19)
First, according to Dr. Brauch it is the woman’s fault for false teaching entering that church. Not a very nice thing to say about the women at that time. Second, my first question was after reading that passage was, ‘where are the examples of this?’ Dr. Brauch provides none. Third, we have heretical and mystical teachings bothering the church today so why are we not allowed to invoke that teaching in the church art this time? Most likely, it is because Dr. Brauch has decided to disagree with God on this issue.
This is pure speculation on the part of Dr. Brauch and others who take his side of things as we know NOTHING about Timothy’s church or what was taking place in it. All we have are Paul’s words of instruction to Timothy but no information as to why Paul was told to write those words. Getting it right means we have to leave our speculation at the door and not read into a situation, we know nothing about, our own ideas or motivations. Most likely we all will be wrong with that speculation.
Suffice it to say, God had Paul write those words because that is how he wants his church to operate. It is not limited to the first century or to Timothy’s church. What else I found that is strange in the introduction are the following words of advice:
#5. The effort to discern between those things which are culturally and historically relative and those which are transcendent is in actuality engaged by all Christians,in one way or another. At issue is only whether such discernment results from our likes and dislikes,our own cultural conditioning and prejudices, or whether it is the application of a clear principle that emerges from a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of Scripture. (pg. 19)
If you read the book and the few quotes above, you will see that he does not take his own advice as he clearly instills in those passages his own thinking or the thinking of those in the modern age who do not agree with Paul’s words as written or that they apply to today’s church body. He does apply his own thinking to Timothy’s predicament and does not understand the nature and purpose of scripture.
The nature and purpose of Scripture is to inform and guide the church of and into God’s will. Its words are not restricted to the first century or to a specific church but are for the whole church in all nations and all generations. If it wasn’t then it could not be called God’s word and the church would be rudderless. We cannot escape this universalism of God’s word. people try time and again but every time the truth wins out.
When you talk to people like Dr. Brauch, and people like him, you will notice that they do not point to one divinely inspired passage in the Bible or some other text on the Bible where the words of Paul , or other biblical author’s ‘controversial words’ are shown to be wrong and in error. They hide behind complicated words like historically relative, culturally relative, and other terms which confuse their listener or reader. They have no clear, simple passages that point to the truth. Instead they have complicated paragraphs that lead to their own selfish desires not to the truth.
Or they have mystical speculations or heretical teachings that cannot be supported by any other passage in the Bible. The very complaints they are speaking against are used by them to further their point of view. Their words have no authority nor power originating in the HS but are merely their own subjective opinion fueled by their personal desires. Case in point, actually 2 examples:
#6. Paul’s restrictive admonitions regarding women must be understood within this particular historical situation. They are therefore not to be understood as divine imperatives, applicable universally to all women in all cultural contexts and historical circumstances. (pg. 259)
Who says? Notice he does not present one scripture from any biblical book to back that conclusion up? Then we must ask, who is he that he is the one who is able to say what is a divine imperative and what is not? We do not read one passage in scripture that limits any biblical verse to just being applicable to one point in ancient time and situation; thus his conclusion is human authored and not a divine correction to holy scriptures.
Example number 2:
#7. “Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true (Tit. 1:12-13) These sentences strike us at best as extreme, at worst as untrue. (pg. 273)
Really? Paul lied in Scripture? What kind of accusation is that to lay against one of God’s authors? Nor are the extreme as Paul was informing Titus of the situation he will face on Crete. People like Dr. Brauch make these accusations because they have lost sight of the true author of the Bible and relegate many of its passages to human only sources. This act allows them to ignore what God has said much more easily than if they were accusing God directly and seeing the Bible as his book.
But these are not the only offenses as Dr. Brauch has charged Paul with writing from a rabbinical tradition, drawing from human ideas instead of following the HS who gave him the words to say and how to say them. This is the problem I find with someone making the declaration that they are writing from a certain denominational/religious perspective, often their views are human and their words human not divine or even led by the HS.
Getting it right means we follow the biblical teaching in our approach to scripture, we listen for the leading of the HS, his corrections to our thinking and change when he shows us the truth.We do not alter scripture to fit our desires or cultural agendas. Nor do we alter scripture to appease others who do not want to believe the Bible. In other words, if a gender is going to be upset that they are limited in their spiritual and familial duties then it is better that they be upset for humans do not hold the keys to eternity or our reward.
This book was a disappointment to me as I am like everyone else, I need good spiritual food to continue and if I cannot find it in those writers who claim to be Christian then how will anyone else find it? I find such works a travesty because the authors are not expounding God’s message clearly to all their readers but using their opportunity to promote their own agenda.
And that is not what Christianity is all about.
Jesus said, ‘if you love me feed my sheep’. He said it 3 times so that tells us how important it is to correctly spiritually feed his people.
We need to get it right so that we can make an impact on this world before it is too late. Those words should humble anyone who feels called to the ministry and motivate them to doing biblical teaching right, whether it be in the pulpit, the Sunday School class, or even books, magazine articles and other teaching outlets.