Vol. 7, No. 4
~ Page 12 ~
Throughout the history of the denominations that are still very much in the mainstream of America, there has been a strange relationship to the Bible. Protestants, as we call them today, were in the forefront of translating the Bible into the language of the people, a tradition that dates back to the 1300s in Britain. One of the first things that Luther did after he challenged the authority of the medieval church was to translate the Bible into his native tongue. Other men did the same, and in all the modern European languages the Bible was, and is found. Many of these early reformers had "classic" educations and were capable of reading the Bible in several languages, including the ones in which it was written.
Though their prejudices beamed forth against certain portions of Scripture, such as Luther's extreme dislike for the Book of James, which he called a "right strawy epistle," and relegated to an appendix in his translation, the reformers led the way in both translating and interpreting the Sacred Scriptures. Not only so, but many, many preachers of the Reformation became deep Bible students and they wrote their comments on almost every portion of it, thus bringing into existence classic commentaries kept in print even today. Some of the great and classic works of biblical interpretation were done in what we like to call the "golden age" of Bible study: the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. There are works produced in that period of time that are unrivaled even today. Protestants during this period of time, generally, had a deep reverence and respect for the Bible believing it to be God's full revelation, completely inspired and totally inerrant. Wherever that view of the Bible was held, the problem among Bible students was only to find the proper interpretation of it.
However, many arrived at erroneous interpretations of such biblical teachings, such as those on baptism, and rather than research what the Bible had to say, and do what the Bible taught, they chose to cling to the traditions that had been handed down to them by, in Europe, their Catholic predecessors, or those handed down by tradition from the founders of their religious bodies. This involved such things as the action, design and purpose of baptism, for example. Many of them came to believe that all matters in the Bible were not of equal importance, and they could change some of the things taught in the Book with impunity. Hence, while they knew baptism was immersion, they did not think it mattered a great deal to God if they substituted sprinkling or pouring. They knew the Bible knows nothing of either, but tradition often clings tightly to the heart.
Near the middle of the 19th century, in the mid 1800s, German theologians began to export a new method of biblical interpretation that they called "Higher Criticism." They challenged the traditional view that the Bible was both inspired and inerrant, and began to claim that they had found geographical, historic and scientific errors in the Book. They challenged the common belief that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible and claimed that those books were made up of a series of documents collected over a long period of time by men they called "redactors." These redactors were unknown; nonetheless, these "scholars" were sure that is the way in which we received our Bibles, though they had no scientific or literary evidence to prove their hypotheses. Once the inspiration of the Bible was undermined by these "scholars," they, and those who followed in their steps, denied the virgin birth of Christ, his resurrection and many other matters that are still battlegrounds among those who are students of the Word. In reality, these "scholars" began to apply the same kind of reasoning to the Bible, claiming that it was a product of religious evolution, which Darwin applied to come up with his Origin of the Species, and other falsely speculative works. Incidentally, Darwin himself never presented his views as facts, but as a "theory." We wish evolutionists were that honest today, for Darwinism is taught in our schools as fact, when it is anything and everything but. With the rejection of the inspired inerrancy of the Bible, denominations began to abandon it as a norm for their religions and devolved into the condition in which they find themselves today, which is powerless religious bodies with no message of salvation who must depend on the social gospel to even be recognized in their communities. Today, the Bible is relatively meaningless in the mainline denominations.
[Unlike denominationalists, those today who endeavor to be nothing but members of the church visible upon the pages of New Testament inspiration need not learn year by year new teachings that comprise some contemporary, evolving denomination. For instance, homosexuality is still sinful because the Bible says so irrespective of what social conscious denominations embrace today (1 Corinthians 6:9 NKJV). Essentially, the last time Bible ink was wet was about 2,000 years ago. One of the blessings of being a preacher for the churches of Christ is that one does not need to learn new doctrine annually. God said what he meant and meant what he said in his complete, inspired, inerrant Word--the Bible. ~ Editor]