There always seems to be three happenings that cause my mind to set off a soul surmise. This time it is the heresy of the shrivelling up of the Scriptures. Let my three stories lead us into the problem. First, someone was complaining to me that their minister didn’t preach “the Word.” I was surprised as I knew their minister to be someone who believed in the Scriptures. When I asked this critic what he meant he told me how on the previous Sunday his minister had started in Nehemiah and spoke about the Old Testament prophet’s perseverance in building the walls and then touched on a healing of Jesus. I was puzzled as I was pretty sure both those stories are in the Scriptures! My friend had confined “the Word” or at times he preferred to use “the Gospel” to a very limited amount of the Scriptures. For him the entire “Word” or “Gospel” was preaching that people were sinful and that Jesus died for their sins to save them from hell. Unless that was preached by his minister every Sunday then he wasn’t preaching “the Word.”

A second story tells of a minister who when asked about his congregation reaching out into the local neighbourhood in social care projects responded by saying that his Church would not still be here in 20 years if he pursued such projects but would only survive by the preaching of “the Word.” The conclusion of my surmising on this one asks how you can preach the entirety of the Scriptures without a whole lot of that preaching being about social care in the neighbourhood. If we then preach that and don’t do what the Scriptures say are we not, as Jesus said, like foolish men who build their houses on the sand. Thus, this minister’s Church will not be here in 20 years because the winds and rains will blow down a Church with no foundation. Jesus taught us in that section of the Sermon On The Mount that the foundations were not the words he taught but the obedience to the words!

Third up, and most incredible of all, was a story a friend shared with me that he had been to a Bible Conference where the preacher preached the book of Amos for an entire weekend and never mentioned social justice once! This is a remarkable piece of hermeneutical gymnastics! Yet, you see, if you’ve understood the first two scenarios then this makes perfect sense. The Scriptures have been so confined that we are leaving great chunks of it out and most incredibly this is coming from those who are most adamant that “the Word” is central to their theology, teaching and preaching.

As someone from the reformed tradition I am so delighted with our heritage of the whole counsel of God. These abuses of Scripture, that we have surmised, this abhorrent dismantling of the Scripture needs to be addressed. Yet, it is a widely held heresy. It is almost a cultish brainwashing that has led us to this tragic state of affairs. I listen to students whose Christian worldview is not Biblically based but based on this shrivelled version of God’s truth. It leads to shrivelled discipleship, shrivelled mission and a shrivelled God.


Lynda Gould

I remember debating with a student who was utterly conviced that we only needed the four Gospels in our Bible, so I know what you are talking about and share your concern for discipleship, mission and the nature of church in the future...


oh jeepers don't get me started!

Beth Maynard

Gobsmacked by the Amos thing. How is that POSSIBLE?


if I was that guy I would stick to a book that is actually in the Bible like Romans or the one that talks about sinners going to Hell (its near Romans somewhere) and leave Amos to the Methodists


the Bible is a strange and wonderful book and reading the
book of Mark this AM for the first time in it's entirety, I found myself laughing at the disciples when Jesus said "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees when they've pulled out on the sea in the boat and forgot to bring bread...they were talking amongst themselves and said "did he say that because we
forgot to bring bread" really, that's hilarious...
gobsmacked...I really love that word. I guess then as
now the disciples just don't get it. I think one can't really
understand the gospels without mega doses of the rest of
scripture (Numbers is bloody hard to read. Haven't made
it through that book yet) and even then...well aren't we all s a wee bit like the disciples in the boat if we are honest. Still in all the words of Jesus are a tough
pill to swallow...forgive, forgive forgive he says over
and over again. If we want to be forgiven that is.
I've rambled a plenty. sorry.


as well as brainwashing it's promoting a stingy gospel really isn't it - all about the bottom line!


As an aside, what message did the preacher preach from Amos over the course of the weekend?

John "Napoleon in rags" T.

I agree with the diagnosis of one of the problems besetting the NI evangelical tradition. It strikes me as sad that it has often been liberal theologians and those outside the church who have been vocal on issues of social justice. However, some Christians have been delivering on it for decades (individually) or centuries (collectively), without necessarily being vocal. Now that concern regarding social justice is trendy in a wider social context, the Church has increasingly been raising its voice. However, it's important that this in underpinned by personal holiness, which has been a strength of methodism and amongst what evangelicals have emphasised (even if we all regularly mess up). I hope with its newfound voice on social justice, the Church doesn't end up a sterile or impotent force because it forgets the (less socially appealing) justice's appropriate bedfellow, holiness. Picking up on an earlier posting, Fear and guilt have been defeated but we still should aim to keep to "the narrow way" (which might take us into lots of places that have been wrongly deemed to be taboo).

Paul Hutchinson

Coming back to the comment about reducing the Bible to the Four Gospels - that would be an unusual position for the Northern Ireland Conservative Evangelical to take. My experience is that the 4 Gospels are read and focused on much less than the Epistles (Romans etc). Presumably because they're so much more wooly and "social gospely" than good old Paul. ;-)

When our church work its way through Luke's Gospel week by week a couple of years ago, what struck me was that in several decades' experience, I'd never done that in church before. The series were always on Romans, Corinthians, Galations etc - which is kind of odd, when you think about it.

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