Adopting the coin phrase “What is the plain reading of scripture?” as a rule of thumb for interpretation can lead professing Christ followers to appear more like followers of Epicurus, Zeno and even Moses rather than Christ. The phrase sounds nice but what does it even mean? Please understand that I consider myself an evangelical deeply committed to the Gospel and the authority of scripture so please interpret any criticism that I may have in light of that.
Our culture today has new influences, leaders, philosophers, etc. Christ’s followers need to engage in not against their cultural context. A plain reading of scripture is in many ways apposed to our culture today. Why are we not talking about this more? Is it bibliscism? Come on, we need to grow up. 2000 years has passed and I am tired of superfluous questions like “What is the plain reading of scripture?” being used as the easy way out. Don’t get me wrong… there is a time and place for a phrase like “the plain reading of scripture” however, it seems like a crutch lately regarding certain topics.
It takes time, study, prayer, community, hard work, cultural immersion, discussion and many mistakes to take a 2000 year old text written in the context of a 2000 year old culture and plant it’s many messages and themes in our world today. Some of our doctrinal transplants are obviously not thriving (many are dying). Are we content with blaming this present evil age (Gal 1:4) for a crisis of doctrinal atrophy? The apostle Paul wasn’t content with that. It’s hard work planting seeds and seeing them to fruition in a new and foreign environment. Please don’t take the easy-way out and say “I go by the plain reading of scripture.”
1. Have you heard this phrase used lately in an unhelpful way?
2. What ways or ideas have you used to bridge the biblical text from then to now?
3. Can our churches remain committed to Sola-Scriptura and do away with phrases like “plain reading of scripture”?
“The Son of Man” is a designation of Christ found frequently in the NT. It was Jesus’ favorite designation of himself to imply both his messianic mission and his full humanity.”
Dale Ellenburg and John B. Polhill
1. The Son of Man signifies and conceals Christ’s Messiahship.
Jesus avoided the use of the term MESSIAH (lit “Anointed one” Greek “Christ”).
It had militaristic connotations.
It had political connotations.
Why is this important?
What we presuppose or imagine God to be has consequences. God is not the sum of all our fallen hopes and dreams. He is the sum total of Himself and he shares Himself with us.
“Thy kingdom come” will not be brought about through legislation but through the second coming.
Even today the name of Christ (Messiah) is misused or exploited for military or political purposes. (Examples: Mid-Eastern politics: Christian Zionism, Political party platforms: How would Jesus vote? Or building a “nation under God”)
2. The Christian teaching concerning The Incarnation is linked with the title Son of Man.
Incarnation: “This term refers, in the first instance, to the act wherein the eternal Son “became flesh,” but it is extended to signify the whole experience of human life into which he entered, and also embraces within its reference the fact that Christ still bears his humanity and will do so forever.” C. W. Carter
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV)
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1:14, The Message)
The Christian teaching of incarnation has a divine order or direction to it.
Think of the song Lord I Lift Your Name on High… “You Came from Heaven to Earth..”
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descendedfrom heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, ESV)
Our culture is really becoming more and more… anthropocentric in its world view. Anthropocentric is a ten dollar word that basically means man centered in these three ways:
Human beings are the central fact of the universe.
As a worldview it assumes that human beings are the final aim and end of the universe.
This world view seems to view and interpret everything in terms of human experience and values.
Man Centered Worldview
God Centered Worldview
Why is this important?
The Son of Man means God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19
Jesus was not thinking of ME ABOVE ALL he was thinking of the FATHER ABOVE ALL. John 3:16
Because you know that Jesus represents the Father you can be confident that God The Father Almighty has extended his loving hand of Grace to you through the incarnation of Jesus as The Son of Man.
Will you trust and receive The Son of Man today?
““No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (John 3:13–18, The Message)
Bertrand Russell… “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Jesus ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him.” and it made me think about how this will be true of him in 2000 years as well.”
To be truly “missional” today I think the church needs to address the cultural phenomenon of what I will call the every man a king and every king my servant philosophy. It is the first time in history that rulers submitting to the people is the norm in many parts of the world. It seems odd to be counter culture on this issue and claim the badge “missional” at the same time. Here is a great article by Brendan Kiley to help explain what I mean. (Click on the image below to read the article) I also have some questions below to interact with after you read the article.
Church or Cult? The Control-Freaky Ways of Mars Hill Church by BRENDAN KILEY
Here are some questions
1. Is it truly “missional” to attempt to dogmatically regulate a 2000 year old model of leadership in church today without making some major adjustments to fit our culture?
2. How can Evangelicals survive in an “every man a king every king our servant culture?”
3. When does leadership go too far in the church?
4. Do you have any testimonies of manipulative and controlling leadership?
5. Are you recovering from some form of abusive fundamentalism or church leadership.
6. How would you define a cult?
7. Do you think the church in the article seems to be using cult like tactics?
I (for sure) have a lot to learn as an evangelical pastor trying to step away from fundamentalism while remaining evangelical.