by Stan Smith
A paradigm is, in light terms, a pattern of thinking, but in broader terms it is a worldview. A worldview is the underlying theory and methodology that explains ... well, everything. It can, of course, be a limited worldview. That is, "in the world of biology, the paradigm is ..." wouldn't require that the paradigm in question explains what happens in the entire world. Still, a paradigm is a pretty big thing. It is the approach and understanding of a large way of thinking.
So, here I am, operating on a particular paradigm when it comes to Christianity. What paradigm? My paradigm is an interwoven rug on which my theological understanding stands. It stands on the belief that the Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. It is premised on the belief that the Bible is God's Word. I have to pause at that to be understood. It is the belief that God breathed the Bible to authors who, in their own vernacular and under His supervision, wrote what He wanted written. It is not merely "inspired writing", but "God-breathed". Because of this, it is inerrant in its original form and absolutely rational. By rational I don't mean "makes perfect sense to me in every case", but logical. Nor is it contradictory. While the Bible is made up of 66 books, nothing in any of the books will contradict anything else in any of the books. I believe in the perspecuity of Scripture, a crazy word, hard to understand, that indicates that the Bible is not hard to understand. This doesn't require that it takes no effort to understand or that some parts are not as clear as others. It simply means that God, via the Holy Spirit, communicates His person and will to the ordinary reader using the text of the Bible. Key to my paradigm here is the belief that God uses the Holy Spirit to communicate the truth of His Word to His followers. Thus, while historic understanding is not the authoritativeexplanation, it is certainly informative. When I come across a new understanding of a particular passage, I get concerned. If I cannot trace my understanding of a particular passage back through history, I get concerned. I don't believe the Holy Spirit to be inept, so I see this as a vital piece of the paradigm pie.
So, along comes a "progressive" or a "liberal" or a "skeptic" or (oh, I don't know, sometimes they're all hard to tell apart). They assure me that reading the Bible "as written" is a foolish venture. Inerrancy is a myth. The Bible is full of stuff that never really happened and taking it as a historical narrative where it appears to be a historical narrative or a list of rules where it appears to be a list of rules or a moral statement on this particular behavior where it appears to be exactly that is foolishness. "Use your head," they tell me, the suggestion being that up until now I haven't. "Your way makes no sense. We've discovered a new, better way." And that "new, better way" may range from converting historical documents to myths and legends or tossing out plain references to unpleasant things like Atonement, blood sacrifice, Resurrection, or Judgment/Justice.
In my mind I hear, "Come to the dark side, Stan." But that's not entirely fair, is it? So what am I being asked to do? Simple. A paradigm shift. "Sure, sure," they suggest, "you've spent decades studying this stuff, fitting together logical trains, piecing together rational arguments and fitting Scripture to Scripture, but forget all that. Sure, sure, you've come to a clear understanding with footnotes and logical deductions included, but set all that aside. We'd like you to set aside your logic, your inerrancy, your personal history, your Church history, all that you've taken apart, examined, and put back together to see how it fits. No, no, we wouldn't exactly say, 'Throw out your Bible'. We just recommend you throw out all you've figured out so far and start our way. It's progress! It's liberal! It's ..."
Foolish. That's what it is. I hear the voice behind it. "Did God say ...?" So, no, I think I'll keep my paradigm. I think I'll keep the paradigm that the saints throughout history have kept. I think I'll stand in the company of those who have gone before and those who today stand with them. Sometimes "progressive" isn't progress and sometimes "liberal" isn't generous or freeing. On the other hand, I have it on rather good authority that those who are outside the faith will see the Gospel as foolishness. So I'll stick with Scripture, evident reason, and the saints who have gone before. I'll rely on the Holy Spirit to use the Word of God to tell me what's right, what's real, what's truth. Certainly He's a better source than those who are calling on some unsupported paradigm shift.
"Word from Scotland" from
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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