Saturday, April 27, 2013


Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church
Edited by Gregory C. Jenks, Polebridge Press, 2013, 144 pages.

Critique and review by Neil Cullan McKinlay


In the Foreword of THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES, Phillip Aspinall, Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, says,

Is it possible for today’s Anglicans to hear God speaking through Scripture? After all, the whole point of listening to the Bible is to hear God speak. Is it possible in this day and age, knowing all that the Enlightenment, science and biblical criticism[1] have discovered, to read and hear the Bible intelligently and to hear through Scripture the voice of God? Resoundingly, yes![2]

Premise & Content
THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES is a blatant attack on the authority of the Bible and therefore is a denial of the Sufficiency of the Scriptures. For following Phillip Aspinall’s Foreword is an Introduction and a series of seven chapters written by different Anglican authors all seeking to undermine and contradict Aspinall’s affirmative statement (see above)!

Lest the reader of this critique and review be misled into thinking that Phillip Aspinall is defending Christianity against the attacks being made against it by the rest of the book’s contributors please consider the following. For here we see that clearly he also rejects the Bible as the very Word of God,

The Enlightenment and the rise of modern science raised a host of questions about the presuppositions behind biblical stories. If the assumptions on which the stories are based no longer hold, can the stories themselves still be regarded as conveying truth? The advent of biblical criticism in the nineteenth century shook the foundations again. Applying the methods of historical and literary criticisms to the Bible and setting aside a priori notions of sacredness and authority, in other words treating the Bible just like any other book, revealed its very human and fallible composition.[3]

Let’s see if we have it right, according to Aspinall’s presuppositions about the Bible Christians are to assume that the Book (that itself claims to be the very Word of God and was treated as such by Jesus, the Son of God!) to be a fallible composition and is to be treated like any other book. This is an astonishingly blatant attack on Christianity! And it is coming from a position inside the Lord’s Church on earth.

If anyone was wondering why unbelievers would bother getting out of bed on a Sunday morning to come and worship “the unknown god” (see Acts 17:23) then this book is a must-read! It quickly will become clear to the discerning reader that it is for the overthrowing of Christianity from within!

Attack On Christianity
When did these attacks on Christianity first begin? One has to look no further than the first book of the Bible where the devil, seeking to cast doubt on God’s Word, said to Eve, “Has God indeed said…” Genesis 3:1. However, Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness by trusting in what God says, “It is written…” Then He would quote chapter and verse to the evil one (Matthew 4:1-11).

The Pharisees were the Bible “spin-doctors” when Jesus walked this earth. He used the Bible to correct their twistings as exampled throughout His Sermon On the Mount. Showing that He believed every word of the Old Testament Scriptures Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-19. Arguably, Biblical Criticism teaches people to break God’s Commandments.

Jesus also used the Bible to correct the erroneous beliefs of the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God … But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’” Matthew 22:29; 31-32.

The Apostle Peter also warns Christians to watch out for the Scripture “spin-doctors” where he says, “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15-16. Notice that Peter is placing Paul’s Epistles on par with the rest of Scripture. And yes, some things in Scripture are hard to understand. However, this doesn’t mean that we are to reject the bits we don’t like.

Like the earth’s north and south poles the Lord’s Church on earth has always had two outer regions that are cold to the God who has revealed Himself in His written Word: Legalists and Liberals. In the Bible the group known as the Pharisees were the Legalists and the Sadducees were the Liberals. THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church is written by those who have much in common with the latter category. “For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both” Acts 23:8 (cf. Mark 12:18).

One only has to engage a Theological Liberal in a discussion about God, angels, spirit and the resurrection to discover that they are simply using theological language to describe something other than the plain teaching of Scripture on these and other subjects! Therefore Theological Liberals are modern-day Sadducees. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’” Matthew 16:6.

If we keep in mind that the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees is the same leaven, i.e., Scripture-twisting, then we won’t be confused if we see commonalities between these two groups who, upon first sight, may seem poles apart. Truth be known, it is the Legalist/Liberal coalition that is against Christianity. It undermines that upon which Christianity is founded: the Word of God.

What do Christian Anglicans believe? For what it’s worth Anglican priests subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Three Creeds. In other words, the Thirty-Nine Articles (and the Three Creeds) express what Anglicans believe about the Bible and what the Bible teaches. This means that Anglican priests hold a high view of God’s Word and its teaching. Articles VI – VIII illustrate this:
Article VI Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church … [Article VI goes on to list these Books].
Article VII – Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore there are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
Article VIII – Of the Three Creeds
The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.[4]

Under the suggestive head “The ‘Problem’ with the Bible” contributor Gregory C. Jenks says,

The continuing debates within both Australian Anglicanism and the international Anglican Communion indicate there is no consensus on what we mean when ascribing to God some role in the creation of the Bible. As the Bible itself is ambiguous over the matter, this confusion is not surprising.[5]

Wow! When did Christians ever doubt that the Word of God is the Word of God? Never! But here is someone in the Church blowing his own trumpet and confusing people.

Humanist Intrusion
Who are these unbelievers and what are they doing in the Lord’s Church? They are modern-day Humanists. The late Francis Schaeffer many years ago described the infiltration of Humanism into the Lord’s Church,
Liberal theology is only Humanism using theological terms, and that’s all it ever was, all the way back into Germany right after the Enlightenment.[6]

The mask of hypocrisy is removed. What we’re seeing in THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES is the infiltration of Humanism into the Lord’s Church. Schaeffer also says,

"The word Humanism should be carefully defined … Humanism means that the man is the measure of all things. Man is the measure of all thingsYou must realize that when we speak of man being the measure of all things under the Humanist label, the first thing is that man has only knowledge from himself. That he, being finite, limited, very faulty in his observation of many things, yet nevertheless, has no possible source of knowledge except what man, beginning from himself, can find out from his own observation. Specifically, in this view, there is no place for any knowledge from God."[7]

In his contribution to the book, under the head Scripture, Science, and the Big Story, Peter Catts espouses his Humanistic hermeneutic. Note that he refers to Christians as “creationists” and “fundamentalists,”

A group sought to use quasi-scientific methods to prove that the myths of the Bible were history and that the faith-based worldview was, in fact, scientific. [This group] saw “facts” being defended against the evidence. Modern-day deists and creationists encapsulate these understandings  ... Also inadequate is the push for the recapturing of the religion of our fore-fathers that sees religious fundamentalists worldwide clinging to a now dead story that leads them to contend that the findings of science are not true.[8]

Catts doesn’t define what he means by “quasi-scientific methods” or what he means by “scientific” or which “findings of science are not true” to Christians. However, it is clear that he rejects Scripture’s historicity and the Creator’s explanation of creation and its origins. In other words Catts is a Humanist.

Likewise Cathy Thomson in her contribution chapter titled Scripture as Normative Source in Theology, betrays that she too is a practicing Humanist when she says,
Scripture–that (sacred) book–has sacred possibility only through its human (yet graced) composition and compilation, and the holy susceptibility of the reader … It is with the blessed constraint of anticipating no possibility (of absolute truth) and every possibility (of God’s grace), and these at one and the same time that I, the theologian, take Holy Scripture into my hands.[9]

God’s grace or no, here Thomson has set herself up as the measure of Scripture! She anticipates no possibility of absolute truth! Wow! The Jesus Christians believe in says He is the Truth and He says that God’s Word is truth (John 14:6 and 17:17). The Bible itself claims to be true (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 22:18-19). Give me Christianity over Humanism any day. At least Christ spoke (as Schaeffer liked to call it) true truth. Thomson continues,

The assertion that the Scriptures are somehow revealed truth, that they are inspired and therefore free from error, does not really circumvent the difficulties faced by biblical scholars and Christian theologians as they attempt to interpret their meaning. A faith community might choose to make truth claims about biblical inerrancy, but this is often done through what are considered to be illogical circularities, such as using the Bible itself to determine principles for interpretation for Scripture.[10]

Rather than begin with Scripture Thomson wants us to begin our “circular reasoning” with ourselves! It matters not where one begins. All reasoning is circular! Thus Thomson rejects what Christians believe as stated in the following 1636 Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter 1 paragraph IX:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

In his chapter, Scripture, God-Talk and Jesus, after saying that the Atheist Richard Dawkins “fixates on those particularly abhorrent depictions of the Deity that rightly deserved to be shelved.” Nigel Leaves immediately goes on to say,

It is also a common offence among those who are “agenda-driven” that they “cherry pick” biblical texts to support their preconceived thesis.[11]

He then goes on to define a little his take on “fundamentalism” by which (I think!) he means Christianity. Pardon me but isn’t cherry-picking another name for Liberal Theology? For isn’t their fixation and use of J, E, P, D Theory[12] not an exercise in the picking and choosing engaged in by an agenda-driven group with a preconceived thesis, i.e., that the Bible is not God-breathed?

Steven Ogden, in his chapter, Wisdom as well as Facts, offers us a little help what Humanists (a.k.a. Liberals) mean by “fundamentalism” where he says,
In general fundamentalists can be characterised by a particular view of truth, where truth is universal, absolute, identifiable, and in their possession.[13]

I must admit that this sounds very much like what Christians actually do believe! However, in typical Orwellian “double-speak” he also says,

In Australia, a “conservative evangelical” is not necessarily fundamentalist. The difference hinges largely on epistemology.[!!!?][14]

It was good to see the renowned, sensible and theologically sound Anglican Theologian J.I. Packer quoted from in this book. However, I am unhappy to see how Susan Crothers-Robertson ignores his sage advice in her chapter Scripture and Formation for Ministry,

James Packer is quite sure that biblical criticism has gone too far! He believes that “unbelief of the Bible is at a premium” in theological seminaries and continues: “In the seminaries, alas, there is a habit encouraging the way-out enterprising thinkers who follow this track of leaving the Bible behind, and developing their own theologies in the way that the learned people have been doing all the way through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries … Persons who get sent to theological teaching institutions where this is happening have their minds stuffed with this kind of theologizing and then, just like schoolmasters, they go out and teach what they were taught.” Packer goes so far as to say that teaching critical thinking and encouraging people to pay attention to the diversity within the Scriptures is a serious violation of Article 20[15]: [says Packer] “You do not need to tell me that the violation of this Article is one of the besetting sins of theological leaders today both in the Anglican Church and in the others.”[16]

I would agree with Packer that the authors of THE ONCE AND FUTURE SCRIPTURES – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church seem to be placing their ordination vows into question along with the Anglican Church’s continued observance of the Fundamental Declaration and Ruling Principle of the Anglican Church of Australia.

See a review by Michael Bird):

[1] “Biblical Criticism” views Biblical texts as having human rather than supernatural origins.
[2] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, p. xi.
[3] Ibid. pp. ix-x.
[4] All Thirty-Nine Articles may be viewed at:
[5] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 22-23.
[6] Francis Schaeffer in a speech made at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Florida.
[7] Ibid.
[8] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 120-21.
[9] Ibid. p. 26.
[10] Ibid. p. 30.
[11] Ibid. p. 64.
[12] The JEDP theory states that the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were not written entirely by Moses, who died in the 1400's B.C., but also by different authors/compilers after Moses. Read more:
[13] Ibid. p. 45.
[14] Ibid. Footnote 2, p. 59.
[15] Article XX – Of the Authority of the Church
The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
[16] The Once and Future Scriptures – Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Polebridge Press, Salem, Oregon, 2013, pp. 86-87.

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