Now, we looked in this series quite a bit at the Catholic church’s role in the formation of the Bible. Oftentimes – because of the positions they historically held – it was presented in such a fashion as to shine a light on its dark past and the misguided actions of that time. That said, in all honesty it was far from the only denomination that persecuted and put to death those that stood in opposition to its teachings. As history records, the protestant Puritans were an unmistakably deadly force in the founding days of America.
The spiritual forerunners of the modern Dominion Theology and Kingdom Reconstructionism, they saw themselves as God’s chosen people and America was their “Promised Land;” a new Israel, as it were. In light of this position, it was their right and duty – they believed – to either convert the heathen American Indians into Christians, or otherwise slaughter them with bloody and relentless ambition. Furthermore, historic commentators reveal that it wasn’t just towards “pagan heathens” that the ire of early Protestants was cast, but also, likely due to the nature of the Reformation, towards even other Protestants! As the German historian Johannes Janssen put it, “The Protestant sects derided each other in just as immoderate and undignified a way as they one and all derided the papacy… Cursing and blaspheming were as frequent as praying was rare.” (111;v.16:4-5)
In the end, time and again, the problems of the church – historic just as modern – was born of misguided zealousness, and that in turn has remained a blight on the progress and outreach of modern Christianity. Skeptics wish to dwell on the horrors of the inquisitions, the bloody puritanical massacres, and the violence of the crusades, using these events to decry the Church as a whole. These acts – make no mistake – are not those of authentic believers led by the Scriptures and the Spirit of God, but rather unwitting masses used to further the agendas of the elite. The activities of those performing such acts during those dark years should not be used now as a metric against the motivations of true Christians. No matter how one shades it, the truth is that many lives were taken and many martyrs made by the actions of the deceived, and the pyres they ignited around those stakes so long ago still burn to this day.
I want to be abundantly clear here in that I am absolutely not pushing one denomination over another. Not at all. There are many dozens of Christian denominations today, but recognizing which ones are good and true, that can be tricky. Some claim to be the “original” church of Jesus Christ, while others say that though they were not in existence by name, theirs was alive and well in spirit. I submit to you that the original church – the true Church – was not simply some man-made denomination, but rather an idea full of life and divine fire and devotion to that which Jesus Christ taught us. That church, the true church of Christ, is outlined within the New Testament itself, and the acts and faith of those believers should be a model to us all as to what the true church is. I am of a mind that this truth is free and available to all who would seek it in Christ and in the Word. That truth absolutely transcends whatever false or heretical teachings may be part of those denominations to which we belong today. We must set aside those differences we have all grown accustomed to over the centuries, looking instead to our shared faith in Jesus Christ and the authentic truth revealed in the Bible.
Mankind is wonderfully adept at taking something and making it their own. We do it all the time now, and we did it in the past. We took the precious gift of the church and changed it into something else, thus birthing Catholicism and others, and later – through the Reformation – dozens of new denominations. We took our dear Scriptures and edited them and reconfigured them and branded them; now we have countless versions. Friends, no matter what doctrines we conceive, no matter what denomination we wrap it all up in, the clear truth before us is that Christ, His sacrifice, and His resurrection are what should be paramount to us in our faith. Far too often do we lose sight of that. As the apologist Ravi Zacharias has said: “We need to rescue righteousness from doctrinal statements and put it into our hearts. Doctrinal statements are good, they are needed, [they are] a unit of measuring theoretical beliefs, but it is not the unit God will use in measuring righteousness…” He did not call us to be Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, or any other of a thousand different man-made denominations. God called us to be believers in Him, in His word, in His authority, in the knowledge that we are saved only through His precious blood. We are called to be Christians, plain and simple.
So, ending now with the same question I opened with, what is the Bible, and where did it come from? Our Bibles are a marvelous gift from God, His words inspiring faithful men to record His truth. That truth transcended all hurdles and all boundaries, overcoming individuals and even kingdoms which stood in its way, standing resilient against even time itself. Enemies have stood against it, trying to shackle it in the darkness of oblivion, or attempting to infuse it with errors and the aims of driven men. All have failed. In spite of so much, the Word stands strong, and you, dear friend, have the ability and the privilege to explore it yourself.
I implore you, dear reader, to study the Word with fresh eyes, appreciating not only it’s message and transformative power, but also the journey it has been on since the beginning. It is more than just ancient literature. It is the faithful Truth, and the truth of the Bible is that of a promise, that broken man – corrupt and naturally full of sin from the time of birth onward – can find redemption and reconciliation with the God of Heaven through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. The Bible is a record of that promise, written in precious blood and carried over the ages on the backs of faithful servants and martyrs to you, and me, and all others who would but trust its message. May you bless you as you come to know Him and the story He has given us of days past and yet to come.
May God bless you in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
FOUNDRY4 is a proud member of the International Association for Creation