Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Like Water on a Duck's Back

"When the wish is father to the thought correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." (J. W. McGarvey, Short Essays on Biblical Criticism, p. 116).

I am dumbfounded at the lengths to which some will go in order to find permission to do what they desire to do. I recall a number of years ago a brother suggesting to me that polygamy is permissible today. Now, one cannot find a specific prohibitive of polygamy in the New Testament. Even the qualifications for the eldership seems to suggest that some men in those days had more than one wife (at the same time).

Most folks today who oppose polygamy do so from the positive statements of Scripture. Each man should have his own wife; each woman should have her own husband (1 Cor. 7:2). Husband and wife are in the singular. Remarriage after divorce is regarded as adulterous to the first spouse. This notion is built on the idea from the beginning of one-man-one-woman for a lifetime.

I am further amused today at the extent to which some go to defend sex with children, same-sex marriages, and polyamory (marriages of three or more--all married to the others). The cultural argument says that what the Bible condemned in the first century was for that culture but does not apply to us today. Whether it is the principle of silence or simply the authority of the Word itself, people will listen to culture and dismiss God when they want to follow their own impulses.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back."

How did anybody ever get convinced of purgatory? Purgatory had some roots in the Apocrypha, but did not find a champion in Christianity for a few centuries. The doctrine suggests the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient to purge Christians sufficiently of their sins, so they had to go to a temporary hell-like purging till they were cleansed enough to enter heaven. This doctrine insults the blood of Christ, which is more powerful than our sins. Yet some hang on to purgatory. We can't find a specific prohibitive against belief in purgatory; what we do find is the positive teaching on the sufficiency of the sacrifice and on heaven and hell. We further learn about hades and paradise. The silence of the Scripture, in the light of a complete revelation, suggests that purgatory arose in the imaginations of men (cf. Jer. 23:16-40). We must use silence in some measure to argue against purgatory.

The Bible teaches about the sacrifice of Jesus, hades, Paradise, heaven and hell.
The Bible is the complete revelation of God's will for men.
The Bible does not contain any teaching on purgatory.
Therefore the teaching of purgatory must find its source in something other than the complete revelation of God's will for men.
Purgatory is a humanly devised notion.
To teach purgatory is presumptuous innovation and divisive. It is not of the truth and leads men into error.

If this is the case, why would people believe in purgatory? Because they heard someone they trusted and like teach on it. They did not bother to study it out for themselves. Once it became established, it was easier to accept than to question.

Sprinkling, infant baptism, instrumental music in worship, open membership, and so many other doctrines capture the minds of a crowd, and people think it strange to object to these innovations.

"When the wish becomes the father to the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck's back." McGarvey surely did know what he was talkin' about!


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