“A Wider Interpretation of the Christian Faith”?
JUST how widely can one interpret the Christian faith and still be a Christian and still have faith? So widely as to rob the Bible of all semblance of truth? That is what an ever-increasing number of clergymen hold who profess to be Christian.
Take, for example, the “Rev.” H. S. McClelland of the Trinity church, Glasgow, Scotland. On May 8, 1955, he told his congregation: “The Bible covers more than twelve centuries, and in it there are stories that nauseate sensitive minds. They go back to the Bronze Age. There is a motley company of writers in the Bible—as far removed from one another as a Bedouin dervish from a Glasgow University professor. If you followed some texts from the Bible you would become cruel and sadistic, and if you tried to follow them all, you would have a soul like a Tartar. The Bible is full of kindergarten stories—of axes that float, she-wolves, and donkeys talking, and they don’t belong in this modern universe.” “What right has God to punish me for my sins if I am by nature a sinner? Why, if it is as natural for me as for a wolf to pull down an antelope?”—Scottish Daily Express, May 9, 1955.
And in letters to the newspaper in answer to his critics this clergyman went on to state that the body is full of vestigial relics and that man was on earth a million years. He said that with few exceptions his audience expressed their gratitude for the “wider interpretation of the Christian faith” that they had received from him.
Again we ask, how widely can the Bible be interpreted and still leave one in possession of a Christian faith? Does not having a Christian faith mean having the same faith as Christ Jesus did? Now if there is anything that the Christian Greek Scriptures make clear it is that Christ had implicit faith in the Hebrew Scriptures as the inspired Word of Jehovah God. He credited Moses with inspiration: “In fact, if you believed Moses you would believe me, for that one wrote about me.” He gave credence to Moses’ account of creation: “Did you not read that he who created them at the beginning made them male and female?” And he referred to the account of the manna falling from heaven as historical: “Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died.”—John 5:46; Matt. 19:4; John 6:49, NW.
Christ did not consider the story of the deluge as fiction, but said: “For as the people were in those days before the flood, . . . they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” Likewise he accepted the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “On the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all.” Nor was the account of Jonah in the belly of a huge fish too much of a “fish story” for Christ to accept, for he said: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”—Matt. 24:38, 39; Luke 17:29; Matt. 12:40, NW.
As for the “Rev.” McClelland’s science, it is strange how suspicious he is about all that is recorded in the Bible as fact and yet how ready he is to swallow all the theories of scientists, which they admit are only theories and which are continually being proved wrong. Thus in recent years, due to invention of the atomic clock, scientists have had to revise their estimates regarding how long man was on earth and now hold it to be only 50,000 years. At least so say the scientists at the University of Chicago, the ones best qualified to speak on the subject. And as for man’s being just full of vestigial organs, there was a time when physiologists held that there were some 180 vestigial organs in the human body but today only a handful are mentioned, and many doctors now refuse to term any organs vestigial. Just because man does not know the function of an organ does not make it vestigial. As one professor expressed it: “He would be a rash man indeed who would now assert that any part of the human body is useless.”
But back to Jesus’ testimony. Christ Jesus, the man who more profoundly affected the human race for good than any other man that ever walked upon this earth, whose life record is without equal as regards wisdom, virtue and love, considered the Hebrew Scriptures as authentic and authoritative and inspired by God. Nor can it be successfully argued that the Gospel records are not reliable, for papyrus manuscripts going back all the way to the early second century have fully established the authenticity and general integrity of these Scriptures as we have them today.
Of course, to such clergymen as McClelland Christ Jesus and his apostles and early disciples may have been self-deceived, duped, laboring under hallucinations due to a Messiah complex, ‹naïve› carpenters, fishermen and tax collectors whose testimony must be disregarded. Such clerics may think Bible believers are victims of a gigantic hoax. But it is modern wiseacres that perpetrate hoaxes upon their unsuspecting countrymen, as was the case regarding the Piltdown man.
Freedom of religion allows all such clergymen to believe and teach whatever they wish along such lines. But just common honesty before God and man requires that they do not pose as Christian ministers, for their “wider interpretation of the Christian faith” contains not a shred of faith nor can it be termed Christian.
Christ Jesus met up with such religious leaders in his day and he did not mince any words in describing them: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” And again: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before mankind; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves. Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” Strong words, but none too strong considering the enormity of their crime, nor too strong in view of the danger that their teaching presents to those who listen to them.—Matt. 15:14; 23:13-15, 33, NW.