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Pres Veazey on Scripture Literalism

Thanks to FireTag for letting me know about a recent statement by the current prophet of the Community of Christ.  He talks about scriptural literalism.  The videos can be found on the CoC website, and this quote comes from Chapter 4.  Let me quote from Pres. Veazey directly:

Scripture is authoritative, not because it is perfect, or inerrant in every literal detail, but because it reliably keeps us grounded in God’s revelation.  And here is the heart of our challenge:  over the last several centuries, a doctrine of scripture emerged in Christianity that insists that all scripture, every single word, was directly dictated by God, and is inerrant in every detail.  This belief emerged as a response to the questioning of religious authority from those who held that human reason alone was the most reliable pathway to truth.  So a doctrine of scripture emerged that enshrined the literal words of scripture as inerrant and as the sole authority on all matters.

This view still dominates much of global Christianity today.  It also strongly influences more than a few members of the Community of Christ who have adopted it from the larger religious culture.  However, that doctrine, that view of scripture is not how scripture was understood in Christianity since its birth.  It’s not how Jesus Christ used and viewed scripture.  And it is not how the community of Christ officially views scripture today.

The church affirms that scripture is inspired, indispensable, essential to our knowledge of God, and the Gospel.  In addition, we believe that scripture should be interpreted responsibly, through informed study, guided by the Holy Spirit working in and through the church.  Scripture was formed by the community of faith to shape the community of faith, therefore, interpreting scripture is the constant work of the faith community.  Community of Christ also stresses, that all scripture must be interpreted through the lens of God’s most decisive revelation in Jesus Christ

So if portions of scripture don’t agree with our fullest understanding, of the meaning of the revelation of God in Christ, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and discerned by the faith community, the teachings and vision of Christ take precedence.  This principle applies to all of our books of Scripture, especially any passages by some to categorically assign to God’s disfavor, or negative characteristics, or secondary roles to others.

This is why our belief in continuing revelation is so important.  This belief keeps us open to yet more light and truth so we can grow and understand of God’s supreme will as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Doctrine and Covenants 163:70 states, “Scripture, prophetic guidance, knowledge and discernment must walk hand in hand to reveal the true will of God.”  Follow this pathway, which is the way of the living Christ, and you will discover more than sufficient light for the journey ahead.”

I find tremendous agreement with the CoC position.  What are your thoughts?

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79 comments on “Pres Veazey on Scripture Literalism

  1. What about the belief that is prevalent in Mormonism that the entire earth was immersed in the Great Flood as a symbol of baptism?

  2. That belief, which is not limited to Mormonism, but is shared by many fundamentalist Christian denominations is a theological answer to WHY an event occurred. One can draw out MOST (not all) of the same theological lessons from a local flood (bearing out that “local” in this case means the same events, the end of the last age) that flooded all the fiords of Norway) that is still historically unmatched. The evidence for the existence of the latter is abundant world wide.

    BUt this indirectly gets to the point of why we still need to care about these issues: different views of science eventually show up as different views of theology, and vice versa.

  3. FD, In your world view, does baptism equate with death, infanticide and total global destruction? It doesn’t in mine. Groups that equate a global flood with baptism ignore these facets as well as all the evidence that refutes such an event.

  4. Faithfull Dissident:

    Now that we can clearly see the possibility that the entire economic system of the world could fail, it probably is not a bad idea to bring the “follow the prophet mantra” back into one’s life, with renewed perspective and vigor.

    For there will be much work to be done – like setting up the United Order as a viable alternative to a colapsed economic system.

  5. Sure, fix a collapsed economy with communism.

  6. Tara, I was not aware of those problems concerning the resurrection of David/Jesus. That’s interesting.

    As for the Elohim/Jehovah problems in Dueteronomy, have you heard of the Documentary Hypothesis? Basically, as I recall, the Northern Tribes referred to God as Elohim, which the Southern Tribes referred to God as Jehovah. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, both names are referring to God.

    I know Mormons have made the claim that Elohim is God the Father, while Jehovah is Jesus, but I want to say that if one subscribes to the Documentary Hypothesis, this is not a problem. Both names represent the same person.

    FireTag and Chicken, does the CoC have an official position on the Documentary Hypothesis? I’m sure the LDS church does not have an official position, but I’m pretty sure they would discount it. The LDS church makes a big distinction between Elohim and Jehovah, that I am not sure is backed up by Jewish thought.

  7. Bishop Rick,

    Thanks for the clarification on your opinions about the flood. I see you have some literalist tendencies as well, so perhaps we’re not as far apart on the Bible as I first thought. I know some people view the stories of the Exodus, as well as Joshua and conquest of Canaan as complete myth. Where do you stand on those?

  8. Well, concerning the Exodus, there is very little supporting evidence. The closest parallel would be the “invasion” and takeover of Egypt by the Hyskos and their subsequent defeat and expulsion (being driven to southern Canaan) in 1540 (only 90 years off). Josephus equates the Hyskos expulsion with the exodus. Problem is there is no indication of slavery, but just the opposite. The Hyskos were the original conquerors. And, there is no indication that the Hyskos were even Hebrew. They were most likely Arab. There is also a record of a people called habiru living in Egypt in the 14th century BC (1300s) but even though the phonetic sounds are similar, the best translation of habiru is immigrant or highwayman, with no respect to ethnicity. An Egyptian could be classified as a habiru.

    Long story short, I think we have another case of a story (that didn’t happen) being attached to an actual event (that did happen).

  9. Bishop Rick #5:

    Think of the possibilities: You are free to join or leave this new economic system. However, if you leave the system, will you be roaming the country side like Mad Max? Will you have access to a computor so you can blog?

  10. Yes, because I have a bunker loaded with food, ammo and photo cells.

  11. There is no official position on the Documentary hypothesis, but I learned of it within recognized church curricula, so there is certainly no opposition to it.

    It would never occur to us to make the distinction between the names, since we don’t hold that man is PHYSICALLY in the image of God in the first place. He can appear as a burning bush as easily as a man, and if there are worlds where the dinosaurs lasted long enough to develop a spiritual awareness and required redemption (bigger can of worms than I really want to open here) Jesus might come in the form of a T Rex who refused to kill.

  12. Very interesting indeed–I know the Exodus has very little evidence, so I find parallels to the Book of Mormon rather interesting. I just watched a documentary (The Exodus Decoded) from Simcha Jacobovici, and he claims the Hyksos people fit pretty well. There’s another documentary (The Exodus Revealed) that claims to have found a Semitic/Hebrew settlement in the land of Goshen, with evidence of slavery. I found both documentaries quite interesting, even if they don’t fully agree on specifics. By the way, FireTag, I don’t think The Exodus Decoded was the film you were discussing from the History channel. Do you know the name of the show?

    What do you think about Joshua–is he real or invented?

  13. I just want to point out that Faithful Dissident has a post which is kind of a spin-off of this conversation. You might want to check it out at Does Mormonism have any official doctrine?

  14. Firetag #12

    I know that you are smarter than I am, but, when you stated “we don’t hold that man is physically in the image of God”, is this from an atheistic viewpoint or doctrine from your church?

  15. FireTag is a member of the Community of Christ (formerly known as RLDS). He is not at all an atheist. You should check out my post on the Community of Christ–I referenced FireTag quite a bit there, and tried to show the similarities and differences between LDS and CoC. For example, the CoC believes in the Trinity, and rejects the LDS view of exaltation and an anthropomorphic God.

    I must say some things FireTag says, like comparing Christ to a T Rex, really get me scratching my head…. 🙂 He definitely thinks outside the box sometimes.

  16. FireTag, Clean Cut has a question about the CoC D&C that you’re much more qualified to answer than me. Check it out at http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/07/open-canon-of-scripture-gods-words.html

    I quoted your comment #6 here, but you may want to add some more.

  17. I haven’t heard of the Documentary Hypothesis. But if there was no real distinction made between Elohim and Jehovah, then why would we find scriptural evidence that there was distinction, at least at some point? Could we attribute this to a form of apostasy that had crept in?

    In the RSV, Deuteronomy 32:8-9, which takes into account the evidence found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it reads, “When the Most High [El Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LoRffs [Yahweh’s] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.”

    The sons of God is referring to a Divine Council. By changing “the sons of God” to “the children of Israel,” someone was deliberately trying to eliminate the reference to the divine council.

  18. The Hyskos have a close enough correlation, that there are a few historians that equate them with the hebrews of Egypt. 90 years is pretty darn close and going from Egypt to southern Canaan is also very interesting. Most historians dismiss the idea though due to the lack of slavery and no proof they were Hebrew.

    Well, do we want to get into Joshua = Jesus? Probably not.
    I’m not sure if Joshua existed or not, but I would have to say I believe the story of Joshua leading the Israelites to the promised land is probably myth. Not to say his character did not exist.

  19. I meant, that I’m not saying his character did not exist, or in other words, his character may have existed.

  20. @MH
    I prefer to think of it as thinking outside the tesseract, or being crazy in interesting ways. 😀

  21. Tara, I’ll start working on a new post about the Documentary Hypothesis. To briefly answer your question, it is my understanding that when the Kingdom of Israel split into the Northern 10 Tribes, and Southern 2 Tribes, that the Northern Kingdom used a different set of scriptures, and different name of God to distinguish themselves. Remember, religion and politics were never considered separate back then, so it seems to have as much to do with politics as theology. It is my understanding that the KJV uses both sets, so that is why God is referred to in both names.

    Bishop Rick, there are some people who believe the Exodus and Joshua were basically invented. These people believe that the Canaanites and Israelites were basically the rich Canaanites vs poor Israelites. Under this theory, the Israelite/Canaanite struggle was basically a class struggle, and Israelites invented Moses and Joshua. Is this where you stand?

  22. I’m still waiting for a post on Adam and Eve. But that’s okay.

  23. MH: I haven’t really taken a stand yet, but that is where I lean.

  24. Tara, thanks for the reminder. I promise way more posts than I can deliver in a timely manner–I’ll try to get to work on that one too. Also, I have a new page for post suggestions. At the top, I have a page called “Future Posts” and am very open to suggestions. So, I’ll add Adam and Even (and get rid of Science/Religion.) Anyone can post comments there, so I don’t forget.

    Bishop Rick, thanks. I’m getting more acquainted with your positions. Where do you stand on Jesus and the resurrection: myth/literal, or combo? If combo, can you expound?

  25. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that would support a myth stance since the life of Jesus parallels so many other religious figures that preceded him. Even the NT gives unintended hints to support this. I think that with Jesus, he either lived as a heretical Jew trying to make change within his own religion, after which his stories were embellished to support the Christian movement, or he did not live at all and his stories were made up. I really do not think God placed his son on earth so he could go on a 3 year mission in a very localized setting, then suffer and die for every sin ever committed or will be committed. That scenario is simply not plausible for me. Of the 2 scenarios mentioned above, I haven’t made up my mind yet, but tend to lean in the direction that he never existed.

  26. BR:

    Is the “tremendous amount of evidence that supports a myth stance” revealed evidence?

  27. BR:

    I believe that it is possible to reconcile your scenario 1 with the “3-year mission” scenario, but it involves a radically LESS mechanistic view of the process than I’m used to involving in my own thinking. The best expression of it I’ve seen, and am still trying to absorb, is given as part of a thread about how the CofChrist is trying to deal with issues of sexual identity, but drifts into a larger theological discussion. The particular comment is by Matt Frizzell, the equiv of an LDS SP. I’ll put the address in quotes so I don’t mess up the html.

    Read at your own risk.

    “http://saintsherald.com/2009/06/06/sexual-policy-and-the-church/#comment-298”

  28. Sxark: Yes it is. Way too much to discuss here. I have requested a post on this in the Future Posts section.

    FT: I will read that article, then return and comment.

  29. […] most oft-quoted articles of faith by members of the LDS church.  In one of my previous posts on Scripture Literalism, the comments referred to Biblical inerrancy and literalism.  Some evangelicals believe that the […]

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