The classic verse that certain Christians quote to support the supremacy of Christianity over other faith traditions stems from the interpretation of one particular verse. “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except by me”. (John 14:6) Sounds definitive! The Christian faith I profess is THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE RELIGION.
What do I do with these “Jesus sayings”,
John 10:16 (NRSV)
16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
John 14:2 (NRSV)
2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
Or St. Paul’s defense of resurrection in Acts’
Acts 24:15 (NRSV)
15 I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
Some people will say these verses together present a mixed message. My favorite idea in solving the interpretation conundrum of scripture is to admit to the truth of DPADTUGD. “Different people at different times understood God differently”. We have these differences of opinion in one place it is called the Bible. Sometimes within one book or letter itself we see these contradictions. Today you have the same thing occurring within Christianity. DPADTUGD. We have a wide variety of denominations because we have different opinions about scripture as well as different experiences of reality.
If you read my material you most likely a person who takes seriously scripture, but at times question how scripture gets used to fight, bully, and prove others wrong. What an abuse of this beautiful treasure we call the Bible. It come from an ego perspective that if my interpretation is right you must be wrong. Why not seek to grow in faith for yourself, rather than needing to defend your position or tradition? To be able to defend what I believe can help me sort out my faith foundation, but I don’t need to do it at the expense of others. Others do not need to be wrong for my interpretation to be right. Rather I would like to listen to how you interpret your tradition and scripture to learn more about my own faith.
James Carroll, author of “Constantine’s Sword”, a former Roman Catholic priest ends his book with words of hope about truth seeking. “Change is built into the way truth is perceived, and every person’s perception has something to offer every other’s. Therefore revision, criticism, dialogue, and conversations are far more relevant to truth seeking than conformity to dictation from above.” Pg 593
He continues that he has a hope that the Roman Catholic church can convene a Vatican III. “Vatican III must retrieve for the Church the deep seated human intuition that mystery is at the core of existence, that truth is elusive, that God is greater than religions.” Pg 593
It’s his belief, which I fully agree with, that we got into this mess because of a Reformation principle named, “Sola Scriptura”, scripture alone, as the authority for the Church. Yes there were problems with the institution of the Roman Catholic Church in Martin Luther’s day. It made sense to make the authority of the church the Bible, not the tradition or institution of the Church.
Today I want to throw off that cloak of “Sola Scriptura”, and commit the authority of Christianity, to multiple factors, scripture, reason, experience, and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us.
Sola scriptura works if you accept there exists no ONE SOLA INTERPRETATION. DPADTUGD. Our scripture contains many voices on a variety of spiritual/religious topics. As soon as I lift up one verse, or one interpretation as superior, I start down the rabbit hole toward exclusivity.
Father Richard Rohr has said that Religion focus outward on defending and supporting one’s belief to others. Spirituality focuses inward. Inward to grow hearts and minds of Christ, so that we might be the light of love and grace to a world that values certainty.