In a world that lacks empathy and sympathy, we find the widening gap between two groups of people – those who believes in God (a higher being – to make it as ‘general’ as possible) and those who disbelieves in the existence of God. Within the growing group of the former, we have a plethora of sub-groups – from those who believe in a single God-Creator, to those who believe in multiple gods/deities, to those who believe in a hybrid-god that is redefined and re-introduced with new terminologies. The terrifying truth is that there is no end to the gaps and conflicts that exist when we drill down the groups to their sub-groups. Especially in Christendom (I use the term very loosely), there are those who strongly believe in the sole and absolute authority of the Scriptures, and those who strongly believe that there is still a continuing ‘revelation’ from the Divine God that is not authoritative, is fallible and is inconsistent. On the conservative side, there is a strict adherence to “no compromise” in their position – no new revelation, thus no use of ‘confusing’ language like “God spoke to me”, “God told me”, etc. The other side argues the opposite and not only allows, but encourages the liberal sharing of such “divine experiences”. When we push both sides – two questions come up to the fore: 1) Does God communicate with us? 2) Is His communication relevant to us (presently and for the future)?
I am oversimplifying the complexities of these two questions, of course. To understand and find our own conviction on these matters, one needs to be firmly grounded on the work of the Trinity, in revelation, in communication, in conviction and in action. From the little that I can discern, this is still sorely lacking from the pulpits of the common church, unless one goes to seminary and have a good time bouncing questions and discussing on it. But it is necessary. Times of crisis demands the believers convictions on this to be tested. Does one just simply live a “happy-go-lucky, come-as-they-may” life, or to adopt a more careful, cautious approach that is prone to doubts (if they are truthful and honest), and anxiety?
Logically (and this is important as a God of order and logic has put in His creatures the ability to think logically and rationally) God reveals His Will through His own appointed means: His Word. How it is received is irrelevant – i.e. whether a person hears it, reads it, sees it (communicated graphically or visually), or some way that we have not fully understood. The important point is that this Word is “codified” – using a medium understandable to human beings. Thus, we see that Christianity encourages the translation of this “codified” Word – the Bible – into all and any language. Accuracy of translation certainly cannot be “guaranteed” as fallible creatures are at work here – but the accuracy of the main teachings and themes can be guaranteed since it is guarded by the length of the Bible. A short document with a few scribal or translation errors can cause a lot of misunderstandings. But when the document expands to a few hundred pages, we see that this problem becomes negligible.
Based on my personal observation and experience, most problems that comes out of doctrinal disagreements or practical disagreements, stem from the over-emphasis of minor, obscure verses that are stretched beyond their original intent. Where churches focus on the clear teachings and words of God, they listen to wisdom immeasurable. This DOES NOT mean that the single proverb verse has no relevance to the individual’s living – God still uses His word (every verse) to sustain His people in accordance to His timing and circumstances. But when we come to the church as a body of Christ (local and universal), the former point stands.
When one accepts the need to major (focus) on the clear parts of Scripture, they will grow well in the Lord – as the writer to the Hebrews state – growing from a baby to a child. Practically, all these are mere intellectual head knowledge that is useless. What about our “communion” with God? Do we listen to God? This is the very thing that we find the early church address in Acts 2. The newly converted immediately saw the necessity of hearing God’s Will and thus they gathered regularly to listen to the apostles’ teaching.
Do you read, listen or feed yourselves with God’s Word? A child’s first entry into this world finds intense comfort in the touch, words, presence of the parents – can we expect any different with the spiritual child born? I believe there are many who does wrong when they EXPECT new converts to immediately be given in to the READING of the Bible and to cast doubts on their conversion when “reading” seems to be lacking in the person. There are many ways to examine whether the ‘newborn’ Christian is truly enraptured by their Heavenly Father’s presence and Word – is the person “listening” to God’s Word in one form or another? Whether it is through “conversations” with fellow Christians, or listening to a Bible audio book, or through consistent attendance to teaching, or the reading of sermons, the Bible, or any means that God has given in this vast world. Some would be very indignant and dismissive when the activities are broadened from “mere reading of the Bible” – but have you considered the elderly and the young who can barely read well?
Practically, I find that most books in the Bible can be a good introduction for a new Christian convert. But every person have their “system” to start. My recommendation would be to begin with Genesis – nothing like starting from the beginning, and then with the Gospel of Mark or Matthew, and proceeding with Exodus and with another New Testament Gospel – Luke or John. Again, this is not a rule, just a guide or help.
God speaks today through His revealed Word. He still is relevant as His Holy Spirit works to give us understanding and obedience in the regenerated heart (new nature in Christ). We can fool others with a long list of knowledge, but ultimately, our communion with God is perceived clearly through our actions and responses. The Pagan and Pharisaical will always confuse people, but the Holy Spirit never confuses the witness borne by His redemptive work.