It’s not an uncommon thing throughout history that men will look towards other men to follow rather than to follow God. It’s common spiritual principle that you become what you follow, and in the end following men only brings you the fruits of men.
This is true in person, but also extends to books – it is ever more popular today due to the ubiquitous availability of books and the ever beckoning money and fame that’s out there for those who are pleasing to men and want to scratch ears instead of present the true Gospel:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Books are Just Like Preachers – Fallible
It is almost without argument that this looking towards men, especially the books of men can turn people away from the truth. Arguably, this is a large reason for the existence of Churchianity: Men don’t know the truth, and especially are not unapologetic witnesses of it. This is especially true in the drive to appease women that’s existed in the church for quite a while.
Now it is unfortunate, but yet not surprising that Free Northerner would ask for study resources himself and then get ten responses that don’t point back to Scripture. There are reasons that people do this, but namely the Churchian idea that only those that go to seminary are capable of interpreting Scripture and that the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit can not impose structure upon anything that happens within His Church. Therefore, it is thought that books written by men are required to gain Spiritual enlightenment when we are graciously granted the best Teacher possible: God Himself:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
It is definitely by the influence of Churchianity, where we can go from men who are “unschooled” carpenters and fishermen taking the world for Christ to the expectation that only the “schooled” can bring “structure” to the Holy Scriptures. There’s simply no place for Peter, James, John, or Jesus in most churches today.
Teachings of Men Vs. The Teachings of God
Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” (Isaiah 29:13-14 NASB)
Now, it takes being a leader in Christ in order to stand on the primacy and truth of Scripture, whether facilitating or participating. I know this personally from reflecting back on the ten years that I’ve spoken about Scripture before others in person, through groups like Free Northerner’s, and through the different online venues I’ve professed Scripture, including this blog. My presence in these situations has proven to be a driver for change in this regard, not due to my own actions (for I am nothing) but the grace of God through submission and holding to His word and not my own thoughts. I’m not “schooled” but yet somehow the Lord manages to use me.
The commonness of looking towards men instead of God brought an interesting comment. I had a woman come up to me after one session and state that for three years of attending “Bible studies” that it was the first time that the Bible was actually opened in any of these things she attended. She went on to relate how many obvious to her falsehoods in the books involved that weren’t challenged simply because those involved didn’t know the truth. How can you know the truth of God’s very words and have the authority behind them if you don’t know them? It was an amazing thing in my walk to discover people that knew nothing of God’s Scripture, but could quote Warren’s False Gospel to the letter and didn’t know better.
The deception that has caused the Church to give up its authority in God and its equipping for life is a masterwork of Satan. This is especially plain since the example of Jesus is so clear. The Gospel of Warren or The Gospel of Hybels or even The Gospel of Ballista74 has no power. Only the true Gospel of God holds power in the spirit realm. Knowing God through His Scripture is so important that the instruction was given to meditate on it all day and all night and to abide in the doctrine of Christ.
Teaching as One Having Authority
It becomes of interest to note that tradition takes its hold by the teaching of men in Jesus’ day to the point that He had to remind people of the truth that should have known better. It was also particularly interesting that it was said of Jesus:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)
To enlighten us of the culture at the time, Edersheim tells us that in the life of children, Scriptural instruction was started at five (1), the Mishnah at ten and the Talmud at fifteen. It was considered more laudable to be able to handle the later two in the culture. The interpretations of the Rabbis were considered more important than the context of Scripture to the point that they were quoted more than any authoritative teaching in the documents. Appendix II (starting on page 174 of this version) is especially enlightening in terms of what this meant. The number of references to the quotes of Rabbis are head-spinning, making it quite understandable how the scribes and Pharisees lost their way with God – the same way the Church has lost its way. By knowing men who are just as fallible and just as sinful as they, and not seeking to know God and be washed by His word. Man’s ways hold no authority or power. God’s ways hold all the authority and power.
The Proper Place of Books and Commentaries
Now books and commentaries have their place in things, if they are used properly. They can be useful to enhance understanding of the culture involved, or to give fresh thoughts to consider on matters. But they should never function as substitutes to the truth of God no more than the sermons/homilies of men should substitute for it. Unfortunately in many environments, there are people who should be learning Scripture and have that learning substituted with these books. In fact, books and commentaries should be tested the same as any other teacher or preacher to see whether what they are saying is correct. Praise was given to the Ephesians and Bereans for not accepting what they heard without question but testing it to see if it is true. In fact, dialogue and questioning was the order of the day and not the monologues of tradition today – the purpose is that we all learn and correct each other where we stray off the path, for God’s authority comes through the adherence to His words.
Leading on the narrow path is definitely a challenge, but a necessary one to the servant of God. And my response to the original post is this, which I would write there if it didn’t provide the opportunity for the text above:
Why not prayerfully consider a book of the Bible for your study instead of the teachings of fallible men? I suggest James or 1 John if they aren’t too initiated.
(1) Sketches of Jewish Social Life by Alfred Edersheim, p 121
(2) ibid page 127.