[This is a draft]
Christianity congealed over time by collecting and affirming texts, interpreting those texts, establishing its self-government, affirming traditions, and approving creeds.
This process began with the life of Jesus and continued as his apostles spread the gospel. The content of that gospel was wrestled with during the proto-orthodox period culminating in the 4th century at the councils of Nicea and Constantinople and the clarification of the canon of the holy scripture.
This is historic Christianity. It is what Christianity became, and then was passed down from generation to generation in the tradition of the church.
Protestants and evangelicals claim to be the arbiters of true Christian faith by appealing to the sole divinity of the Bible while simultaneously disregarding the tradition that birthed it.
This doesn’t work. It makes the faith susceptible to at least three problems.
The first is historical and scientific accusations that tear down its divinity. Because there is no authority to say what the Bible is, except the Bible itself. Defining the Bible as divine is completely arbitrary. So if it has flaws, how can it be considered divine?
The second is the lack of a hermeneutical rule that provides boundaries to its interpretation. As a consequence, Protestantism is splintered into thousands of pieces, each claiming to be authoritative. Many people’s faith is a fierce individualism: “jesus, the Bible and me.” All the while Christianity becoming increasingly irrelevant as seculars see through the charade.
Third, Christianity can’t be known without practicing it. Western Christianity gave us absolutely no tools for spirituality, and as a consequence devolved into a rationalistic dualism. “Spirit” couldn’t be known, because it wasn’t scientific, therefore it was relegated to a ghetto.
My conclusion, and the trajectory of my religion. We cannot pluck the Bible out of the context of the church that birthed it, manifest in the Orthodox Church.
If we are going to separate the Bible from the tradition that birthed it, as Protestants do, we have no option but to approach them as nothing more than historical documents. Making a deconstructed attempt to seek the seeds of the original Christian movement through historical critical method and textual studies. But when we do so, and I believe it is appropriate, we must apply the same rigor we do to other historical documents. And accept the consequences of those discoveries, even as they tear down its authority as a divine document.
But if we choose to approach the Bible as divine, we have to accept the decisions of the early church fathers as divine. And there is no justification to limit those decisions to the canon. If the canon is divine, so are the decisions of the councils. And their theology. And their practices of worship. The heir to that tradition is the Orthodox Church.
Of course, you are free conclude the Bible, the councils and church fathers aren’t divine. That’s a matter of faith. We have to each decide for ourselves if Christianity is True. Now I’m free to say that.
A huge problem with Protestantism is the inability to say “Here be Christianity,” and choose whether or not to accept it. Because there so many Christianities, each vying for the position of being “True.” In the past, it is choosing one Christianity over another, trying to determine whatever is the truest one.
By acknowledging Orthodoxy as the fullness of Christianity there is freedom to ask honest questions such as“does this line up with reality? Is this providing an adequate reflection and prescription of the human condition? Does this represent the divine? Is there enough history to justify the claims the tradition makes, and potentially mean that there is something there worth throwing my hat in with?”
But I feel you can’t consider the Bible divine, as Protestants and evangelicals do, without taking very serious the early church fathers, the councils, early christian theology, and early church worship practices.
The more I explore that, it doesn’t look anything like western Christianity.
The admission that Christianity was a developing tradition, that continued to evolve through the councils and people. Nothing to deconstruct because there is a patent acknowledgment that it was constructed in the first place.
No matter what we do if we try to find Jesus through history, we are only doing our best. Christianity. The Church. Is Jesus+. Jesusplus. There’s no getting around that. It’s why it can never be authoritative. Is always subjective.