From the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward:
... [T]o accuse us of “abandoning the Holy Scriptures” is to reveal a woeful ignorance of the Bible itself.
When asked about their claims regarding the Bible, invariably the “orthodox” turn to John 14.6, in which John quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” They take that verse of the Bible to have only one possible interpretation, which is – roughly – that it is only through repentance and belief in Jesus that anyone will be admitted to the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately for those who want to use that verse to circumscribe religious reality, several reliable interpretations of that verse contradict theirs, especially when John 14.6 is seen in the context of the struggles between Christian and Jewish sects/communities of the time. [Ed.: For one of these interpretations, see I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life: Jesus Uses Familiar Metaphors to Support His "Sales Pitch"]
If that were not enough, the parables cited earlier and many of the healing stories (including, prominently, the child of the Syro-Phoenician woman) also contradict the "orthodox" interpretation of John 14.6. Jesus is constantly finding and affirming saving faith in those outside the community of faith. For him, that seems to be an occasion for rejoicing, not for hand-wringing.
St. Paul, himself, contradicts John 14.6 in his long and often overlooked argument in Romans 9-11, in which he states that the Jews remain the People of God, as God does not break promises.
In fact, as Paul notes, because the Christian community has been grafted into Jewish holy history, our relationship to the continuing Jewish community is one of dependence, not as replacements!
* * *
Here are some questions for anyone who wants to charge the leadership of the Episcopal Church with “abandoning the Bible” or failing to acknowledge the real authority of the Bible. I ask these questions not rhetorically, but out of genuine concern:
- Whom did Jesus heal – and which of the healing stories involve repentance or conversion?
- How did Jesus choose Levi, the tax collector, as disciple/apostle – apparently without evidence of personal belief or repentance?
- What do you make of the parables that speak so movingly about sufficient faith outside Jesus' faith community?
- What is the relationship between Jesus' community and the religious establishment?
- What is the relationship between Jesus’ community and the marginalized people of his time?
- Is there any group or class of people that Jesus excluded from his welcoming embrace?
- How was it, when scholars tell us that Jesus honored women completely, that our church was able to marginalize them for nineteen hundred years?
- Are there reasons we do not use the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) and Paul’s list of the indications that the Holy Spirit is present in individuals and groups (Galatians 5:22-23) as the basis for our moral judgments on committed human relationships rather than the regulations of the purity code that even Conservative and Reformed Jews have rejected?
These are not difficult questions. They are questions, though, that reveal the ignorance of the attacks of those who believe that the Episcopal Church does not concern itself with the authority of the Bible. I believe it is disgraceful to ignore the teachings, the parables, the healings, and the loving and affirming relationships of Jesus Christ while charging those who not only affirm, but also treasure those realities with disregard of the Bible.
(Via Episcopal Majority [extra paragraphing added]. It's a worthwhile read.)