Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Five Things I’m Not Surprised I Don’t Find in the Bible

In a previous piece I listed five things I am surprised I do not find in the Bible. I introduced the list by affirming the sufficiency of Scripture and the perspicuity of Scripture. I affirmed that my surprise is not evidence that Scripture fails us, but that we fail it. I affirmed as well that in the end we sometimes find answers to difficult questions through the necessary consequences of what is clear in the Bible, rather than what is clear in itself. What follows are some things that are part and parcel of at least some portions of the evangelical church that are not explicitly taught in the Bible. The Reformation did not cure our propensity for elevating our traditions to the level of Scripture. Thus we are always reforming.

First, I don’t see programs in the Bible. No Sunday school, no youth group, no Christian schools, no men’s meetings or women’s circles. It is not my intention here to argue that therefore these are all bad things. It is important, however, to note that none of these things are necessary. God does not require that we have these programs, nor that we participate in them. To insist that we must is legalism, adding to God’s Word.

In like manner, second, the Bible no where forbids the drinking of alcohol in moderation. The Bible says a great deal about the sin of drunkenness, but never says, “Thou shalt not have a glass of wine.” When we say this, we are adding to the Word of God. One of the ironies of the usually friendly debates that go on between Baptists and Presbyterians is that our Baptist friends are always insisting on an explicit text that shows babies being baptized. Presbyterians, confessing that no such text exists, are left arguing by implication. I happen to believe the implications to be valid and thus am Presbyterian. But when the shoe is on the other foot, on the issue of the moderate enjoyment of alcohol, our Baptists friends suddenly find the shoe on the other foot. They move from clear Biblical injunctions against drunkenness to the unbiblical inference of complete abstinence.

Third, the Bible no where teaches that we are to accommodate the worship of the living God to those who don’t worship the living God. The whole notion of “Seeker Sensitive” services is an idea that came from man, not God. The Bible, in fact, gives us as the example of the most effective evangelistic sermon ever Peter preaching at Pentecost. A fair summary of his message could be, “You stiff-necked Jews- you crucified the Messiah.” The message here brought 3000 into the kingdom. When Stephen gave essentially the same message just a few pages later in Acts, he is martyred for it.

Fourth, the Bible no where says that a spiritual person must have a quiet time. I discovered this counter-intuitive truth, ironically, through a quiet time. That is, in reading through the whole of the Bible I found out that it no where says we need to read the Bible every day. The Bible does say that the Word preached has the power to change us. How American of us to take that Biblical notion and turn it into something we can do on our own.

Fifth, the Bible does not explicitly teach that all sins are equal. This little nugget of received wisdom in the evangelical church is actually rather explicitly rejected by Jesus who said of the Pharisees that they tithe their mint and their cumin but neglect the weightier matters of the law. It is a good thing to recognize that all sin is cosmic treason. It is a good thing to affirm that any one sin causes us to stand guilty before God. It is a bad thing, however, to utterly flatten out the law of God.

Now keep in mind that I am not here arguing that at least some of the things in this list might be legitimate consequences of what the Bible does teach. I am neither suggesting that it is a bad thing to read one’s Bible daily, or that this program or that is evil. Instead I am arguing that we need to be a touch less dogmatic on these things, not elevating our traditions to the level of Scripture.

We need, while rightly arguing against Rome’s and Orthodoxy’s dogma on tradition, to be alert to our own practice with respect to our own traditions. We say “Sola Scriptura” but we cling to and defend our traditions as if we were defending the honor of the Blessed Mary herself. In short, we have logs in our eyes.


Anonymous said...

I was doing some research on "moderation" and not taking to extremes, for my own blog.

I loved how you made the point about balance and not getting carried away with our own "traditions" and chuckled at your concluding remarks. As a former nominal Catholic, I was not raised in the strict sense; however I found it amazing how religious those who accused me, were being.

I am thankful that Jesus came and set me free. :)

rc said...

So glad for your liberty too Barry, first from Rome, and second on this secondary issue. God bless

wheatington said...

Good post. I have a question about point #5; Jesus was commenting on the Pharisee's laws, not sin, in your example. Does Jesus explicitly say all sins are not equal in the Bible?

Bill said...

While the Bible does not say anything about baptizing babies, it does demonstrate that believers are baptized. Babies, being too young to know that baptizm denotes belief in Jesus death, burial and resurrection, are not candidates for baptism There is no scripture that allows for one person to assume understanding for another; therefore, parents cannot assume responsibility for belief of children. Otherwise, your other four points are valid.

Alberta said...

I am compelled to correct. A first time through the Bible is not sufficient to harvest everything the Bible has to say. Sometimes, the message is hidden in text not explicityly mentioned.

Righteousness is an act of faith, believing that Jesus is the son of God and living in that manner. In the apostles and in the acts and revelations, the churh is very relavent. I don't know how you could have missed it.

Of course the Bible doesn't say read the Bible, the Bible wasn't available when the Bridegroom (Jesus) was with the Apostles. The Bible is a gift to us from God and the Apostles so that we can carry on the faith.

I have more comment, I have to read you blog again for the other comments you have made.

Alberta said...

Yes the Bible does teach that all sin is the same. Sin is sin is sin no matter what kind it is. Jesus states that all sin is punishable by eternal death.

Jesus does say that alcholhol in moderation is okay.

Jesus calls us to prayer everyday and this is found in the Old Testament where Daniel prays at his window everyday. Prayer and meditation are the same thing. Reading and prayer are necessary to understand Jesus and what He is telling us is faith.

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is dead.

If you are alive with Christ your faith is strong and this is evident by your works.

Please don't preach, you are not eligible as you are lacking in very important discovery about the Bible.

But here is one nugget you should know, anyone who calls himself a teacher of the faith must be both accurate and living faithfully as an example of purity because teachers will be judged more harshly than others. You will find this in the Bible too.

I love that you all are looking, but do not make damning remarks. If you need to know something, seek the information out from reliable ministers.

You are actually coming across in this article as one who is attempting to bash Jesus. Please be careful what you say. God will not hold you guiltless.

Grahame said...

The Bible commends the Bereans for searching the scriptures daily !!! I presume you missed that .Also the psalmist says that at morning and in the evening he sought the LORD . In Daniel it is written that he prayed and sought the Lord and we can quite rightly assume reading and praying three times and opened his windows towards Jerusalem so that even his enemies saw him . So while we do not have a specific commandment read your bible pray every day it is there by way of example

Alberta said...

Yes, I did miss that about the Bereans. And this is what I mean when I say, don't attempt to teach the scriptures on a first time through the Bible. And this is exactly why people come together to read and study the Bible. And this coming together is evident in the Bible although it is not called Categism or Sunday School. But the Church is clearly defined and promoted.

Mickey D. said...

John 19:11 Jesus tells of a greater sin.

rc said...

Well folks, thanks for the comments. On point five Jesus was commenting on the Bible's law, not the Pharisees' law. He says of their tithing on their mint and cumin, "This you should have done." As such, He is affirming that tithing, at least at that point in history, was good and biblical, but that they had neglected the weightier matters of the law. Those who would say all sin deserves eternal judgment, I agree completely. I also agree that all numbers over 12 are over 10, but that doesn't make them all equal.
On baptism I did not here make an argument at all in favor of infant baptism. That doesn't mean such arguments cannot be made. That you disagree with infant baptism doesn't mean you have to disagree with the point. And so I'd suggest all five points can be valid, even if infant baptism isn't.
Alberta, I have read through the Bible many times and been a student of it all my life. I continue to study it, and in fact have been teaching and preaching for over a dozen years. Your point that the message is sometimes not explicit is precisely what I was seeking to say. I'm sorry, but am having a terrible time trying to figure out where I said the church is irrelevant. I did say that some of the programs in the church have no explicit warrant in the Bible. I also said, however, that that doesn't necessarily mean they are always bad things. Yes, the Bible says to pray without ceasing. It also tells us to meditate on His Word. But it does not say you have to read it every day. I do so. I encourage my wife and children to do so. I encourage everyone in the church to do so. But the Bible does not require it. Finally, I'm not sure where you saw any damning remarks. I don't even know what that means. If you point some out, I'll be happy to repent. God bless.

Right As Always said...

RC, I found your post refreshing to say the least. It amazes me that a certain few who commented on it seemed to miss more in your post than they claimed you missed in the bible.

I am wondering where someone got the idea that you believed the church is not relevant. In addition I am clueless where the idea came that you implied that searching the scriptures daily was not advised, a good thing or even important. The praise of the Bereans was more about the fact that they did not put faith in the preacher but searched to prove if what he preached was correct. In fact, this supports your contention that we too often live in tradition as opposed to scripture. I wonder if anyone will think about that little

Sin is sin, true enough. However, Yahshua was pointing out that the legalistic Pharisee' (by definition; traditionalists) would ignore the problems around them, within their own communities, because they were busy showing the world how holy they were with their tithing. I saw your point, it was hard too miss.

I also got what you were saying regarding reading every day. I do not take the time too do so every day, and sometimes I feel convicted because I am not in the word enough. But I know that I am not violating an edict of God by failing to do so. Many people think that quantity is an important measure, but I have learned that the quality of my time in the word, what I learn and how it impacts my life and effects my discourse and relationship with Hashem and my family and friends that is more important.

Thank you for a thought provoking supposition.

May the blessings of The Holy One abound.

Alberta said...

Infant Baptism comes from the Jewish tradition of circumcision.

I did not mean to offend anyone, but preachers are a dime a dozen and not very careful at dissemination the message as Jesus intended.

For example, how many preachers have you heard spreading the gospel of prosperity. And what they tell you to do is to pray for good times and wealth. While Jesus and the Bible teach that if you ask for wealth you may get it plus a measure of loss of faith. When Jesus spoke of prosperity, He was speaking of salvation. Ask me anything in Jesus name and I will give it to you, sure, the the intention was for request for faith and anything to do with faith to ensure properity in salvation. Is it any wonder the churches are empty. They view wealth, not salvation, as the more perfect gift from God.

Alberta said...

I apologize then if I misinterpreted your comment. I did not mean to condemn you only to alert you. Evidently I did not understand the gist of your comments.

IAN said...

There are more than "Five things" things that we will not find in the Bible but I would not waste my time trying to find or prove them. Instead I'd like to be occuppied with that "ONLY ONE THING NECESSARY" Jesus spoke about in Lk: 10:41&42 and not be "worried" or "bothered" or even "surprised" if we do not find them. We have enough to do with the '101'things that are already there which you & I do not take seriously!!!

gregwyche said...

You wrote, "Fourth, the Bible no where says that a spiritual person must have a quiet time." While there is no commandment for quiet time, it's clear that Jesus sought quiet time to himself from time to time (most notably, in the Garden of Gethsemane). He did not wallow in it, but he clearly felt the need for it. Since my example must be Jesus, it follows that I should also seek quiet time for reflection and meditation on his word. Having said that, I am in complete agreement with your point about how we "canonize" things. Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize that there are fourteen different terms in the Hebrew and Greek translated to the English "wine"? They do actually have some different meanings too. Some are the equivalent of another but they all do not mean the same thing. There are actually differing degrees of sin. There is even one that will not be forgiven. There is no "Bible Law" Jesus could have referred to. He was referring to the Law.

We must realize that as we study Scripture and seek the knowledge and wisdom of God from God He will open our understanding. There are too many who simply read a verse and think they have it. I find that diligent study in seeking first the Kingdom of God will always shed light on the Word.

There is no record of an infant being baptized in Scripture. Why would you do that? there is nothing that water is going to do in the life of that baby. You should pray for the child. You can even dedicate the infant to God. there is Scriptural evidence for that, but not for baptizing the child. Baptism is to be administered to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That infant is accountable because it has no understanding of its sin.

Just my $.02.

Ronald said...

Water baptism ? Are you guys kidding, bringing religion into the church.

There is no water in most verses used to justify water baptism (or in the Great Commission Mat: 28:19). Water baptism is an ordinance of the law.
Jesus did not need to be baptized as realized by John when Jesus came to him. Jesus "fulfilled all righteousness" by this ordinance of the law in order to teach in the Temple.
We are saved through the promise to Abraham who was saved with out water baptism or circumcision. Gal: 3:29
To prove it one can check and you will not find one case of the apostles baptizing with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Also one will not find one case of a non-Jew baptizing with water in the Bible. So if one was baptized by a non-Jew then this is something that was not done once in the Bible. So one may now retort what about Peter baptizing Cornelius? Peter was not sure what to do about the water as he said "can any man forbid it" Acts:10:47.. If Peter was instructed by Christ to do this would he look around and ask if it could be done? He and others were not sure what to do. Paul later made it clear we are save by grace alone...


"Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Ephesians 2:15).

"And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9).

Denise said...

I am happy that I am not the only one who knows that traditions don't deserve the weight of scripture. There are many in my church (including my pastor) who insist that there is something wrong with me because I come to church on Sunday nights and not Sunday mornings. I have accused them of worshiping mornings. There is no accommodation for medical problems. I am treated like I'm "not spiritual" because I will not attend tent meetings in the middle of summer. I have a medical condition that gets worse if I allow myself to sweat profusely. We have a perfectly good air conditioned building, for crying out loud! Why is everyone outside in the field off the parking lot suffering? It's a tradition-- that's why!

Victor said...

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler; and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." Prov. 20:1.

"Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal. 5:19-21.

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Mt. 5:17-19.

rc said...

Thanks for that Victor. While of course every word you have there is true, I'm not sure if you are quoting these texts to agree with me (who said the Bible plainly teaches that drunkenness is a sin) or to disagree with me, who said alcohol in moderation is not explicitly called a sin in the Bible. If the latter those texts do not say what you think they say. You may, potentially be able to draw an appropriate inference from those texts that alcohol in moderation is sinful, but that would be an inference, not an explicit statement in the Bible.

Victor said...

So, God's words state that wine is a mocker, yet you drink it?

So be it.

And do you also see fit to drink strong drink as well when God's words tell us it also is wrong?

So be it, but it is YOU who is doing his own "inferring!"

rc said...


What I do is follow Deuteronomy 14:26. You should take a look. There are indeed dangers associated with wine and strong drink, thus the Bible's warnings against drunkenness. There are also dangers associated with food, thus warnings against gluttony, dangers associated with the marital act, thus warnings against adultery. Any gift from God carries with it dangers. But as the old saying goes, the abuse of something is no argument against its abuse.

Victor said...

Dangers associated with food? God says "Wine is a mocker." I must have missed where He tells us food is dangerous!

Dangers with the Marriage act? Are you insane? You must be reading your own made up Bible because the God of the Bible tells us that marriage is a reflection of Christ and the Church.

A lot of really perverted justification going on here for drinking alcohol. Perverted and disgusting.

tad said...

Other things found nowhere in scripture alone:

- the notion of "sola scriptura"
- the notion of "sola fide"
- the Trinity
- Sunday worship (as opposed to Sabbath worship)
- Christ's Masse
- Easter
- Lent
- the books that were to be added as "The New Testament"
- the Lords Supper as "symbolic" or "representational"
- baptism as a "public profession of an inward grace"
- baptism as "symbolic" only
- confess our sins to God alone
- the idea of "denominations" formed from Protesting one's current church, thus disobeying the command to submit to authority
- "The Rapture"

tad said...

as for infant baptism, it's kind of a no-brainer. baptism took the place of ("fulfilled") circumcision as the sealing of the covenant. who was circumcised? infant male Jews only.

under Christ, who can be baptized? ALL can be baptized: either male or female, Jew and Greek, slave and free. when we delete the sacrament of confirmation (which fulfilled the bar mitzvah), we are left wondering how to accomplish the sacrament of baptism, so we debate infants vs. adults.

it should be known that the debate in the early church was not WHETHER to baptize infants, but why wait until the 8th day? it is only the modern churches that are confused about the validity of infant baptism. if we are seeking to restore the early church (i.e., the goal of the "Re Formation") we would be wise to understand what that beloved early church taught, practiced, and believed.

tad said...

p.s. re: other things not found in scripture. i mentioned that Christmas, Easter, and Lent are not found (at least, not commanded to be observed) there, actually, NONE of the Christian Holy Days are found in scripture alone. they were given to us by the church, as was the entire New Testament.

Smartasawhip said...

Regarding Sunday school, Deuteronomy 4:9 said we should teach our children about God and what He's done and Psalm 78 also talks of teaching our children. Sunday school is just teaching our children. The Bible does say we should read the Bible every day in Psalm 1, "and in His Law he meditates both day and night. Regarding Jesus teaching all sin is the same, not so; Jesus said that Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven and in 1st John:16,17 it says that there are sins that lead to death and sins that don't lead to death. Alberta says that the Bible wasn't available when Jesus was with His apostles but this is not so. The Bible starts with Genesis not Matthew. The entire Old Testament was available when Jesus was in the flesh. I'm glad to find a place where so many people are interested in the Bible and believe what it says.

rc said...


Good points. That said, Deuteronomy 4, as well as 6 and Psalm 78 enjoin parents to do this, not Sunday School teachers. On daily quiet times, that the Scripture calls us to meditate on the Bible is not the same thing as calling us t read it every day. Again, no one is objecting to daily Bible reading. It's a very good thing. But the admonition to meditate on it cannot mean "read it" since no one had it when that admonition was made. One would be far closer to keeping this command were one to sing Psalms all day long, rather than to read their Bible each day. Hope that helps.

iron curtin monitor said...

GOD makes it clear that man should not drink alcohol if he wants to pursue a righteous life.

Luke 1:15 "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine (alcohol) or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born."

Numbers 6:2-3 "If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine (alcohol) and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink."

Judges 13:3-4 The Angel of the LORD (this is JESUS) appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean."

These three scriptures say it all: stay away from alcohol.

tad said...

re: rc's reply to smart and myself re: Sunday School and meditating on the word, etc...pretty good stuff. Yes, the "OT" was all available in Jesus' day, and most scholars would agree the scriptures of their day was the Greek Septuagint, which the first Christian scriptures were founded upon. Of course, the early church had no New Testament until it was written and canonized centuries later. Either way, it is quite amazing to think of the very long list of things that are found nowhere in scripture, in addition to the five mentioned in the main article. So much for "sola scriptura", eh? : )

tad said...

another thought re: meditating is the idea that the Jewish people (then AND now) memorize(d) great chunks of scripture. Therefore, they could easily meditate on it anytime and anywhere, because it was already inside them! Pretty cool, and something we would do well to learn from. Just the other day i met an old Jewish man (a Holocaust survivor) and he told me he used to have all 150 Psalms memorized. Let us also remember that few believers could read, up until the last hundred years or so, so READING the bible has rarely been an option for the faithful, and thus the great value of the church where folks would go to have it read to them in sermons and homilies. I notice fewer and fewer of the more modern church read very much scripture in their services these days. Often just a verse or two, or even just part of a verse to make the point in the sermon they have created. Kind of sad...

rc said...

Though it seems rather unlikely that we will ever fully succeed, and thus is one more argument for more faithfully singing the Psalms (and a great argument for listening to my friend Nathan Clark George's "through" Psalms), my family is working to memorize the Psalter. We are currently working on Psalm 19. 18 was a real challenge.

tad said...

Wow! That is cool, and quite a challenge! I'm sure you and your family will be very blessed by the experience. Keep us posted as to how it goes. : )

Sandra said...

What a good post. I have seen these same things preached and taught but it's what the preacher wants us to believe, not from the word. I have taken much criticism for my beliefs, but until the Lord shows me different, I'll hold to it. Thanks for the good post.

Joshua said...

Wow, writing a blog really opens up some bizarre and unloving comments. RC keep up the labor in love and I am sure these responses continue to make you a better man developing your love and empathy toward people.

As a Baptist on the alcohol post, I will only take one point of clarification (I hesitate after reading the opposite already posted). Before I read the comments I was going to say that most Baptists today have cast off the 1950's legalism. I still believe this to be true based on the majority of Baptists I know and associate with (Reformed). So maybe you could distinguish in future posts regarding Fundamental Baptists (versus the rest of us). They are still becoming a minority, thankfully.

God bless!

R.C. said...


I will endeavor to be more careful. I know I sure hate it when people refer to us presbyterians as those people who ordain women and sodomites. Thanks for the gracious note

hlj3rd said...

R.C., Jr.

I am glad I located your blog, having been blessed by your father's ministry for so long. I know God has brought you through some difficult days both personally and professionally already and I look forward to seeing him continue to mold you.

I pray for God to grant you grace, wisdom and patience as you continue your blog, as it appears you have already attracted some tough customers. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, R.C. You're quite right that we need to examine the biblical basis for all our practices, and not to take the status quo for granted.

I question whether Deuteronomy 6:7-9 says that children must be taught - in every single thing - by parents. Yes, parents must live by the law of God always, and must continue to instruct their children in it, but does it mean that they may not delegate some teaching to other, qualified, people? You are right, R.C., when you rebuke parents for not teaching their own children, deferring entirely to institutions like public schools and church programs. But, do not some of these things have a place?

R.C. said...

Anon, My view would be that there is no shining, clear line that separates appropriate delegation from sinful abdication. Doesn't mean there isn't a line, and I confess that I as a homeschooling dad to some degree delegate when I give my children a book to read that I didn't write. So I have no beef with a co-op class for homeschoolers, but I do with full time school. With respect to Sunday School, my point remember was not in this piece- these are all bad things. It was only- there is nothing in the Bible requiring this. That said, I think whatever supposed benefits one receives from breaking down classes by age/ability are less than the cost of dividing families. Children will actually learn more in an adult Sunday school class that we think is over their heads than they likely would hanging with their peers and a teacher. But that's just a strategic decision on my part. Hope that helps.

Adam said...

I apologize if this has been mentioned, but I have to point it out:

"Fifth, the Bible does not explicitly teach that all sins are equal."

I have to differ. I think the verse you reference is about the Law, not the weight of a sin. In Matthew 5, Jesus states:

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."

I'm sure we could discuss the precise meaning of statements like this for a long time, but I certainly wouldn't say that "the Bible does not explicitly teach that all sins are equal." I think Jesus makes that very point right there.

R.C. said...


I don't think that text says what you think it says. That hate falls under the rubric of the command against murder does not mean that it is as heinous as genocide. Both are forms of murder, but not the same. Taking home a pen from the office is a form of theft, and falls under the 8th commandment, as does grand theft auto. Doesn't mean they are equal. As my piece noted, Jesus said the Pharisees neglected the weightier matters of the law. All sin is cosmic treason. All sin deserves eternal torment. But clearly some sin is worse than others. See also Matthew 10 where Jesus says some cities will receive more severe judgment than others. Hope that helps