If you were given Just a Bible......

If you were given just a Bible and no other instruction, guide on interpreting, concordance, catechism - nothing. You are to be given 1 year to read study and digest the contents of this volume. You have no other work, no other distractions.

What Church structure do you think the REAL “Bible Alone” would lead you to?
By this I don’t mean to select from the list of denominations available today, but rather what structure -

A single Church with a single set of doctrines and some kind of centralized authority?

Or

A loose affiliations of Churches each with it’s own take on interpretations and no real accountability to each other in determining which is correct?

I realize that it is not really possible for us here to completely and objectively answer this question since we all have been exposed to “outside teaching” and specific interpretations.
However the thought of it struck me as interesting and so I thought I would pose the question here and see what others thought.

NOTE TO ALL:
This question is asked in Charity and curiousity. Please keep your answers both Charitable and on topic.

Thanks

Peace
James

This is a very tough hypothetical question because even though we have been asked to consider that we have no instructions, guides on interpreting, concordance, or catechisms the reality is that we do. As you mentioned It is very tough to distance yourself from your beliefs to answer this in an objective manner.

With that being said I will consider this question in light of my mind set prior to joining His Church. I would most likely look at the Bible as myth on par with any other ancient myth. Not that I didn’t believe there was a God, but if there was a God, He/she/it was too big for us to comprehend and definitely too big to be contained in between the covers of a book. So more than likely I would have rejected it for what it is and chalked it up as a book like any other with good moral teachings.

Just so we don’t have any confusion; what I explained above is not a Catholic perspective or view on the Holy Scriptures but it was my perspective of the Bible and Christianity prior to conversion.

That was my best shot at this hypothetical question.

God bless

It’s a fascinating question! I can’t wait for my husband to come home from work so we can discuss it together! Thank you!

My husband and I are both converts from evangelical Protestantism, and one of the main reasons we converted was that we felt that the Catholic Church lined up exactly with everything that is in the Bible. There were no more “hmmms?” when we read certain passages. The Catholic Church has it all covered!

While we were still Protestant, we were always “searching” for the church closest to the Bible. We didn’t do the church hop like so many Protestants nowadays are doing . We found a church in whatever city we were in and stuck with it. But there were always compromises. Always, we felt like the various church ignored certain parts of the Bible, and we always were forced to just go with the flow and not ask too many questions.

But when we started studying the Catholic Church, we were first intrigued and then ebullient as we discovered that it was all Biblical! One thing evangelical Protestants do is read and study the Bible cover to cover, and we have both done so many many times, as well as attended dozens of Bible studies and read hundreds of Bible study books throughout our lives. We KNEW our Bibles, and when we saw various practices, teachings, etc. in the Catholic Church, we KNEW where they originated!

It was marvelous.

So in answer to the OP, I think that people would come up with a “church” that looks just like Catholic Church.

Well, Jesus left his apostles under the authority of the Rabbis, and they did go to the rabbis when they had questions and the rabbis advised them. But, as the influx of gentiles became a bigger and bigger problem the rabbis said that they could no longer advise them. So the church and what that was is rather ambiguous. There is not a whole lot said about a church or what that is.

I really don’t get a direction to join a church from scripture. Most of what Jesus actually said and taught has nothing to do with churches.

I would take the Church with centralized leadership for we all need that structure. But as soon as claims that were made that were not according the bible I would kindly not stay within that organization. I could not leave salvation into the hands of corruptable men (I’m corruptible too! :slight_smile:

The RCC is very structured and there is a lot of goodness but there was two main points that had to send me packing. I wish I could still be RC but with my convictions I would be lying to myself and my peers. It still brings me to near tears because I hate the state of separation I wish things were easier.

We all bring in our own personal viewpoints, what we have been taught and our biases, so the question is difficult to answer. It would be an interesting test if you could find 10 or 20 literate people with no prior exposure to the bible and no knowledge of Christian churches (or any church) and see what they would come up with.

I think as one would read through the NT, you would get somewhat different ideas that would change slightly as you went along. The Gospels say very little about a “church”, and even then not what form it should take. I think that if we used the Gospels as a guide, we would have a structure similar to what existed at the start: Community or regional churches, each self-contained but also in communication with other churches. The leaders (deacons, presbyters, etc) would be chosen from within each community, and decisions would be made by the community and concensus (the town hall meeting concept, discernment).

Then as you read further, into Acts and the various letters, that situation could change. You might then opt for some additional structure and hierarchy. But there would still be “local control” with leaders picked from within each area who serve in the role of Bishop. Again, leadership selected by and from the members of those connected communities. Paul communicates with the churches he has helped establish, but note that he addresses his letters generally to the entire community, not to one person or a group of leaders. His letters for the most part are written to guide and instruct, not to command. He is not their boss; he is more of an esteemed “elder” who imparts his knowledge and wisdom to those who seek his guidance.

So there would be no central authority, and any important decisions would be made within the group or by groups meeting in a council.

But I would suspect that as time went on and each group developed theology, practices and doctrine that were not totally in agreement with other groups, you would end up with many churches that had similar foundations and core beliefs but were not quite the same, and in some aspects be opposed to one another.

Kind of like what we have today.:shrug:

Our church was started by a person with no real background and minimal presuppositions. A Bible and a personal conversion experience and a calling. He had not been part of a church growing up; just like me as well when I joined.
I will try to simplify a complex question.

Our polity has congregational apsects, elder rule aspects, and the offices mentioned in scripture. All three can be found. It is not an either/or but more of a combination.

It does not really resemble any other group that I can think of but combines elements which we think is the Biblical pattern.

Just an observation and personal opinion. I think we see what we want to see based on what we determine to be our final source of authority. For a Catholic Christian, the Bible is an incomplete source of revelation and authority. Therefore, another source of authority (Catholic Magestrium) is embraced to replace the previous source of authority (Sola Scriptura). Once a Christian rejects Sola Scriptura and receives the belief in Apostolic Succession, then of course your belief will follow the interpertation defined within the Magestrium. This is what I personally discerned with Scott Hahn’s testimony and other ex-Protestants like him. The bottom line for all who profess Christ (including Mormons), we see what we want to see which is determined by our ultimate source of authority. And yes, God is the final source of authority, by how does He speak to us as fallen creatures?

If my final authority is:

Sola Scriptura… I would live out my Christian life in a Reformed Church,

Catholic Magisterium… I would live out my Christian life in the Catholic Church

LDS prophet succession … I would live out my life as a Mormon believer in God

James and others,
I really appreciated reading this question and all of the responses. I think prayer and the Holy Spirit would need to play important roles in one’s studies for that year. The Bible is a treasure trove of knowledge, but without Charity or the Holy Spirit, reading it is like playing a “tinkling cymbal”. I think the apostles taught that well, and understood that and exemplified it. The authority leaders in such a church would be charitable and humble and would not have sought their calling, would acknowledge Christ as the head of the church, and would acknowledge being led by the Holy Spirit in their leadership.

Thanks for such an insightful topic and asking that answers be “Charitable and on topic.” I think they have been, and I appreciate that so much!

Would it be fair to say that if a person only had the Bible to study and pray about, then that person would never become an LDS believer, correct?

I think I’d be Presbyterian. :smiley:

LOL… Spurgeon would have something to say about that. :slight_smile:

When one intends to read, study and digest Sacred Scripture, the first action is to pray to God for guidance from the Holy Spirit. If done properly, along with proper meditation, the true meaning of the Scripture will be revealed…

Peace,

John

2nd Adam,
I’ll answer in a way that hopefully stays on topic. I think as the person studied the Old Testament, they would see that prophet-leaders were somehow (in different ways) called by God into their calling, and were always trying to get the people “back on the path.” The same goes for the apostles in the New Testament.

It seems evident that people, in and of themselves, are prone to wander “off the path.” So having a small authority structure that would be central such as apostles to stabilize the doctrines and resolve differences, especially as the church grew with new converts, would seem important to a New Testament reader. But that would depend on if the person really trusted that God knows the hearts of people enough to find leaders humble enough to “listen” to the Holy Spirit without having their own agenda.

So, it would depend on how much the person trusted God and trusted that there could be such a thing as really humble leaders who could teach and lead with the authority of God.

I’m just saying that if someone only had the Bible, they couldn’t come out with the same conclusion that an LDS believer has without extrarevelation from Joseph Smith found outside the Bible. It is extra-Biblical revelation… the LDS Church is built upon extra biblical revelation.

I see Catholic Christians in the same dilemma since the Bible is only part of divine sacred tradition. A person reading only the Bible does not have additional sources of revelation such as sacred written and oral tradition. A person with only the Scriptures to determine truth would end up being a Reformed Christian. I’m not sure you can argue against my conclusion because both the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, and even the LDS Church doctrines are not based on Scripture alone as being the only source of revelation from God.

2nd Adam
Your statement by itself is true enough, since the premise that “Scripture alone as being the only source of revelation from God” places a box around what God or the Holy Spirit could do. But I suppose we differ on whether a sincere Bible reader would reach that conclusion and not ask in prayer for guidance about whether such a box was intended.

I believe the Bible is a closed book for many and requires the Spirit to open our hearts and illuminate our fallen minds to understand spiritual truths with eternal consequences.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Jesus the Christ

The Conversion of Lydia

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the [4] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Acts 16

**“Jesus left his apostles under the authority of the Rabbis?” Huh???

The same rabbis that condemned Him to death?

What are you smoking? i need some of that!!!
**
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

Ok.
I am going to add a little more about what I thought and how it directly relates to Catholicism after my first reading. I still have my notes.

It seemed to me that Paul was in charge of things to a degree. Paul wrote most of the letters to the churches. Paul did not seem impressed with the three pillars either in Galatians. But it seemed to be different in Jerusalem. James was in charge of Jerusalem. Peter was the apostle to the Jews. I also wrote that Peter was in charge of the apostles. I made a note that all the apostles were probably Jews based upon my reading. I thought John was in charge of some things to or perhaps he was writing to all churches. I had a real hard time understanding who John was adressing. These views still influence me as a dispensationalist so obviously they stuck.
Not trying to argue but give how it struck me.

Yes I have to admit I am asking a lot from you folks but truly I have been gratified by the responses so far, not least of all by yours. Very well thought out indeed.

I really don’t want to interfere with everyone getting a chance to post their Ideas, but I did want to make just a couple of very brief (I hope) comments on your points.

I think as one would read through the NT, you would get somewhat different ideas that would change slightly as you went along. The Gospels say very little about a “church”, and even then not what form it should take. I think that if we used the Gospels as a guide, we would have a structure similar to what existed at the start: Community or regional churches, each self-contained but also in communication with other churches. The leaders (deacons, presbyters, etc) would be chosen from within each community, and decisions would be made by the community and concensus (the town hall meeting concept, discernment).

I would have to re-read the Gospels becuase I have never really pulled even this much out of them (deacons and presbyters etc.) but I do understand your point as things are presented in Acts.
What has always struck me about the Gospels is that the term “Church” is used only Twice. Both times in Matthew and both times connected with some sort of authority (keys, binding and loosing).

Then as you read further, into Acts and the various letters, that situation could change. You might then opt for some additional structure and hierarchy. But there would still be “local control” with leaders picked from within each area who serve in the role of Bishop. Again, leadership selected by and from the members of those connected communities. Paul communicates with the churches he has helped establish, but note that he addresses his letters generally to the entire community, not to one person or a group of leaders. His letters for the most part are written to guide and instruct, not to command. He is not their boss; he is more of an esteemed “elder” who imparts his knowledge and wisdom to those who seek his guidance.

I notice that you are refering to Paul in an “Advisory” role rather than an “Authority” role. Based on what you read in his letters, what do you think would have been his reaction to say, the Church at Corinth disagreeing with him on some doctrinal issue such as the real presence and whether it is actual or symbolic, Or even more plausable, disagreeing with him on some interpretation of Scripture relating to the Messiah?

So there would be no central authority, and any important decisions would be made within the group or by groups meeting in a council.

But I would suspect that as time went on and each group developed theology, practices and doctrine that were not totally in agreement with other groups, you would end up with many churches that had similar foundations and core beliefs but were not quite the same, and in some aspects be opposed to one another.

Kind of like what we have today.:shrug:

Actually I like what you have here to a point. I think that you describe the very early church development quite well up to where you see them continuing to develop independently and spreading apart. I think that they would continue to communicate and meet in council to hammer out differences. In this way they would be living out Christ’s prayer and Paul’s exhortations to be of One mind.

Peace
James

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