On not being a Christian alone

Recently I’ve heard, and heard of, more than one speaker at various Christian events claim that what people really need to do is just read the Bible, and not worry about commentary or other kinds of teaching. This view is not isolated to one particular group of Christians, but shows up at different times and places in different ways. I would argue that the claim is unbiblical as well as unhelpful. It is also illogical, but logic doesn’t seem to worry many speakers of any and all persuasions.

Let’s start with the logic. A speaker is generally teaching. He or she wishes the audience to think about the issues or ideas under discussion, and come to some conclusion about them. He or she usually thinks the audience would be better off if they came to the same conclusions that they hold themselves, though usually speakers may claim this is not the case. I am a teacher. Privately, most of the time, I think my students should think like me. Most of us, teachers or not, think the world would be a better place if everyone thought as we do. Thus, logically, a speaker is telling his or her audience to not worry about teaching and just to read the Bible without external commentary. What is the speaker doing? If they really thought that, they should sit down and be quiet.

Second, it is unbiblical. You cannot read any part of the Bible without seeing that there are people who teach others about God. Jesus was a teacher. Paul was a teacher. The prophets and priests taught people. There are teaching Psalms. Parents teach children, as evidenced by Proverbs. Teachers are everywhere, and though there are certainly false teachers, having zero teachers and everyone reading the Bible themselves is nowhere envisioned.

Third, it is unhelpful. One of the distinguishing marks of Christianity is the community of faith. As a Christian I am a member of the body of Christ, a community which extends through space and time. I am linked to Christians from the past and future, as well as Christians around the world who I have never met. To suggest that I would do better to read the Bible myself without consulting other members of the body of Christ is not at all helpful, and presents Christianity as an individual belief system rather than the vital connection of all of us to Christ and to one another. We live in an individualistic society, and need to work hard at Christian community, not be discouraged from it in any form.

You cannot be a Christian alone. It just doesn’t work. Read lots of books that other Christians write, even if you don’t agree with them. See that they love Jesus and are connected to you as fellow members of the body of Christ. Enjoy the messy diversity which is the Church.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “On not being a Christian alone

  1. Phebe

    Thanks. This speaks directly, logically, and clearly to some points that I have disagreed with a fellow Christian about. He is of the opinion that, since no one really lives out what they say they believe, it it best to just worship God at home; that it is not necessary or important to be a part of a local expression of the church. That way he is at least not being hypocritical like everyone else. Unfortunately, his family is affected.

  2. Pingback: The need for Christian community « The Lonely Disciple

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