We Have Surrendered Our Rights to Disagree

Arch_of_Titus_Menorah
Arch of Titus, Menorah

[(Source: Wikipedia) It was constructed in c. 81 CE by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’s official deification or consecratio and the victory of Titus together with their father, Vespasian, over the Jewish rebellion in Judaea.]

Hands painted as a globe

One of the most well written and exhilarating history books you will ever read is Eugene Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Baker, 1987). Merrill weaves together an encyclopedic grasp of the Old Testament with a scholars grasp of the relevant sources in Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern materials (ANE) and a layman’s thirst for story, to write one of the most readable and persuasive arguments for the history of the biblical narrative. One of his great virtues in this volume is his humility.

Some of his methodology will not pass muster with some, but they strike me as precisely the stance that a biblical scholar or even the “ordinary believer”, faithful to Jesus’s view of the Scripture, must take.

“By virtue of our confession that we are under the authority of the very sources we are investigating, we have already surrendered our right to reject what we cannot understand or what we find difficult to believe.”

—Eugene H. Merrill, in his book,
Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel,
p. 16

What does this commitment and this surrender mean when . . .

our emotions,
or our present understanding of history,
or what “my parents told me”,
or what “my professor told me”
or our current understanding of science,
or when our received theological commitments differ with a clear
…….teaching of Scripture?

It means exactly this, that we have surrendered our right to disagree.

Shocking to some, this commitment is not “unscientific” or “unreasonable” or “irrational”. It is simply the humility of faith that believes that imperfect people like us have never had a better idea than God. We have never and will never have a better or more accurate thought than God and that

our emotions often err,
our understanding of history is frequently over-turned,
that our professors and parents, though well intentioned and loving are not always
…….right and are subject to the same pressures and prejudices as anyone else and
that our received theological commitments may not be the best expression of this
…….or that teaching of the Scripture.

We stand upon the Scripture, the word of the living God, precisely because we stand under its authority. And the One who came and lived, and died, and rose, and who is coming back again to take His own in triumph back with Him is Himself the one who told us that every word of God’s word is trustworthy (John 5:39; 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). And His triumph? His triumph will be far greater than the triumph of Titus over the Jews of the first century A.D. Far greater. More glorious. And we will be with Him and we will be His treasure in His triumph.


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