I’ve been doing a lot of studying about early church history lately, trying to find out who decided what books would be in the Bible - a worthy undertaking I thought - after all, it is the Word of God. It has the final answer to questions about life, death, salvation, heaven, and hell. But who knew? All my life I’ve been told it was the Holy Spirit working through men. That always seemed a little too simplistic for me - and a little too convenient for the Church. Not only did it confer unquestioning authorship on God it also helped shroud the identity of the men who interpreted him for us. I wouldn’t mind, I have nothing against the Bible except the Church's tendency to take it literally, but the Holy Spirit apparently told them what things shouldn’t be in the Bible too - and that included the Gnostic Gospels. As a result a lot of insightful books about Jesus were forbidden, burned and successfully kept from public knowledge until the 20th century! Until 1946 in fact! A mere 65 years ago! Why? What was so threatening that they had to keep it from us? But that’s another question. A very important one, but right now I want to talk about who “they” were. Led by the Holy Spirit or not, it was men like you and me who made those decisions. It seems reasonable to want to know - who were these men who wrote the Word of God?
Before I start I need to clear something up. I’m a man who came to Jesus with a truly repentant heart and a desire to know God. I know without a doubt that he called me and that his Holy Spirit is in me - the Spirit that Jesus said would guide me into all truth. Lately I’ve been guided to a new understanding of scripture which the church says is not the right understanding. I’m supposed to believe someone else's understanding - someone who was guided by the Holy Spirit. Is the reason for my question becoming clear? I don't intend to blame anyone or find fault with what they believe - just to remind us that they were simply men doing what we can all do - listen to, and hear from God. What they heard was what God needed them to know. What he revealed about himself was what they could understand. I have no doubt they were hearing from God. What isn’t clear is why they insist it was something for all people, for all time. If the Holy Spirit was sent to lead us, then he must still be leading us, and God must be revealing himself in ways we never could have known before. Maybe that’s why the Gospel of Thomas was hidden for so long. It's only now that science is able to show us what it means. There is great wisdom and truth in that Gospel for anyone who cares to look - things that align perfectly with what we’re learning about the reality of life and the nature of the universe we live in. The more I learn the more I realize I really am being "guided". And I believe it is toward the truth. The church may say the devil is doing it but that's impossible. The devil can't be where the spirit of God is. If the spirit of God is everywhere.......? But that too is a topic for another discussion.
What I'm going to do next time is name some names - not to discredit them - just to put faces on them so we recognize them as flawed men like all the rest of us trying to hear from God. It's time we knew these people from the early church who decided what The Word was - and what it wasn’t.