Church of Scotland Shreds Bible, Canonizes Palestinian ‘Scripture’

At its recent General Assembly (May 18-24, 2013), the Church of Scotland adopted a pro-Palestinian tract entitled The Inheritance of Abraham? Its Preface admits that a previous version "caused worry and concern in parts of the Jewish Community in Israel and beyond" and offers "clarification." The clarification is mere window-dressing, but that is beside the point. It is rather "parts of the Christian Community in Scotland and beyond" that should be worried and concerned. To judge from the amateurish theological absurdities in this document, which passed through all the relevant levels of the bureaucracy up to the General Assembly, the whole Kirk is adrift. It has abandoned a glorious past for a dubious future.

We shall look at those absurdities in a moment, but first consider the dire situation of the Kirk. Its decline in recent decades parallels that of Christianity elsewhere in the UK. Nearly half the Scottish population still professes allegiance to the Kirk, but actual membership is below 10%. It was noted already in 2008 that "The number of new members joining each year has dropped by nearly 80% since 1981″ and that the average age of congregations is "maybe even over 60."

Thanks in part to immigration, for the first time since John Knox there are more worshipers on a Sunday in Roman Catholic churches than in the Kirk. The Church of Rome, despite its recent travails, retains the advantage that it would never publish a document that had not been vetted by serious theologians.

The State of Israel, on the other hand, is doing very well, thank you, and need not care two hoots what the Church of Scotland thinks about it. Israel's GDP is higher than Scotland's. The GDP is still lower per capita, but that is because Scotland has benefited for decades from North Sea oil and gas, whereas Israel's immense natural gas reserves are a recent discovery only now coming on tap. As it is, Israel's growth rate is far higher than Scotland's (2.8% versus 0.5%).

The Jewish Community in Scotland and the UK is another matter. As elsewhere in Europe today, its synagogues and institutions are under intense security surveillance. Any kind of anti-Israel agitation, whose major sources include churches and trades unions in the UK, is likely to encourage anti-Jewish violence.

Theological Absurdities

The sham theology of The Inheritance of Abraham? begins with its misunderstanding of the relationship between the Christian Old and New Testaments. The tract speaks as though the New Testament existed from the moment that Jesus and St. Paul uttered their words, and it immediately replaced any previous understanding of the Old Testament. This is the hermeneutic tool, to give it a name more dignified than it deserves, that the Scottish authors of the Kirk's tract employ in their hatchet job on the Bible.

Anyone with a grain of theological education, however, knows that the original Scripture of the Early Church was exclusively the Scripture of the Jews, whether in Hebrew or in its Greek version as the Septuagint. It was only toward the end of the second Christian century that authoritative Church Fathers began to treat as Scripture the books of what we call the New Testament. In the mid-second century, for instance, Justin Martyr ignored St. Paul completely; Justin's writings refer occasionally to the gospels as sources of information, but do not treat them as divinely inspired Scripture.

The books of the New Testament themselves show no consciousness or intention of presenting themselves as Scripture. They do repeatedly refer to Scripture, but in almost every case they are clearly referring to what later Christians would call the Old Testament.

Only in the fourth century did the Church Fathers establish a definite canon of the New Testament, out of the mass of other gospels, acts, epistles and apocalypses more..


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