This dialogue with Stephen about the church and the kingdom is an extension of a dialogue we were having about trinity versus unity. If you want to see the precise point at which this conversation branched off from that one, look here.
Stephen, I think you have made clear an issue that is very important in our conversations. The key statement that you made which clarified this issue was “The Church, not the scripture, is the pillar and ground of the truth.” I want to quote it again in context:
According to the scripture, The Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church, not the scripture, is the pillar and ground of the truth. Just as Christ is the word and the scripture is the word about the Word. The Spirit taught the church about the understanding of the word. The Church, Christ’s body was the pillar of Truth not the other way around. The clear implication of this is that Christ meant what he said when he promised his disciples that the Spirit will lead them into all truth. He also didn’t mean that the Spirit would only teat the 12 disciples and then disappear. Apparently at least Paul believed that the Church would be the basis of truth or better said, the Church, led by the Spirit, would lead them into all truth.
This highlights a root difference between us. Therefore, it’s particularly worth exploring given its foundational nature. If we can resolve it, it could lead to more common understanding on other issues. If we can’t, it could save us time because we’d know not to pursue other issues too vigorously knowing that we don’t have a common point of authority to which we can look for resolution.
Therefore, let’s focus on this issue in this post, and let our other conversational threads continue on their own subjects – only to the degree that you’re interested, of course.
Fundamentally, our difference is that while you ascribe great authority to the church, I believe it was superseded by the kingdom of God in a similar way to how ancient Israel was superseded by the church.
More specifically, I believe the church was a transitional organism for the metamorphosis from the age of ancient Israel to the new age of the kingdom of God – like the cocoon that transitions a caterpillar to a butterfly.
In your comments about the Nicene Creed, it sounds as if you ascribe as much authority to it as you do the Scriptures. And this is consistent for you, given your broader view of the church having more authority than the Scriptures.
For me, no church creed could be as authoritative as Scripture. Let me deconstruct my view on this for you. I accept the Old Testament as the word of God because Jesus did. I accept the New Testament as the word of God because it was written by His personally chosen and commissioned apostles. I suspect any writing or teaching that contradicts the Scriptures. This is, of course, obvious where atheistic or anti-biblical teachings are concerned. But it also is important to recall that Jesus had to chastise rabbis for letting their traditions and rulings make the word of God of no effect (Mark 7, Matthew 15, and Matthew 23). Just as such corrupting practices – however slight – could occur in biblical times, I believe they can occur in post-biblical times. I don’t think this by any means encourages us to reject teachings out of Judaism or Christianity wholesale, but it does mean that He is warning us that there are human understanding which can encroach on our understanding of God’s word and that we should beware of the temptations to misunderstand what God is actually saying. Revelation 22 puts this warning in starker terms, telling of the perils that come with adding to or taking away from the word of God.
For you, I think the Nicene Creed is as much the word of God as the Scriptures. If I am wrong about this, please correct me. The purpose of the dialogue in this post is to have each of us clarify our respective positions sufficiently so that we can find out precisely where the gaps are and see if we can close them. Therefore, let me lay out for you my current understanding of how our views on this subject compare. You can then correct, confirm, or challenge as appropriate:
Stephen: The Nicene Creed is as much the word of God as the Bible.
Mike: The Nicene Creed should be respected for the wisdom and truth it contains but is not as authoritative as Scripture.
Stephen: The church is arbiter of differences of interpretation about the Scriptures, truth, and Jesus Christ.
Mike: Jesus Christ is arbiter of differences of interpretation about the Scriptures, truth, and Jesus Christ.
Stephen: The church is still God’s chosen instrument through which He’s chosen to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ.
Mike: The church was God’s chosen instrument through which He chose to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ in New Testament times, but since has been replaced by the kingdom of God.
I think we really only need to focus on the third pair because the first two are derivatives of its argument. That is, if we could come to agreement on the third pair, any disagreements on the first two could quickly be resolved. I only added them for the sake of clarity, not wanting to abstract at too high a level until I’m more confident that I’ve properly understood your view.