I have been having another interesting discussion in the comments of my post asking if Peter considered himself the first pope. It raised some interesting comments and questions and after reading a post over a Jesus Shaped Spirituality this evening, I wanted to put a few more thoughts down. Part of it started with a question from Tim Troutman who had linked to that post at his blog:
If Christianity is a religion of the book as Protestants insist, why did God let Christianity go on for so long (most of her existence) without actually having the canon correct?
From the Bible it is apparent that God is far more gracious and forgiving than we(humans) ever give Him credit for. He is committed to working through imperfect people in imperfect ways at every turn it seems. He chooses for Himself a man to make a nation. That man has a problem telling the truth about his wife whenever he gets in a tight spot and he also tries to make his own fulfillment for one of God’s promises. God uses a lying, thieving, scoundrel as the father of the twelve tribes of His chosen people. He uses a stuttering, cowardly guy who wouldn’t take the job until God said his brother could help him to liberate His people from Egypt. In fact, He even used that guy’s stick. He used a donkey to rebuke a prophet who should have known better. He used another coward hiding in a winepress to defeat an army with a handful of men. He used a swaggering womanizer, who never met a vow he couldn’t break. He used a king with a horrendous temper and zero patience. He followed that up with a king who, while being a man after His heart, still managed to commit adultery and murder with no initial remorse until he was called out by God’s prophet. And that is the guy that He gave the honor of an everlasting kingdom in his line, the one He would have His own Son forever identified with. Don’t forget the prophet who not only disobeyed God’s command initially, but furthermore ran in the other direction. Only after being swallowed whole and left to sit in a great fish for three days did he even begrudgingly follow God’s direction. And then he didn’t do so very enthusiastically. These guys are the exception really, they are more like the normative flow. The list goes on. When we come to the New Testament it is the same story. He picks some of the loudest and most obnoxious guys as disciples. (Here I have to give a nod to iMonk’s excellent imagining of Peter’s first words to the disciples after he repented for disowning Jesus). Heck, two of them were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder”. He even picks one who He knows will betray Him, because that’s how He said it had to be. He essentially let the apostles “throw dice” to pick the replacement apostle. And he picked up a murderer to act as His apostle to the Gentiles. You know the guy who referred to himself as the “chief of sinners” (Which raises an interesting question, did the apostles jump the gun on God when they picked a replacement this way? ). And at this point I have only mentioned people from Scripture that have been used by God. As we look through the history of the church we can find even more examples of people who weren’t just imperfect, they were scoundrels and slavetraders and believe it or not, He’s even used me in His service a time or two. Even if someone is using 73 books instead of 66 or the other way around God is still able to speak to them. It isn’t as though we are talking about two completely different Scriptures that don’t say the same thing. My point in all of this is simply to say that God has always been able to accomplish His plan with “ordinary” men no matter what they do or understand. They have never been perfect or infallible and frankly God is big enough to handle that and make it work.