Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Shroud and the Sufficiency of Christ

There is fresh enthusiasm surrounding the Shroud of Turin as it is on public display for the first time since 2000. As the Church of Rome's most noteworthy relic, the Shroud always gathers a lot of attention and has been hotly debated for generations. But the Shroud raises some serious questions not only about the errors of Roman Catholic doctrine and piety but also about evangelicalism's current fascination with the mystic and sensational.

Al Mohler has contributed an important article reflecting on these themes.

He writes,

The veneration of relics, still a part of popular piety among many Roman Catholics worldwide, is a grotesque distortion of biblical piety. The authority for our faith is not based on the evidence of relics, but on the fact that God has spoken to us in his Word. We are to trust the truthfulness of the Bible, not the existence of some relic, authentic or not.

Of course, most of these relics are not authentic — a fact easily determined by even a casual review of the story behind the item. Furthermore, the existence of contradictory claims, such as were made by competing villages with respect to the circumcision remains of Christ, demonstrates the embarrassing fact that these claims cannot be trusted.

The best evidence concerning the “Shroud of Turin” is that it dates to the medieval period and is probably an artifact of human artistry. In David Farley’s words, “a medieval fake.” Nevertheless, more than a million and a half people are lining up to see it, representing far more than historical curiosity. Farley also reports that relics associated with St. Therese of Lisieux went on a 28-city tour of Britain last year, also drawing huge crowds. Clearly, interest in and veneration of relics is not a thing of the past.

But is anyone hurt by the veneration of relics? "After all," one may reason, "if relics provide comfort and hope to the believer, isn't it a good thing?"

Mohler continues:

The “happiness and relief” found in these relics is empty and delusional. Christians are to find happiness and relief and infinitely more in Christ alone. The obsession with relics comes at a grave cost — the confusion of the Gospel, the marginalization of Christ, and the subversion of the Bible’s sufficiency.

The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has failed its members and betrayed the Gospel by embracing and allowing various forms of the veneration of relics, and this particular feature of Catholic piety and theology cannot be isolated from the larger project of Catholic doctrine.

Mohler's article, however, is not a critique of Roman Catholic piety alone. He helpfully calls evangelicals to attention concerning our own tendency toward relic spirituality.

Evangelical Christians observing the veneration of relics by Catholics are rightly horrified by the practice, but may be wrongly satisfied that nothing like this marks evangelical piety.

This temptation should be checked by the realization that many evangelicals fall prey to similar modes of thinking. Consider the attention given in recent days to the claim that remnants of Noah’s ark had been found on Mount Ararat in Turkey. A team from “Noah’s Ark Ministries International,” based in Korea, claimed that wood found on the mountain came from Noah’s ark — with a certainty of “99.9 percent.”

Archaeologists remain skeptical about the claims, and the controversy is likely to continue for some time. But Christians should not give too much attention to such claims in the first place. Our confidence that the account of the flood and Noah’s ark happened in space, time, and history is grounded in the Bible, not in remnants of ancient timber.

If archaeologists later agree that the fragments are indeed from Noah’s ark, that will be a matter of real interest to Christians, but this should add nothing to our confidence in the Bible. If the fragments are determined to be authentic or, most likely, if there is no consensus at all, this will not detract anything from the truthfulness, authority, and sufficiency of the Scriptures.

Our confidence is in the Bible as the Word of God, not in gopher wood.

Read the entire article HERE.

1 comment:

Annette said...

I enjoy reading your blog and I too wonder why Christians allow themselves to become wrapped up in the sensationalism of this shroud.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18