"When you come to Scripture, you can't just find some text and come up with some interpretation that no one has ever thought of before and have a plausible argument that it's true. There's a saying that I like to quote: "All that's old might not be gold, but if it's new it can't be true" -- and when it comes to Scripture that's certainly true. If you read Scripture and you find something that after 2,000 years no one has ever thought of until you came along, you know it's wrong."
The passage quoted above from an Orthodox blog that I sometimes visit, is an example of the kind of Orthodoxy (forgive me for saying this) that I abhor. It essentially says nothing about the Word of God, but says a lot to insult the intelligence and undermine the dignity of a Christian, not to mention what it does to project to outsiders the impression that Orthodoxy is monolothic, dogmatic, and priest-ridden.
The same blog also linked to Fr Stephen's excellent post on the Word of God which I linked to under the title The Word of God, but on this blog the link took a characteristically belligerent tone in the title chosen, What Jesus is… and the Bible ain't. I supposed it's part of the author's style to say things like that, but to me, it seems disrespectful.
In teaching such things as, "If you read Scripture and you find something that after 2,000 years no one has ever thought of until you came along, you know it's wrong," it cuts off right at the start the confidence that a believer should have in his ability to stand on his own two feet by God's grace, and implies that only "the Church," whoever that is supposed to mean, can rightly interpret scripture. But if that were true, why are we anointed (chrismated) for the gift of the Holy Spirit?
I thank God that the Greek priests who taught me as I was growing in Orthodoxy did not have this attitude or ever say such things to me. Instead, they encouraged me to read the Bible constantly, to attend liturgy regularly, to make regular confessions and seek counsel when needed, and to learn the true meaning of scripture by living out its words in my life, not just by sitting alone and thinking without doing. Sometimes I wonder if that's not what some church authorities do, thinking without doing, that they should come up with such distortions of Orthodoxy.
I know where the priest who authored the passage quoted is coming from, but he needn't exert himself or his and the Church's authority in this way, but instead lead others to Christ and to the true faith by living a life in Christ and seeking the Kingdom first.
Heresy has a way of destroying itself without any help from us, according to one of my teachers, Archimandrite Vasileios.
I am not the first or the only one to interpret the scriptures the way I do, even when an application I make is not one that is shared by many others or can be found in a "church father." To declare that God cannot reveal to "one of the least of these" a meaning or an application of scripture that is unique and new is to muzzle the gift of prophecy, and to stifle that which the Holy Spirit teaches us personally and often individually, as He sculpts us into the shape of the image He created us to be. "Do not quench the smoking flax."
What I am asserting is not heresy, but the very way of discipleship to the Lord Jesus. Yes, "by their fruits you will know them," but this applies to clergy as well as laity in the Church. What we find who study the scriptures "with the fear of God, with faith and love," even without a priest standing behind us looking over our shoulders, is that the Holy Spirit teaches one and the same thing to us and to those who came before, because He always points to Jesus, who is "the Author and Finisher of our faith," and the only Truth, yes, the only Christ.
I recently came across a screwball website that declares that the Church was not founded on the day of Pentecost but had its beginnings in the Old Testament, and the author gave eleven scriptural references to prove this. I looked at the references and they all made sense. I could see the point the author was making. Such things have been written even by Orthodox sometimes. There was nothing wrong with his reasoning. Yes, in some sense, the Church has existed since the call of Abraham, or even earlier, from Adam. But this, though it is a possible way of looking at the issue, is simply not how the Church has expressed itself from ancient times, in every place, and by all believers (as described by Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitory).
Where this website and its author went wrong, and very badly wrong, is in raising his opinion against the universal witness of the Church. This is the sort of thing that the priest whose passage I quote above is reacting against, but his reaction is just as damaging to the Body of Christ as is the error that he would oppose.
So heretics quote the Bible (to prove their opinions), and their opponents quote the Church Fathers (or worse yet, their own opinions which they attributed to the Fathers), but in the end this kind of confrontation does nothing but "destroy those who are listening."
Back to the issue of understanding the Bible, it's worth the risk to encourage the Christian people, who are called "a royal priesthood and a holy nation," to study the Word of God and seek to understand it by incorporating it into our lives, thereby all becoming theologians in Christ, as opposed to having it handed to us by "professional theologians" (I assert there is no such thing), and keeping us at the level of spiritual infants. The holy apostle Paul teaches us, that we are to be infants where sin is concerned, but adults in spiritual things, in understanding, in wisdom, in purity and self-control, in love for the brethren.
This is the dignity of the Christian.