Dealing with the Bible

The Bible (especially the New Testament) plays a big role among them. If one can discern a particular goal, then it is the effort to live as precisely as possible according to that which they understand as the Bible’s teaching. The Bible is for them the Word of God, which is however not verbally inspired (as if God dictated every word exactly), but which, despite the involvement of the author’s personality, clearly relays God’s will. In Biblical interpretation, they proceed somewhat literally and transfer selected Christian communities of the first century indiscriminately onto current situations (e.g., meeting daily). But other parts of Scripture which don’t fit into the group’s thought pattern (e.g., the church as a gathering of sinners, or “don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged”), are either interpreted allegorically, rejected as limited to ancient times, or talked to death. The challenges presented by difficult passages like Romans 14, e.g., that a community should lovingly tolerate its weaker members, are dismissed with the explanation: that was valid only for the problem of the Jewish Christians in ancient times, who still held on to the Jewish regulations about food and festivals, and is not transferable to current weaknesses. Aside from that, the prescriptions of the Jewish law are in the Old Testament, and therefore were only God’s will at that time. Current weaknesses are never God’s will and therefore should not be tolerated.

The Bible is seen as a type of oracle, which has an exact answer to every question. According to the group’s opinion, however, only those who are competent, i.e., responsible in the group, can properly understand and explain the Bible. Private knowledge and insight have no role in this context. People in the group have said, regarding a critic who used Biblical arguments against them, that “ … it would be better not to freely sell Bibles, so that nobody could twist their meaning.”

In other instances, even the words of Jesus are ridiculed: concerning the parable of the Good Shepherd, who leaves the other sheep in order to search for the lost sheep, the comment was made, e.g., that actually a real shepherd would never be so stupid so as to do such a thing. (The background of this discussion was: a young woman wanted to take a vacation with her sister, in order to help her with personal problems. She tried to justify her plan to the group using the parable of the Good Shepherd. The group insisted on her maintaining their fellowship and meeting daily with them, discounting the parable. It is, however, not customary in the group to concern oneself further with people who have not “taken the bait” on first contact. They’ve missed their chance. In no case should one neglect the group with its daily meetings for the sake of another person. For this reason, the parable had to be “weakened.”)

Individual books of the Bible are, to some extent, rejected or minimized. The group argued this way, e.g., in regard to the book Ecclesiastes (“Solomon the Preacher”): Solomon, to whom the book is ascribed, fell away later, thereby invalidating the book. And what would be the meaning of these sayings? In part, the group thinks that this book was taken up into the Bible in order to serve as a warning about apostasy. A clear criterion for this canon within a canon (the division of the Biblical books into meaningful and unimportant categories) is not directly stated. To the observer it seems that the standard of selection is the extent to which a book fits into the group’s lifestyle or thought patterns.

The Bible is the only acceptable authority. To justify an action, the group accepts only arguments which arise from the Bible. In discussing, e.g. the death penalty, argumentation is made only with the corresponding commandments of the Old Testament. A girl who spoke against this was rebuked, “ … that your argumentation arises from a humanistic ideal, but not from God’s Word. By means of your doctrine, you’re placing yourself above God’s Word.”

One encounters in the group forms of modern nonliteral Biblical exegesis (e.g. concerning the creation narrative) as well as literal application of the text onto contemporary conditions without regard for the context or the historical situations.

No texts produced by the group are known. Because already-observed argumentation by the group is largely uniform compared to newer reporting, it may be conjectured that there is a common training, which at times is at a fairly high theological level. According to experience, that would require written material. It is known that the group occasionally uses books written by authors outside the group which are critical toward churches. In the course of time, however, the group’s own formulations about certain topics have arisen in manuscript form. At the beginning of the 21st century, some texts were placed onto their homepage.