Some of you may have been waiting for this one to come around. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving it out. I mean, if I didn’t include it, I would be considered some sort of heretic or something. However, I will not go down the all-too-predictable road of throwing out words like “inerrancy”, “authoritative”, or “verbal-plenary inspiration” (that last one was just for kicks!). I am coming from a somewhat conservative viewpoint on the Scriptures, the details of which can be discussed later if you would like.
Instead, what I would like to discuss is the place of the Scriptures in corporate worship and the church at large. That is, its use. Perhaps we can begin with how we should not use the Scriptures (again, me being aware of the dangers of creating an opinion based on the negative side of an issue…I am open to being challenged here as always!).
We should not use the Scriptures…
As a trump card- Ever heard of the term “proof-texting”? This is what happens when someone (I’ve been guilty!) takes a passage or verse out of its context to support his or her own beliefs. Anyone could do this to justify a thousand different behaviors. So, instead of this, we will consult the Bible as a whole and try to let it be what it is.
As a sword to wield (hold on hear me out!)- Ok, yes…the Word is called a sword. I know. But, consider this thought: If it is sharper than any double-edged sword, do we really need to stab people with all of our might? Our motivation is to love always. When the Sword cuts people (notice, the Word does the cutting, not us!) we should grieve along with them in the pain and be prepared to apply the healing balm of mercy and grace.
I had a conversation with a former classmate once and as we were talking about the use of Scripture in sharing our faith, he insisted that we use the Bible to “poke holes” in the arguments of others and then “sweep in” with the truth of the Bible. While I understand that his statement was made with a heart that desires to see people come to trust Jesus, does it not sound combative? May I suggest that the “holes” that he was referring to need not be poked but merely exposed. A doctor does not show his patient that he needs care by exacerbating his symptoms. He gives proofs. He shows x-rays. He runs diagnostics. The Bible is not some sort of spiritual drill and wood putty combo. It is a tool used by the Holy Spirit to grip us at our deepest level. Consider the famous passage with maybe a fresh perspective: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (emphasis mine)
As an instruction manual- Bible=Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Anyone heard this before? Again, I understand the heart behind such a statement, but, to me, it is more indicative of this weird Christian culture desire to be cute rather than accurate. If it is truly an instruction manual, it is quite possibly the most poorly written one in the world (although there are some handy maps at the back if you are interested in knowing how to be a missionary and get shipwrecked and thrown in prison.) However, there is a mindset that states that if the Bible is not explicit in any given area, such a thing is not permissible. Much of the New Testament is descriptive and not prescriptive. While there is value in the descriptions, they are not necessarily binding in how we should conduct ourselves, nor are they complete. While this must be navigated carefully, we are seeking to be a community of faith influenced by these great stories, submissive to the commands of Jesus, but not restricted by what is not mentioned. (more on this later)
As an inspired translation- Oh my, the translation battle. We, at the Gallery, use the NIV. It’s a decent translation. I personally try to use as many translations as possible when I study the Scriptures. It is important to remember that a translation is just that…a translation (although, you could also argue that a translation is also an interpretation). We are grateful that the Scriptures have been preserved and we can hear them in our language. No translation is inspired or more holy. We are more concerned with trying to live out the ideas presented and not in the minutia. Please, no comments about translations or arguing about which one is best (assuming anyone is reading this).
So how will we use the Bible? The same way many others have before us. We will read it together. We will sing it together. We will examine it together. We will question it together. We will study it together. We will seek to obey it together. We will let it read us rather than just the other way around. (there is a theme, here!)
We will always understand that the Bible has borrowed authority. God is the one with the authority.
These words may be challenging to your thoughts of Scripture. They have been for me. What do you think? I would love your feedback, friends.