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Bible Engagement Blog


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Bible Engagement Workshop

I wear two hats! My day job is serving as the President of Scripture Union Canada, and on the side, I also serve as the National Director of SGM Canada.

Me wearing two hats is a benefit to both ministries. Both SU and SGM are Bible agencies, so there are synergies that can be harnessed for mutual benefit. One area of collaboration is Bible engagement advocacy. We know, and we’ve seen, how we’re stronger together when we work together to promote connections with Jesus and His Story.

SGM’s latest initiative is a vlog called the Bible Engagement Workshop. The Bible Engagement Workshop is a free eLearning hub where people anywhere and everywhere are trained in Bible engagement. The video blogs take the form of PowerPoint presentations that are ±13 minutes long. Their meaty content cuts the fat and chews the fact!

The Bible Engagement Workshop was developed because 95% of Christians say they’ve never been taught how to engage with the Bible. When SGM heard this alarming statistic, they wondered what they could do to help. The result, a new virtual workshop every month where participants are equipped to receive, reflect, remember and respond to the Bible.

SGM Canada is hoping and praying that the workshops will help cultivate change. They want to see closed Bibles open. They want Christians to pick up their Bibles and apply the principles and practices that are taught in the workshops. And they’re dreaming about the day when most Christians will meet with God every day in and through dynamic encounters with the Word.

The Bible Engagement Workshop launches today! So, joining together for combined effect, with simulated balloons and fireworks, the Bible Engagement Blog is announcing the inauguration of the Bible Engagement Workshop!

Take some time to check it out. This is a tremendous resource for individuals, families, small groups, local churches, and schools. You can access the workshops directly through Loom, or at www.bibleengagementworkshop.com

Listen to a featured video:

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Why Pray Scripture?

Many people pray. Many people pray biblically informed prayers. Praying, or praying biblically informed prayers is different from praying Scripture.

Every Christian should pray Scripture. Unfortunately, most Christians, while they know how to pray, don’t know how to pray Scripture.

Praying Scripture is using God’s Word directly to inform and form the content of prayer. It’s praying the Scriptures word for word, praying the Scriptures word for word along with reflection on the words, or praying the themes of a Scripture passage in a manner that sticks close to the text. According to Christian spirituality professor, Evan Howard, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.”

Here are ten reasons why we should pray Scripture:

  1. Jesus prayed Scripture.

When Jesus was dying on the cross He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46. It’s a direct quote from Psalm 22:1 and illustrates how Jesus obviously read, understood and prayed Scripture as it related to His situation or circumstance.

  1. The Israelites and early Church prayed Scripture.

The people of the Old and New Testament times prayed Scripture and meaningfully applied it to their contexts (e.g. Nehemiah 9:5-37, Acts 4:24-26).

  1. It enables us to enter into the Story.

Praying Scripture personalizes the Word. When we personalize the Word, His Story becomes our story. As this happens, we find our parts in the drama which in turn enables us to act out the roles designed for our lives.

  1. It focuses the mind and heart.

Praying Scripture changes us. It captures our imagination, forms our identities, directs our desires, and shapes our habits. When we pray Scripture, we don’t have to ask, “What should I pray for next?” or “What words should I use?”

  1. It provides meaningful content for prayer.

Sometimes our prayers are trivial or trite – the same tired ritualistic phrases. Praying the same old prayers the same old way mummifies prayer. When we pray Scripture, it provides substance, form, and a wide range of subject matter for our prayers.

  1. It strengthens interaction with the Scriptures.

Reading Scripture and praying Scripture go hand in hand. Bible reading enables us to pray more vividly and expressively. The more you pray Scripture the more you’ll read Scripture, and the more you read Scripture the more you’ll pray Scripture. Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology Andy Naselli says, “But if we pray Scripture as we read through the Bible, that will force us to pray about a rich variety of issues in scriptural proportion.”

  1. It cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers.

To pray Scripture we must read and reflect on Scripture. The process of reading and reflecting on Scripture cultivates breadth and depth in our prayers. Left to ourselves, our prayers have a narrow focus, but the Scriptures open us up to many things we can and should be praying. As author and teacher, John Piper reminds us, “If we don’t form the habit of praying the Scriptures, our prayers … eventually revolve entirely around our immediate private concerns, rather than God’s larger purposes.”

  1. It kindles love for Jesus.

Jesus is the theme of the Bible. Praying Scripture draws us closer to Jesus. Love is fostered by proximity. The nearer we get to Jesus, the more we love Him. Ray Ortlund says, “I have learned to see the Bible as kindling for a holy fire. Scripture is meant to inform us, and thus to inflame us. It is meant to illuminate our thoughts of God, and thus to ignite our affections for God.”

  1. It aids Scripture memorization.

Praying Scripture involves repetition. Repetition is essential for memorization. As we pray God’s Word back to Him, it helps lodge His Word in our hearts and minds.

  1. It aligns us with God’s will.

We can’t go wrong when we pray Scripture. Praying Scripture is praying truth and praying truth unites our hearts with God’s heart. Therefore, when we pray Scripture we won’t be self-deceived because Scripture brings us in line with God’s will.

Are you in a prayer rut? Do your prayers lack life? Do you have the best of intentions to pray, then when you get started, your mind wanders or you fall asleep? You can pray for hours if you pray Scripture. Open your Bible to the Psalms, start reading, pause at each verse, engage your sanctified imagination, pray the verses back to God, and without fail, you will pray dynamically and productively.

Recommended Resource: The Abide Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2020. [This Bible includes prompts or sidebars to help you pray Scripture]

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic

Wishes do come true! For years I’ve longed to see the unadulterated and unabridged Scriptures in a comic form. Now, word for word according to the New International Version, what I yearned for is finally here!

When I received a pre-publication copy of the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic from Simon Amadeus Pillario, I wondered if it would live up to my expectations. Would it accurately depict the historical, geographical and social realities of what the German form critics refer to as the sitz im leben (life setting)? Would it incorporate what’s been gleaned from archeological discoveries? Would it invite, rather than stifle, sanctified imagination? Would the style of the illustrations be among the best in the world and appeal to all age groups and different cultures? And, would the format highlight the narrative nature of the Scriptures?

Delightfully, the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic does most of the things I’d hoped it would do. The exception is that it’s not deemed suitable for children. Each book has age advisory ratings, most of them 12+. While I appreciate the fact that it stays graphically true to the sin, corruption and depravity that is part of the Story, it sadly means that 26% of the world’s population (those under 15 years of age) don’t get to benefit from this tremendous publication.

Forgive me for this brief side-note concerning children, but I’m both a Bible engagement and a children’s ministry guy who is hoping that the fabulous creativity that’s been invested into this Bible comic will be harnessed to help children engage with the Bible. Maybe suitable extracts could be compiled with children in mind. On the other hand, maybe ways could be devised to cut and paste the comic so that parents, educators and those who minister to children could select age-appropriate sections in much the same way as we select age-appropriate readings from text-only Bibles.

Moving on. When I read the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic I was totally captivated. I’m a veteran Bible reader, yet the visuals triggered reflections and insights that opened my heart and mind in ways that enabled the Word to impact me in fresh ways. And more, it made it easier for me to enter into the drama, find my part in it, and see myself doing what God wants me to do.

In a nutshell, the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic is the Bible in 2D! Do you need to see in order to remember and learn? This Bible comic book brings imagination into focus!

Available at:

https://www.wordforwordbiblecomic.com/buy

Visit Simon’s Blog:

https://www.wordforwordbiblecomic.com/blog

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Authority of the Bible

Bible engagement rests on the belief that there should be an unswerving acknowledgement and commitment to the centrality and authority of the Bible.

The Bible is authoritative because all authority belongs to God and is of God. In the Old Testament, the Father exercises authority through the creation of all that is, through His dealings with His people, and through many significant events. In the New Testament, Christ exercises and claims all authority (cf. Matthew 28:18).

Furthermore, the Bible is authoritative because God speaks and sustains His Word. Bible engagement rests on the understanding that the Spirit gives life to the Word and does so by enabling the reader or listener to hear the Word and live it out.

As the Anglican theologian, N. T. Wright says, It is enormously important that we see the role of scripture not simply as being to provide true information about, or even an accurate running commentary upon, the work of God in salvation and new creation, but as taking an active part within that ongoing purpose.”

A central insight of the Reformation is that God is the absolute authority. If God is the absolute authority then the Bible can’t contend for that authority. How then, if the authority of the Bible cannot be considered absolute, should its authority be understood? The answer to this question, according to Wright, is that the authority of Scripture is “delegated or mediated … from that which God himself possesses.” So when we use the phrase “the authority of the Bible,” it can only make sense if it’s a shorthand for “the authority of … God exercised … through Scripture.”

So what? Why is the authority of the Bible important? For many reasons. One reason is that the purpose or goal of authority is to bring us to a place of liberty – to set us free so that we come to know fullness of life in Christ Jesus (cf. John 10:10). God expresses His authority through judging and condemning sin in the world in a way that will save and sanctify people. His intent is to redeem and remake the world, through the sovereign exercise of His power and love, so that we can be fully human.

Scripture texts like Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and Hebrews 4:12 indicate that the Bible is an integral component in God’s plan, i.e., it’s part of the means by which God directs the process of salvation and sanctification. Wright says that the Bible “is designed to function through human beings, through the church, through people who, living still by the Spirit, have their life moulded by this Spirit-inspired book.”

In recognizing that the Bible is designed to function through us, then the exercise of God’s authority to make us fully human is not an end in itself. God saves and sanctifies us for a purpose. Our purpose is to do what Jesus did (cf. John 20:21). We are to go into the world to speak and enact His will. The Great Commandment (cf. Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), in particular, serve to direct us to these ends.

All told, Bible engagement can only happen when we submit our authority to God’s authority. It’s hypocrisy to affirm the authority of the Scriptures but functionally disobey them in our everyday lives. We cannot and must not usurp God’s authority by replacing it with self-sovereignty. Bible engagement can’t happen if we do not surrender our inclination to control God. Quite simply, when we engage with the Word we cannot and should not try to fit God into our preconceived ideas of what He should be like or what He should do.

The Bible is not an end in itself. God is God – we must receive His Word as people under His authority and act on it in ways that bring honour and glory to Him. That’s not to say that coming under the authority of God and His Word is a fait accompli for most of us. Oxford academic director Ida Glaser observes that “In fact, none of us starts by accepting God’s revelation in Christ or in the Bible … we need God to lead us to this understanding and he leads us all in different ways.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Audio-book

NEW RELEASE!

The practical handbook Bible Engagement Basics is now available as a FREE audio-book.

Bible Engagement Basics is a practical, accessible introduction to the Bible that’s full of creative ideas and suggestions for connecting and growing in one’s interaction with the Word. This go-to book helps and encourages thousands of people around the world to meet with Jesus and live in harmony with His Story.

While many people are benefitting from Bible Engagement Basics, many aren’t because even though they may love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve recorded Bible Engagement Basics as an audio-book. It provides a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading.

Another reason why Bible Engagement Basics is made available as an audio-book is because around 30 percent of the population is made up of auditory learners. With Bible Engagement Basics available as an audio-book, it makes the book more accessible to more people.

Printed book http://scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-adults/bible-engagement-basics

E-book https://www.amazon.ca/Bible-Engagement-Basics-Lawson-Murray-ebook/dp/B079B77Y72 

Audio-book https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc05awL7Onk&feature=youtu.be

Click on the link below to listen to the audio version of the chapter about engaging children with the Bible.

Bible Engagement Basics

Lawson W. Murray

© 2017 by Scripture Union

ISBN 978-0-9951694-1-8


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Naming the Book

Sometime during the Middle Ages, the collection of 66 books that we generally refer to as the Bible was named biblia sacra (holy books). When the King James Version was compiled in 1611, the publishers named it The Holy Bible. Since then there have been hundreds of different titles for the Book of books.

Publishers have been very creative in naming the Book. Broadly speaking, an English Bible is named by translation (e.g. NIV, ESV, NKJV), type (e.g. Matthew Henry Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible), audience (e.g. Baby’s First Bible, The Action Bible), or event (e.g. Family Devotional Bible, Preaching Bible). A possible fifth category of names for the Book could be those that are unusual (e.g. Waterproof Bible, Klingon Bible).

Why does the Book have so many different names? Maybe because its compilation includes so many different genres of literature. Maybe because it’s a book that’s unlike any other book. Or maybe because, with so many different people involved in its publication, there are a variety of opinions as to what the title should be.

The essence of a book is often the main factor that informs the naming of a book. Many English translations of the Book use the word Bible in the title because it comes from the Greek word biblos (βίβλος) meaning book. Biblos is used about 10 times in the New Testament. The first writer to refer to the Old and New Testaments together as the Bible was Chrysostom in 223 AD when he called the two testaments ta biblia (the books).

A good title for a book usually provides a hint about the story. When the publishers of the KJV used the word holy in the title they obviously wanted to communicate to potential readers that the story is sacred, sanctified and hallowed. Another meaning for holy is “set apart.” The KJV title, therefore, indicates that the Book is unlike any other book because the author is God (who is set apart from us).

Book titles frequently include keywords describing the most important thing, person or idea in the book. If I were naming the Book, I wouldn’t use the word holy or study in the title (two of the most commonly used words) because the fact that the Book is holy and should be studied aren’t the most important things about it. The most important thing about the Book is that, from beginning to end, it’s all about a person – Jesus Christ. For this reason, my favourite title for the Book, of all existing titles, is The Jesus Bible.

What’s your favourite title for the Book? The title you choose says something about who you are. If your favourite title is the Justice Bible, I suspect you’re passionate about setting things right. If it’s The Message, you probably value God’s Word in an easily understood format. Or if it’s The Sportsman’s Bible, you’re more than likely an outdoor enthusiast who likes fishing or hunting.

George Eliot said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” While the title of the Book is important, what’s more important is that we don’t prejudge the worth or value of the Book by its name. When all is said and done, what really counts is engaging with the Book. For unlike any other book, when you open the Book, regardless of its title, it wants you to engage with it so that it can engage with you!

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Helping the 95%

Many Christians don’t engage with the Bible because they don’t know how to. According to Dr. Phil Collins, Center for Scripture Engagement, Taylor University, “Ninety-five percent of Christians say they have never been taught how to engage Scripture.”

That’s an alarming statistic. Alarming because it indicates a dramatic failure by teachers and pastors to equip Christians at the most basic level of spiritual formation.

In fairness to teachers and pastors, they usually know a few reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement and sometimes share these approaches with their congregations. Unfortunately, many pastors know very little about non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches. This is significant because most Christians, even in literate societies, need to be taught non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement.

Helping the 95% begins with the recognition that everyone is unique and engage with the Bible in diverse ways. That’s because our brains are wired differently. Right-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more creative and artistic ways and left-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more analytical and methodical ways.

Simply telling the 95% they should engage with the Bible through reading based methods alone is grossly inadequate. Bible engagement is effective when it’s geared to a person’s governing learning style. If the 95% are going to engage Scripture well they must be taught approaches utilizing visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic styles of learning.

If you know how to do it, the rudimentary principles and practices of how to engage Scripture can be taught in a 3-hour workshop. However, this isn’t happening because most pastors and teachers don’t know how to teach others how to engage Scripture.

To address this problem, Scripture Union published Bible Engagement Basics, a handbook that equips individuals and communities with biblical strategies, approaches, tools, and principles to engage with the Bible. If pastors and teachers read Chapter 2 of Bible Engagement Basics, they will be equipped with enough content to teach the 95% how to become Bible engagers.

Most of the 95% are oral preference learners. Oral preference learners learn by listening, talking, seeing, and doing. Interactive practical workshops are therefore the ideal environment for teaching the 95% how to engage Scripture.

Learning how to engage Scripture isn’t enough in and of itself. Bible engagement needs to be cultivated. This is challenging and requires ongoing individual support and encouragement. If, for example, there are several people in a congregation who thrive in an environment where they can engage with the Bible through dramatizing Scripture, then opportunities for doing this need to be created, resourced and sustained.

Helping the 95% is a massive undertaking and will never be accomplished if we don’t help each other. If someone knows how to engage the Bible through journaling, he/she should teach others. If someone knows how to engage the Bible using the Ignatian Method, he/she should teach others. Every one of us needs to play a part, even a small part, in helping someone else engage Scripture.

Will you help the 95%? The challenge facing the church isn’t Bible accessibility or distribution. The 95% have the Bible in multiple printed and online formats. The challenge is Bible engagement. The 95% need someone to teach them how to engage Scripture in a way that works well for them.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Abide Bible

Finally, a Bible engagement Bible! For years, I’ve wondered why there isn’t a Bible that incorporates suggestions to actively equip people, in a variety of ways, to connect with the Word and the One who is the Word. To say I’m excited is an understatement! I recently received that Bible in a green cloth-bound hardcover. A gift from my friend Phil Collins, the General Editor. It’s called The Abide Bible, and it was beautifully presented along with a journal and pen.

For as long as I can remember, pastors have been urging their congregations, “To study the Bible.” Bible publishers have supported this injunction with a proliferation of study Bibles. Now I love to study the Bible, as we should (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15), but Bible study shouldn’t be the only way Christians interact with the Bible. We should employ more than our intellect to meet with God in and through His Word (e.g. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:11, James 1:22). Our heads, hearts and bodies should engage with the Scriptures. Study without reflection or reflection without application results in a Bible engagement malfunction. To connect adequately with the Bible we must read, reflect, and respond to God’s Word.

The practice of reading the Bible is different from what’s required to reflect or respond to the Bible. To engage fully with the Bible we must learn a range of Bible engagement practices. Most Christians say they’ve never been taught how to engage with the Bible. If you’re one of those Christians, then The Abide Bible may be the best Bible for you. That’s because The Abide Bible, as it says on the inside front cover, has “prompts or sidebars designed to help you engage passages and deepen your understanding and experience of God’s Word.”

To assist people in experiencing God’s Word The Abide Bible incorporates five Bible engagement practices: contemplation, journaling, picture it, praying Scripture and engaging through art. To incorporate these five practices in a Bible, in my view, is revolutionary!

A study Bible, by virtue of its name, says, “This is for students.” The Abide Bible, by virtue of its name, says, “This is for people who want to sojourn with the Lord using a variety of senses and connections.”

The Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement contributors who collaborated on the development of the materials for The Abide Bible have, through the prompts and sidebars, made the Bible more accessible to more people. No two people will engage with the Bible in the same way. There are multiple learning styles and multiple intelligences. The Abide Bible makes it easier for spatial and linguistic learners to engage with the Scriptures. If words, feelings, pictures, sanctified imagination, conversations or images help you read/hear the Word and meet with God, then I strongly recommend The Abide Bible for consideration.

Am I a little bit biased when it comes to endorsing The Abide Bible? Yes. I’m unashamedly a Bible engagement guy who has written a book and teaches Bible engagement classes to help people connect with God through contemplating, journaling, picturing, praying, engaging art and other practices as a means to dwell in the Word. I also became a fan of The Abide Bible when I opened the presentation page and saw Psalm 119:105 – it’s the theme text for Scripture Union Canada, the agency where I serve as President. All that to say that you should check it out for yourself at https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/abidebible/

The Abide Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement After COVID-19

I’ve recently been thinking about what happens after COVID-19. When the lockdown ends, how should churches and ministries help people connect with Jesus and His Word? Here are five brief thoughts about Bible engagement after COVID-19:

1. Building trust with people.

The pandemic has stirred up nervousness and anxiety. People are more concerned than usual about what they can or can’t do and who they can or can’t trust. Innate suspicions about the Bible may therefore increase. The big challenge on the backend of the virus will be to earn the trust of not-yet Christians. This won’t happen overnight. It will be mainly through building relational trust that we’ll get opportunities to share the Word.

2. Reconfiguring the presentation of the Bible.

Both community and technology need to be prioritized. After COVID-19, people will be looking to personalize truth through online means. The ways in which we invite participation and interaction with the Bible will be critical to successful connections being made. We must invite people to engage their character, identity and imagination with the Bible. As author Thomas Hohstadt suggests, to do this “We must risk transcending the environment we’re in … turning our backs on the pious paraphrases of the past … separating the mutable from the immutable.”

3. Interactive communities.

Interactivity will be highly valued after the pandemic, but with some social distancing. After COVID-19, we’ll be living in a new age of connectivity where we’ll network online in relationally interdependent frameworks in which there is a participatory flow of imaginative reason and metaphor. Strategies or approaches to Bible engagement after the pandemic should thus facilitate the means to invite and cultivate ways for individuals to interact with the Bible and each other as virtual communities.

4. New media or technology.

People need to get up close and personal with the Bible when they use new media or technology. We must continue exploring and creating innovative online ways to connect people with the Bible. Flexible use of time and space is required that will reach people anywhere, at any time, and every way. High-tech advancements are not an option, they’re a necessity. We must upgrade the technology harnessed to connect people during COVID-19 to facilitate easier, faster, immersive connections.

5. “To infinity … and beyond.”

Buzz Lightyear’s classic line, “To infinity … and beyond” reminds us that there are no limits. As germophobes and risk-averse people retreat to the safety of their homes, we must find ways to connect them effectively with the Scriptures. In the changed world after COVID-19 we’ll need to be smarter at how we engage people with the Bible. How can we enhance connectivity with God’s Story through virtual reality or other means? What methods will connect people living in an uncertain world with the certainty of the Word? While we don’t have all the answers, God will reveal them to us. So let’s explore every option for connecting people with Jesus and His Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Sola Scriptura or Solo Scriptura?

“All Scripture is God-breathed …” 2 Timothy 3:16. The inspiration of Scripture should never be a matter of dispute among Christians, but are the Scriptures the only source for theology?

Some Christians (mainly Catholics) insist that both Scripture and church tradition, as given by the Holy Spirit, are the source for theology. Others (mainly Anabaptists and Quakers) insist that Scripture, and the Holy Spirit speaking new revelation to the individual, are the source for theology. Yet another group of Christians (mainly Evangelicals) insist that the Bible alone, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is the source for theology.

Each group of Christians cites the work of the Holy Spirit to legitimize their position, yet each of the views is problematic. When it’s assumed that God is the author of both Scripture and tradition equally, what happens when tradition clashes with or contradicts what the Bible says? When it’s assumed that an internal voice along with Scripture is authoritative, what happens when the internal voice says something the Bible doesn’t say? And when it’s assumed that there’s no authority other than the Bible, what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says?

In considering the last question, it’s helpful to know that Protestant reformers made a distinction between the principles of “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone) and “nuda Scriptura” (bare Scripture). “Sola Scriptura” has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as the Christian’s supreme authority in all spiritual matters. “Nuda Scriptura” is the idea that the Bible is the Christian’s only theological authority in all spiritual matters. The best transliteration for “nuda Scriptura” today is “solo Scriptura” (just me and my Bible).

The distinction between “sola Scriptura” and “solo Scriptura” is important. The two are not the same and shouldn’t be equated. The emphasis in “sola Scriptura” is on theology being ultimately subject to the Scriptures. The emphasis in “solo Scriptura” is narrower. It gives prominence to personal interpretation removed from the Church.

“Solo Scriptura” naturally appeals to people who are suspicious of authority or individualistically inclined. The revivalist preacher Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) captured the essence of “solo Scriptura” when he said, “I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me, and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.”

People are in error if they outright reject the theological insights of others in favour of their own interpretations. They’re also dangerous and divisive. Dangerous because “solo Scriptura” subjects theology to the whims and frailty of subjectivism, and divisive because “solo Scriptura” has no court of appeal for theological disagreements.

“Sola Scriptura”, on the other hand, depends on a communal reading of the Scriptures. It does this by interacting with the theological insights and understanding of Christians past and present. No man or woman is an island to himself or herself. “Sola scriptura” recognizes that while Scripture is the final authority to judge Christian doctrine and practice, it’s not the only resource for theology. That is, “sola Scriptura” identifies that the core convictions of the Church, as long as they don’t compete with or supplement the Scriptures, are essential resources for biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and interdenominational dialogue.

So what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says? While there are no easy answers, it’s naïve to think that just me and my Bible is more than enough. We need one another. We need, with the Scriptures as the primary authority, to tap into the exegetical insights, doctrinal clarity, and pastoral perceptions of Christians through the ages.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5