JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


Leave a comment

Scripture and the Authority of God

In Scripture and the Authority of God, N. T. Wright argues for the authority of Scripture which “is really a shorthand for ‘the authority of God exercised through scripture’; and God’s authority is not merely his right to control and order the church, but his sovereign power, exercised in and through Jesus and the Spirit, to bring all things in heaven and on earth into subjection to his judging and healing rule.”

Scripture and the Authority of God is a timely read for anyone seeking to understand the authority of Scripture as it relates to culture, history, tradition, reason and experience. To spike your curiosity, here are some quotable gems:

Reading and studying scripture has been seen as central to how we are to grow in the love of God; how we come to understand God and his truth more fully; and how we can develop the moral muscle to live in accordance with the gospel of Jesus even when everything seems to be pulling the other way.

The authority of scripture … can only have any Christian meaning if we are referring to scripture’s authority in a delegated or mediated sense from that which God himself possesses, and that which Jesus possesses as the risen Lord and Son of God, the Emmanuel.

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.

Scripture is there to be a means of God’s action in and through us – which will include, but go far beyond, the mere conveying of information.

I cannot conceive of daily communion with God without scripture at its centre.

Authority, particularly when we locate it within the notion of God’s kingdom … is the sovereign rule of God sweeping through creation to judge and to heal. It is the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ, putting sin to death and launching new creation. It is the fresh, bracing and energizing wind of the Spirit.

Because all human beings including devout Christians are prey to serious and multi-layered self-deception, including in their traditions and their reasoning, that ‘authority’ is needed in the first place.

We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from, where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.

Scripture’s authority is thus seen to best advantage in its formation of the mind of the church, and its stiffening of our resolve, as we work to implement the resurrection of Jesus, and so to anticipate the day when God will make all things new, and justice, joy and peace will triumph.

‘The authority of scripture’ refers not least to God’s work through scripture to reveal Jesus, to speak in life-changing power to the hearts and minds of individuals, and to transform them by the Spirit’s healing love.

The Bible itself offers a model for its own reading, which involves knowing where we are within the overall drama and what is appropriate within each act.

It is vital that we understand scripture, and our relation to it, in terms of some kind of overarching narrative which makes sense of the texts. We cannot reduce scripture to a set of ‘timeless truths’ on the one hand, or to being merely the fuel for devotions on the other, without being deeply disloyal, at a structural level, to scripture itself.

We must be committed to a totally contextual reading of scripture. Each word must be understood within its own verse, each verse within its own chapter, each chapter within its own book, and each book within its own historical, cultural and indeed canonical setting.

It is not simply the Bible’s context that we must understand … it is equally important that we understand and appreciate our own, and the way it predisposes us to highlight some things in the Bible and quietly ignore others.

A contextual reading is in fact an incarnational reading of scripture, paying attention to the full humanity both of the text and of its reader.

The various crises in the Western church of our day – decline in numbers and resources, moral dilemmas, internal division, failure to present the gospel coherently to a new generation – all these and more should drive us to pray for scripture to be given its head once more, for teachers and preachers who can open the Bible in the power of the Spirit, to give the church the energy and direction it needs for its mission and renew it in its love for God; and above all, for God’s word to do its work in the world.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


2 Comments

A High View of Scripture

It seems like the milk of therapeutic Christianity is today’s food of choice. If some of the posts on the internet are anything to go by, the Bible is little more than a depository for “name it and claim it” texts. You don’t have to visit too many Christian Facebook groups to discover people are slicing and dicing the Bible to fit their wants and desires or parsing passages to accommodate their views. The dominant hermeneutic seems to be governed by “what this means to me” and “what makes me feel good”. And some of the popular posts, the ones that get hundreds of “Amen’s”, are the ones that bolster flagging spirits with promises of health and wealth.

At a time when the Bible seems to be relegated to something less than it is, God’s people should affirm that it isn’t a self-help book and it’s more than a collection of inspirational verses. It’s the Book of books. Unlike every other book, the Bible is God given with (metaphorically speaking) His fingerprints all over it. And as such, it is “useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way” 2 Timothy 3:16 (Msg).

So here’s to developing and holding a high view of Scripture – to giving Scripture the primary place in informing and directing all that we say and do.

But what does a high view of Scripture look like? And how do we develop it? For starters, it involves thought and action – a lifetime of training our minds to die to cultural, religious and other preconceptions that hinder our understanding of who God is and what He’s done for us.

Here’s the rub: Five minutes a day in the Word, doesn’t cut it. A high view of Scripture requires intellectual labour. To dine on meat we must wrestle with the text and battle against our own laziness. And that’s not easy. We need to be constantly adjusting and straightening out our views as we reflect on the Scriptures. Which doesn’t happen overnight. Developing a high view of Scripture takes years of obedience; of submitting to the Holy Spirit, of not imposing our initial views on the Word, of striving to live with what we don’t understand or what makes us uncomfortable.

That’s not to say that a high view of Scripture is something developed with me, myself and I. Far from it. The regular engagement with Scripture in the private realm must be in tandem with and informed by the church. That is, our views of Scripture should be judged and remade in the context of the community of faith as it draws on the collective wisdom and understanding that’s gleaned from both the past and present study of the Word.

Ultimately, a high view of Scripture is one that submits itself to God’s authority as He exercises it in and through the Scriptures. It’s surrendering our inclination to control God. It’s recognizing that we cannot and should not try to fit Him into our inflexible boxes of what we think He should be like or expect Him to do. And it’s the recognition that the Bible is not an end in itself – God is God and we must live under His authority in ways that bring honour and glory to Him.

Finally, let’s remember that when we invest ourselves in the study of the Scriptures, it’s worth every ounce of effort. The benefits are the renewing of the mind; a transformation wherein God fills us with faith and hope and the capacity to love others as Christ loved us. Stated succinctly, the payback for developing and holding a high view of Scripture is that “through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” 2 Timothy 3:17 (Msg).

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Breathe Scripture

I wonder what 16th Century Protestants would think of today’s church if they could drop in for a visit. Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry during the Reformation and many fought and died for the Bible to be pre-eminent over church traditions or practices that were un-biblical or extra-biblical. In varying degrees it seems like something of the Sola Scriptura focus has been lost in the 21st Century Church. While the Church generally uses the Bible to provide an underpinning for teaching and life instruction, the Scriptures aren’t always the primary authority in directing all we say and do.                                                                              

So why should the Scriptures be interwoven into everything we say and do in the local church? The REVEAL study, conducted by Willow Creek Community Church (USA), suggests one exceptionally good reason – to nurture spiritual maturity.

In the REVEAL study book, MOVE: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, Hawkins and Parkinson say that embedding the Bible in everything is one of the top four practices of disciple-making churches. In fact the top five percent of churches in the REVEAL study who successfully nurtured spiritual maturity were churches who “breathed Scripture”. When churches breathe Scripture they’re asking, “What does the Bible have to say about that?” The answers to this question inform and direct every activity of the church.

Breathing Scripture . . . how many churches apply the Bible to everything they say and do? Looking at some of the things done, or not done in our churches, I wonder . . .

Is your church breathing Scripture? If not, maybe it’s time to take up the ancient rally cry of Sola Scriptura. David’s oft repeated proclamation was, “I have chosen your precepts” Psalm 119:173 (NIV). Pray that the church in our day will come to be known for its total allegiance to the Scriptures.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012