June 20, 2012
The Bible is King (Part 1)
Do we worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or the Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures?
Some might be surprised. Others will say, “I knew it all along. He’s not to be trusted. He’s slid so far down the slippery slope he’s a nanometer from Hell’s Gates.”
What am I talking about? The Bible. Sorry. The Holy Bible.
I don’t believe it’s inerrant.
Automatic handwriting under the control of the Holy Spirit? Ummmm… I don’t think so.
Scot McKnight notes:
…many Christians grow up with a view of Scripture that it is inerrant, and that means for them – and I speak here of the populist impression – that it is not only true but that is more or less magically true – true beyond its time, true when everything else says something else. Connected to this view of inerrancy is a view of Bible reading that takes a sound Christian idea called the perspicuity of Scripture, that the Bible’s message is clear to any able-minded Bible reader, and ratchets it up one notch so that the Bible reader thinks whatever I see in the Bible is what the Bible is saying. This is my way of saying that one’s interpretations of Scripture become as infallible as the Bible itself, and since everything interlocks, giving in one inch is the first step in apostasy.
A blogger I regularly read, wrote recently about the need to “Preach the Word.” The writer is of the inerrant camp Dr. McKnight speaks of above. This isn’t “The Word made flesh” of John 1. This isn’t “knowing nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” of the Apostle Paul. This is a systematic approach to the text of Scripture — often being preached line by line.
In 1 Samuel 8 (to which I often refer), God tells Samuel that the people aren’t rejecting Samuel in their desire for a king, they are rejecting God. Is it possibly that the same affections that animated the desire for a king in the people of Israel also animate the approach of many of us to the Bible?
The Bible is the King we worship. We can read it, discuss it, follow the parts we like in it (and ignore those we don’t), call others with different understandings of particular texts, “Heretics!” and be rather self-assured in our understanding. Much easier than being in relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who, though good, is not safe. (To paraphrase Mrs. Beaver’s response to a question about Aslan.)
Christian orthodoxy is Trinitarian. We worship the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. But often, as many others have suggested, it appears that we worship the Father, Son and Holy Scriptures.
When Jesus speaks of the Paraclete, the comforter, the one who comes along side in John 16, he says, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” [Emphasis added]
ln practice it appears that many believe “all the truth” is a reference to the Bible. It took four centuries to guide the church into that “truth," but now that we have “the truth," the perfect has come and the majority of the Holy Spirit’s work is done. (I’m being facetious.)
Christian Smith, in his thought provoking book, The Bible Made Impossible says this,
...on important matters the Bible apparently is not clear, consistent, and univocal enough to enable the best-intentioned, most highly skilled, believing readers to come to agreement as to what it teaches. **That is an empirical, historical, undeniable, and ever-present reality. It is, in fact, the single reality that has most shaped the organizational and cultural life of the Christian church, which now, particularly in the United States, exists in a state of massive fragmentation. ** The fact that Christians have worked for centuries and sometimes millennia to try to sort through these differences has not mattered. The fact that the Bible itself implores Christian believers to come to unity with one another and be of the same mind as one another, in view of their one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (John 17:23; Rom. 15:5; Eph. 4:2–5, 13; Phil. 2:2; Col. 3:12–15), has not mattered. The differences have not been overcome. And we have little reason to believe that they will be overcome anytime soon—whether or not we have an inerrant, harmonious, and perspicuous Bible. Appealing to the same scriptural texts, Christians remain deeply divided on most issues, often with intense fervor and sometimes hostility toward one another. [emphasis added] — Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible, Loc. 662–72 (Kindle Edition)
Dave Fitch, says this in his important book, The End of Evangelicalism,
“The inerrant Bible” in essence allows us to interpret the Bible to mean anything we want it to because after all we believe it to be “inerrant.” To exaggerate, we can say just about anything based on the Bible and then declare our allegiance to the Bible’s inerrancy. No one then can dare question our orthodoxy! In this way, “the inerrant Bible” functions once again as an empty-signifier. As a result, “the inerrant Bible” (and its variants) holds together a wide variety of institutions and churches that have very little in common in terms of their practice except of course the desire to self-identify as evangelical. — David E. Fitch, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology, Loc. 1818–22 (Kindle Edition)
Stay tuned for part 2.