This last Sunday one of the main verses in our sermon study was Romans 15:4. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through endurance and through the encouragment of the Scriptures we might have hope.” So I thought it would be appropriate for us to spend some time thinking further about the nature of the Bible this week in my Pastoral journal entry. An important practice for those of us living here in San Diego is to be aware of what the various views are in our culture regarding the Bible so that we will best know how communicate the gospel.
In light of 21 century acadamia and our cultural experience here in San Diego, it seems there are few different views regarding the Bible. Here they are…
FOUR APPROACHES TO THE BIBLE
1. Mythological – The Bible is merely the work of human imagination and/or primitive confusion.
In this view the Bible is seen simply as a piece of ancient religious literature. If someone does not believe there is a God then this is where they usually fit. Hard core scientific naturalists think they have proven that God does not exist and that the Bible is nothing more than fanciful literature which will one day hopefully take its place alongside Homer’s Illiad and the Oddessy and the Judeo Christian God will take his place alongside all the other mythological deities.
2. Inspirational – The Bible contains the word of God but is a mix with the words of men.
In this view the Bible is seen in an evolutionary sense, God may be behind it and involved in its creation and message but it is carried, propogated, primarily manufactured by men’s own aspirations and postulations. Martin Kahler said the Bible is composed of histoire (history, what is actually true) and geschichte (myth, what is false) and our job is to “demythologize” the Bible. Followers of this viewpoint will generally say that the Bible can be beneficial in matters of faith and practice but not in history or science.
3. Existential – The Bible becomes the word of God.
In this view the Bible is a particular type of experience one can have when they read it. Karl Barth said when one encouters God through reading the Bible and it is at that time when the Bible becomes inspired or authoratative in the meaning made known to you at that time. On its own the Bible is just words on a page until you have a spritual encounter with it.
4. Inerrant – The Bible is in its entirety the word of God, without error.
In this view the Bible is God’s message to humans. The Bible is inspired or created by God, his message is communicated to men, and the divinie perfection of his message is superintended and preserved by him. In every book of the Bible there are two authors, God and the human writer. God communicates his message to each writer and each authors wrote down the message through their various styles and unique personalities.
This is last view, Inerrant, is the view we take at The Resolved Church. For a full treatment of the reasons why, consider reading this article I wrote on the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible: http://theresolved.com/downloads/inspiration.pdf And if you’d like to see a current ongoing conversations between myself and a gentleman who is currently wresting with this issue, check out the comments at a blog I contribute to occasionally called: www.blogogetics.com
The verse in Romans from Sunday is so helpful for us in understanding how the Bible functions for us. The phrase, “was written for our instruction” informs us that without the Bible we are uneducated. We are essentially lost. We may know of God’s existence, because as Romans 1:20 says, his eternal power and divine nature has been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…but if that was all we had, God would only be a distant, transcendent far off God to us…we would know very little of his nature and his love and we would not know the depth of his holiness and justice and how offensive our sin is to him, we would know nothing of his plan of salvation and of his son Jesus.
So first Scripture grounds us. It gives us a coherent worldview or framework from which to understand life and the God who made life and redeems life in Jesus. In Scripture God reveals himself to us. We are not left to our foolish speculations. He tells us who he is, what is required of us, how we have failed, what he has done about it in Jesus, and how we are to respond. Scripture instructs us in the faith. I mean really, if we did not have a written record like the Bible how would any of us know about Jesus? The stories would not have lasted if it was just passed down verbally. It is extremely huge that God chose to reveal himself in words in a book. He gives us a lasting record.
The second this verse tells us is that Scripture ministers to us. It not only gives us our philosophy but it is a living and active means God has committed himself to working through. Hebrews 4:12 says the Bible is a “living and active” book, which has the ability to pierce us to deeply as if into our bones. Look at the words once again…”through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
We are a people who need endurance. There are times in life when you will just feel like giving up. Where will you turn? We are a people who need encouragement. There are times when we have no courage or strength left and we need courage to be poured into us. Nothing empowers us more than the comfort of the Holy Spirit who breathed out special words to us in the Bible.
Perhaps you have heard the story of the last moments in the life of Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter Scott is a famous novelist and poet from Scotland in the 18th century. Most famous works include “Rob Roy” and “Ivanhoe.” Has written several books and poems now considered classics. Is considered the first English-language author to have a worldwide effect in his lifetime. The story of his death is quite interesting.
A few days before the death of Sir Walter Scott there was a lucid interval of that distressing malady which had for some time afflicted him. He had recently returned from a trip where he traveled to London, Italy, and Malta and then returned to his home in Abbotsford. He was greatly distraught having repeated aberrations of his mind, restless and uncomfortable. He asked for his son in law, John Lockhart to come to him. Mr. Lockhart came and Sir Walter Scott asked him to take him into his library and place him by the window, that he might look down upon the Tweed. Then he expressed a wish, asking that his son-in-law read to him. Mr. Lockhart replied, “From what book shall I read?” Mr. Scott replied, “How can you ask? There is but one book…bring me the good book.”
Mr. Lockhart then understood and he opened up the Bible to the fourteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel and read to him the words of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:1-2,6).” Sir Walter Scott listened with devotion, and said when his son-in-law had done, “This is a great comfort, I have listened to you distinctly and I feel as if I were yet to be myself again.”
That is a such a great story. Truly there is no book like the Bible. Let us continue in our love and confidence in God’s Holy Word specially given to us for both our instruction, encouragement, and endurance.
- Pastor Duane