“Authority of Scripture”

Ripping off some quotes from Jason, where he starts his new year with C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright. This past weekend’s sermon touched on "the authority of scripture", a phrase that throws up a couple of red flags for me. So when I saw the following quips in my google reader this morning, they just worked:

"It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, which is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to him. When it becomes really necessary (i.e. for our spiritual life, not for curiosity or controversy) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer. But we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and read without attention to the whole nature and purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons." – From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume III, p.246

“The phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.’ When we examine what the authority of scripture means we’re talking about God’s authority which is invested in Jesus himself, who says ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ (Matthew 28:18, NRSV)” / “Too much debate about scriptural authority has had the form of people hitting one another with locked suitcases. It is time to unpack our shorthand doctrines, to lay them out and inspect them. Long years in a suitcase may have made some of the contents go moldy. They will benefit from fresh air, and perhaps a hot iron.” / “The point of following Jesus isn’t simply so that we can be sure of going to a better place than this after we die. Our future beyond death is enormously important, but the nature of the Christian hope is such that it plays back into the present life. We’re called, here and now, to be instruments of God’s new creation, the world-put-to-rights, which has already been launched in Jesus and of which Jesus’ followers are supposed to be not simply beneficiaries but also agents.”December 2007 interview with The Wittenburg Door

[ht: Become A Robot]

The phrase that just felt funny in the weekend message was along the lines of, "if we as Christians would commit to read the Bible daily and then to do what it says, all these other good goals (parenting, giving, serving, sharing, etc) would happen". I understand the sentiment and don’t disagree with the intention. However, "do what it says" seems to be a shortsell on what the Bible actually brings to the table, at least from my perspective right now.

Instead of trying to "do what it says", isn’t it a bigger more challenging thing to be changed or transformed by it? To let it mold how you do what you do, not just change what you do – that seems to be a nobler, weightier goal for the new year.

More, from Jim’s Blog, from his friend, Stephen:

What broke me down however, was the sudden realization that the formulaic brand of “Christianity” which most of us professed Christ-followers ascribe to just does not work. You know, the brand that says the Bible is simply an instruction book for life, which if properly followed will give you guarantees results. We have even cleverly come up with an acronym for the Bible to back this claim: B.I.B.L.E translated to mean, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Sounds cute, but is it spiritually accurate? This brand of “Christianity” basically goes by the following rule: if you obey God, you get blessed and inherit heaven; if you disobey God, you get cursed and eventually go to hell. Dr. Larry Crabb, an acclaimed Christian author and psychologist calls this the “Law of Linearity”, and the sad part is that most of us really think that this is what the Christian life is all about; Yes, you will find Scriptures scattered throughout the Bible which seem to support this law and purport that this is all that the “Christian life” is all about, but this is a law based on an agreement that has been deemed null and void after the cross. Reading the Gospels and teachings of Jesus and the New agreement that we have with God, I am now convinced that we have often misunderstood what being a follower of Jesus really means. What ends up happening with this popular brand of “Christianity”, however, is that in order to foster the illusion of obedience to Biblical Law, we lower the standards of the Law by cherry-picking laws out of the Bible to suit our own agenda. In doing so, we not only minimize the seriousness of Biblical Law, but we also negate the message of God’s grace. Oh, we talk a good game when it comes to God’s grace and we all have our arsenal of Scriptures to say that we are saved by grace and not by works, but when it comes to the practical reality of our lives, you will generally find out that we refute our claims. We think that grace applies to becoming a child of God alone, as opposed to the reality of our everyday lives.


3 thoughts on ““Authority of Scripture”

  1. jae says:

    I already linked to this (and I doubly love the latter portion). I was trying to convey this to a (former) friend just a few weeks ago and was thusly shunned, leaving me speechless.
    If the “rules of life” approach truly worked, there would be a lot fewer people who have become disillusioned by the current understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Heck, I’m just working my way out of that myself.

  2. Rick says:

    “Thusly Shunned” could be the title of your first book, or mine. Thanks for piping in – good to see that you’re not alone, I hope.

  3. jae says:

    It is good. And thanks for the title idea — I just might use it.

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