|Mercy Street Church of Christ
ON TAKING THE BIBLE SERIOUSLY
by Leroy Garrett
At least in our Western world there is a Bible in virtually every home, and often several copies in different translations, and even in hotel and motel rooms. It is read from the pulpit in our churches and studied in Sunday School, from cradle to adulthood It is even quoted by politicians and included in “Great Literature” courses in our universities. And any portion of the Bible can be “brought up” on computers and iPhones in a matter of seconds. It is perennially on best-seller lists and it is the most scholarly-researched than any other book in human history. And it is generally esteemed for its great literature, its wisdom, its ethics, its history, and its stories.
But this does not mean that the Bible is taken seriously, perhaps not even by devout Jews and Christians who view it as authoritative in matters of faith. But it remains a difficult, puzzling book to read, even to those committed to it, and it may well be both the most omnipresent book and the least read. The ultimate tragedy is that while the Bible is venerated for its antiquity and for its place in history, it is not taken seriously.
By not taken seriously I mean it is not taken in hand with an attitude of expectancy — an expectation of hearing a word from God for the needs of today. The Bible itself tells us that “God has spoken” (Hebrews 1:1). What a daunting truth! The God who created us has revealed himself, and he has made known his will as to how we are to live in this demanding world. He offers us comfort when we are grieved, strength when we are weak, hope when we suppose all is lost. He informs us both of our origin and our destiny. He assures us that he loves us and that his intention is to transform us into the likeness of himself through the special Person he has given us.
This is what the Bible is about. God speaks to us through its pages concerning our origin, our mission in this world, and our destiny. When we turn to it with this expectation we are taking it seriously. We are to realize that it is unique, that there is no other book like it in that it deals with sin and redemption. If we really believe that the God of heaven, who is eternal, immortal, invisible, is speaking to us through its pages, then we are taking it seriously, even reverently.
To take the Bible seriously we approach it prayerfully. We may pray the prayers the Bible itself teaches us, such as “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from your law” (Psalm 119;18), and “Speak Lord, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9). And if we are serous about the Bible we will be open to its power to change our lives. We can all make a daily prayer of the prayer that so profoundly impressed our Lord: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
To be serious about the Bible we will be open to the findings of modern biblical research, and the recognized rules of interpretation. And we will be honest with holy Scripture, which Alexander Campbell called “Come within understanding distance,” which means to have an open heart and mind. Nor will we make claims for the Bible that it does not make for itself, such as plenary (complete) verbal inspiration and inerrancy, a dogma that compels one to disregard the obvious We can take the Bible seriously without always taking it literally. Jesus enjoined that “As I have washed your feet, you are to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The disciples may well have taken that literally in their day, while we in our day might hear it as saying “Show tender loving care in diverse ways.”
There is therefore an important difference between what the Bible meant then and what it means now. The church at Jerusalem gives us a model of charity by selling their goods and distributing to each according to need (Acts 4:34-35). That impressive example might lead us today to dip into our savings to help a needy brother or sister.
Moreover, to be serious about the Bible we are to realize that while we find the word of God in the Bible all the Bible is not the word of God. One example: I find the word of God in Psalm 138:1: “I will praise You with my whole heart, before the gods I will sing praises to You,” but not in the previous verse, Psalm 137:9, which refers to Babylon, Israel’s enemy “Happy is the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock.” And how do we discern what is God’s word to us? By prayer and the leading of the Spirit, and by applying our minds to it as to whether it is consistent with the spirit of Christ, who is sovereign even over Scripture.
|Site-specific content Copyright (c) 2000 FaithSite.com or Used by Permission
All other content Copyright (c) 2000 FaithSites, Inc. All rights reserved.
If you are offended by anything on this page, click here.