If the Bible doesn’t teach the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, where does that leave us regarding the Bible? Is it just a “man-made book” after all? Is it full of errors? Is it in any way authoritative for our lives? Can we trust it to accurately teach us about God and ourselves? What sort of book is it? How can we use it? What is it good for?
It is to these questions we now turn in the next several posts.
God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It?
When I first began to examine the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, it was because I saw so much Bible-abuse in our churches and from our pulpits, that is, people, pastors, and even seminary professors using the Bible in ways that made me extremely uncomfortable. Their approach often seemed to boil down to the simple idea that “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
Aside from being illogical (it confuses their “understanding the Bible” with “the Bible” itself), this is a terribly dangerous way of reading the Bible and reveals a vast ignorance of what kind of book the Bible is.
Often, when you run into someone like this, if you disagree with them, they accuse you of disagreeing with God. And when you try to explain that you are not disagree with God, but that you just understand the Bible differently, then they start accusing you of not believing in inspiration, or not believing the Bible is inerrant, or any number of things which completely miss the entire point.
Over the years, as I have tried to discern where this mentality comes from, I always end up at the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. The way it is often taught and believed seems to limit the breath of God within Scripture, and puts Scripture up on a pedestal where God never intended it to be placed.
The doctrine of Inspiration creates a whole mass of people who think the words themselves are God’s Word, and so simply by quoting a verse, they are speaking the words of God, even if they don’t have a clue what the words mean.
The doctrine of Inspiration makes the Bible a book of magical incantations, to be flung out whenever “the devil” comes around, or when our spouse, boss, or neighbor simply does something we don’t like. We feel like if we can quote a verse from “God’s Holy Word” then everything will be fine.
A Verse A Day Keeps the Devil Away
Such an idea is often supported by how Jesus seemed to use Scripture while being tempted by the devil in the desert (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Satan tempts Jesus. Jesus quotes a verse. Satan flees. Easy, right?
So if we can just have a six-shooter of Bible verses ready at all times, and spend a few minutes a day reading Scripture, then we will be well-prepared to stand against all the wiles of the devil. In the words of Martin Luther, “One little word shall fell him!”
Too bad it doesn’t work that way. I think Satan loves it when we quote verses at him. Why? Because he loves to quote verses right back. You think memorizing and quoting verses will defeat the devil? I’m convinced he can quote the entire Bible. Can you beat that?
The doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture has led many to believe that there is power in the Word. But there isn’t. It is not a book of magical words. It is not a book of secret power. It is not a book by which the full might and power of God is placed at our disposal. It is not a book where the ability to quote a few verses will help you defeat all temptations, persevere under every trial, and break down every stronghold.
How Jesus Used the Bible
Yes, Jesus quoted verses at the devil. And yes, the devil quoted verses right back.
How did Jesus win this battle of Bible verses? Because the devil did what most of us do — He quoted verses out of context. But Jesus used the Bible properly. Jesus knew what the passages meant, knew their historical, cultural, and situational context, and knew how to apply these verses to the current crisis He was facing (See the Commentary on Luke 4:1-13 for more).
This was no shotgun approach, where He starts madly quoting Scripture, hoping one will “hit.” No, with surgical precision which came from a lifetime of study and meditation upon the Word of God, Jesus was able to use Scripture properly, in the way God intended.
Does this mean we should all retreat to our Ivory tower to spend numerous hours per week studying Scripture? No. Be careful here. The Ivory Tower often turns out to be The Dark Tower, full of evil, corruption, and greed.
Jesus knew the Scriptures, but He did not learn them by spending years locked away in His study, even though that was the “popular method” of His day. We will look tomorrow at the popular Jewish method of studying Scripture and what Jesus had to say about it.