All Christians know that Scripture is our guide.
This is why we have Bible Studies and sermons, daily devotions and Scripture memory. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God and is a guide for all matters of faith and practice. This is well and good. The Bible is a primary source of guidance for following Jesus into the world.
But why is there disagreement?
Even though we all agree that the Bible is our guide, there is great disagreement on what the Bible says about what to believe and how to live. With all of the doctrinal confusion and lifestyle chaos that is in the church, some have begun to wonder whether the Bible is helpful after all.
As one who has been wrestling with this issue for over a decade, I have finally come to piece together what I believe is not so much a conclusion on the matter, but is rather a working hypothesis.
This hypothesis allows the Bible to be more authoritative and influential in our lives than ever before, while at the same time reducing the damaging, destructive, and divisive ways which the Bible has been read, used, and taught by many Christians in many churches.
This hypothesis allows the Scriptures to function as a primary guide for faith and practice, but in a way that is radically different than how the Bible is often read.
Typically, the Bible is read and taught as a sourcebook for what we should believe and how we should behave. Though no one would describe it this way, the Bible is treated as a jumbled up collection of doctrines and ethics which must be organized and categorized into neat and tidy doctrinal statements and codes of conduct.
Pastors and church leaders read and study the Bible to find individual verses and passages which seem to bear significance for our lives today, and then systematize these passages into lists of what people must believe and how people must behave if they are going to belong to their church or group.
In this way, the Bible is viewed as a helpful book, but only after it has been sifted, sorted, and rearranged into the kind of book which we want and which we think we need.
But what if the book we need is exactly the Book God gave us?
What if the Bible is exactly as God wants it, and does not need to be rearranged, sorted, categorized, and systematized into neat bullet points and numbered lists in order to act as a guide for following Jesus? Could it be that God knows better than we do what kind of book we need, and we have tried to change it into something more “helpful”?
If this is so, we must then ask what sort of book God gave us.
God Gave us a Story
What sort of book did God give us? He gave us a story.
It is a long story, and a complex story, and has some odd parts to the story such as poetry and personal letters, but these also fit in to the grand, sweeping story of Scripture.
We will look more at this idea as the Bible as story in the next post.
For now, why do you think there is so much disagreement about the Bible? Do you believe that viewing the Bible primarily as a story will help?