A few days ago I posted about Mark Driscoll's decision to begin using the ESV for preaching and teaching. It caused an interesting amount of discussion, more than this blog has seen in a very long time.
Anyway, it prompts the thought about what is the Bible? Is it infallible? In what way is the Bible infallible? Is it God's word or merely an account of how God has interacted in the history of the world? Or, is it some combination of all these?
Here are some of my random thoughts:
1. The Bible is first and foremost a theological book. It contains both science and history, but it is neither a science nor a history book. I believe the biblical writers were writing from the perspective of their culture and were not "all knowing" in their understanding of science and history.
2. God inspires the human writer. This does not, however, remove the author's personality, writing style, editorial work or anything else from the process. It also doesn't remove the theological leanings of the writer. Each writer has a unique viewpoint which God uses to shed light on His teachings.
3. God uses various literary genre to get His message across in the Bible. I believe that He uses stories both real and parabolic to portray Truth. I think there are some stories in the Bible that are representative and not meant to be taken as literal. I think there are others that are literal. However, when I am preaching or teaching the historicity of the story is not the main point. The main point is the theological implications and the Truth that is revealed in what is being taught and studied. I want to know how I am supposed to live in light of the Scripture I have just read.
4. The Bible does not hold all Truth. That sounds bad, but let me explain. The Bible does not tell us everything we need to know to have a great marriage. It does not tell us everything we need to know to parent our children. It does, however, tell us how to have a relationship with God. It also teaches us how to do ethical reasoning and gives us eternal principles by which we can figure out the others. Once we have built a solid foundation of being in the Word of God we can determine the best ways to parent and have a good marriage. It is contains the Truth by which all eternal reality is measured.
5. The Bible gives us everything we need to live in a faith relationship with God. If you want to know how to have a relationship with God or what God expects then the Bible is your book.
6. The Bible is the word of God. God has revealed himself to us through the Bible. But God has also revealed himself to us through the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfect representation of God (Hebrews). However, Jesus is revealed to us through the words of Scripture. The Bible is our rule of faith and life, and therefore we must be reading it in its entirety to fully understand God, Jesus, and the life He expects us to live.
7. The Bible is best interpreted through the lenses of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. Here some additional thoughts on how to interpret the Bible.
8. When it comes to arguments of translations, missing gospels, etc, I believe God has given us what we are to use. The 66 books of the Bible are there, and we have to deal with them as God's word to us. If God is God, then the Bible we have is sufficient. Gaining insight into the original languages is immensely valuable and helpful. Listening to GOOD Bible teachers is necessary. But God can speak to us through whatever imperfect translation we have on hand and are able to use. If God is God, then I believe that He is able to get His message across no matter what; as long as we are truly listening.
9. Too many people are in danger of bibliolatry. They prefer to worship the words of God rather than the God who gave them the words. They would rather fight over what Jesus said than to actually do what he said. This in no way takes away from the fact that we should be reading God's Word on a regular basis. We need to both read and do what God says. Bible knowledge alone is not enough.
10. Too many people leave the biblical text too soon. What I mean by that is that they read it, don't quite get the meaning, and jump immediately into the secondary resources of commentaries, dictionaries, and devotionals or move on to life application. Too many preachers are better at preaching what the commentary taught them than what God taught them through His word in union with their study. Spend time wrestling with the biblical text. Read different translations. Savor the words for weeks if you have to, move on to other topics, but don't give up and simply take the meaning someone else has given it. My thoughts on commentaries came when one of my seminary professors said, "Commentaries are not the final word on the meaning of the biblical text. Commentaries are just someone else's thoughts on what the text means." It is an educated opinion and should be considered, but it is not the definitive interpretation. It is also as spiritually dangerous to leave the text too soon to make life application before listening to God completely and investing the proper amount of study into the text.
What do you think? What is the Bible to you? What are some underlying assumptions you bring with you to the text of the Bible? Do you believe it is all literally true?