One of the major issues of Christianity is the authority of Scripture. Within the Church universal, the views range from fundamentalist to liberal. Though there are issues I would take with liberal and fundamental extremes, there are some basics that should help us come together in conversation and find a more Christian view of Scripture’s role in the Christian’s life.
What is the Scriptures?
This is a loaded question that takes hours of study and analysis and is debated today, but I will sum up the key things to remember about the nature of Scripture and it’s development.
One has to take into account that the Scriptures started as an Oral Tradition passed down by speaking it and not necessarily in writing. This may sound strange, but that culture passed it down and it led to writing it down. Eventually, we decided to write it down to standardize the story and had many books written. This is true even up to the New Testament era. The Jewish people decided the Old Testament canon in the 90’s AD and Christians decided on their general canon of the New Testament in the mid-300’s AD. That is the main story of the development of the Bible.
As far as the Bible’s view if itself, it helps to understand that the writers are either orally recounting and event or referencing an account of the event in history. In the Torah, for example, many of the accounts were later reflections of a long past, especially Genesis and Deuteronomy. Other times, there Re situations where someone references the earlier writings, such as Acts 2 looking back to Joel. This does not make the Scriptures less true and powerful, but it does show us that the Word of God when talking about Scriptures is based on something more powerful.
What is the Word of God?
This is a more involving exploration of theology itself. According to John 1, Jesus is the Word. Why? Because he is the revelation of God. The Bible is also revelation from God, though not near the status of Jesus. This puts our focus on the same one who the authors of the Bible focused on, God (as understood in Christ). Still, it means that there is authority in Scripture when read under the direction of God’s Spirit. What this does is create a difference between this who look to critique the Scriptures and those who have Scripture critique them. This can be a scary proposition to all. It challenges both the deconstructionist liberal reading and the shallow fundamentalist reading. The important thing to remember about the authority of Scripture is that it is not about learning we can show about Scripture, though can happen at moments and can be shared, but instead is about what the Bible can show to you about the King that leads to transformation (Romans 12:1-2; please note that is God doing the transforming and not Bible itself).
One story that shows how someone can shy away from transformation is the story of the rich man in Luke 18 walking away saddened when Christ asked him to sell his possessions. The came to him to follow. When Christ presented him with things to do, he was completely on board until it touched his riches. No matter our position with Scripture, transformation is always a must when being led by the Spirit into Scripture. When you read pray for guidance and abandon your wants from the text.
Why do you read the text? Is it your authority? Or do you seek to be the text’s authority? Do you think you are rich in your spirit and not in need of the Spirit’s work or do you recognize your spiritual bankruptcy and your desperate need for the Spirit of God in you?