How we relate to the Scriptures reveal the depths we may plunge when it comes to discipleship. An approach to the Scriptures as though there are gems to mine sets us in a position to take a “scientific” approach. We stand over the subject. We analyze for the purpose of finding a “thing” that will help us in the midst of a circumstance we face. The Bible becomes a resource much like an encyclopedia.
An approach to Scriptures as though the truth of God transforms us will bring us to come “under” the Scriptures and subject to the Spirit of God. Under the Scriptures may be viewed as a more relational position from which we may experience transformation as we encounter God in His Scrptures exposing us to Jesus, the King applied by His Spirit.
7 comments on “Relationship with the Scriptures …”
Hi. I’ve been thinking some about ths subject due to a post on a different blog here:
This (the link) is a decidedly non-baptist approach to things, but I would be curious about your reaction to it.
I’m a friend of Mark H’s who checks in here once in a while.
Thanks for stopping in. I found the article you mentioned to my liking. I do not want to infer we should not study the Scriptures. However, I do agree the context for the Scripture has been removed from the church and given to individuals. Much of what we read is healthy and helpful for us personally. However, the Kingdom of God and the Church present us with “corporate” responsibility with the Scriptures. As a result we are in relationship with the Scriptures and with the Kingdom of God and its earthly expression until he comes – The Church. We then stand under the Scriptures and not over it. An unhealthy individualism limits our experience “under” for we feel obliged to stand “over.”
What do you think?
While I do believe the Scriptures is one of the greatest resources for understanding our relationship with God, I believe it is important for us to acknowledge that the Scriptures is an invention of the Church (turning Paul’s letters to individual churches regarding their timely difficulties into codified and perfect words from God, for instance). However, God does indeed speak through the Church. And since we are indeed the Church and since the Scriptures and all its interpretations have shaped us, it is imperative that we understand it and recognize its theological formations into what we believe.
Of course, there is so much more to the Scriptures too. However, in relation to your point, I wanted to highlight a small nuance: I believe our transformation occurs when we come under the Spirit of God rather than using the Scriptures as the vehicle in which we come under the Spirit (is this what you said? Please correct me if I misunderstood you). By emptying ourselves and submitting to the will of God- being led by the Spirit-and committing ourselves to divine communication (ie, prayer), I believe this is how we come under God.
One might articulate the position that obeying Scriptures is the way in which we submit to God- and I would give a hesitant assent- with the caveat that the Bible is full of the history between God and God’s people doing amazingly good things and abhorently bad things. Understanding which is good and which is bad has been the challenge of theologians and students of the Bible across the centuries. Rather, I would say, “When we submit ourselves to the will and revelation of God, then we are being obedient: that revelation may occur inside Scripture, through wise and holy friends, and/or through caring and experienced parents.” Then, I believe we are being obedient to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”
Bo, your point is well taken but we must be careful when we submit ourselves to revelations outside of scripture (which I believe do occur).
We must apply the same formula to discern these revelations as we employ while studying scripture which should be prayer, meditation and testing or as Luther states, “oratio, meditatio and tentatio”.
Many people use the excuse that they should not be limited to the scriptures as holy inspiration and with that I would agree, but I would give my own caveat which would be: Any revelation or inspiration recieved by someone outside of Holy Scripture should be in no way counter to the Scriptures themselves. In other word use the scripture to confirm your revelation.
“Any revelation or inspiration recieved by someone outside of Holy Scripture should be in no way counter to the Scriptures themselves.”
LB- you offer great insight and your point is well taken. Great care must always be taken when interpreting any revelation from God and using the Scripture is a tried and often-successful way of understanding what God would say to us.
I remember a quote from Calvin that said, “When the Bible speaks, I will speak. When the Bible is silent, I will be silent.” I have often heard this repeated by those who, under Luther’s influence, contend that grace eminates through the Scriptures alone (“sola fatia, sola scriptura, sola gratia” – I think I got the order wrong). My response is basically that Scriptures are a great way at understanding revelation but that our faith in the Spirit must always supercede our faith in the Bible, in our church, in our pastors, or anything else. To do otherwise presents great challenges, many of which can be attested to in our social evils (ie, economy and classism) and the restrictions on the fairer sex in religious expression.
I often respond to Calvin’s words that the Bible was written a long time ago- in response to the time, place, and environment of the listeners. I agree that many of life’s greatest truths are timeless and that is why the Bible continues to be relevant today. However, in a few instances, such as child abuse (ie, child labor) and slavery, great evil can be justified in the Bible (for those with very narrow minds). Sometimes the Bible speaks directly towards social evil, at other times it is silent. For us to be silent is often as irresponsible as those who misuse Scripture to do bad things.
Let us therefore, pray for discernment and wisdom as God reveals to us, through the dynamic out-pouring of the Spirit, the way in which we ought to live (as can, most often, be gleaned in the Scriptures).
“Scriptures cannot be transformative apart from the work of the Spirit. Paul describes the natural man as inept in attempts to understand spiritual things and is in great need of the Spirit of God.”
Todd- I so agree with you. Unless the Spirit interprets for us and provides direction, no amount of wisdom (from the Scriptures, our parents, or holy friends) will enlighten what God would have us to learn.
The more I go to church and the more I find my faith community supporting me in personal times of my greatest needs, the more I am thankful that God instituted the Church. But you are so right that sometimes, while the church can be very supporting within community frameworks, it can also be deaf to the working of the Spirit. At one time it may be more tied to tradition (and less receptive to new ways of doing old things) or blind in that it does not see God at work in the moment.
I am intrigued by your line of thinking and look forward to reading more of your insights, both into the nature of our inabilities as well as how we can recognize God when God is at work. You have a great way of articulating your thoughts and I do enjoy reading them.
Scriptures cannot be transformative apart from the work of the Spirit. Paul describes the natural man as inept in attempts to understand spiritual things and is in great need of the Spirit of God.
My thought relate to how we “handle” the Scriptures. We study them to express our ability to codify and analyze. And yet, when we fail to submit to the Spirit of the Word (The Spirit of God revealing the Word (Jesus, the King) through the Scriptures all intellectual pursuits serve as the law of gravity. I know it. I experience. But, it does not transform me.
LB expresses my feelings at the point of spiriutal habits found in Scripture aid us in connecting with the Spirit of God, no gurarantee, for the purpose of Christ being formed in us.
Bo’s allusion to the evil that men do and then hold up Scripture is in part my point. We fail to find the work of the Spirit through the Scriptures “converting” our beings so that we find ways to support contradictory behaviors and practices. We need the “Church” to help us as a gathered community in time and space, and through histroy, set aside these “indivdual” preferences in favor of the communal guidelines we find in Scriptures. Maybe even more clearly, we need to produce the fruit of the Spirit. In so doing, we would find an end to some of the injustices we often ignore.