Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lenten Series #15: The B-I-B-L-E

Within our Protestant tradition, the Bible is considered to be “the Scriptures”.  Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t believe any of the Books of the Bible actually refer to “the Bible”, so it’s true that it is from tradition that “the Bible” has been referred to as “the Scriptures”, and even “the Word of God”. It has been tradition that has shaped my doctrinal view of the Bible. Tradition had me to believe that the Bible was the Holy Scriptures, and the only Word of God, un-adulterated, and that all the writers were inspired by God. Not until my time in seminary did I began to allow reason, and became more open to allowing experience to shape my view of the Bible. Reason has allowed me to question the validity of what we consider to be the  Scriptures. 

I accept that Bible is divinely inspired by God and as the words from God, and I do allow them to be the guiding principles of my life. Nevertheless, “not everything found in the bible is to be taken as a direct word of God to us.”[1] I have seen and experienced the faith of my ancestors who used the Bible to build up and strengthen the black community, even though  the same Bible was used by slave-owners to continue the enslavement of my people.  Yes, the Bible has been used to destroy people’s humanity, but it has also been used to uplift groups of people who have been marginalized yet remain surrounded by God’s love as expressed through the scriptures. Also, I have had the Bible to speak to me in ways that no other could!  For every situation in my life the Bible has been a place I could find comfort or a place that challenged me. Part of this comes from the tradition of the bible being the main source and final authority in my Christian walk. This thought has been challenged through my understanding of God’s Word actually being revealed through scripture, reason, tradition and experience.  So you can now see that my view has been slightly modified. Now the Bible is one of the main sources and not the final. I have learned and have come to appreciate that “historical and literary criticism while not ends in themselves, can serve a better hearing of this Word.”[2] We must look critically at the Bible, but not so critically that we miss God speaking. 

Thus, what is the Bible to me? The Bible is the sacred collection of ancient writings utilized by the Christian faith as the Word of God and written by many different writers who were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit. II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we children of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”(adapted from NKJV). It is the written Word of God, but doesn't contain all of God.  

 The Bible is essential to the Christian faith and contains the Holy Scriptures.  There are no other writings than those within the Bible that have been scrutinized, translated and studied with such vigor. “Because the Bible is universally acknowledged book of Christian church- because it is the foundational document of the faith community- it simply is the accepted norm of our theological reflections.” [3]  The content of the Bible is authoritative as a guide for living in relationship with God and all of creation, and provides a means for the Christian community to come together and share in a common book of faith. The content of the Bible provides a means for the Christian community to come together and share in a common book of faith.  I am more hesitated now then before to place all my trust in the book, The Bible. Instead, we seek God’s revelation through the Bible rather than the book itself. In his book Faith Seeking Understanding, Daniel Migliore says,  

“Christians do not believe in the Bible. They believe in the living God attested by the Bible. Scripture is indispensable in bringing us into a new relationship with the living God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and thus into new relationship with others and with the entire creation.  To speak of authority of the Bible rightly is to speak of its power by God’s Spirit to help create and nourish this new life in relationship with God and with others.”[4] 

God is revealed through the scripture, thus; again we find relationship is key to this doctrine of the Bible. As God reveals Godself through the scriptures, we are able to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God. Those things written as do's and dont's are no longer seen as a list of sins, but as a way of maintaining true relationship with God. The Bible is then transformed from just words, to a guide of perfecting our call away from sin to one of unity with God and humanity.

Therefore, we must be careful not to use the Bible as ‘rule of thumb’ for answering all questions because if the truth was to be told, the Bible does not have all the answers! This is indeed a new way of thinking for me.  Migliore says that, “The Bible is no easy answer book.”[5] So even the Bible must not be used as the ‘end all- be all’, for it provides more questions, then it does with providing answers.  Because we have the Bible we are inclined to accept what it says and what the church has defined as Christian responsibility, and thus we have fallen right into the pit that Migliore warned us about, when he said faith must fight against such inclinations.

In vacation bible school we were taught a song “Oh! The B-I-B-L-E, Yes that's the book for me. I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E!” You might think that I don’t agree with this song from all that I just stated in this blog, but, quite the contrary. The bible is indeed the book of choice for me, and yes, I stand alone on the Word of God. But let us get one thing straight… that word is not just contained in the Bible, which was put together by white European heterosexual older men.  This is where Wesleyan Quadrilateral begins to ring true in my life. God’s Word is evident in all of my experience; in our tradition as the Body of Christ; through the Scriptures; and through the God given ability to reason.  Yes, i am still Baptist and will forever be Baptist! And as a Baptist Ordained Minister,  I support this understanding of God's Word.

That was a lot for me to say and to analyze. I am glad that I had the seminary experience, and time after to think through even more what I believe while God empowers me to share it with the world.  Tomorrow, I think I will look at sin, and how I would define sin. My grandmother taught me a bible verse that continues to keep me day by day “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11.   This will be the jump-off point for my blog tomorrow. Goodnight!

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

[1] Migliore: Faith Seeking Understanding, 40.
[2] Migliore: Faith Seeking Understanding, 53.
[3] William C.  Placher,  Essentials of Christian Theology,  22.
[4] Daniel Migliore,  Faith Seeking Understanding, 50.
[5]  Daniel Migliore,  Faith Seeking Understanding, 4.

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