Bizarre Phrases...

There are a few frequently heard phrases that I just don't get.
  1. "Common sense". Since when is it common?
  2. "Getting some exercise". You don't get it. It's something you do. Well, apparently some people do. I wish I could just get it, but I don't (nor do I do it for that matter!) 
  3. "Losing your virginity". You lose your wallet, or your car keys, or even weight. Your virginity... that's given away (or tragically stolen for some).
  4. "Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so." 
This last one strikes at the heart of what we understand the Bible to be and do. Frankly... it doesn't talk to me. It doesn't do anything. It's a book. Paper and print. That's all. 

Now before you go and stone me, let me qualify this statement. The reason the Bible is "Sacred Scripture" is because the church has found it to be a way that God has revealed himself to his people. The Bible hasn't done this in and of itself, God has. The Bible is the tool in the hands of the redeeming God, used for his purposes. Even in the oft quoted 2 Timothy 3:16; "All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."; it's not the scriptures that do the teaching, etc, but the teacher, rebuker, corrector and trainer. It's a tool for those purposes. A sacred tool, yes, but a tool nonetheless.

Why is this distinction important? Well, let's rephrase number 4 above in the light of this. "Jesus loves me, this I know. For God himself tells me so." Christianity is not Bibliocentric, but Theocentric (Christocentric if you want to). It is not centred on a book, but in a relational, self-revealing God whom we have come to know primarily in the person of Jesus Christ. That God is revealed through that Book, but only because he reveals himself through that Book, as the Spirit inspires our shared reading of that Book. The word of God is the word of God because of God, not because of anything in the words themselves. It is him that we have relationship with and him who confirms to us that he loves us - not the book.

It's a subtle, but I think a very important distinction. Otherwise it's possible to make almighty claims about the Bible and suggest that it is saying what is in fact our interpretation. Perhaps even going so far as to suggest that our interpretation is "guaranteed"... 

No one would ever do that, though, would they?

Comments

  1. Important point, Adam - though I think the Bible doesn't "tell" line is a bit of a stretch. If quoting 2 Tim 3:16-17, why not also Rom 4:3 "What does the Scripture *say*?" So, we can happily speak in a common sense way (gasp) of "Scripture" or "the Bible" "telling" us something. But we nonetheless need to see the Bible as part of the ekklesia as its interpretive community. I wonder also what light Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse (CUP) might shed on this.

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  2. OK, I take the point about Romans 4:3, but I guess I'm here challenging the way people treat the Bible in almost a magical, or superstitious manner. If it had those capabilities, we wouldn't even need to read it, just having it on our shelves, or in the back of pews would be enough. Rather, it's in the inspired and shared reading (which is always an interpreted reading) in which its sacredness lies. This too, for me, moves beyond the debates of infallibility and inerrency onto faithful interpretation in the power of the Spirit.

    As for Wolterstorff, I have to plead ignorance there. Thanks for the reference though. I'll check that out.

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