It’s become increasingly clear in our day that people would much rather use the Bible than be used by the Bible.
The Bible has become a book for anyone to dissect and use for their own purposes. Though it has been used to inspire good in the world, it has also been falsely used as a means to justify violence, racism, slavery, hatred, and murder.
Even today—through the impersonal means of social media—we would much rather use the Bible to argue with those we believe are wrong, rather than let it have its impact to redirect our misguided lives. Some of the worst and most poisonous uses of the Bible are when Christians use it as a weapon to fight with other Christians. One version of the Bible against another.
Indeed, this unfruitful way of using the Bible does little more than increase the wedge of division in the church, providing ample reason for unbelievers to remain unbelievers—something Jesus warned us about. Rather than be transformed by our interaction with the Bible (because it points us to the One who can transform), we use the Bible to assert our opinions and forward our agenda.
There’s this important doctrine that developed in the history of the Church regarding the special authority of the Bible. How that authority is understood and applied has varied, but its essence has always referred to these two things:
1) authority to reveal the character of God and his intention for his creation and
2) authority to bring the Scripture-reading community (i.e. the Church) into participation with God in his plan to redeem the world.
The Bible’s Authority has to do with God’s sovereign plan for the world and his desire to use a broken humanity for that plan.
This means that the “authority of Scripture” is most truly taken seriously by the Church, and by Christians, when they get to work in the world on behalf of the Gospel news that Jesus has defeated that powers of sin and death and has begun the work of New Creation. The Authority of Scripture has to do with God’s invitation for humans to participate with him in his work to bring healing and wholeness and shalom to his world that he has neither forgotten nor abandoned.
That means that the authority of the Bible has a lot less to do with our opinions about facts, and much more to do with the lives we live.
If you think you have a high view of the Bible’s authority because you argue with people who don’t agree with you, you’re missing out on the meaning of the Bible’s authority. If you find yourself repeatedly promoting your arbitration of what is true and false theology on social media, it is likely that you don’t have a high view of the Bible, you have a high view of yourself.
The Bible’s authority refers to a way of life, and it wasn’t enough for God to give us a list of traits or rules to reveal this way of life. He chose instead to model it himself in the person of Jesus, revealing and making possible this way of life that the Bible’s authority points us to.
When we use the bible as a sword to slay others rather than an invitation into the life modelled by Jesus we grossly misuse the Bible and subvert its authority. You want to know if you have a high view of the Bible’s authority? Take a look at what you desire: do you increasingly desire Jesus and the way of life he embodied or are you more interested in proving a point? How do you remain in a posture that avoids using the Bible, and begins to be used by the Bible?