Does God Care About the Bible? Should We?

We have been talking about what we believe about the Bible this week on 2thesource. In the last two posts I have talked about the popular face of theological liberalism in Christian culture today, as well as the ultimate source of biblical inspiration (God).

This post is inspired by an article I read in the Huffington Post recently, written by a man named Zack Hunt. It was titled “Does God Care About the Bible as Much as We Do?

Hunt’s basic premise is that Christians tend to take the Bible more seriously than God does. He closes with this:

…God may be doing a new thing in the church today and, if God is, we may get left behind because we’re so busy quoting Bible verses and holding God hostage to scripture that we can’t see the work of the Spirit unfolding like a sheet from heaven right before our very eyes.

The “sheet from heaven” reference is in regards to one of the illustrations Hunt uses in the article. His various illustrations are intended to support his thesis that the Bible records examples of people following God by contradicting the Bible, thereby being “liberated” from its dogma. Here is what he says about the story of Peter in Acts 10:

That voice from heaven was God and God was telling Peter to violate scripture.
What’s happening, then, in Peter’s vision, the book of Acts, the Gospels, and throughout the New Testament is a fundamental and radical shift from the old way of doing things (no more sacrifices, from how God related to God’s people (no more need for a high priest), and from scripture itself (no longer bound by the law).

[This happened] Because God decided to do a new thing in Jesus and through the church, a Spirit thing that couldn’t be bound by scripture, and either Peter (and the rest of God’s people) could come along for the ride or stay shackled to the past.

Being “shackled to the past” is his description of sticking to the historically orthodox teaching on the Bible as the inspired word of God. Elsewhere Hunt says:

…But what if God had other intentions for the Bible? What if God didn’t intend for it to be the unquestioned final authority on everything that we’ve turned it into? What if, dare I say it, God doesn’t care about the Bible as much as we do?

…I don’t mean God thinks that it’s worthless, but what if we think more highly of the Bible and its authority than we should?

I know that might sound crazy, but I have a sneaking (biblical) suspicion why that might actually be the case.

He’s breaking the bonds of scripture to bring new truth and breathe fresh life into the people of God. He’s refusing to be held captive to the words on the page in order to get to the real heart of faith.

And he’s calling us to go and do likewise.

Finally, he says:

I think our fundamental problem in all of this is that we’ve forgotten that the Bible is meant to be a guide on how to live and love in this life and the next, but instead we’ve turned it into a jailer that shackles us to ideology, dogma, and legalism.

Instead of letting the Bible lead us [to] the Truth, we use it as a weapon to attack our enemies and defend our ideological idols.

How do we let it guide us?

The same way the church has always let scripture guide us before we fell for the delusion of sola scriptura — tradition can lead us, the church teach us, reason inform us, and experience shape us into the people of God formed but not shackled to the Bible.

For Hunt, the “delusion” of sola Scriptura, one of the five central claims of the Protestant Reformation, is that the Bible alone is authoritative, inspired, infallible, and inerrant truth from God. My next four posts will be on sola Scriptura, and for the record, I think Hunt is ridiculously off-base in this regard.

The primary means Hunt uses to disprove sola Scriptura is the argument that Jesus, Peter, and others in the New Testament “violate” Scripture when God revealed something new to and through them. He notes that Jesus said “You have heard it said, but I say to you,” and Peter violated OT food laws by eating unclean things with Gentiles in Acts 10. His encouragement to you and I is to “go and do likewise.”

He brings up an interesting point here. What is the difference between Jesus, Peter, Paul, and you or me? If Peter gets a revelation from God (as recorded in Acts 10) that seemingly contradicts something God had earlier instructed; should you and I not be free to do the same? If Jesus said, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” should you and I take the claims of the Bible and update them (led by the “Spirit” of course) in and for our culture today?

What Hunt completely misses is the reality of “Apostolic Authority.” Like it or not, there is a difference between Peter and you. There is a difference between Zack and the Apostle Paul. There is a difference between the authority Jesus spoke with, and my authority (this is a lengthy blog series by itself).

The New Bible Dictionary explains it this way:

Apostolic authority is delegated Messianic authority; for the Apostles were Christ’s commissioned witnesses, emissaries and representatives (cf. Mt. 10:40; Jn. 17:18; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:20), given authority by him to found, build up and regulate his universal church (2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10; cf. Gal. 2:7ff.). Accordingly, we find them giving orders and prescribing discipline in Christ’s name. i.e. as his spokesmen and with his authority (1 Cor. 5:4; 2 Thes. 3:6)…They presented their teaching as Christ’s truth, Spirit-given in both content and form of expression (1 Cor. 2:9–13; cf. 1 Thes. 2:13), a norm for faith (2 Thes. 2:15; cf. Gal. 1:8) and behavior (2 Thes. 3:4, 6, 14). They expected their ad hoc rulings to be received as ‘the commandment of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 14:37). Because their authority depended on Christ’s direct personal commission, they had, properly speaking, no successors; but each generation of Christians must show its continuity with the first generation, and its allegiance to Christ, by subjecting its own faith and life to the norm of teaching which Christ’s appointed delegates provided and put on record for all time in the documents of the NT. Through the NT, apostolic authority over the church has been made a permanent reality.[1]

Apostolic Authority is a fundamental principle recognized in basic Christian theological discourse. If we follow Hunt’s thesis to its logical conclusion, there is really no problem with you or I writing another book that we can add right on to the end of Revelation, as long as we don’t use it to hurt people’s feelings. If we embrace this “follow the Spirit, instead of being shackled to the Bible” approach, who are we?

Better yet:

Who is God?
Who is Jesus?
What “Spirit” are we talking about?
And how do we know?

If we don’t have the Bible to answer these questions, what do we submit to as the authority on these issues?

God who?

Making sense?

[1] Packer, J. I. (1996). Authority. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard & D. J. Wiseman, Ed.) (3rd ed.) (106). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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9 Responses to Does God Care About the Bible? Should We?

  1. Dean Goff says:

    All I can say is wow!!! Jesus did not take anything away from the law, or lets say, “Water it down” to make it more palatable. He said, “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The idea regarding the eating of certain foods, was in my understanding trying to get us as a people to be more focused on the issues of the heart, not what we were eating. Jesus made it perfectly clear when he addressed other traditions, (Then again, Maybe not to them) to the scribes and Pharisees, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.” This interpretation by Hunt is a different gospel. It not only creates cracks in the reliability, trustworthiness, and divine authority of God’s word, but it is a frontal attack on the integrity of God himself as He has revealed His very Character to us through Christ, “The Living Word.” You would have to question Christ divine nature, to swallow this poison as truth. Just my humble opinion.

  2. thecieplys says:

    While I’m not sure how much i agree/disagree with I wonder if many times our reaction to such “heretical” explanations keep us from asking questions that have for too long been satisfied by simple answers. Don’t you think we can easily fall into demonizing another at the first sight of a belief of philosophy that goes against what we have determined is true? I grew up in a very conservative family. We watched fox news, listened to rush limbaugh and pretty much bashed the other side. I guess I’m just tired of the “us vs. them” rhetoric and am beginning to wonder if “they” have some answers for us if we engage in conversation that is more than a political blue vs. red shouting match.

    I love the writings of N.T. Wright because he seems to transcend the very American blue/red, liberal/conservative, pro/anti framework.

    What are your thoughts on how our particular culture has shaped us into approaching things such as the validity of scripture and its role in our faith?

    Once again, thank you for sharing. I am enjoying following you and engaging in these discussions!

    Blessings to you and your family!

    • Aaron,

      My view on Hunt’s article really didn’t have anything to do with politics. I don’t think the discussion on biblical authority and innerancy, and what those mean theologically, has anything to do with politics. I think if it does, our political ideologies have become to wrapped up in our identities. I would hope that the fight for Sola Scriptura isn’t something that comes simply from people who are conservative politically (though I don’t make that claim in this blog–I really make no claim politically at all in this piece). As I read your comment a few things came to mind: I skimmed back through my blog to make sure I hadn’t called Hunt “heretical,” and as I presumed, I hadn’t. That article from him was the first time I’d ever read any of his stuff, not enough context for me to make any judgment on his whole theological framework. I also didn’t come to his post thinking that Hunt was a “them” for me. I try to make judgments theologically on things with more objectivity than that. In my view it really has nothing to do with politics. I use the term “liberal” to describe Hunt in terms of theology, not politics. Unfortunately, the political discourse in our nation has hijacked the terms “conservative” and “liberal,” but in this discussion it has nothing to do with red/blue. It’s a matter of historic orthodoxy (thousands of years or history behind this–much older than American politics) vs. liberal thinking that stems from the Enlightenment ideal, among other places.
      Thanks for the dialogue-

      • thecieplys says:

        Sorry if my comment seemed like a personal attack. After writing it I thought it maybe came off wrong and could be taken as such. This is why I added the other two comments thanking you for the way you deal with ideas and opinions, especially those you don’t agree with. I enjoy your posts very much. I read the first comment of the guy who referred to Hunt’s views as “poison” and not truth and I think that is the kind of talk I see as not beneficial as there may be some truth in it. Also, I was trying to make the point that just like in politics where there is very little actual honest, humble conversation, but rather an “us vs. them” shouting match, so too in the body of Christ we can and I would argue many of us do operate in this way when approaching issues, especially those we disagree with.

        Honestly, looking back maybe that comment was written not in the right heart and for that I apologize. Isn’t life funny; here I am critiquing the “us vs. them” rhetoric all the while thinking I am right and “they” are wrong. I personally struggle with dealing with things I see in the church that I disagree with namely the way differences are approached. I can easily become judgmental and frustrated.

        Again, I’m sorry for the wrong heart in the initial comment. Hopefully you see a little more where I am coming from. I’m a young guy and just learning about many things in my walk of faith.

        Thank you for your faithfulness.

      • Thanks for clarifying that Aaron- I didn’t feel attacked in the initial comment, more confused at the parallel you were trying to draw out. I appreciate your further comment here- it is hard through this medium to maintain the kindness and civility that we would normally exhibit with people we know personally. It is easy to get into shouting matches. But it blesses me that in a space like this we can encourage and exhibit a Christ-like posture full of both grace and truth. I’ve learned a lot from Timothy Keller in this regard. He has a gift for teaching truth while remaining respectful and civil.
        Thanks again brother-

      • thecieplys says:

        I admire you and the way you go about your writing here. Thanks for the follow. I invite you to read my posts in order to encourage and maybe more importantly challenge my thinking.

        Bless you man

  3. thecieplys says:

    Andrew, thank you for handling issues with such care, respect and honor but not skirting around your strong convictions and opinions. I appreciate you’re honesty and humility!

  4. Tom "Rider" Erickson says:

    OH MY, GOD help us all! Perhaps “antichrist” comes to mind. Do not add to or subtract from God’s word or you will be in a great deal of “trouble” is putting is putting it mildly. Just reading what he wrote made my spirit rise up in me ready for war.
    Hogwild 4 God

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