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.
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?
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?
 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.