Monday, August 20, 2007

Where's Your Bible?

Where’s Your Bible?
Kevin Shrum

Christians often claim that they are a ‘people of the book.’ Yet, it appears there is widespread biblical illiteracy among God’s people. How often have I heard someone say, ‘I know it says so-and-so somewhere in the Bible,’ yet could not locate the Scripture reference if their life depended on it. They think they know it says it but aren’t quite sure that it actually says it and, even if what they say is in the Book is actually in the Book, they have no clue where to find it in the Book. So, are we really a people of the Book?

Are we like those noble Bereans, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so?” (Acts 17:11)

Let me ask three questions that may help us return to the Book.

Where’s the Book? A question of physical location!
Like it or not, being ‘a people of the Book’ requires that we actually own one, that we read it and that we meditate on it daily. I believe that every person should have a Bible whose cover is stained with the oil from its owners hands. I believe that it is important to be physically familiar with a Bible’s pages, the location of its content and even its study helps. There is something about having a Bible that is familiar to its owner.

There are many factors that have led to a physical distance between the believer and his/her Bible. For example, the trend these days is to display Scripture verses in worship service on video screens. The result is that the attendee is not required to bring his/her Bible to worship service. The excuses I have heard for this trend are: 1) there is no longer a singularity of a dominate Bible translation and 2) looking at one’s Bible actually hinders listening to the sermon. To the first rationale, I would agree to a degree. In any given service you will find numerous translations of Scripture. The day of the 'homogeneous translation' is gone. This can make it a challenge to preach through a text with everyone on the same page grammatically and textually. However, I would rather struggle with this challenge than to not have the attendee bring his/her Bible at all.

To the second rationale, I would say that even if looking at the Bible is a distraction to listening to the preacher it’s a very good distraction.

Don’t misunderstand me. The church I pastor uses screens, media shout, power point and other forms of visual aid. We often visually display Scripture. My point is that anything that causes distance between me and the text should be minimized. When I’m not required to handle the Bible I will not handle the Bible.

In summary, too many Christians find too many excuses to be physically separated from the Book. As a result, many Christians play guessing games about the location of particular texts, spiritual ideas and theological concepts. This is why ‘a people of the Book’ read Scripture, pray over Scripture, meditate on Scripture, etc.

Where’s the Book? A question of spiritual authority!
‘A people of the Book’ also know the spiritual location of the Bible. That is, God’s people understand that the Bible is the authority for their faith and practice. The Bible is not a suggestion Book; it is command central for God’s people. To answer the question of the spiritual authority of the Bible is to ask the question of obedience (John 8:31-32). If I am a Christian, do I operate under the authority of the Bible? So, where is the Bible in my life when it comes to operating under its authority?

Where’s the Book? A question of estimation!
Finally, where’s the Bible in my intellectual framework? Do I see it for what it is – God’s Word? Or, is it just another book?

The Christian believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is not a word about God; it is the Word of God. Jesus affirmed it (Mt. 5:17-20), the Spirit inspired it (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21) and God has established it (Ps. 19 & 119). The first two questions of physical location and spiritual authority are more easily answered when this third question of estimation is answered. To believe that the Bible is God’s Word settles a great number of questions in the mind of the believer and secures the Bible’s estimation in the life of the believer.

May we be a people of the Book!