Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Theological Statement, Part 3 - The Bible

Theological Statement, Part 1 - The Nature of God
Theological Statement, Part 2 - Jesus & the Holy Spirit


(Painting: "Still Life with Bible," by Vincent van Gogh, 1885)

The Bible – The Bible (by which I mean the library of 66 books traditionally held in the Protestant canon as sacred) is the church’s authoritative rule of faith and practice. It is the foundational witness of God’s revelation to humankind, both in his relationship to ancient Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ (who alone is the full and final revelation of God). It was composed by a group of human authors who recorded and reflected on these revelations of God which they witnessed, and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration was present in the processes of writing, redacting, and canonizing. The Holy Spirit continues to use these books to speak to the people of God as the church reads and interprets them (2 Tim. 3:16). Since it is the authoritative witness to the revelation of God, it is our primary source of knowledge about God and about how to live in relationship with him. As such, the preaching, teaching, and study of the Bible must occupy central places in the worship of the church and the daily lives of Christians. However, even though the Bible is our authoritative rule of faith and practice, the fact that it was written thousands of years ago and in very different cultural and literary contexts than our own requires that we be discerning and humble in our attempts at interpretation. We who are church leaders must study not only the Bible itself but the history of its interpretation, as well as current hermeneutical debates, so that we can be in conversation with the whole Christian community, all of us interacting with this one text through which the Holy Spirit has been speaking to his people for millennia. I hold that the Bible will infallibly lead us to true doctrine about God and his plan of salvation; but our reception of its infallible message is only fully accessible when we read it humbly, diligently, prayerfully, as part of our intentional pursuit of holiness, and in spiritual communion and dialogue with the whole Body of Christ. I believe that our foundational hermeneutical principle ought to be to read all of Scripture, Old Testament and New, in the light of the person of Jesus Christ, since he is the full and final revelation of God.

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