The Bible is a book. It is words on paper. In and of itself, aside from the presence or essence of God or true revelation, it is only a tool. It is incredibly dangerous to think otherwise. Perhaps by saying that straight off and not giving context I’m doing my readers a disservice, but when trying to decide how to write this particular stream of thought I just kept coming back to starting with what I really believe.
I really believe that the Bible is a book. It is a divinely inspired book, and it is capable of giving life and truth and hope, but simply because something is capable of doing another thing does not mean that it does it all the time. Water is capable of preserving your life but can also take it. Many things can be one way but are also another way in another context- and likewise the Bible can be used to give life but has also been used as a defense for taking it. It can be used to share truth but has been twisted into lies. The Bible can be used to find God- but that doesn’t mean that the essence of God is always found there.
Maybe I should talk about this another way. I write. And as a writer I know that no matter how carefully chosen my words are, I have no control over the way people interpret them. There’s what I mean, there’s what I write, and there’s what you read. And the Bible is like that: there is what God inspired, there is what men wrote, and there’s what the reader interprets. And just because God inspired the original text doesn’t mean that He meant for you to interpret it the way you did.
NT Wright has a really intriguing article about Biblical Authority in which he basically says that when Christians talk about the Bible as an authoritative work they rarely mean what they say. Either they mean to say that their interpretation of it is authoritative, or Christian belief is Authoritative, or actually that God is authoritative. But you can’t sincerely say that the Bible, in and of itself, is authoritative. Now, back to my own opinion: the Bible is a narrative. It’s not a set of rules, regulations, or formulas that can be plastered across everyone’s life to the same affect. While all of those things can be found in the Bible, I must say (with fear and trembling) that they have little intrinsic worth. And I mean that sincerely. The law, absent the revelation of God’s love, will bring only death. That is why Christ came to the earth to die- to free us from the law of sin and death.
And it’s really a shame that we’ve taken that sacrifice as an opportunity to institute more of the same.
But I’m losing myself. I came to talk about the worth of the Biblical text. And what I want to say is this: It is worth little without the revelation of God’s love for you. If you read it looking for God’s love, you’ll find it. If you read it with God’s love in your heart, it will give you life. Otherwise it’s just words. Because, as NT Wright so brilliantly stated in his article, the Bible doesn’t turn to itself as an authority. The Bible turns to God and revelation of God as the final Authority.
We as Christians should do the same.