This is part three of a multi-part series on “He Has Spoken,” a study published by The Colson Center. This post discusses the second presentation and discussion in the five lesson DVD curriculum. This lecture is titled “Being Biblical: How We Miss the Point of Scripture.”
John Stonestreet comments that we often hear misconceptions about the Bible’s authority, what the Bible is. Two of these misconceptions could be called ‘the Bible as a rulebook’ or ‘the Bible as a collection of inspirational nuggets.’ But these misconceptions do not explain the Bible’s non-inspirational portions, which Stonestreet calls “scary." Some describe the Bible as God’s love-letter to His people, but even that relatively accurate description does not account for the descriptions of God’s wrath and the stories of how that works out in history. The Bible is also often seen as a book that tells stories about heroes of the faith, but these heroes are often flawed. God is the hero, not men.
Stonestreet also describes miss-uses of the Bible. We read books about the Bible instead of the Bible itself, or we “breaking it up into little fragments.” This misses the context of the biblical passages. We miss the over-arching story; and we also miss the immediate context, the verses that surround the section we segregate.
It reminds me of something Greg Koukl often says, “The basic unit of understanding of the Bible is the paragraph, not the sentence.” We miss so many things with a fragmenting, atomistic approach (see here for a further explanation of atomism). Stonestreet does a great job of explaining the controversy over atomism without using all the technical terms.
Stonestreet says, “The Bible doesn’t claim to be one story among many, but the story.” He then gives an overview of the story of redemption, from creation through the fall of man in Adam’s sin, to God’s dealing with the nation of Israel, to the incarnation of God in Jesus, to the recreation of the world at the end of time. These over-arching themes should inform our interpretation of the Bible. The story centers on Jesus, and our lives should as well.
The discussion between Stonestreet and Moore that accompanies this lecture is very practical. Basic tools and methods of Bible interpretation are described.
Moore says that a large part of our approach to understanding the Bible is shaped by the churches we have attended and the culture we live in. The culture we live in is uncompromisingly relativistic, or dedicated to the idea that there is no absolute truth. Moore mentions Francis Schaeffer’s phrase “true truth,” and applies it to the Bible as absolute truth that applies to all cultures, people, times and aspects of life.
Moore, aided by questions from Stonestreet, is very explicit. The first question is not “What does this mean to me?” The question is “What does this mean?” What has the passage meant to Christians down through the ages? He recommends a Study Bible, in a reliable translation, developed by a reputable panel of scholars that traces out the story line of the Bible. A daily time of prayer and Bible study will help a person greatly.
The next lesson, “The Big Picture: Grasping the Purposes of Scripture,” will be our focus in the next article in this series.