This past week we discussed the first two questions on p. 6: Is the Gospel an announcement of good advice to be applied, or an announcement of good news to be believed? And: Is the Word of Christ information upon which I have to act, or is that Word something that acts upon me?
Both of these questions get to the heart of how we treat the Scriptures. Is the Bible an inert book, that waits for us to read the words, figure out how they apply to our lives, and then apply them? Or are the Scriptures–as Hebrews says–a living and active word, which the Holy Spirit applies to us in order to do something to us, to give us the Truth (Christ) to believe, and to sustain our faith in the midst of all the things over which we have no control?
This led us into a discussion about how we use the Bible as individuals. We recalled that for most of Church history, individuals never had a Bible which they could open in the privacy of their own homes and read silently. They heard the Scriptures of Jesus proclaimed to them, they believed them, and the Holy Spirit brought them into the story that God is telling in the Scriptures.
We also talked about how individuals understand what they are reading. With Acts 8:31 in mind, we wrestled with how individual Christians ought to read the Bible. I made the distinction between reading the Bible as an individual member of the Body of Christ and reading the Bible as an individual isolated from the Body of Christ. It is helpful to keep in mind what is the greater danger in our particular time and place. Is it that Christians will not be able to hear the Scriptures in their own language because “the Church” is controlling the Bible and simply telling people what it says and what they ought to believe (as it was, at least in part, prior to the Reformation)? Or is it (as I believe) that individual Christians, cut off from the history of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Body of Christ, will read individual passages of Scripture out of context and figure out how the words apply and fit into their lives, as if our lives were the main story, rather than the Scriptural story?
The topic gets complicated! It is wound up with the history of how the Scriptures came to be, the challenges to the primacy of Christ in various ways, the history of interpreting the Scriptures, and many other things.
We agreed that that sort of information is probably not where we’re going to start when discussing the Gospel or the Scriptures with unbelievers! And yet, if it is in the Scriptures–all the words that testify of Jesus–then we can’t ignore the words or stop trying to increase in our understanding of them.
Join us next week as we continue our discussion!