Friday, 24 August 2007

Can we have a too high a view of Scripture?

The obvious answer to the above question is yes. All things are to lead us to Jesus, and loving anything, including good things, above God is idolatry. The Bible is to led us to Jesus, however it is possible to defend it, or hold many of it's claims to be true, yet not love Jesus. In fact Jesus castigated people for supposing to care for Scripture but were unable to recognize him at his coming.

But while Scripture is subservient to Christ, it is also representative of him; therefore we really cannot have too high a view of Scripture.

I propose that we should seek to have the same view of Scripture as Jesus; that view is one of inerrancy but it is also also one that views that which Scripture says God says. If we approach Scripture this way that will lead us to change beliefs that do not correspond to the Bible to beliefs that do.

By necessity I will be viewing Jesus' and the writers' of the New Testament views on the Old Testament (at that time being the Jewish Scriptures), but there is indications in the New Testament that we should view the New Testament in the same way (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Jesus commonly rebuked the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for their unbelief. One may think they claimed a high view of Scripture. Are Jesus' rebukes a commentary about holding Scripture in too high a regard? No. Jesus rebuked their actions that deny their supposed belief in Scripture. He also rebuked them for holding their traditions above Scripture. If anything, Jesus' opinion was they had too low a view of Scripture, not too high.

Jesus' views on the Bible are well illustrated with his teaching on the resurrection.
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her."

But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)
This passage shows us in several ways how high Jesus' view of Scripture was. The Sadducees tell a story to invoke a conundrum using this to defend their concept that there is no resurrection. Jesus teaches them, graciously explaining the nature of the resurrection and thus solving a perceived problem.

He rebukes them for not knowing Scripture or the power of God. He expected them to have had an even greater knowledge of the Scriptures.

Comparing the story in Mark and Luke we see Jesus response:
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? (Mark 12:26)
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)
Mark states: "... have you not read in the book of Moses,..." (Scripture states) and "God spoke to him". Luke's version says: "... Moses showed,..." (effectively, the Scripture says). In Matthew the rebuke is: "have you not read what was spoken to you by God."

While the passage is about God speaking, these New Testament parallels equate what Scripture says with God speaking.

The third lesson from the passage about Jesus' high regard for Scripture is his exegesis of Exodus 3:6 which states:
And he [God] said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Fuller context of this passage reads:
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)
In calling Moses to his service God identifies himself as the God of Moses ancestors. God says he is the God of Abraham not he was. The time tense of this verse may seem a minor point, yet it was enough in Jesus' view to defend bodily resurrection. If Jesus thinks that every word of Scripture is trustworthy can we hold a lesser view?

Scripture in general is to be understood; Paul admonishes Timothy that:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET)
Of course not all Scripture is easy to understand. Peter says that some things are hard to understand. But that we can learn from the minor aspects of Scripture is not licence for obscure interpretation.

We should be conforming our ideas to Scripture. We should not seek to use Scripture to prove our pet theories, but holding it in such high regard that should its teachings ever contradict our own beliefs, it is for us to change. This is all the more important the closer we get to the return of our Lord, for as Paul warns:
But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. (2 Timothy 3:13 NET)
For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)


  1. I like what you say. Do you think that in US/Western churches today we focus too much on knowing scripture in the intellectual sense, and not enough on living it? If we did not explicitly say that we are Christians to our friends and acquaintances, would they make the same observation of us as the people at Antioch did - Namely that we are like Jesus!
    In my case, I am certainly not satasfied that people would say that - well, they don't..!

  2. flipside, I am advocating holding Scripture in very high regard.

    But to answer your question, I think that behaviour is more important than knowledge, we need to act like Christians, not just have knowledge. However I am an advocate of right belief because I think that right behaviour is more likely to flow from right belief. And I think in general we are illiterate Christians.

    You are right though, correct belief with bad behaviour is not worth a lot.



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