A couple of weeks ago there were several lively debates in social media concerning the SCOTUS marriage decision. The picture stage left was posted several times to illustrate our tendency to interpret Scripture in a selective manner. One of the interchanges I observed was between members of the same church taking oddly different approaches in their understanding of biblical application. As I read their public back and forth commentary something significant occurred to me: they had both been taught different doctrines of Scripture. One of them was literal while the other was more dynamic. Knowing the church of their membership made it very obvious that one of them had joined a congregation even though their approach to Scripture was miles apart. The outcome in this instance was that they argued two different views that confused many people.
OK, I know people join churches for many reasons and most of them are relational rather than doctrinal. In fact, the theological position of most congregations is buried in the governing documents of the church and is mentioned only in brief new member training packets, get-to-know-the-church sessions, or in a long theological treatise on the church web site. Some strategists have made the case that the biblical illiteracy of the times may be the result of down-playing where denominations, churches, and believers stand regarding the Bible.
It's no surprise that the study of systematic theology usually begins with a study of revelation---general and specific---and the doctrine of Scripture. Apologetics also has a starting point in accepting the authority of the Bible and understanding it as absolute truth. Yet, our doctrine of Scripture seems to be one of the more invisible aspects of church life. What is more, there is the obvious outcome that many of our church family cannot serve the apologists role in a fifty shades of gray world. The Christian position on every life issue, that is, the Christian worldview, hinges on one's personal take on Scripture. People with a low view of Scripture tend to take greater license with interpretation while those with a higher view of Scripture take a more absolute path to the questions that follow us in our days under the sun.
It's an odd cultural twist that much of the debate in critical issues today is between people who would identitfy themselves as Christians. Church people, even leaders, lined up on both sides of the marriage decision. More recently the Senate vote and media coverage regarding Planned Parenthood selling harvested baby parts found believers in both cheering sections. The cynics, skeptics, and Christo-phobia crowd get a good laugh when we're shooting at each other. As a witness, this truth decay is troublesome.
Can we get every Christian on the same page? Probably not. But, there are some steps that can at least establish where the church and spiritual leaders stand regarding the efficacy and authority of the Bible---
1. Publish it everywhere, often. In our corporate guilt about being called "Bible
thumpers" we may have down-played the role of Scripture a little too much. It's
time to raise the bar. So, our position on the Bible must be more than a couple of
lines of legalese in our Constitution and By-Laws or a Power Point slide in our new
member orientation. Announce it when you read Scripture. Stand and read the
Bible together. Post Bible verses about the Bible in your announcement slides,
newsletter, and media ministry. Make your stance on Scripture visible.
2. Reference your denominational stance as often as is practicable. Some
churches try to hide their denominational affiliation. But, in this strange world
being united with fellow believers is a powerfully unifying factor.
3. Aggressively teach Christian worldview topics and apologetics. A thorough
doctrine of Scripture should be in your teaching curriculum.
4. Preach and teach biblical sermons. There are always trends in the preaching
and teaching ministries of the church. Today we are re-discovering the art of story-
telling as a teaching mechanism. Great. Jesus told stories and parables too. But,
Scripture communicates the truth that touches and changes lives. Let's not
abandon strong Bible content preaching and teaching.
5. Make much of the subject of Scripture, Jesus Christ the Lord. Our witness,
stories, and testimonies are often about us. Every page of Scripture is about him.
Therefore, we must be people of the Bible if we are to be focused on him.
Yes, kids, I know being up-front about the Bible isn't the conventional line these days! Demographers tell us that millennials and their younger cousins don't appreciate the idea of absolutism, that is, defining truth in absolute terms. I've read many of the articles about reaching these younger cohorts and know most of the research advises more moderate claims about Scripture, not to diminish the authority or efficacy of the Bible but more to take a reasoned approach in explaining it. I get it. But, then again, there are my neighbors. They are the young, recently married college grads who are trying to figure things out. They may not be poster children for the young and the restless, but they're close. They told me to serve the truth neat---no ice, no mix, nothing to water it down. Not sure I like the metaphor but I do get it. They want truth, not opinion, not preference, not notions, trends, whims, or ideas.
They want truth. And, the only truth I know is Jesus, revealed to me in the word of truth.