Recently, former megachurch pastor Rob Bell said this about the Bible in relation to the ongoing gay marriage discussion:
“I think culture is already there [with gay marriage] and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense . . . ”
Really? The church is least relevant when it quotes scripture? Quoting the Bible is our worst defense?
But this post isn’t about gay marriage. Instead, it’s about this idea:
Christians are most relevant when they quote the Bible because its words are God’s words — and those words have the power to rescue people from sin and death and put this broken, busted world back together again.
This year we are exploring what it would look like to rediscover and retrieve vintage Christianity. Vintage Christians begins with the assumption that God has revealed himself to us. The word reveal stems from the Latin one revelare, meaning “unveil, uncover, to lay bare.”
Christians have always believed that in this ridiculously vulnerable, purposefully loving act of divine self-disclosure, God chose to unveil himself to us. To uncover and lay himself bare before humanity, inviting us to explore him and his intentions for how we are to live with others and himself.
One of the ways he’s revealed himself is through a little thing we call the Bible.
For millennia the church has believed that God himself is speaking to humanity through this book so that we can be real, genuine knowers of God and the life he intends for us. Because the Bible’s words are God’s words, we also believe that everything in it is trustworthy, authoritative for issues of faith and life, true, and without error in all that it affirms.
Vintage Christians insist this book is God’s book; its words are his Word. Therefore, it has authority over every ounce of life; it is relevant to conversations about faith, life, and everything in between precisely because it is a vessel through which God exercises his own authority.
In response to our former megachurch pastor’s words, a friend wrote on my Facebook wall, “A God who is eternally self-existent and has no beginning or end, and with whom there is no past or present, is more relevant than any of us — and always will be.”
He’s so right!
I love how N.T. Wright defines the authority of Scripture in his book The Last Word:
“. . . the phrase ‘authority of Scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.'”
If God is the author of every ounce of life, then it makes sense that he has authority over it. And if he has authority over our life, doesn’t it make sense to listen to what he has to say about how to live it?
When my 2003 Ford focus started coughing and heaving a few months ago going up hills and idling at stoplights, where did I turn? The author of my car, the one who has authority over how it’s supposed to function: Ford. They were incredibly relevant to a conversation about how my car was supposed to function.
God and the words he’s spoken to humanity are just as relevant.
Scripture has authority and is relevant in every conversation about how life is to be lived, because the God who has authority is the author of that life!
While it may be a bit circular to use the Bible to explain the Bible, Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:10-17 about the Bible’s value in conversations about life are instructive. He explains that through an act of love, God breathed this book into existence, and in it contains the power to rescue people from sin and death and is useful for putting us back together again in four crucial ways:
1. The Bible teaches us.
It teaches us about God, ourselves, our world . . . and about our faith in Christ and what God demands from us.
2. It tells us what’s wrong in our lives.
It tells us how we treat people, calls out the things we do when no one’s looking, and addresses how we treat God and respond to him.
3. Scripture tells us what’s right.
After we’re made aware of the ways we’ve rebelled, we find in this book the path to help us recover.
4. It shapes us into the person God intended when he created us.
It shapes us into the husband or wife God intended when he created us. It shapes us into the employee or business owner he intended when he created us.
The Word of God is made up of God’s words, not merely human words. And through this literary vessel God exercises his authority over the life he himself breathed into existence.
And that’s precisely the reason Christians and Christian leaders are most relevant when quoting these letters from 2,000+ years ago.
This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the “vintage” Christian faith. I invite you to rediscover in the coming months what it means to be a vintage Christian.