FROM THE WELL - 8/23/2016

Within the Articles of Religion contained in our United Methodist Discipline, it says that "The Bible contains all things necessary for salvation." So what does necessary things mean? It means you don't have to go looking for salvation anywhere else. Among the incredible stories of the Bible there is one grand story: God made us. Sin mars us. Jesus saves us. Heaven awaits us.

Don't be misled. All things necessary doesn't mean the Bible is all truth on all topics for all time. While it contains history, it is not a textbook on history, biology, geology or astronomy. Although, there are those that would make it so, it is not a blueprint for the operation of the Federal Government and it does not contain a sure-fire diet plan.

The Bible is the inspired word of God open to interpretation. There are those who continuously and exhaustively want to debate the innarancy of Scripture but for me it is a mute discussion. To say, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it," is not only a poor position or statement to make, it is a disservice to those whom the body of Christ seeks to serve.

It's important to remember that the original manuscripts no longer exist and the King James Version of the Bible is not an original manuscript. Neither is the NIV, RSV, American Standard or any of the other translations. More importantly, the minute I say, "The Bible says . . ." the words are subject to fallibility, for I am fallible. As Methodists, we believe that all scripture should be interpreted in light of tradition, reason, and experience.

Truthfully, we are good at interpreting some parts of the Bible but not so good others. The Bible is full of all kinds of literature: history, poetry, parables, commandments, metaphor, and hyperbole. We do a lot of damage when we interpret poetry as prose, metaphors as facts and commandments as suggestions. I don't want to damage anyone's view of the Bible story but the Good Samaritan is just that, a story told by Jesus to make a particular point. In other words, the Good Samaritan probably never happened, yet it happens in some form in families every day.

My preaching professor from Duke, Dr. Richard Lischer, said this:

The church bound itself to the Book, not because of its inspiration, inerrancy, perspicuity, unity, efficacy, or any of the other attributes later woven into Protestant Orthodoxy's doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, but for the permanency of truth, its usefulness in serving the needs that had originally summoned it into existence, and its apostolicity. This last simply means that the church wanted a book written by committed insiders, and not by informed observers, innocent bystanders, or antiquity's equivalent of sociologists of religion.[1]

I hope to see you in church this Sunday as we continue our series, Half Truths: Things the Bible doesn't say. This week we will look at the bumper sticker, billboard phrase we have all seen, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."


[1] Richard Lishcer, A Theology of Preaching: The Dynamics of the Gospel (Durham, NC: The Labyrinth Press, 1992), 58.