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The Bible…I’m Not So Sure It Means What You Think It Means

” [Scripture] has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.  It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. ”

So says the Baptist Faith and Message about the Bible…all three versions–1925, 1963 and 2000.  Even the much debated rewrite of this section in 2000 didn’t change this core description of the Scriptures.  There was much to quibble over in 2000 among Baptists, of whose number I was among then.  Was the Bible “God’s revelation” or “the record of God’s revelation” of himself to humankind?  Was Christ merely the “focus of divine revelation”  or was he the “criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted?”  Quite frankly, since I no longer have a dog in the fight, it’s fun to kick those thoughts around now and again, but that’s not my point here.

It seems Scripture references have been bandied about quite a bit in recent days and weeks as the election season his full song and everyone wants to try to moralize his or her candidate’s position vis-à-vis the “Christian foundations” this nation is based on.  Right.  Anyway, everybody wants the Bible (and Jesus) on their side.  Whether trying to cast Jesus as a socialist or justifying free markets on personal responsibility, everyone wants to be able to say they have the Bible on their side because, let’s face it, God is a pretty heavy hitter.  I mean, an endorsement from the Most High would go a long way in swaying American voters, right?

This is ridiculous.  When the whole of Scripture is viewed as a cohesive unit (as it should be) it is not a history book, or a science book, or an economics book, or even an ethics book.  There are elements of those topics and then some in the Scriptures but that’s because they are a natural part of our human existence, not because they are exhaustively addressed there.  The Scriptures are about God reconciling a fallen world to himself through Jesus Christ.  Period.  Consider:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.17-21)

On its face, this is what the BF&M seems to be getting at but, having been written by Baptists who take pride in autonomy and not having to agree even to disagree I don’t know what they would say about it now.  While the author was undoubtedly thinking of his own work, I believe the closing statement of St. John’s Gospel could be applied to the entire canon of Scripture: “But these [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

May God have mercy on our souls for using the precious gift of his Word as a bludgeon for political battles instead of a balm of healing for those who desperately need reconciliation.

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