I once had a professor who informed my class that we ought to think twice about including the belief in the inspiration of the Bible as a core church doctrine when we worked on forming creeds for our latest assignment. At first I thought he was joking, but then when I saw all the enthusiastic nods of students in my class, I realized with unfortunate certainty that not only was he not joking, but many students already agreed with him.[bra_blockquote align=”]A bible without authority proclaims an impotent gospel, mere words without power to make its readers tremble. To take inspiration away from the Bible is like a man we rob of his tongue[/bra_blockquote]I was dumbfounded. How could we seriously affirm that Jesus is Lord but deny the inspiration of the very document that told us so? How can we proclaim the truth of the Gospel but deny the God-given nature of the very document that bears it? A bible without authority proclaims an impotent gospel, mere words without power to make its readers tremble. To take inspiration away from the Bible is like a man we rob of his tongue, where we become fools to thereafter wonder why he does not speak. But that is what Christians are doing even now. They have denied the authority and inspiration of the Bible and have foolishly wondered why it now does not compel them. I am reminded of the story of a 16 year old girl who knew what it was to be compelled by scripture.
The Communist soldiers had discovered their illegal Bible study.
As the pastor was reading from the Bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered there to worship. The Communists shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor’s head. “Hand me your Bible,” he demanded.
Reluctantly, the pastor handed over his Bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guard threw the Word of God on the floor at his feet.
He glared at the small congregation: “We will let you go,” he growled, “but first, you must spit on this book of lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot.” The believers had no choice but to obey the officer’s order.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. “You first.” The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spit on it, praying, “Father, please forgive me.” He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
“Okay, you!” the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what the soldier demanded. She spat only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly, a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the Bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. “What have they done to Your Word? Please forgive them,” she prayed.
The Communist soldier put his pistol to her head. Then he pulled the trigger.1
To die upon a book that Christians in the industrialized west take for granted puts shame in my heart. She knew its worth. She knew its value. In countries all around the world, the Bible is worth more than treasure. God’s revealed word is priceless, for its truth brought sinners to salvation, a gift no money could purchase.
I tell you truly, my professor was wrong and those students who agreed with him, misled. The Bible is God’s revealed word to the church and to deny this is to stand upon nothing (2 Timothy 3:16 calls scripture, “God-breathed”). For how do you know that for us Jesus died? For how do you know that the grave was truly empty? Because the bible told us so.[bra_blockquote align=’right’]For how do you know that for us Jesus died? For how do you know that the grave was truly empty? Because the bible told us so.[/bra_blockquote]We know that lashes bore into his skin with ruthless indifference, leaving mangled, sanguine flesh to hopelessly cling to his back, like a colored leaf to an autumn branch. We know that death whispered in his ear a taunting call for surrender, but he would not submit to it. We know he was spit on and mocked—his message rejected— as blood from a thorned machination forced as a crown upon his head warmed a brow furrowed in pain. We know he was forced to carry his own death upon his back, where he bore the heavy burden of a timbered cross to Calvary. We know the dull thud of nails, as the swift swing of a mallet drove them through the bones and flesh of hands that delivered healing and feet that walked upon the waves, could not be heard over the jeering crowd.
We know that that as he dangled brokenly on the cross the crowd grew louder in their mocks and their lust for death intoxicated them. Through exhaustion and paroxysms of pain, this man pleaded, “Father, Daddy, Abba! Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And we know how it ends, with a few last whispers, even the greatest grew too tired, too weak as his eyes fell from heaven and he was no more, nothing but water and blood. And death only smiled. Then, in the grim finality of death, there was only silence. Perhaps only the ancient words of Solomon lingered: “everything is meaningless, everything is meaningless under the sun…”
But Solomon did not know about that early Sunday morning as we know now. We know under the sun of that day, a rumble came from the grave. Nobody knew that God could die, but he could and we know that now. Just not for long. For out of the grave arose a savior, flesh and all. Death now just a petty thing, no sting, no victory. The choked plea for forgiveness made on the cross now made manifest in the open arms—scarred as they are—of the Risen Lord, Jesus the Christ.
We now have hope. So now when we have trouble in our lives and all feels hopeless and impossible. When our only friend is brokenness and the cold breath of defeat is nigh and taunting in its whispers, we can remember this day, read it even. For words of impossibility are empty to God, as empty as the grave he abandoned. Because our savior, he has risen. And we know. We know with the certainty of faith. We know, because the Bible told us so. To deny the Bible’s authority, is to deny it all. And that, I think, is simply too dangerous.
Stay tuned for the next post, because if you’re anything like me, you may also want to know WHY the Bible is true, and that just may be one of my favorite things to talk about.
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1. DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing, 1999, p. 50-51
I would love to have an audio companion to go with the blog, so I can hear how it is meant to be read, by Matt Conniry. 🙂
Thanks Jessica, I have actually thought about doing that and may do so in the future.
I recall a class as an undergraduate student. Our professor shared with us a story about a well-respected theologian. In an interview he was asked something along the lines of, “what is the most powerful quote you’ve come across?” The man took some time to think, and responded with, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”
The Bible is central to our theology and to our theological development. In the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, it is the first authority to consider.
I am reminded of some words in the Bible, from Jesus: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name […] and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5 NIV).
That is a great point Jon. I recall a very similar story (if not a story we share in common). The profound theological truths at the heart of Christianity proper are founded and developed from Scripture and we WOULD be deceived to neglect the authority it bears.
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