There are subtle ways we functionally abandon Scripture’s authority. We've been looking at those over the past few weeks.
Way #4: Reading books about the Bible more than one reads the Bible
When it’s stated like this, it’s a head-scratcher. But for how many of us, is this true?
Spending more time reading books about the Bible than reading the actual Bible is like reading books about cooking, but never actually eating. That might provide you with some sort of satisfaction, but the actual benefit is illusory.
Make no mistake, reading books about the Bible, that teach the Bible, that explicate the Bible, is a good thing to do. I believe the best books are an outworking of Ephesians 4. But reading books about the Bible is not the same as reading the Bible.
One of the reasons we do this is it’s easier to read books about the Bible than to read the Bible thoughtfully enough to the point where the best benefit is actually experienced. We believe the Bible has many human authors, but one divine author behind them all. If God is behind the composition of the Bible, the Bible was written by a genius that makes Einstein look like a babbling six-month old. Any literary work generated by this kind of genius is going to take work to mine for its gold.
So how are you doing? Are you reading the Bible more than you're reading other books?
There are subtle ways we functionally abandon Scripture’s authority. We've been looking at those in my previous two posts. Let's consider another, m0re complicated and little known, way today...
Way #3: Unfamiliarity with historical theology
I need to define "historical theology". I'm sure you would agree there were Christians who lived in the 1800's and 1700's and 1600's and 500's and 400's. You get the point. Question: how did they understand Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 6? Or how did they understand Peter's teaching in 1 Peter 3? This is historical theology. It's looking at how the illuminating work of the Spirit operated in the lives of believers in centuries past.
We can become infatuated with modern-day writers, pastors, theologians, so much so that we ignore how various theological issues or biblical passages were handled in centuries past. We become “groupies” of modern-day writers.
This is actually a subtle form of ethnocentrism. It’s a slight of hand way of saying, “My generation possesses the ‘latest and greatest’ on biblical study and interpretation.” In it’s most crude form, it would say, “Previous generations of Christians were a bit primitive and therefore their conclusions about various Scriptures should be taken with a grain of salt.”
This is near-sighted and even blind, for in 50 years Christians of that mentality will be saying the same thing about us. Would we want them to?
We all have had the same God, the same Savior, the same Holy Spirit, the same Church, the same Bible, so why would we ignore or take less seriously Christians of previous centuries?
This is why it is good to read people like John Chrysostom (349-407); Augustine (354-430); Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274); Martin Luther (1483-1546); John Calvin, John Owen, John Wesley, John Newton, etc.
I think most Bible-believing Christians espouse the supreme authority of Scripture in their lives and the world. But, “the devil is in the details” as the cliche goes. Our doctrinal statements on this topic are usually just fine. Where we err is in daily practice. There are subtle ways we functionally abandon Scripture’s authority. In the first installment, we looked at abandonment practice #1: appealing to selective texts while ignoring others. Today...
Way #2: Sidestepping “hot topics”
For the sake of peace or the approval of a select group of people, we offer innocuous treatments of hot topics. Issues like poverty, racism, homosexual marriage, hell, male/female distinctions, etc. We avoid talking about these in the futile hope they will just go away. The problem with avoiding these, of course, is that our natural drift is to pick up the culture’s thinking on those topics.
The best antidote to avoid these errors is systematic, expository preaching of the Bible. Topical preaching, typically, allows the preacher to preach the topics that most interest the preacher. That list of topics is almost always narrow and the result is many topics are never addressed. Systematic, expository preaching forces the preacher to preach on the plethora of topics God gives us in his Word.