The first obstacle I mentioned for our rightly understanding the Bible isn’t so much a problem with how we read the Scriptures, but with how we view them. Most Christians would turn to words that have been historically used to affirm a high-view of the Bible’s unique authority in matters of faith and life. Words like… inerrant, infallible, inspired, or God-breathed. I would draw on one or two of these fitting adjectives myself. The problem isn’t with what we say we believe about the Bible, but rather that our attitudes and actions betray that we hold an implicitly low-view of the Word.
If we truly believed that the God of the universe who holds all things in his hands reveals himself in the words of sacred Scripture, then it stands to reason we would make it one of our highest priorities to know these words. And not just with the sort of passing familiarity that might characterize any number of human relationships known simply as “acquaintances,” but with the sort of intimacy that one might have with a closest confidant, mate, or dear friend. If, in fact, God has chosen to reveal himself in Christ, and if that Christ is first and foremost encountered in the pages of Scripture, then in our reading of the Word, we are confronted with the person and character of God Himself.
In case one thinks I am exaggerating the importance of the Scriptures for the life of the Christian, imagine for a moment how limited our knowledge would be of the Triune God without it.
We would have no history of God’s saving activity with the Israelites, God’s chosen community. No millenia spanning perspective of the ills of the world, human brokenness, and God’s desire to make right all that has gone wrong. No record of the promises (covenants) to restore humanity through Abraham’s Seed. No strong condemnation of society’s tendency to use and abuse power at the expense of the least empowered. No clear boundaries set for what constitutes an appropriate way of life for His image bearers. No record of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. No understanding of the significance of the life and work the Christ. No account of the sending of the Spirit to create and indwell the Church. No Paul. No peek into the future (limited as it is) in which Christ returns to usher in the age eternal.
Please understand, I’m not succumbing to what many have called bibliolatry (Worship of the Bible). I am well aware that it is the God whom the Bible reveals that we worship, and that there are tendencies within certain streams of Christian tradition to elevate the status of the Scriptures precariously close to idol-like positions. What I am saying is that without the Bible, we have no real knowledge of who this God we worship actually is. We are entirely dependent on the Scriptures to know with any precision the nature and person of God. It is through the Scriptures alone that we see God’s activity and faithfulness throughout history.
And yet, borne out of our common humanity is a certain loathing for God’s Word that makes seeking God in the Scriptures feel more like drudgery than delight. Instead of approaching the Scriptures with a sense of wonder and awe, we find ourselves either indifferent toward or bored with this book that we say (at least with out mouths) is the authoritative Word of God Himself. All in all, it is our implicitly low estimation of the Scriptures that devalues not only the way in which God has chosen to make himself known, but also the One who has graciously done so.