John MacArthur opened the 2015 Shepherds Conference yesterday with the powerful reminder that one of the most foundational and determinative aspects of the christian worldview is how one relates to the Bible. What a christian believes to be true about the Bible will go on to have a massive impact on their entire faith because everything we believe comes from the text of this one book.
We live in a time where there seems to be so much variety in how people approach the Bible. One can find dozens of different churches and denominations which all claim to follow Jesus and believe the Bible. Yet, when it comes down to defining what they believe the Bible to be and how it actually fits into their christian life, they all may have a new and different response.
Yet, as I reflect on the things that I am hearing this week I realize that this plurality of perspectives is a bit of an illusion. There are not a dozen different approaches to understanding the Bible. There are in fact only two. Either we accept it, embrace what it says about itself, and exalt it as the one and only standard of life, or we do not.
The Bible itself has only one clear deffiniton of its own nature and purpose. As mentioned in the previous post, it claims to be the perfect, sufficient, complete, inerrant and objective word of the living God. This is a claim of unrivaled magnitude. It is a claim that cannot be divided or cut into pieces. You either take it or leave it.
So what do we make of all the other perspectives? Indeed there are many different ways people understand and accept the Bible. Yet the common denominator to all of these perspectives is the fact that they all various ways of downplaying the seriousness of the singular claim that the Bible makes regarding itself. They are all a variety of approaches that we take a little bit less of what it really is. And history tells us that, eventually, they all funnel down the same path. Once you reject one aspect of the authority or veracity of Scripture, it is only a matter of time before you reject the another.
There are only two approaches to the Bible. Either you are embracing it for what it is, or you are on the path to denying it. Either you are fighting your worldview with the truths of Scripture, or you are fighting the truths of Scripture with your worldview.
To me, this is a critical distinction because, as is being made clear in this conference, the pathway to denying the truth is almost always a subtle one. It is the slight and steady pull of our selfish heart to find ways to reject God’s authority as we establish our own. We want to allow ourselves to believe that we are good with God as we shy away from submitting to what he says.
The deceptive fog of our heart is in need of a clear distinction. We must allow ourselves to be challenged and tested. Are we allowing our lives and hearts to be crowded by ideas and aspirations which stem from the text alone? Do we live a lifestyle where there is a constant openness and transparency with God’s word? Do we welcome its challenging truths to prune and shape our thinking? Or do we come to it, seeking for ways to fit our own agendas into its narrative?
Every christian, church and christian institution is either affirming Scripture, or is on the path to deny it. At a time like ours this is a challenge that needs to be made, starting with our own hearts. There are only two positions. Where does that put you?