Fusion Value: biblical
“Churches live, grow and flourish with God’s word,but they languish and perish without it.” J. Stott
Any healthy Christian spirituality will be anchored in a love of God’s written word, Old and New Testaments. The desire to explore and to engage with scripture should go hand in hand with the hunger to learn more. This hunger should be earthed in a willingness to question and to wrestle with this diverse and sometimes complex book from a heart attitude of worship, submission and responsiveness towards God.
Any discipline, spirituality or emphasis that fails to place a high value and authority on scripture or neglects to measure itself maturely against it has at best, a limited usefulness, but could also wander off course.
Despite this, the wonderful treasures of scripture lay undiscovered by many. We live in a society which is image-driven and captive to the ‘sound bite’. The generations coming, Harry Potter aside, are more visual, intuitive, web based and networked and less likely to engage with the written form than previous generations. This should provoke us to re-imagine how theological reflection, bible teaching and Christian learning should take place in this fresh cultural environment.
I was talking recently with a prolific Christian writer, about scripture and particularly the Old Testament. I remarked how much we had learned from studying it in our local Church. His positive response was tempered by the fact that he had been told by two leading Christian publishers that ‘we are not publishing anything on the Old Testament because if just doesn’t sell in today’s climate’!
This shook me up a little. We live in a culture where it’s vital that we continue to enable and equip people to grow in a love and appreciation for the scriptures and to understand how central they are to a healthy, relevant and powerful faith which will ‘cut it’ in contemporary culture. To this end perhaps all Christians should be ‘students of scripture’?
Wake up call
Though the Creator reveals himself in creation, in world events (providence) and culture, He reveals Himself supremely and perfectly in Jesus Christ, and we know Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit goes about his work of revelation.
i) The Bible is accurate; the only clear, historical and reliable testimony we have to lead us forward and shape faith in our day.
ii) It is authoritative in all matters of faith and conduct.
iii) It can save us from deception, blind alleys, the follies of our cultural milieu, from wishful thinking and even the tyranny of political correctness- if we give it a chance!
iv) It is trustworthy; both historically and philosophically.
v) It is spiritual and living; the only ‘God breathed’ source of material we have to show us what God is like, reveal the truth about the human condition and point ‘the way’ forward.
We should not underestimate the power of Scripture.
As we seek to equip new Christian students to grow in Christ, to engage with student culture and reach their friends for Christ, it is crucial that we teach them these principles, but also we should illustrate from our experience the power of scripture. We should mentor others in appreciating the wonder and beauty of the living word, and encourage them in the reading of it regularly, thoughtfully and responsively.
For years my now 13 year old son thought my passion for fishing was folly. I recently had the privilege of netting a 23Ib Carp for him. In that moment he ‘caught more than a fish’- the photo is now placed alongside football stars on his wall! I believe a similar task faces us as we help people ‘catch’ the passion to embrace and outwork biblical values in their lives and in contemporary culture, and to ‘catch’ the adventure of being led by the Spirit through scripture. We must stand alongside them and impart our passion and experience. We can help them break through their invisible barriers, discover how the Holy Spirit wants to open God’s written word to them and then we might have the joy of sitting back and enjoy watching them discover the riches that have captivated every generation of God’s people throughout salvation history. Paul spoke of this same joy when the Thessalonians church learned similar lessons (1 Thess 3:8-10)
Turn them on, not switch them off!
I have spoken of neglect, and of the power of the word, but we may also need to be mindful of the self destruct tendencies that have damaged the reputation of scripture and Christians over the ages. Christian Leaders in each generation have warned that dry, dusty, dogmatic approach to scripture can be as damaging as one which is all passion and no truth.
Today we can also stray into unthinking dogmatism or a ‘thought police’ mentality. Contemporary media means that these tendencies are now not just unwise and unhealthy ‘family issues’ within evangelicalism. They have become potentially damaging to our witness to Christ as they are so unattractive and irrelevant to mainstream culture and even to most Christian young people.
Sometimes we build on a flimsy foundation of ‘pat answers’ and naïve ‘proof texts’. We fail to acknowledge the fear of not knowing the right answers immediately! Over the years this foundation begins to crack and the faith of some will crumble under a painful experience.
This is so unnecessary, as often careful study and thoughtful enquiry will in time bring us the answers we need if we are struggling with an area of our faith or to understand and interpret rightly a specific passage.
At other times when, in the midst of life’s suffering and struggles, answers seem a little thin on the ground we must learn to hold any paradox or struggle with apparent contradiction and live with the grey areas of human life, experience and suffering. At these times we remain rooted into what we already know of Gods goodness through his word and in our experience trusting that light will emerge from the darkness.
Amongst God’s people we must learn to pursue truth together in a context of love and grace, engaging with biblical truth in humility and with respect for others. Convictions about truth are crucial, but so too, is an ability to share and explore our worldview, framed by the Word in a way that honours our humanity and integrity.