Danny’s comments in my last post got me thinking a bit about my past. I became a Christian after high school through the ministry of a very popular fundamentalist movement. The church I attended was a large church, centered around a popular pastor and his Bible teaching. In fact, Bible teaching was the centerpiece of the church. Worship was the prelude to 45-90 minutes of verse-by-verse exposition. Children were not allowed in the service in order to minimize the risk of distraction from the teaching. And if anyone needed to leave the sanctuary to use the bathroom, they were not readmitted and had to observe the remainder of the service from the foyer.
Yet, this church, and its larger movement, built a lasting foundation in my life for the Bible. They taught me to love the Bible, to respect its authority, to read it, to study it. But it also came with a price. When I entered Bible college after only a year or two after conversion, I discovered that I knew more Bible than most of my fellow students. But that knowledge was accompanied with a subtle arrogance. And even worse, there was contempt for anyone who disagreed with the interpretation I had been taught and embraced. I remember the first time in class, when my professor gently confronted me about my use of the label “liberal” in regards to other denominations. I’m ashamed to say that my internal response was to label him a “liberal” as well.
Over the years, and through painful circumstances, my approach to the Bible has changed significantly. Yet, not my love for it. This is why I love guys like N.T. Wright who also love the Bible, yet aren’t afraid to scrutinize its teachings and historicity. I resonate with statements such as:
“To affirm ‘the authority of scripture’ is precisely not to say, ‘We know what scripture means and don’t need to raise any more questions.’ It is always a way of saying that the church in each generation must make fresh and rejuvenated efforts to understand scripture more fully and live by it more thoroughly, even if that means cutting across cherished traditions. This applies not least when the traditions in question refer to themselves as ‘biblical.'”
N.T. Wright, The Last Word
A while ago, I had the opportunity to visit another church from the movement that I mentioned earlier. After worship, the pastor led us corporately in prayer in preparation for his study. He prayed something that shocked me. It went something like, “Father, open our hearts to receive your word. We worship you and we worship your word.” Wow!
Now I realize he could have been referring to Christ, the Living Word. But the context of his entire prayer was preparing us to for the Bible study and he kept using “word” in reference to the Bible. And this movement does worship the word, i.e. the Bible.
Is that wrong? Can one love the Bible too much?