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Posted by Gregory Koukl on August 20, 2012 at 03:30 AM in :Greg Koukl, Miscellaneous, Theology, Video | Permalink
What about the fact that for the first 1700 or so years of the Christian church's existence, most Christians, except the clergy and the literate, had no Bible? We take it for granted today that we have such easy access to the Bible. When a particular book of the Bible refers to "the Word," it obviously cannot mean the bound book you are holding in your hand since "the Bible" did not exist in that form at the time of that particular book's writing.
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 09:00 AM
Well, there are all sorts of Word-Forms...
Word made Flesh.
Carved Word (Pictures).
Painted Word (Windows).
To whom little is given over the centuries……
To whom much is given over the centuries…..
God keeps His remnant and that by His own methods. I’m not sure we can prescribe those methods. We do not have eyes to see all His methods. He is well capable of dealing with those outliers, and in fact the proof of such abounds all around us.
I assume this question is regarding those Christians for whom written copies of the Old and/or New Testaments are physically available in print or online or in some other form?
I've known a few for whom such was simply unavailable.
They yet heard, yet saw, yet grew. And that entirely from within. And that after the messenger / spoken word has left to go to the next slave camp. And on and on………
But those are the exceptions to the rule. It is important to avoid denying the reality of this exception in the error of "All Letter". They exist. “That” exists, and powerfully so. Pure internal reference. The Written Letter without such Living Letter kills, while, the Living Letter without the Written Letter (those rare exceptions) brings Life.
If available, the Living Word within will lead us to drink of that Written Word without. Then "Both" become [Critical] and the Christian who scoffs at the Written-Without is just as dangerous (and just plain spooky) as the Christian who scoffs at the Living-Within. Error in both directions abounds. It is hard work to stay between Internal/External with one hand on each reference, reach rope. To whom little, to whom much, perhaps. If He provides no ropes, then free fall into Him, He’ll be there. If He provides but one rope, then never let go. But if He should provide both ropes, then, well, imitate Christ and do what He did.
The Word made Flesh, Christ Himself, in His most desperate moments abandoned all and quoted, leaned on, the Written Letter in response to His adversary. In another place, Christ Himself opened up all about Himself to his followers using the Written Letter, and their hearts burned within them. In a Garden, in another desperate moment, He leaned onto, into, the Living God. In another place, in another desperate moment, He abandoned all to the Spirit.
It seems He lived in both arenas. We can't forget those rare exceptions to the rule. They exist. We can't forget Christ's interactions with the Written Letter nor His interactions with the Living Spirit.
When Christ says "Follow Me" He means "Do what I do......" God will make up the differences birthed by external circumstances.
There is a litany of examples of errors into the spookiness of the purely internal (such error is actually soul and not spirit) and there is a litany of examples of errors into the dead bones of the purely external. The list in both camps of errors is endless, really, and painful. It's safer to just stay with one hand on each rope and, should one pull too hard against the other, well, I don't know. Pray I guess. Study I guess. Read I guess. Let each stretch the other, and grow larger. Pray. Study. Read. Pray. Study. Read.
That's what Christ did. Pray. Study. Read.
God will fill in any circumstantial gaps we cannot overcome. No rope. One rope. Two ropes. But we must declare that it is a good thing that the Bible is now more available in print/online. In fact, God probably had everything to do with such “natural” or “unspiritual” events. If Love Himself throws us a rope………………
August 20, 2012 at 10:03 AM
Someone who has absolutely zero desire for the Word of God is demonstrating that they are not born again from the Spirit of God.
In other words, they are not a Christian, the way the Bible defines it.
August 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Mo I agree..... but for fun: you mean they should follow their feelings / desires?
August 20, 2012 at 11:39 AM
When the individual Bible writers refer to the "Word of God" or "the Word," to what are they referring? Is it the same thing that modern Christians refer to when they use the phrase "Word of God?"
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Both the Written Word (written text etc....spoken etc) & the Living Word........
August 20, 2012 at 12:51 PM
I got born-again reading God's Word. At home, no one around-- just me, God's Word and the Holy Spirit. That was in 1984. Reading the Bible almost daily since that time, has changed me for the better; 180 degrees. I would be lost without my Bible. P.S. I download your podcasts, and I thoroughly enjoy them.
Betty J. Parker |
August 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
See, there is 1 John 2:27 - "But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him."
I see no evidence that reading the Bible regularly produces a better Christian, or a better person, because there are some who do read it daily whom you probably wouldn't like to be around, and others who don't who are the most wonderful people.
I'll bet the Westboro Baptist folks read their Bibles daily.
I believe reading and studying the Bible makes you a better student of the Bible (hopefully), but the Holy Spirit changes you, as John states, and this is without a Bible, as he did not have one (certainly not a New Testament) when he wrote those words.
Jesus simplified the law - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind...and love your neighbor as yourself." How much more do we need? Again, Jesus taught this when people had no Bibles.
It's great to be knowledgeable about the Bible, don't get me wrong; but I believe it is the Spirit that brings about change.
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 03:44 PM
"Do Christians Need to Read the Bible?"
Yes they do.
Son of Adam |
August 20, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Another good reason for Christians to read and be knowledgeable about the Bible is to keep those in authority in check; that is, to be well-informed so as not to be taken advantage of. Good pastors and Bible teachers are aware of the many differing views of various subjects throughout the Bible, and it is good for the rest of us to form opinions based on our own study as well.
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 10:16 PM
@Perry - So you're using the Bible to suggest that we don't need to read the Bible? Hmmm... I could stop there but I think this is worth pursuing.
I'm not certain you caught Greg's point. That same Bible that contains 1 Jn. 2:27 also contains the verses that Greg referenced teaching us to study the text. Pick up the video again around 2:25 for just a couple of examples and the points he makes. Consider, too, 2 Tim. 3:16-17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." The Greek word for Scripture is graphe' -- it refers specifically to the writing, the text. I can't imagine how a Christian wouldn't want to grow in righteousness, to be complete, and to be equipped for every good work. This text teaches us that all Scripture will help us get there. And as Greg mentioned, there are many, many other Scriptures that teach us to study the Bible. Keep your eyes open for them and you'll be surprised at just how many there are. Also, consider Jesus' encounters when he said, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God." Or again, "Have you never read the Scriptures...?" Jesus obviously thought they should be studying the Scriptures, and when they weren't they were out in left field. Also, the NT makes repeated appeals to what other parts of Scripture says. The only way to know what it says is to study it.
The first problem is that somehow you're placing 1 Jn 2:27 above the other Scriptures. Is John more authoritative than Paul? More authoritative than Jesus? More authoritative than Psalms (esp. Psalm 119)? You are currently picking and choosing which Scripture you obey and which you don't--not the best position to be in for it puts you in judgement of Scripture. Additionally, 1 Jn. 2:27 doesn't really mean that we don't need to read Scripture. The fact that John wrote 1 John in the first place, as well as a gospel, plus 2 and 3 John should make that obvious. In other words, why would John write if we don't need to read? Further, a comprehensive study of anointing, the key word there, balanced with the teachings about Scripture reveal the verse you have taken in isolation doesn't quite mean what you suggest it means. As a matter of fact, I'd wager this verse would make the list of 'top' misinterpreted verses. It's beyond scope here, but with some diligent study you should be able to tidy up your understanding of that verse.
To suggest that "there are some who do read [the Bible] daily whom you probably wouldn't like to be around, and others who don't who are the most wonderful people," doesn't really get us very far. It really amounts to saying that there are nice people and there are jerks, some read the Bible and some don't. The question is what does God think? Is someone a "wonderful" person if they are not growing in Christ, not studying the very word He gave us, ignoring clear teaching that we should be studying His word? Are we wonderful if we are not using "all Scripture" to grow in righteousness? As Christians, when He asks us to be His ambassadors, are we "wonderful" ambassadors because we're pleasant but have no idea about "the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God"? If you think about it, how exactly would you know what God thinks is "wonderful"? Your definition of "wonderful" or God's?
Last, studying the Bible isn't just about "head-knowledge." It is God's revealed word to teach us, to guide us, to help us grow and understand, and to teach others and help them understand. The point is to apply what we study. The Spirit, indeed, brings about change. But that same Spirit is the author of the text, and that text says we should be reading it. And it is the Spirit that opens our minds to understand Scripture and open our hearts to live it. It all works together. Take away part of it and we end up stunting our growth, walking with a spiritual limp, setting ourselves up to be "wrong because we don't know the Scriptures."
I hope this helps you think through a few things.
August 20, 2012 at 10:41 PM
@Perry - Oh, one last thing. If you haven't known Christians that are steeped in the Word and submitted it's teaching that you would call "a better Christian" then you either haven't been around Christians very much, or you've been around the wrong ones. Maybe it's time to find a good church?
August 20, 2012 at 11:06 PM
"...submitted to it's teaching..."
August 20, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Randy - you speak of Scripture as if the Bible were a completed work at the time the writers used the word "Scripture." This is a hermeneutical issue from the start that Greg just whizzed by, as did you.
I never said we don't need to read the Bible. I feel that Bible study is not necessary to salvation, that salvation is a deeper issue not dependent on access to the Bible directly. If not, how did the church survive the first 1700 years?
I am not placing John above anyone. I merely point out that one writer in the New Testament seemed to think that the Holy Spirit was sufficient. At this time, the men were likely going to the synagogue to hear the Scriptures (O.T.) taught, and went home and taught their families.
I think it's great that the common man can read the Bible so easily nowadays. This can only be said for approximately 25% of the church's existence, though. How did people grow in faith when, for the majority of the church's time on earth, they had no access to the Bible for themselves? It's just a question that I have not seen answered.
If I didn't have access to the Bible directly, I might be taught many unchallenged "truths" that are not necessarily so. I am thankful that I can study the Bible; again, my unanswered question is that the church has spent most of its life with no easy access to the Bible for many believers, so how did they grow in faith? The rhetorical answer is that they were taught orally, but as we know, many spurious doctrines have been taught to people who had to rely on others for their information and theology.
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Randy said: Maybe it's time to find a good church?
Many churches I have attended still hold to a literal six-day creation, that the Rapture is a Biblical doctrine, that we are in the Last Days, and that physical Israel is still relevant - all things gleaned from, I presume, Bible study. I would love to find a church that challenged all these presumed Biblical doctrines.
And what "teaching" am I supposed to submit to, beyond loving God and loving my neighbor? Certainly not any Old Testament ceremonial law? Doesn't just about everything follow that first commandment?
Perry Shields |
August 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Perry Im not sure what your're aiming at. A) we dont NEED to study b/c the Spirit is who does all real growing acts in us. B) we OUGHT NOT study b/c that same Spirit never REALLY pushes us in that direction. C) both a & b.....
I too trust Him more than dead letters.... [AND] I can say He has often lead me to/by words.....what I ( hear you saying) is "C" ......
August 21, 2012 at 03:36 AM
No, I am implying neither A, B, or C. My point was that Bible study does not save; there are many who cannot read the Bible yet receive the Spirit and thus are saved. We are blessed and fortunate to be able to read and study the Bible and that should not be taken for granted, just because we've only been able to do so since education has spread to the masses. My other point was that "common Christians" could not read the Bible daily as we have been able to for many centuries, yet the church was able to survive.
Another ancillary point was that, as the church fathers feared, availability of the Bible to the masses would lead to multiple interpretations where only one was allowed when authority was fully vested in the clergy.
Yes, I believe Christians should read the Bible, and we must accept that multiple interpretations will result. There has to be something deeper to bind us, and that is the Holy Spirit.
Perry Shields |
August 21, 2012 at 06:40 AM
Perry excellent point and I agree that reading the Bible does not save us. Satan knows and sees and understands and yet is not saved etc.
I would offer that should that Spirit within us who is renewing us proceed to lead us to A or B or C and push us to drink, and, should that A or B or C be "written word" then, in those cases, being thus led, we need to drink/read...... I think today He often leads us to that particular well to drink, though He is able to do His work in us by many different modes should such a well be unavailable..... We need to obey God and His Spirit's direction, and, He does sometimes lead us to drink of that particular well, even, I would say, quite often. I think that is where/when the word "need" enters in, for, should Life Himself offer water to a soul, and should that soul refuse, well, I think that soul then lacks something it actually does need.
I do agree with you, it is the Spirit and not the dead letters........
August 21, 2012 at 06:58 AM
Perhaps a better question would be, "Does the Spirit within us, who alone renews us, also lead us to drink of the written word?" I would say emphatically, "Yes".
August 21, 2012 at 07:02 AM
So, what about all those "Christians" who were so before Scripture was available in written form?
August 21, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Historically most Christians could not read the Bible (even if literate) because they were too expensive.
However, the way traditional Church liturgy works, even now, is that if you attend regularly you'll hear a big part of the Bible read to you over a three year period. In times past, the readings were longer, and almost the entire Bible would have been read several times aloud to most regular attendees over the courses of their lifetimes.
August 21, 2012 at 07:37 AM
Of course it would have been in Latin. Though Latin was spoken/understood by many, the Bible still would have inaccessible to some Christians.
August 21, 2012 at 07:39 AM
@ scbrownlhrm -
I am not clear what you mean by your comment, since I said nothing for or against any feelings/desires. Please clarify.
August 21, 2012 at 07:41 AM
This: I agree that reading the Bible does not save us. Satan knows and sees and understands and yet is not saved etc.
And this: He is able to do His work in us by many different modes should such a well of the written word be unavailable. We need Him, not "it".
And: I would offer that should that Spirit within us who is renewing us proceed to lead us to A or B or C and push us to drink, and, should that A or B or C be "written word" then, in those cases, being thus led, we need to drink/read...... I think today He often leads us to that particular well to drink, though He is able to do His work in us by many different modes should such a well be unavailable..... We need to obey God and His Spirit's direction, and, He does sometimes lead us to drink of that particular well, even, I would say, quite often. I think that is where/when the word "need" enters in, for, should Life Himself offer water to a soul, and should that soul refuse, well, I think that soul then lacks something it actually does need.
And: I do agree, it is the Spirit and not the dead letters.
And: Perhaps a better question would be, "Does the Spirit within us, who alone renews us, also lead us to drink of the written word?" I would say emphatically, "Yes".
August 21, 2012 at 07:47 AM
I agree that we'll have a desire for him, but, I was eluding to that notion of "following our desires" as far as internal reference goes. Sometimes our desires are misleading, or, perhaps, I often have no desire to read/study, yet, I "ought". Feelings and desires are fickle etc. I know you were not going there, but I only mentioned it b/c some of the spooky feeling-based Christian's I've known have been, well, spooky. I think we need to attend to both our internal and external guide-posts. And, of course, obey that Spirit within who leads us and who alone can actully do any good work in us. A friend of mine came to Christ and he was coming out of addiction and acid-rock and he was entirely internally referenced and feeling-driven. He turned all that on Christ and he'd just blast his new Christian Rock and fly all over the place. He was then saved, yet, had no real inclination to read/study. He had to be brought there over time. After a few months he began to morph etc. Sometimes our feelings/desires and our own journey are works in progress...... I do think internal reference is valid, and, I think He helps us balance that with external references too....
August 21, 2012 at 07:54 AM
I guess what I'm saying is that this strikes me as a #firstworldproblem and feels very comical.
Jesus didn't call us to read our bibles. He called us to follow him.
August 21, 2012 at 08:12 AM
Okay then. I wont read it.
August 21, 2012 at 09:30 AM
A few points:
1) The quality of Christianity in the absence of reading it or hearing it read with explanation and good comprehension was historically very low, often mystical, superstitious and corrupt. There is a reason that people like Wycliffe and Tyndale were persecuted, and not from those outside the Church of Scriptural ignorance.
2) Jerome, the 4th century translator of the Latin Vulgate (dedicated his life to producing an accurate Bible for the common language of his time), also wrote commentaries. In his introduction to the book of Isaiah he wrote this,
“I obey the precepts of Christ who says 'examine the Scriptures' and 'seek and you will find.' Let me not hear with the Jews: 'you are wrong because you do not know Scriptures nor the power of God.' For if, according to the apostle Paul, Christ is 'the power of God and the wisdom of God,' and who does not know Scripture does not know the power or the wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
...ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
3) @brgulker: "Jesus didn't call us to read our bibles. He called us to follow him."
Isn't that a false dichotomy? Jesus constantly held the nose of the Pharisees and Sadducees to the grindstone of the Scriptures they had. He asked, "what do the Scriptures say"? He told them they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Matt 22:29, Mark 12:24). His arguments constantly went back to the written Word.
The question would be, if we're going to follow "Jesus", which Jesus should we follow? The one in our varied and corrupt imagination (2 Cor 11:4) or the living Word who actually is, the One revealed in the Word? History has not shown a better answer than Jerome's.
August 21, 2012 at 09:59 AM
It seems the concerns of many here is that by advocating "reading the Bible" some are essentially advocating that that is the path by which "God gets into us". I do not see that advocated anywhere.
No one disagrees that the Holy Spirit is the one and the only necessity.
What is being offered, however, is that that same Spirit within does, in many circumstances and in many places, lead the Christian to read written scripture. Memorizing, reading, and studying, without Him, without the Holy Spirit at the start/finish of it, is hopeless.
What needs to be addressed is, if the written word is available, will/does the Spirit within lead Christians to it to drink/study?
If He does not, then we should not read it, really, as those hours would be better spent in prayer.
If He does, then we need to follow His leading.
No one here argues that, should the written word be unavailable (see my very first post and all subsequent posts) then the Holy Spirit is helpless. Rather, as has been stated often here, in those situations the Holy Spirit has His modes of leading, changing, and growing us up in Christ quite easily despite no available hard-copies of text.
The question is, if the written and/or spoken word is available, will He lead us to it, or, does He lead us to it?
A) If He does not: Pray and don't read.
B) If He does: Pray and read.
It seems to me that "B" is true.
August 21, 2012 at 10:49 AM
@ scbrownlhrm -
A good point, though again, I don't know what it has to do with what I said. Could be I just missed something along the way.
August 21, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Mo, nope I knew you were not going there with your comment... was just trying to brige into internal reference so I latched onto "desire" and went running......I do agree with you that as He works in us we will grow in our desire for him as you eluded to ~~~
August 22, 2012 at 01:51 AM
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