Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Should Form Us?

I was having a discussion recently in which I brought up a phrase I developed in college and that has since become my motto: “I will be informed by anyone, but only formed by the Bible.” In essence, it is the basis of this ministry. Scripture is central to me not because it is God, worshipful in its own right, but because it is from God, a reliable representation of His will.

The Bible is our only standard when it comes to knowing what it means to have a relationship with God. Without it, we cannot know how sin estranges us from Him. Without it, we cannot know what Jesus did to restore us to Him. And without it, we cannot recognize a genuine experience of the Spirit and a genuine community of the faithful.

This phrase comes from my belief that the importance of these ideas cannot be overstated. There are so many counterfeits in the world, so many efforts by the forces of darkness to draw us away from the truth about God. If we are not anchored to something immovable, then we will drift away.

Of course, I do not want to oversimplify anything. The Bible, after all, did not create itself. As I already said, it is not God. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the one who gave the Bible to us (2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 3:3, 4). Really, that is the point. The Bible came from God. That has been confirmed over and again by the fulfillment of prophecy and by its historical reliability. Therefore, it is trustworthy in a way nothing else is. It is the rule, the yardstick for life.

The meaning of my motto, then, is really just a restatement of an element of the Protestant Reformation known as sola scriptura, “scripture alone.” The reformers were confronting a system in which ages of tradition had been allowed to replace the teaching of God in the Bible, and they wanted to restore the proper perspective. They never pretended that the Bible was the only aspect of their belief system, or that traditions have absolutely no value. In the same way, I do not pretend it is the only thing that forms me. The Bible is not the only place where truth can be found. But only the truth is found in it. Therefore, it has a unique role in forming us.

There is great value in experience, whether emotional, philosophical, communal, or spiritual. I am more than willing to listen to them, both my own and anyone else’s. But then, I take them back to the Bible and test them against that standard. Anything that agrees with it can be added to my knowledge about what is good. But anything that disagrees must be discarded; or rather, remembered only as something to guard against.

This is why I do what I do. I think the Bible is important because it is uniquely true. I want to share its truth, because I believe we must know the truth in order to recognize the lies in this world. And I want to apply Scripture as broadly as possible to show how it can and should affect every aspect of our lives.

We need God’s Word. Without it, there is too much other information pointing us in too many different directions to find our way anywhere. I can learn from anyone. I have learned from Catholics and Pentecostals, Muslims and atheists, Christians and Jews. But all of that learning is meaningless unless I can make sense of it against the background of the unchanging truth. And that is why I will continue to say, “I will be informed by anyone, but only formed by the Bible.”

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