So, have you always been religious?
I was wondering how long it would be before someone accused me of being legalistic and dogmatic…or any other fun name.
This last week I was having a conversation with a co-worker. I forget how the conversation came up but somehow we began to talk about what we believed about God, the Bible, who Jesus is etc. Oh I remember…The question that started it was, “So, have you always been religious?”
That’s the question that sparked our conversation. I had said something about Jesus and my co-worker asked me that question. That led us into a conversation about those things listed above. During our conversation, this person said something that I found astounding. I shouldn’t be shocked anymore by how bad American evangelicalism is but I was surprised by this statement.
My co-worker asked me if I believed the Bible. That was the first surprise ‘cause this person claims to be a Christian. So when a professing Christian asked me if I believe the Bible, I guess I think it’s kind of a trick question. I’m like, “Am I being punked here?”
So I said that yes, I believed the Bible from cover to cover, that I believed it was the very spoken and written revealed Word of God etc…Then I said what I guess my co-worker found so offensive. I said, “I think that you cannot be Christian unless you believe the Bible. All of it.”
To my surprise, this person got all huffy and said, “Wow, that’s a very dogmatic statement.” I was confused and I guess my facial expression gave me away. I asked what they meant by that; in other words, is it a bad thing to be dogmatic about the Bible? They looked at me and, with a straight face, said they believed that someone could be a follower of Christ and not believe every word of the Bible. They said that the OT just didn’t seem to fit into their idea of Jesus’ teaching.
Again, I shouldn’t be surprised by this but I have to admit I was. In my mind, there was no question and there is no question. So our conversation began in earnest then because I knew in that moment that this person is far from Christ. My contention to them and to you is simple.
You cannot be a follower of Christ without believing the Bible.
All of it.
If that statement makes me dogmatic and overly opinionated, so be it. There are some simple basic things that I think we must believe about the Bible or we simply cannot be actual followers of Christ. So here was my arguments to them (well, some of them).
- Jesus believed the Bible (what we call the Old Testament).
How do I know this? Because Jesus quoted texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, aka the OT. In fact, Jesus spoke clearly about even so-called controversial OT stories, like the story of Jonah (see Luke 11:29-32). In fact, Jesus went so far as to claim to be the fulfillment of OT prophecy. In Luke 9, we see Jesus’ transfiguration, along with Elijah and Moses, clearly connecting Him with both the Law and the Prophets from the OT. All throughout the Gospels we find Jesus quoting OT texts. Jesus believed the Bible. Know why Jesus believed the Bible? Because…
- He was/is the very Author of the Word.
Pretty much all the New Testament lays this out pretty clearly for us. We see the most clear statement of this in John’s gospel, perhaps one of the most beautiful texts in all of the NT (John 1:1-18). If He wrote it through the direct inspiration of the human authors then I’d say we’re pretty safe in believing it (2 Peter 1:21).
- Without the fullness of Scripture we can’t understand who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish.
If all we read is the NT, we still get a pretty clear picture of this statement but when we understand that the entire OT points us forward to the coming of Jesus, we can’t miss this. I mean, it’s pretty hard to miss this if we are serious readers/students of the Word. All through the OT we see promises of One who will come; the promised seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head, the promised seed of Abraham through whom all will be blessed, the One whom Moses promises to the people of God, the eternal King promised to David and the One who will usher in the new covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah…and so it goes on and on.
Without the Bible we can’t understand who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish.
- Without Scripture we can’t know Jesus.
Think about that. If we didn’t have the Bible we would know nothing of Jesus. Only those who were around to see and follow Him during His brief ministry here on earth would know Him or anything about Him. Without the OT we can’t know who, what or how to anticipate the coming of the promised One. Without the NT we wouldn’t know what He did or how we are to live in light of His coming.
Peter says something really astonishing in 2 Peter 1:16-21. I invite you to read this text carefully. Peter, who saw all that Jesus did and knew Him intimately, says something staggering. Look at verse 19 of the 2nd Peter text. He has just talked about how he was an eyewitness of His majesty. Peter saw Jesus transfigured, crucified, resurrected and watched Him ascend into heaven. Peter saw all that and yet says that we have a more sure word than even his own eyewitness testimony.
He says we have the Word.
This is one of the rallying cries of the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura. The Word only. By the Word, we know who God is, who His Son Jesus is and how we are to relate in faith to Him.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not worshipping the Bible instead of Jesus. I’m not saying the Bible somehow is more important than Jesus. I’m saying that God has revealed Himself to us by His written Word and His incarnate Word but we cannot know the incarnate Word without the written Word. Any “knowledge” about Jesus apart from the Bible is heresy; this has been true throughout the history of the Church and hopefully always will be.
It saddens me deeply that American evangelicalism has wandered so far from the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Let us return again to an actual biblical understanding of the Word of God. We could all use a little more dogma in our lives.