When I was fourteen, and I was baptised, my parents gave me a book titled, The Ultimate Handbook: how to get into the Bible. My dad wrote in the book; keep asking and answering questions, use the Bible, don’t be a sheep. When I was just out of high school, my grandmother from Queensland helped me buy a grown-up Bible, I went into the city to choose it and got a fake leather orange and pink covered Bible. When I began theological college, I purchased a black NRSV version of the Bible. When I was ordained as a pastor, I was gifted by the church with a Hebrew Bible with English translation on the side. When I started working for this church, I was gifted with another Bible. This time the Message version with space to colour in the pages. The Bible is important to our church and to me.
Today I gave a topical sermon exploring the idea of why the Bible is important. I wanted to examine the Christian doctrine of inspiration. This theological term has developed from scriptural passages like 2 Timothy 3, which speaks about the scriptures as God-breathed. For the last five years, I have been working on my PhD thesis, and one of the first things I had to understand was my presuppositions (how do I interpret the Bible?). A key presupposition for evangelical preachers would be that the Bible is the Word of God. That’s why we preach from it every week. We don’t usually examine this belief as a church; it is assumed. Yet today, I wanted us to explore this belief.
A few years ago, I preached a sermon titled The Reliability of the Gospels which approaches this question from a slightly different angle. There I addressed why I think the Bible is trustworthy. I examined some of the evidence. In a more recent sermon (True News) I stated my position as a critical realist. A critical realist argues that people can both know and distort things, including the Bible. This sermon connects with these other sermons but also tries to articulate a great mystery: the ways in which the Bible can be considered to be God-breathed. If you are interested in thinking about this further here are four books that have shaped my thinking. The first two books are popular accessible works (I referenced Madeline’s work this morning, and Rachel Held Evans’ work in my Acts 15 sermon, Conflict Resolution). The other two books are academic texts. They examine how the Bible can be considered divine discourse and explain the critical realist position.
- Madeleine LÉngle, The Rock that is Higher
- Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
- Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks
- Kevins Vanhoozer, Is there Meaning in this Text?