All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
I don’t know why, but I like to snoop on other church websites. Sometimes, my cursor eventually comes to rest upon the tab “What we Believe.” Usually, I hesitate a second or two and guess what comes next. Upon my clicking, the screen changes and I am taken to a mystical land sometimes titled “Statement of Beliefs.” I have my own beef with the idea of a statement of beliefs (the Christian faith is one that is story and narrative driven, not one comprised of set beliefs to designate status), but more than that, I often come across a particular statement and scriptural justification which rubs me the wrong way.
It goes something like this: “We believe the Bible, in its original form, is the inspired, perfect, inerrant, Word of God. (2 Tim. 3:16).” It could be different in its wording, but you get the gist.
It rubs me the wrong way for any number of reasons: First, when this letter was written, what we call the New Testament was not yet formed. Paul was speaking about his Scriptures: the Torah, or Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. The New Testament was formed by people over time and selected because of age, popularity, and their theology (crassly defined as thoughts about God/Jesus/Spirit). So Paul was not speaking about “our” Bible.
Second, I have incredible disdain for the internal logic of the argument/statement of belief. I hear, “Scripture is God-inspired, perfect, and inerrant because it (Scripture) says so.” The authority of the Bible relies not on what it says about itself, but on our (Christians) faith that God continues to speak through its “very human and culturally conditioned words” [Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 423].
Finally, using Scripture that way strips the particular verse from its context. Paul wasn’t trying to justify Scripture. He was trying to help Timothy realize God speaks through Scripture (another translation of God-inspired is “God-breathed”) for a particular reason: “so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good week.” Scripture is to prepare us to live a life full of “good works.” Paul elsewhere spoke about the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Reading Scripture produces these fruits, for the Spirit meets us in the midst of the words read, spoken, and heard.
I read Scripture every day (and I hope you do/will too), so I don’t think Scripture has no place in our world. On the contrary, I read Scripture because it tells a vast and grand story of the one in whom I find hope and joy, the Triune God. I read Scripture to better understand that story because then I’m able to see my place in it; where I am called to be. It sometimes challenges me, sure, but when it does, I think it means I’m on the right track. I read it not because it is perfect and inerrant, but because that is where I read God first breathed life into being and continues to breathe life, even to me, this day.
Thanks be to God.