Saturday, 24 June 2023 So What Then Do We Make of the Bible?
St John 1:1 – 4, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and lived among us…
Paras 12 & 13 of the Basis of Union
The United Reformed Church confesses the faith of the Church catholic in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It acknowledges that the life of faith to which it is called is a gift of the Holy Spirit continually received in Word and Sacrament and in the common life of God’s people. It acknowledges the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments, discerned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as the supreme authority for the faith and conduct of all God’s people.
The United Reformed Church believes that, in the ministry of the Word, through preaching and the study of the Scriptures, God makes known in each age his saving love, his will for his people and his purpose for the world.
What, then, do we make of the Bible after these two weeks of looking at some Biblical horror stories? We’ve read and considered passages not normally preached on. We’ve read stories that don’t make it into the Sunday School nor the mid week study group (normally).
Christians have always debated the place, and authority, of the Bible in the life of the Church. For some the Bible is a product of the Church (and Synagogue) in that Church Councils decided which books were accepted as part of the Bible and which weren’t. Even Martin Luther – who believed that only the Bible was the source for faith and life – wanted to take the Epistle of James out. Many Christians now seem to have come to a fundamentalist position seeing the Bible as the Word of God which cannot be contradicted, only submitted to.
The URC’s position is rather different. Building on John’s theological insight that Jesus is the Word of God, our Basis of Union “acknowledges the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments” (emphasis mine) suggesting that the Word is found within the Bible. This is a rather different suggestion to the idea that the Bible is the Word of God. Further, we recognise that God’s word has to be discerned under the Holy Spirit’s guidance; through preaching and study of the Bible God’s will is made known to us.
So as we’ve looked at these passages we may have discerned something of God’s will. God’s Word speaks to us from the text but not in the way that we might expect. Sometimes the Word may resist the words in the text. Sometimes the Word angers us through the words, often the Word inspires us to use our own words to make Jesus known. Don’t be afraid of the Biblical stories – through them (maybe despite them) we can discern God’s word active and alive for us in our generation.
Eternal One, before the ages You spoke and set all things into being. In Jesus You became flesh. Through the Bible we read words which speak of The Word. Through the words we discern The Word. Even as we are shocked, bewildered, or wish to argue Your Spirit guides us to truth and action. Give us the grace, Most High, to be words which speak of Your Word. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the URC’s Minister for Digital Worship and member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Orkney.