This past week, I began reading N.T. Wright’s newest work, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today. I appreciate Wright’s writings and teachings across so many areas, and so I confess that I have entered into reading this book with the expectation that it will be both solid and refreshing.
So far I have not been let down.
I particularly wanted to post two striking quotes, which are found early on in the book in the first chapter. I believe these two quotes are central to our understanding not just a doctrine of Scripture, but the nature of God Himself.
The first is here:
When John declares that “in the beginning was the word,” he does not reach a climax with “and the word was written down” but “and the word became flesh”. (p21)
This is absolutely vital to understanding God and His work amongst creation. The word of God, the final word, is that of Jesus Christ himself. As I have expressed here before, if anything, we have a Christ-centred faith. Christ is central in all that we believe, proclaim and live.
It is very true that the Scripture attests and points to this central word-logos of God, the divine Son of God. But Scripture finds itself subservient to a greater purpose, which is that of not first and foremost endorsing itself but ultimately confirming the great Word of God, Christ.
And, not to mention, that this incarnation of the Living Word (the divine becoming flesh) informs and energizes right across our understanding of creation, humanity, church, mission, eschatology, and all other theological concepts.
The quote above leads on to a thought that Wright shares about the concept “the authority of Scripture”:
When we take the phrase “the authority of scripture” out of its suitcase [unpack it], then, we recognize that it can have Christian meaning only if we are referring to the scripture’s authority in a delegated or mediated sense from that which God himself possesses and that which Jesus possesses as the risen Lord and Son of God, the Immanuel. It must mean, if it means anything Christian, “the authority of God exercised through scripture.” (p22)
My heart cries out – Exactly!
If our Christian faith is centred in Christ, then whatever we approach – Scripture, ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, etc – must be centred in recognising the authority of Christ. For our Lord did not say, himself, that, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Scripture.’ Rather, we know he correctly stated: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me‘ (Matt 28:18).
This does not negate an all-important passage like 2 Tim 3:14-17, nor others, for the church has always held Scripture as central and authoritative to our faith, beliefs and life. But there is something, or someone, bigger. If the written word is seen on a par level with the Living Word, then we could begin moving towards an over-identification at the least or even bibliolatry at the worst. Jesus himself warned the Pharisees:
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)
For many, this is all quite easy to acknowledge and accept: God-Christ are our great authority and Scripture is the main avenue of the exercising of God’s authority in the church and world. But I bring up these quotes to remind us that, when we speak of the role of Scripture, it’s authority, I believe our confession should communicate the Bible’s responsibility to point to the authority and lordship of the one who now claims all authority in heaven and earth – Jesus the Christ, the divine and living Word of God.