‘The ancient church believed in the Bible because of Christ; modern evangelicals believe in Christ because of the Bible.’ (Geoff Holsclaw, Affiliate Professor of Theology at Northern Seminary)
One could argue the wording of this statement and whether it should be more nuanced, at least in favour of a more evangelical feel (though I think it’s evangelical). But it interests me deeply to think about where our faith lies ultimately. Not where an ‘objective knowledge’ lies, for I think it odd when humans that are both finite and fallen claim they can fully grasp objective knowledge and truth. It doesn’t mean we cannot access truth, for I believe the Scripture is true. But, in my current engagement in epistemology (how we know what we know) and theology (understanding God and his revelation), I don’t see the creature able to objectively understand the Creator. Still, those created in the image of God can reasonably and practically engage his revelation.
In the end, I ultimately believe, yes believe, that truth is centred in the person of Jesus Christ. He is The Truth. He is The Word. He is the divine Messiah and Son. We are Christians, not Biblians.
Of course, I believe Scripture, the written word, greatly testifies to The Living Word. But I also think we have to grapple with the reality that our faith is Christ-centred first and foremost, rather than being primarily Bible-centred. Again, the Bible testifies to Jesus Christ, and it is the greatest written testimony of Jesus Christ. But there is a more organic approach that helps us utilise all the gifts of God given to help us understand Jesus Christ. We have Scripture, we have the role of the living Holy Spirit, we have the power of the gospel, we have the church historic, we have the church current, we have good creation, etc.
All of these gifts are just that – gifts that help us know (more than a ‘head knowledge’) God in Jesus Christ. Is one more important than the other? I’d probably say it depends on the situation. But maybe. Still, I’m not interested in degrading the Scripture that says it is merely a human text. I love the Scripture, I read it, I study it, I teach it, I preach it, and I will continue to exhort the church to do the same. It is what it is – God-breathed, authoritative, transformative, etc.
It’s like water baptism. Though there are different views on the subject, I do not think that we solely believe that water baptism carries great import for Christians because of Scripture. Of course, Scripture informs me and teaches me of its major importance. But we also have 2000 years of Christians, from all cultures and traditions, highlighting the transforming reality of water baptism. And we’ve also a few different nuances within our own church background.
So this quote above by Holsclaw really hit something on the head for me. One takes precedence over the other. Or really, one takes precedence over the others (plural). Christ is The Living Word. Matter of fact, most times in Scripture, when we see the terminology – word of God, word of the Lord, word, etc – it does not refer to the written Scripture. ‘The word’ is something bigger than Scripture alone. Scripture is the word, but the word is not only Scripture. The word is essentially centred in Christ.
Let us be encouraged to embrace the importance of Scripture, the authority it carries as passed on by the first apostles and their companions, canonised and preserved across church history. But let us remember that our faith, at least if we claim to be Christians, is to be ultimately centred in The Living Word, the one who walked out of the grave, Jesus Christ.