Image taken from (www.fellowshipchurch.ca)
I’ve been reading a lot about the Bible, its characteristics and attributes, what it is and why we so desperately need it. I’m reminded of the practical role the Bible ought to have in my life. Reformed theology usually recognizes four attributes of scripture: necessity, authority, sufficiency, and clarity. I’ll try to weave them together so we can see how they stand as a unit. Lord willing, we’ll look at one each day.
First, the Bible is the absolutely necessary. Humans are created for a relationship with God. And God is outside of us. So God must communicate to us in order for us to know him. Even before the human race fell into sin, Adam and Eve still needed God to communicate externally so they could know how to relate to them: all the trees are for you to enjoy, but don’t eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But, of course, they did. The fall into doesn’t create the need for God’s direct, verbal revelation, it just changes it. Now we need God’s word to know about the grace in Christ.
Historically, people have appealed to two things to challenged the necessity of scripture: church tradition and spiritual experience. Both of these rely on false notions of how Scriptures came into existence in the first place. On the one hand, the Catholic church views itself as the producers of scripture. It, consequently, views the Bible has helpful, but not absolutely necessary because, so long as you have the church, you have the foundation of scripture. On the other hand, experience based traditions have seen the spiritual experience is cause of Scripture. Moses, Paul, and Peter had incredible spiritual experiences, out of which came the Bible. But we too can have those experiences. So the Bible, while certainly helpful, is not necessary. In both of these views, the Bible is useful because it is one book that contains everything we need to know, but, if we sought hard enough, we could figure it out on our own. It’s like the instruction manual for your model airplane. Helpful? Without a doubt–It will save you hours of frustration. But, if you really wanted to, you could arrive at the same conclusions through other means.
The Bible is not like that. You can’t figure it out on your own. The revelation that it contains is necessary for your relationship with God. The Bible is the foundation of both the church and Christian experience. The church is God’s vehicle for the display of His glory. But the church is that only because it is the place where the Scriptures are applied. The church didn’t create the bible. The Bible created the church. Likewise, biblical writers did have great experiences—the Psalms make that clear. But that’s because they had great revelation. Experience didn’t create the revelation. The revelation created experiences. We, too, can have great experiences. But we are absolutely dependent upon the Scripture for it.
Tomorrow: the authority of Scripture.