I’ve been reading a lot of not-so-biblical theology lately. I need to for the dissertation. A lot of this theology throws mud at the evangelical concept of scripture. They say that because evangelicals have trust in an error-free Bible, they can’t respond to the cultural context in which they share the Bible. I think they’re dead wrong on this point. It is precisely our belief in the unchanging nature of Scripture that gives us confidence to take the Scripture into any context.
Yet, there a point where I think some of their criticism sticks. I think evangelicals (me included) can, at times, put trust in the actual words of Scripture at the expense of their trust in God of the Scripture. Now, it is true that God’s Word and God Himself cannot be separated in some sense. Psalm 119, for instance, attributes to the God’s Word attributes which God alone can possess. But, at the same time, we must understand that God’s Word is what it is because it accomplishes God’s desires. God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11) because it accomplishes what God desires. A high view of Scripture should lead us to a high view of God, who acts in History to bring His-story to His appointed end—the redemption of His people who will, for all eternity, praise Him.
When I say that we can put trust in God’s word apart from trust in God, what do I mean? I mean that sometimes we can put our confidence in truths or precepts (whether direct quotes or abstract summaries from the Bible) without realizing who God is and what He does that makes those truths and precepts actually true. Let me illustrate. I took my family camping this weekend. It was a fantastic time. I was deeply encouraged. But what encouraged me wasn’t abstract truths—I have a family, they love me, I love them. Rather, it was them actually loving me and me actually loving them that was deeply encouraging. Can you see how that relates to our Christian faith? Yes, everything that God is and does can be turned into abstract statements, but they don’t need to be. Understand Scripture is not just a statement that God loves you, but the giving of the scriptures is Him actually loving you. Why? Scripture contains the record of God’s acts and His interpretation of what those acts mean for our salvation, and by His interpretation, he is applying those acts to our lives.
How does this relate to the Sufficiency of Scripture? Scripture is sufficient because God is sufficient. But he isn’t sufficient as library might be sufficient for all your research or an owner’s manual is sufficient to help you fix your car. God is sufficient as the one who actually creates life, replaces your heart of stone with a heart of flesh, washes and regenerates, does a work of recreation. The Bible is sufficient because it is the vehicle he uses to accomplish this.