Authority and the Bible

The Orthodox (Roman and Eastern) Church takes both apostolic tradition and the Bible as sources of authority in the church. With the different view of apostolic tradition laid out in my last blog post, we now turn to the biblical record as a source of authority in the church.

In some evangelical circles, the place of the Bible is supreme. Coming from a Southern Baptist background, a certain pride was being a people of the book. In some more conservative (some might say fringe) groups, the Bible must be 1611 King James only. The point being this is the true word of God and other translations are in error or, more generously, a mix of truth and error. Such a view of scripture finds a certain similarity to Muslim and Mormon views.

While such views are often the reaction to textual criticism, New Testament studies and other things like the Jesus Seminar. Theologically, the work of NT scholars should be acknowledged and considered. However, this can be taken with a grain of salt since the emphases change roughly every twenty to thirty years. The greater task may be that of interpretation. Ultimately, I see the hermeneutic lens as that of the life and teachings of Jesus. He is the final Word and the living Word that the Bible testifies to through the power of the Spirit.

The narrative of the Bible is the story of God and humanity; God’s purpose for humanity and the plan of redemption revealed in Christ. Granted this is greatly simplified, the story of the God revealed in the Bible is rich in the text. Likewise, the story we find ourselves in is part of and a continuation of the biblical narrative. The canon of scripture is closed but we continue to testify of the living God revealed through Christ Jesus.

Let us consider our view of the Bible: Do we look to the Bible for ammo to cut down the one we disagree with? Do we interpret scripture to justify our economics, politics and culture? Or do we see the written testimony of people of faith that testify to a redeeming God? Do we see the living Word via the written Word? Does our view of the Bible end at the book or point us to the One the book is about?

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Profound works of staggering genuis

A few years back I had the privilege of standing before Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’ at the Getty Center. It is the one painting there that I will surely see any time I visit. Yet this last time that I saw it, it brought me to tears. Here is this painting, by a tormented soul of a man, now considered a genius years after his death. His paintings are priceless. How is it that paint on a canvas can bring someone to tears or evoke awe? Seeing the paint strokes, the colors, the composition and all the elements comprising the work provide a medium for communication that carries one over to a higher place. I consider Van Gogh a genius because his work still touches people. So much of his life is tied up in his paintings, it was the one thing he had to do, his passion.

The Pauline letter written to the church in Ephesus echoes the passion God has for us. The letter states:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph2.10.NIV (italics mine)

The NASB speaks of ‘workmanship’ and many other translation state, ‘God makes us what we are…’ We are His works of creation, His passion. The Greek word for handiwork is poema. A work of art invested with the very life of God, we have His fingerprints all over us, so to speak. The passion of God, while exemplified in the cross of Christ, is not limited to the cross but encompasses the totality of creation that was and will be redeemed. We are part of that beautifully crafted work and we have the privilege of participating in that work.

I firmly believe every brother or sister in Christ has a work that is potentially a profound work of staggering genius. It is their passion. One aspect of the unrelenting and wild passion of God they can reflect. We all need to find that in ourselves and recognize it others and encourage one another to fulfill that passion. Whether it is painting, poetry, woodworking, teaching, serving the poor, challenging government or whatever that passion might be, pursue it. In addition, do not think about it. Do it.

Grace and peace,

JWR

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