It’s hard for me to think about how often the Bible was quoted to resist the policies of emancipation for civil rights in the USA, or to support apartheid and to resist Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
The question has me thinking again about a conference I recently attended on the trustworthiness of the Bible. Many if not all sessions affirmed that the Old and New Testaments can be relied on to tell us the truth about God and ourselves.
That’s not to say that all of us were on the same page. Some presenters reasoned that if God is true, then the Scriptures he inspired are truthful and trustworthy. Others argued that the issue isn’t just the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible, but rather how the inspired Scriptures are read, interpreted, and applied. A student of history, for instance, reasoned that belief in the trustworthiness of the Bible did not keep much of the church from arguing for slavery in the United States, or for Apartheid in South Africa. Another professor of theology from a well known Seminary reviewed a controversial book that shows how divided we are on a seemingly endless series of subjects— especially when the Scriptures are viewed as a handbook of answers written to resolve our differences and problem-solve the brokenness of our lives.
Ironically, in spite of our many differences, most or all of the attenders and presenters of the conference probably would agree that the Bible is a trustworthy witness to the God who revealed himself in Christ—and to our need of him. We all would readily affirm how important it was for Jesus to say to the defenders of Moses, “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).
All attenders and presenters in turn would undoubtedly agree that this same Christ gave us the key to understanding the practical implications of all that was written. None of us would deny that he told us to love one another as he has loved us; and that he then gave to all who come to him the Spirit who enables us to share his love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This doesn’t resolve all of the different ways we read the Bible. But it does lead us to the One who brings fullness of meaning to all Scripture— and to our ultimate reason for loving our God, one another, and all for whom Christ died.