What Use is the Bible?

Christendom has come to see and use the Bible primarily and almost exclusively as a manual of morality. Exegesis nearly always has “practical” Christianity as it’s incipient goal. Homiletics too.

While i will not deny that scripture contains things that can help us live better, more holy lives, i believe treating it as a manual of morality is radically missing the point.

We are sinners. We know this deep in our bones. It doesn’t take scripture to make us aware of it. If we know we are sinners, then we are also aware of right and wrong. We know the difference and can tell the difference. We very simply do not need the Bible to tell us…we already know.

This ‘bent’ in Christian thought has a long pedigree beginning with Augustine. It goes something like “God broke into history to tell us we were lost sinners. He told gave us the law so we could see how we had fallen short. He then provided a way out in Jesus.” Seems to me, it is clear from the Genesis story that “Adam” and “Eve” knew immediately upon their “sin” that they were in trouble. It did not take Special Revelation to make this known to them. Rather, such knowledge is innate to human beings as sharing in the imago dei. In fact, one could say that this knowledge is one of the very particulars that causes us to be/share in the imago dei.

What then is the purpose of Scripture if not to tell us how to live? Scriptures primary purpose, far above all other uses it may have, is to demonstrate and show forth the love of God as the meta-narrative of salvation. It is a story from beginning to end of God’s gracious condescension to the dregs of man and of His provision for a world corrupted by sin and death. In a single word, the purpose of Scripture is HOPE. It is the story of Life from Death, Joy from Sadness, Hope from Despair, and so forth. As Jesus said of himself in John 3, “God did not send his Son into the world to Condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” The Bible is neither the source of our condemnation, our knowledge of sin, our fear or anything else of the sort. It is simply God’s plan for salvation. That’s it. When we make scripture more than this we’re playing games that can’t be won.


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