Today I'll share a few excerpts from an N. T. Wright lecture (How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?) which I read this week while studying for my upcoming teaching series at Valley Christian Church. The entire lecture transcript is available for you to read HERE.
My series, The Church & The Word, is less about the authority of scripture and more about the importance of reading Scripture in the context of Christian community. I'll be exploring reasons Christians should read and memorize and study scripture together. I'll be making a case for why it is both the necessity and beneficial for Christians to bring individual reading into relationship with corporate reading and response. We will examine seven key verses of the New Testament and consider why and how a corporate knowledge and application of these scriptures can and should shape the character and practice of both our church and individual lives.
Here are the excerpts from Wright's lecture:
The purpose of the church’s life is to be the people of God for the world: a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. But the church can only be this if in her own life she is constantly being recalled to the story and message of scripture, without which she will herself lapse into the world’s ways of thinking (as is done in the evangelical dualism, for example, that perpetuates the split between religion and politics invented by the fairly godless eighteenth century).
The Bible, clearly, is also to be used in a thousand different ways within the pastoral work of the church, the caring and building up of all its members. Again, there is much that I could say here, but little space. Suffice it to note that the individual world-views and God-views of Christians, as much as anybody else, need to be constantly adjusted and straightened out in the light of the story which is told in scripture. But this is not to say that there is one, or even that there are twenty-one, ‘right’ ways of this being done. To be sure, the regular use of scripture in private and public worship is a regular medicine for many of the ills that beset us. But there are many methods of meditation, of imaginative reading, ways of soaking oneself in a book or a text, ways of allowing the story to become one’s own story in all sorts of intimate ways, that can with profit be recommended by a pastor, or engaged in within the context of pastoral ministry itself. Here, too, we discover the authority of the Bible at work: God’s own authority, exercised not to give true information about wholeness but to give wholeness itself, by judging and remaking the thoughts and intentions, the imaginations and rememberings, of men, women and children. There are worlds to be discovered here of which a good deal of the church remains sadly ignorant. The Bible is the book of personal renewal, the book of tears and laughter, the book through which God resonates with our pain and joy, and enables us to resonate with his pain and joy. This is the really powerful authority of the Bible, to be distinguished from the merely manipulative or the crassly confrontational ‘use’ of scripture.
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I'd also recommend Wright's book, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today.
Widely respected Bible and Jesus scholar, N. T. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on the current “battles for the Bible,” and restoring scripture as the primary place to find God’s voice.
In this revised and expanded version of The Last Word, leading biblical scholar N. T. Wright shows how both evangelicals and liberals are guilty of misreading Scripture and reveals a new model for understanding God’s authority and the Bible.