[I am intentionally vague in my reference to which church this is because I want to critique more the perspective than the person]
Lindsay and I attended a worship service this past Sunday morning, and I was near the verge of 1) standing up and leaving, or 2) standing up and verbally disagreeing with the pastor. It was painful, it was awkward and it was not only poor theology but also poor argumentation, which in itself is problematic in a sermon; should sermons be arguments? It felt as though I was sitting in a lecture than a worship service.
Their fall series was “Answering Your Friends (implied non-Christians) Toughest Questions.” And the final question of the series was “How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?”
When I first sat in the pew and saw the sermon title, I knew I was in for it. I had stepped out of my denominational bounds to see what this other church was doing, and I was immediately aware of their different theological loci. More problematic was the question, I have never had my normal friends ask me “How do we know the Bible is the Word of God?” The more appropriate starting point is “How do we know that the Bible is authentic/reliable/true?”
But what the pastor sought to do was to preach defensively about the New Testaments historical accuracy. He totalled ignored the Old Testament, never once bringing it into the conversation. Plus he ignored interesting passages such as Paul saying, “It is not the Lord who says this but I.” What do we do with that? These make the question “What is the Word of God?” much meatier, interesting and faith-forming.
I was immediately reminded me of one of my very first seminary classes in which the professor asked us burgeoning scholars “what is the Word of God?” After an hour of hands popping up and tongues wagging, we felt unsettled; as we should.
Lost in this defensive sermon was the beauty of “the Word of God,” which is that the Word is more than written document, it is Jesus Christ himself. The Word is alive and the Scriptures attest to Him, he is not subject to the written word, but the written word (just as the spoken word) is subject to Him.
I left the service sadden because while the pastor was seeking to bring reverence to Scripture, I felt as though he took the beauty out of the Bible. The fact is the tension of God’s Word written by human hands is beautiful. That is what makes the written word alive; it mirrors the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ.
Hidden deep in the service, which if you dozed off you would have missed, was an intriguing line about making the Bible relevant: “We don’t need to breath life into the Bible, but the Bible needs to breath life into us.” These are the things of beauty that make me wake up in the morning to reread the written word in order that I may discover the new way the Word of God is speaking to me.