Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is scripture?

I've often heard the Bible described as a 'manual for living' or 'God's roadmap for your life', and I think that that's often how I've used it.  I've looked for guidelines to tell me how I should live, how I could expect God to interact with me etc., as well as looked for things to inspire me to keep going in hard times.

Reading through the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles in recent months I've found very little that can be used that way.  I've started to ask: why are these stories here?  They must be important to have made it into the Bible, but I can't see the point of many of them.  That's led to the question 'what is Scripture?'  If it includes these bits, then it can't quite be what I've always thought it is!

I don't have much of an answer to this question, so I'd love to hear your thoughts!  A recent post by Tim Bulkeley from Carey Baptist College provides a partial answer.  He says that the Bible is written for you but not about you, so you shouldn't expect to be able to take Bible passages and simply map them onto your own life.  That's at least a partial answer to what scripture isn't, but what is it?

An obvious place to look for answers is in the Bible itself: what does it say that it is?  The only direct answer I know to this is in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
So it is useful for forming you into the kind of person who can do good (God's?) work.

In this light Martin's take on Chronicles makes some sense.  He thinks we need to look at these stories of the kings of Judah as a whole, and as such that they show the steady decline in fortunes of the kingdom as its kings steadily move away from God's law.  Understand that is probably helpful in the individual's formation, but it hardly seems to need to be said in quite so many words!

So I'm largely left with my original question.  What do you think scripture is?

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