Friday, January 18, 2013

God speaks

I started this post with the thought that the Trinity is not God, Jesus, and the Bible. True statement, and I may blog on it later. However, as I contemplated the Scripture, the wonder of this book crept over me.

The Bible is the Word of God, and it's slowly been building over the course of history. Moses wrote some of it down. King David and his son Solomon penned some. And there was an explosion of Scripture around the time of Israel's captivity. Jesus came. The printing press revived our ability to read the Word. And now we have so much scholarship, so many versions. It's like God knew that as the world became increasingly bad, His Word to us would become more available.

All of us learned about God because someone told us about Him. We have likely learned about Him from a church. We have spent our lives watching other people who say they love Jesus (or hate Him--we can learn from all sorts of places). While people are the best and clearest witness, they are also pretty confusing. And in the midst of the crowd, there stands the Word. God's own testimony to us.

We are blessed to live in an age where the Bible is so accessible. The Israelites are another people of the Book, and for a large chunk of their history, they mostly ignored the gift they were given. But after the Babylonian captivity, without the Temple for sacrifices, they began to teach the Word in their communities wherever they were scattered. The synagogue became the focal point for how they learned about God and right behavior. Even after the Temple was restored by Nehemiah, the rabbis scattered throughout the people made a difference in their level of knowledge. Boys grew up memorizing large portions of Scripture; the Word was known.

As Christianity grew and eventually became the official religion of Rome (what Jew, looking for the Messiah, ever saw that twist coming?), the Scriptures and teachings of the apostles were widely taught as the Roman world, Gentile and Jew alike, grappled with this new belief. But when the Roman Empire fell, so did the opportunity for learning as led by people of the Book. The Church became more fractured, and people were subject to whatever was taught in this area or that. Literacy declined, and the value of the Word declined in communities.

Then comes Martin Luther, the Enlightenment, the printing press. "Sola Scriptura" becomes the cry of reform (and eventually fracture) in the Church. In our age, there is so much information available to us, some of us choose to live as ignorantly as people did in the Dark Ages. Superstition and false teaching is easily accessible to us; our schools do not teach logic or thinking skills, and they lack a common cultural base to teach from, so our students are weakly prepared. We look a little more like the Jews in the book of Judges, a highly uneducated time period, when "every man did what was right in his own eyes."

And yet we still have the Scripture. It is our gift. It remains the standard of knowledge. Whenever it has been valued, it has rooted us in Truth. No matter what we have been taught by people, either in word or example, we can look to the Bible for the real answer. Martin Luther felt this way when he read the Bible himself: "Whoa, this isn't what I'm being taught in church." If you've never had that realization, let me tell you, it's a sickening one. It doesn't make you feel happy, but it does make you incredibly grateful for the witness of the book.

No comments: