ESSAYS | THE BIBLE… GOD’S EPIC STORY
CADET LAURA VAN SCHAICK writes about her journey with the Bible and 1st Doctrine of the Salvation Army …
A popular song that debuted on Christian radio in 2003 entitled “Everything To Me” describes the relationship that many who grew up in a Christian home, have with the Bible. It speaks of someone who “[grows] up in Sunday school, [memorizes] the Golden Rule and how Jesus came to set the sinner free”, someone who “[knows] the stories inside out” as a small child but does not yet understand the full implications that these stories hold for their lives and their personal salvation. This does not belittle the significance of the Bible, or the belief that “the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God,” but instead speaks to the personal journey that many, like me, take with the Bible.
Growing up in a Christian home and regularly attending church, I was well versed in the Bible, obediently and earnestly learning my memory verses and paying close attention to the Bible stories as they were told to me. It was not until I was challenged about my personal faith at a summer camp at age 12 where I began to view the Bible as more than a story book. At this time and in the months and years to come, it became a book through which I could grow in my understanding of who God is and how He wanted me to live my life. I set aside my “Book of Bible Stories” and took the kids study Bible I had been given the year prior off the shelf and began to read it passionately, internalizing key verses through which God spoke to me and through which He gave me strength to stand strong as a Christian through my times attending public school and other secular based activities I participated in. 1 Timothy 4:12 became my personal mission statement.
This very strong faith in the Bible as the divine word of God carried me through much of the remainder of my grade school years. It was upon entering my post secondary studies that my confidence in the Bible began to be challenged. Through my studies in various science disciplines and anthropology, as well as being immersed in a very post-modern environment of a large university campus, I began to question the reliability of the Bible from a historical and academic perspective. Did the Bible stand up as a reliable historical text, and could it be used to defend my position as a Christian in an academic environment?Was it wrong of me to study geology and human evolution but still claim parts of the Bible as truth? And what implications did this have on my view of the Bible and my personal beliefs? For a time I took on the role of a skeptic, rigorously contrasting the Bible with what was being presented in my University studies. At this time I also began reading the works of Lee Strobel, which I found to be a reaffirming commentary on the validity of the Bible. Looking back, I see that this time of reflection on the Bible as a whole strengthened my faith in it and, subsequently, it strengthened my faith in and relationship with Jesus Christ. I can with confidence sing the title words in the song, “He became everything to me, more than a story.”
As a Salvationist, my personal journey with the Bible was further shaped by the study of its first doctrine which states that, “the Scriptures . . . were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.” Looking further into The Handbook of Doctrine, one reads that, “the Bible is a human document . . . that . . . is also God’s word.” The Bible is a human creation and inspired of God. Gordon Oliver in his book “Holy Bible, Human Bible” argues that, “one of the questions pastoral practice must ask concerns how the Bible can be taken seriously both as the writings of communities of people in the distant past and as holy Scripture.”
These two definitions of the Bible, the “writings of . . . people” and “holy Scripture”, seem at first glance to contradict one another. Upon closer inspection this is not the case. The Bible most certainly is a human creation written by people. It is a collection of historical documents written over the course of thousands of years and in many languages by many authors and within many political and cultural contexts. Individual writing styles are evident as are human limitations. It is even humans who selected which historical works, or Books, should make up the Bible as we understand and recognize it today. If this is so, how can it also be inspired of God? Karlfried Froehlich, writing from a Lutheran perspective, explains that, “the Christian notion of Biblical inspiration suggests indeed that, in one sense or another, God is the auctor of Scripture. . . The suggestion is not that God must be claimed as a literary author, a writer. Auctor. . . means first of all originator, founder, beginner. . . God is the primary author, the biblical writers the secondary authors.”
While the Bible is fundamentally written by humans, it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is “the fruit of a living relationship between God and his people in particular historical contexts.” It is important to remember that “the Bible is a gift of God, not a human achievement.” While the Bible does display its human authorship, “an investigation into the message and claims of the Bible shows them to exceed conventional human wisdom, logic and goodness.”
Salvationists “accept the authority of the Bible as the ultimate deciding factor on issues of true Christian belief and discipleship” and is therefore seen as “the major authority for Christians.” However, Salvationists stem from Wesleyan tradition and view the Bible as authority along with tradition, reason and experience. The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine states that, “the Bible is not safely read without reference to the general understanding of the Christian community throughout history, any more than it is understood without the help of the Spirit.“ It is important to remember that, while the study of Christian history and the guiding of the Holy Spirit are important, “we must not forget that Christians ultimately look to God alone as their source of religious authority.”
Many within the church are falling away from the views of their doctrines that relate to the Bible. Don Thorsen states that, “there is the ongoing concern for . . . the dilution of the Bible’s good news of Jesus Christ and the present-day work of the Holy Spirit for the Kingdom of God.“
There is good news in all of this. Despite the discussion about the Bible being distorted or forgotten about in today’s post-modern society, it is still seen to be a story important enough to be taught to children in Sunday school, shared on national TV every Easter season and studied in world-class universities. The crutch is that they are stories given through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They are “stories-with-a-purpose.” The Bible is a story first and foremost, and as long as the story continues to be told there will be those who will listen and truly believe in the God that divinely inspired this beautiful book.
Essay written by Cadet Laura Van Schick. Laura and her husband Stefan are cadets in training at CFOT. Laura wrote this essay having been asked (along with her session) to explore the meaning of the 1st doctrine and include within their writing their personal journey with the bible, why they feel the bible is a human creation and inspired by God, and why they feel the doctrine is important for The Salvation Army.
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