It is clear that the Bible meant something to its original readers. The text was written for specific people in specific situations at specific times in history. Altogether, the texts were penned by around 40 authors spanning a time frame of approximately 1500 years.
Today, Christians believe (and have believed since the time the different books in the Bible were penned) that God directed the human writers to share his message with his people. As such, the Bible is divinely inspired and carries with it divine authority.
When we say that the Bible is the “Word of God,” we are literally saying that God himself is the divine author of the text. We are saying that because God is an author of the text, then the text is authoritative. By authoritative, we mean that those who profess to follow Christ are responsible to uphold its teachings. This means that Christians believe that the Bible provides the parameters for how to think about God, relate to God, relate to others, and view moral issues.
While the text was written for a specific group of people in a particular context, it is still relevant today. In order to understand how Scripture is relevant today, we must read the text in such a way that we recognize its original audience, its original context, and its original meaning. We must determine what the text says and why the text says what it does. Then we must ask ourselves how our situation is similar to and different from the situation in which the text was originally written. Once we do this, we are able to see what principles are in the text and how they relate to our situation today.
Ideally, this kind of work is what a pastor should be doing whenever a sermon is being prepared. In my last post on TTC, I stated that it is important to comprehend God’s Word for three reasons:
- If the Bible is truly the Word of God revealed to us it shares all we are expected to know about God, about life, and about salvation.
- If the Bible is truly the Word of God, we have a responsibility to obey the commands of God revealed in his Word. In order to obey God’s commands, we must understand them in light of their original context and in light of our own context.
- If the Bible is truly the Word of God, understanding it will affect how we live. It will affect how we view the world, our place in the world, our purpose in the world, and our mission in the world (to read the rest entire post, click here).
With these three reasons in mind, let us now talk about the importance of finding theological principles as they relate to our lives (how we are to live) today.
The Bible does not speak directly about every ethical issue that comes up in our culture. The Bible does not speak directly about every governmental issue that we face. It does not speak directly about every societal issue. For example, the Bible never states that it is a sin to use heroin. However, the Bible does state that we are not to lose our cognitive faculties. Heroin clearly causes people to make decisions they would not make if they were in control of their cognitive faculties. However, sometimes medicines that cause us to lose our cognitive awareness must be used in order to perform certain medical procedures. The theological principle has more to do with irresponsibility than it does with medical treatment.
This issue listed above is a seemingly easy issue with which to deal. Other issues are not as easy. What do Biblical principles say about in vitro fertilization, or surrogate pregnancy? What do they say about gender identity? What do they say about how to live when laws are mandated that go against Biblical teachings? What do the principles say about the right to bear arms? What do they say about segregation? What do they say about genocide? What do they say about terrorism?
Issues regarding bioethics, gender issues, marriage/social issues, ecological issues, and issues involving the sanctity of life (including terrorism and genocide) will be the biggest theological matters that we will face in the next 50 years.
It is important that we as believers recognize the authority of God’s Word as we formulate our views on each of these topics. It is important that we see how Scripture presents similar situations so that we draw conclusions about how to react to new issues from Scriptural principles. To put it differently, God is consistent. His Word is consistent. Sins do not eventually become un-sinful. Time does not change what it means to be obedient to God. He is to be our Lord. We must look at his Word over our traditions and our comforts. We must formulate our views on solid principles revealed to us in the Bible. Doing this requires us to think through what the Bible says, what it does not say, and what it implies. We must see what it prohibits, what it allows, and what it commands. We must think deeply about the important issues in our world today, and we must prayerfully seek answers to these big questions and concerns as we look to God’s revealed Word for the answers.
By looking rightly at the text, we will learn how to think about, respond to, and formulate redemptive views on issues related to scientific/medical, social, ecological, and sacred concerns.
In this post, I would like to leave you with a challenge: The Bible says that God forms us in the womb, but it also says that we are born in sin. How can God both form us and bring us into the world in a fallen state? Why would God do that? Can health complications, gender identity issues, psychological disorders, and mental handicaps be a result of being born in sin? If so, how? And if so, how are these kinds of issues related? How should the church respond to these kinds of issues? What does the Bible say about how these issues should be approached?