It’s worth talking about what the Bible is for. This matters for a very simple reason. We use the Bible for what we think its intended use is.
Let me explain.
If you use the Bible to whack people over the head like some sort of spiritual 2×4, that tells me you believe God intends the Bible primarily as a tool (more like a weapon?) for you to critique others.
If you use the Bible to tell nice stories about becoming a better person, that tells me you believe God intends the Bible primarily to bring moral improvement (without offending modern sensibilities!).
If you use the Bible to take positions on modern issues, that tells me you believe God intends the Bible primarily as a topical resource for living correctly in the modern era.
So what do I believe the Bible is for?
I think the Bible is a redemptive book. I think the Bible is true, but it’s not primarily about truth. I think the Bible has significant historical context, but it’s not primarily about history. I think the primary topic of the Bible is who God is, what God is up to, and how people can come into healthy and fruitful relationship with God and his creation. In other words, I think the purpose of the Bible is to see people change their mind about God. The Bible is a hopeful book, a book that God intends to use to change people’s minds and to change their lives.
I think the Bible is the authoritative story of God’s character and purposes in the world. From before the creation of the world to after the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth, the Bible is God’s story. Although God’s story has relevance to what choices we make in our everyday lives, the primary purpose of God’s Word is not to tell us exactly how to think about every modern day issue. God intends his story to inform and inspire us and integrate into how we live as people of faith in our world.
I think the Bible is integral to the formation of a community. As the church has an ongoing conversation around the Bible, God uses his Word through the Holy Spirit to shape and form the community of faith. We tend as American Christians to treat the Bible as something purely for the individual’s use. This focus points us away from one of God’s primary concerns: the formation of a community which represents the redemptive presence of God in our world. The Holy Spirit was integral to the process of people writing the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is integral to the process of people forming the church.
There’s a thousand other things I could say about the Bible, but this is a start!