First let me apologise for taking so long to finish this series on the Bible. At the beginning of November I had some form of breakdown and although I am now a lot better it is a long recovery period. As a result I not only lost time but I also lost my train of thought and it’s taken me a while to get back to it.
Up until now I have mainly being saying what the Bible isn’t so it is now time for me to say what I actually think about the Bible. I have said that I don’t believe that that the Bible is the Word of God, it isn’t literally true, it isn’t infallible, it isn’t authoritative, that the Old Testament may not be exactly as Jesus knew it and, to top it all, we don’t even have agreement on which books should be in the Bible. So what does that leave me? As with so many issues at the heart of Christianity we have to accept that there is always an element of mystery that we have to accept without being able to fully understand.
What we do know is that the Bible is a collection of writings by various people, using different sources, over a long period of time which, in some mysterious way, has become a whole - telling a single story. Not the story of the writers or their subjects but the story of God and his work in creation and re-creation of the world. What is more God doesn’t ask us to read His story passively but invites us to join Him in this story!
So how do we approach this book that is so central to the Christian faith? First I want to say that there isn’t just one right way of doing this; it has been disappointing to read a book on one way of approaching the Bible only to find it also criticises other, equally valid, approaches. I would suggest that every Christian should take time to read about the Bible finding out as much as you can about who wrote which books, why and what the social setting was at that time. Often there won’t be definitive answers but even reading the different views can be helpful.
Regular (daily?) reading of the Bible is an important part of the Christian life helping us to grow in faith and understanding; I have found it helpful not to follow one scheme all the time but to chop and chop and change to keep it fresh in my mind. All this has to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who alone can open up the written words and turn them into God’s Word pointing at Jesus, God Incarnate.
Finally I can witness to the power of God working through the Bible in my own life. For several years my faith was very weak and it was probably just routine that kept me attending church. The odd thing was I knew this and did nothing about until one day I bought the NIV Bible in a Year and started reading the Bible everyday. There was nothing magical about it but the Holy Spirit was able to use that to fan my faith back into life.
No matter what else I may think about the Bible I know that God used it to change my life.
I believe that God the Holy Spirit can speak to us through the Bible in ways we cannot understand or foretell, surprising us and pointing us to Jesus, God in human form, and guiding us to live our lives like His. It is the book God intended us to have telling the story of His relationship with the Jews leading up to the climatic moment of the crucifixion. In view of this I believe that reading and studying the Bible are an important part of the Christian life.