Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Foundations of faith: Scripture    (10/14/2012)

On top of the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court for England & Wales) there is a statue of  Justice holding a pair of scales in one hand. This tells us that finding justice (or exercising the law) involves a weighing of things in the balance.

Being a Christian also requires this ‘weighing of things in a balance.’ In a complex world, we are on a journey of constant decision-making, for ourselves and for others. What can we base our decision-making on? The Church of England long ago developed a three-fold foundation of scripture, tradition and reason. John Wesley effectively added a fourth, experience, but he agreed with the church that scripture was the most important.

Scripture for Christians means the Bible, and it is “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy  Chapter 3, verse 16).

It has authority in our lives because we believe that God inspired those who produced the different books of the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is present as we hear, read and study it to communicate its Ttruth into our hearts and minds.

Many Christians can point to specific passages which had an important impact on their lives, often at times of crisis. All Christians — indeed, all people — need to pay attention to its moral teaching, because faith is for life, not just for Church.

The New Testament is particularly important because it describes the life and teaching, as well as the death and resurrection, of Jesus. For followers of Jesus it is essential reading, but for anyone it is a wonderful and challenging story of a great life.

The Old Testament is a more difficult read, but is full of human drama, history, action adventure, battles, love poetry, reflections on human relationships, the meaning of life and the nature of God. It is the record of one nation’s understanding of God.

Our life choices must be guided by the authority of scripture because we believe God speaks through his written word. Scripture, however needs interpreting — and the Church is divided about how we read and understand it.

It is a wonderful story, but to apply it to our own lives we must both listen and think. Perhaps we need to remember the lesson of Justice. Our understanding of scripture must be balanced against tradition, the long experience and practice of faith over 2,000 years; against reason, our expanding knowledge of the universe, combined with the human ability simply to think; and experience, our own deeply personal and unique lives. 

Justice carries in her other hand a sword. If we fail to be balanced in our use of scripture; if we fail to remember that our faith is not in scripture but in God; if we  love and honour scripture but fail to love and honour each other, then the church will be judged and found wanting.

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