I've been doing a little research lately for a course I'm teaching next summer called "Narrative Theology." George Stroup, in The Promise of Narrative Theology, begins his text by describing the "identity crisis" of Christianity (in the early 1980's) in the face of a burgeoning religious, cultural and social pluralism. Oddly, most Christians (and most churches) proclaim their unfailing adherence to the Bible's authority, but have lost the ability and/or will to actually use the Bible as a central component of the church's liturgy and life.
This is a phenomenon I have noticed for many years. Even within my own evangelical tradition, which prizes and proclaims the Bible's authority, and upholds the doctrines of biblical inerrancy and infallibility (the Bible is completely true in everything it teaches), many churches and many Christians seem to have lost both the facility and the will to use the Bible effectively and often in worship, preaching and life. Many have just given up! I recall in the conservative Baptist seminary I attended, one chapel speaker after another waving the Bible in the air, proclaiming, with as much bravado as they could muster, the Bible's inerrancy but then completing disregarding it or atrociously misusing it in their sermons. Karl Barth once referred to the "strange new world" of the Bible; it may be that the "stranger" the biblical world sounds to our technological, modern ears, the less of a central role the biblical witness may play in the formation and transformation of the Christian life and the Church. But this would be a tragedy that could lead to the loss of the heart of the Christian faith itself. And surely it does not need to be the case. We can neither retreat from the twenty-first century nor neglect the story of God from ancient days. But herein lies the challenge.
So here are some questions: In your own life, what challenges do you face in giving the Bible a genuinely central and authoritative role? In your church experience, how is the Bible "used"? Does your church's actual use of the Bible match its proclamation of biblical authority?
[Common Places] Reading Notes: Faith Alone
3 hours ago