Scripture is a story. We are beginning to see the story. God created everything good. Adam and Eve then made a bad mistake. We call this the fall. They were kicked out of the Garden and life got much harder. The bulk of Scripture is then the story of redemption. How is God going to restore us to a right relationship with Him? When will the promise of Genesis 3:15 come true? Of course it comes true in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. He came to earth, rightly handled the Word of God, satisfied the just wrath of God, put an end to death and crushed the head of the Snake.
There are many approaches that mishandle the text of Scripture. Higher criticism tries to convince us that we cannot trust the translations that we have. Many claim the Bible has errors in it. These may be obvious to us as coming from the liberals who are no friend of Christianity, but there are other more subtle attacks on the character of the Bible.
A self-help approach to Scripture lacks someone important, Christ. It is Christ that saves. It is faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone that we are saved. The good news of the gospel gives us the power for salvation and sanctification. We no longer live for ourselves, but for the glory and honor of our King. Christianity is not a self-help religion. The Bible teaches we are dead in our sins (Eph 2) and dead people can’t help themselves. Throwing in a life preserver won’t help.
Biblicism mishandles Scripture. Many individuals view Scripture as the only authority instead of as the final authority. The Bible makes no claim to be the only authority! “If the Bible says it, I believe it” is their mantra. “No creed but the Bible” is another popular confession. Biblicists often, not always, have a disdain for theology. The Biblicist does not like nonbiblical words. We all want to be biblical. History has shown that in order to defend the truths of Scripture extra biblical language has been necessary. We all have and come from a theological tradition whether we like it or not. Is our tradition normed by Scripture is the question. Terms and concepts not found in Scripture are helpful and necessary for understanding Scripture. To refuse such a thing in the name of being biblical is to mishandle Scripture. The term “Trinity” is one example among many of a helpful term that is not used in Scripture to explain a biblical truth.
Some make the clear statements of Scripture so ambiguous that we just don’t know what Scripture means and so we should not draw a hard line. This becomes particularly true over anything that happens to be particularly interesting to our cultural context. For example no one used to doubt what Scripture said about homosexuality but now all of the sudden people within evangelicalism claim Scripture isn’t really clear here. Or for another example let’s use women in ministry. Male eldership used to be obvious. Texts that say “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,” or “an overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,” (1 Tim 2:12; 3:2 among others) clearly meant a women could not preach to men on Sunday morning or be an elder. Now we are told by those in our own camp that Scripture is not clear here so we should not stand firm on this. This level of ambiguity undermines the authority of Scripture and those that claim it are actually playing God themselves as they deny the explicit meaning of texts. They take authority from God and claim it for themselves. They might as well be denying inerrancy.
It is comparable to having a little kid and you tell them with clear and understandable instructions three times where something is and they are supposed to go get it. They respond with “I do not know where it is”. They do know, they just do not want to obey and are being disrespectful. They are undermining authority. Making our Father’s clear instructions unclear is disrespectful to say the least.
Hopefully it is clear from these brief examples that handling Scripture rightly is a big deal. These threats are not only outside of the church, they are within and amongst us. If we are going to get the gospel right, we have to handle Scripture right. The central person of the Scriptures is Jesus Christ and the work He accomplishes. We will continue to look at more ways Scripture is mishandled in order to help us rightly handle the Word of God.
Jay Wipf is a former student of Coalt Robinson and attended Grace University where he earned his degree in Christian Education. Jay is currently studying at Reformed Baptist Seminary in the comfort of his home in Huron, SD. By grace and at Grace he met his beautiful wife Rachel, and they now have three young children. Jay and his family live in Huron where he works in facilities at a local credit union and serves within the local church.