When I was a senior in high school, I read the Bible from cover to cover for the first time.
It changed my life.
I was struck by its vastness—how much of it was ignored in modern churches. I had been in church almost every Sunday for my entire life, and there were whole books of the Bible that I had never heard taught in church. Specifically, I was struck by books like Job, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations. The questions asked of God in these books are profound. The Bible doesn’t dodge problems like the profundity of evil, the seeming absence of God, and the meaninglessness of most activities under the sun. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s honest.
In the Bible, I caught of glimpse of a God I hadn’t seen in church.
In Death to Deconstruction: Reclaiming Faithfulness as an Act of Rebellion, Joshua S. Porter appeals to a generation abandoning the faith, urging them to choose a more nuanced faithfulness instead of outright rejection of orthodox Christianity. He structures his book around five “great predators”: biblical illiteracy, the problem of evil, a politicized Christianity, hypocrisy, and self-denial, laying out paths forward within orthodoxy avoiding each.
Having gone through all five of Porter’s great predators, I want to spend my last six posts in this series reacting to the book and suggesting my own path forward. Today, I want to consider the Bible.
The Bible has long (and rightly) been central to the evangelical movement. We are “Bible-believing” Christians. Much of our energy has been devoted to defending the inerrancy of the Bible. I believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, but I disagree that inerrancy is a fundamental of the faith. Our faith does not hinge on the inerrancy of the Bible, but on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. If someone proves an error in the Bible, that doesn’t make Jesus any less alive.
Jesus said that unless he ascended to the Father, he could not send the Spirit (John 16:7). The Spirit testifies to the Son (John 14:26, 15:26). Our faith does not just rest on the testimony of the Bible, but on the historical fact of the empty tomb and the continued testimony of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, because of the resurrection of Jesus, we encounter God today.
My hope for the evangelicalism of the future is that we focus more on the life-giving function of the Scriptures. Second Timothy 3:16–17 ESV says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The image of “God-breathed” hearkens back to the creation story in which God breathes into Adam and he becomes a living soul. In other words, just was when Jesus called out “Lazarus come out!” and the dead man came out of the tomb, so also God’s Word makes alive things that are lifeless.
I believe that the Bible is inerrant, but my faith doesn’t stand or fall on that doctrine. I would continue to follow Jesus with an errant Bible (unless it was wrong about the resurrection!). My hope for the church in the future is that we would major less on proving every word of the Bible to be true, and more on getting people to actually read it. Returning to Porter’s black belt analogy, reading the Bible is like practicing punches and kicks. The purpose of learning a martial art is not so you can punch and kick in a dojo—it’s for sport or for self-defense. But to be able to perform well in a competition, you have to put the hours into training. That’s part of where the Bible comes in. Christianity is not a competition over who can know the Bible the best, but time in the Word is time with God, and God changes us as we read (or hear!) his Word.
When I read the Bible for the first time as a teenager, I met God and new and fresh way. My hope for the church of the future is that they may have similar encounters.
What about you? What role do you hope the Bible plays in the future of evangelicalism?